Friday, September 23, 2011
Emotional farewell for Mike Modano
By Richard Durrett
DALLAS -- As Mike Modano took one last look at his remarks before going on stage for his retirement news conference on Friday afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas, he knew he was going to have trouble holding back tears.
"I thought I'd make it through the first sentence," Modano said. "I couldn't."
Modano sat on stage by himself as Stars play-by-play announcer Ralph Strangis read of the litany of impressive numbers. Then a video played, including footage from Modano's early years and interview following his selection as the top overall pick in the 1988 draft as a teenager that included a lot of "you knows" that made Modano chuckle.
But there he was, sweater swaying has he skated around players as if they were standing still on the ice. So many goals, so many assists, so many memorable moments. The video showed him lofting the Stanley Cup, talking with former coach Ken Hitchcock and, of course, wiping tears away after his final home game in April 2010.
Back when Modano was that teenager still getting used to doing interviews, the idea of a news conference like that one on Friday was completely foreign. At that time, Modano figured retirement would never come. Veteran players told Modano to enjoy the ride more.
"They told me it would be over soon," Modano said. "I said, ‘You’re 35 and old and out of the game soon so why would I listen to you?' They were right.
Then came all the thank yous. Modano struggled to even get the words out. He thanked players, coaches, front office folks and fans in Minnesota, Dallas and Detroit. As he did so, many members of the current Stars were sitting in the front row and many of his former teammates too.
His mom, Karen, and dad, Mike, watched as well. Then, when Modano started the thank them, Karen couldn't stay in her seat any longer.
"I had to go up there," Karen said.
She went on stage and gave Modano a hug as he thanked her for all the early-morning rides to the rink as a kid.
"Go sit down," said Modano, showing a hint of that teenager that couldn't wait to get out of home and play hockey in Canada as a 16-year-old.
Modano's dad, Mike Sr., came up too. Modano thanked him and they embraced. It left those in attendance weepy-eyed too.
"Thanks for your love and support," Modano said to his parent. "Thanks for the sacrifices you made to give me a life in hockey."
Modano showed appreciation for the Stars fans, who supported him through a 21-season career. He finished the news conference by following his parents off stage.
"I couldn't draw up a better ending than being here in Dallas where home is," Modano said.
He signed a one-day contract with Dallas so he could retire a Star and he posed for pictures. He also received plenty of hugs and well wishes from teammates.
"I'm thankful for all of this, but I'm sad it's over," Modano said. "I think you think you can play forever. It’s obvious that physically things don’t match up anymore."