To say that Modano’s cell phone has been ringing off the hook would be a severe understatement. He received congratulatory calls from former teammates such as Brett Hull, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mike Keane and Neal Broten. The man whose record he broke, Phil Housley, called to congratulate the new record holder, as did NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
But there was one phone call that caught Modano the most by surprise, and it’s a call he won’t soon forget. Shortly after 10:30 a.m. California time, Modano received a congratulatory phone call from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. The normally poised, composed Modano was momentarily at a loss for words when he heard the leader of the free world on the other end of his phone.
The President has been following Modano’s chase of the American-born scoring record for a few weeks now, receiving nightly reports of Modano’s and the Stars’ progress from his support staff. When Modano told him he was in Los Angeles, Bush first joked that this was his morning wake-up call, and passed along his sincere congratulations on the worthy accomplishment. The former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club, Bush obviously has ties to sports in North Texas and expressed to Modano how proud he and all Texans are of him.
“It is an incredible honor and it really means the world to me to receive his call,” said Modano. “I really felt the need to thank him for taking time out of his busy, intense schedule to call me. Obviously, there are more important things going on in the world right now, so it really was special. It was definitely the perfect topper to all the celebration of this record.”
The two Texans chatted for more than five minutes about his career and his achievement, and Bush expressed an interest in meeting Modano in person, either in Dallas or on the club’s next trip to Washington. According to Modano, Bush seemed genuinely excited about his achievement and wished him continued good luck in his career, personally and as a team.
“As soon as we hung up, I was calling lots of people telling them that I just spoke to the President,” said Modano, whose wife, entertainer Willa Ford, was with him when the call came. “I had to call my friends and family and share this experience with them. For him to take five minutes to call me means more than anything.”
Modano fondly recalled meeting former President Bill Clinton at the White House after the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999, as well as two seasons ago at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, when the team and Clinton were in town at the same time.
“Those are certainly fond memories, meeting Bill Clinton twice,” said Modano, “and this morning’s phone call is right there as far as memorable moments in my life. I have so much respect for the President and what he handles on a daily basis, and I’m honored he found a few minutes to call me.”
Bush’s phone call this morning gives Modano even more reason to reflect upon his achievement, and the 17 magical, memorable and spectacular years in the NHL, all spent with the Stars franchise. Modano spent part of the team’s charter flight from San Jose to Phoenix Wednesday night thumbing through a recently-released history book of the Minnesota North Stars, no doubt pondering his start as the top overall draft pick by the team in 1988 and his evolution into the United States’ greatest scorer.
Modano received not one, but two, standing ovations from the crowd at HP Pavilion at San Jose, home of the one of the Stars’ biggest rivals, and was the recipient of a rousing cheer from the media contingent on hand after the game. He was also feted by fans at the Honda Center in Anaheim, as the Ducks acknowledged his achievement in a classy move during their game Tuesday night against Phoenix. However, there is one ovation that he is extremely excited about receiving.
“I’m really looking forward to getting home and sharing this milestone with the fans in Dallas, who have been a major part of my career,” said Modano. “They’ve been there from the start and mean the world to me and the team. The last few days have been really memorable and it seems like things have been coming nonstop, but I’m really looking forward to getting back home to Dallas and celebrating there.”
The Stars are planning a Mike Modano Tribute Night
in recognition of his record-breaking achievements on November 21, when the team takes on the Anaheim Ducks. And if the last few days are any indication, Modano’s whirlwind might still be going strong when that night comes.