We’ve been sort of preparing for this for over a year now. But it’s still really strange when it happens. The Dallas Stars today have announced that they are parting ways with All-Everything Center Mike Modano.
Modano is arguably the greatest American-born hockey player in history. An eight-time NHL All-Star. An eight-time team MVP. He holds 15 franchise records and eleven postseason records. It was Modano who assisted on all four of the Stars’ last goals in their ’99 Stanley Cup series win over the Sabres.
I have a theory about good guys in sports. There are many, many different kinds of characters and personalities in professional sports. There are guys who could pull up a chair with you and your buddies at Whataburger or Chili’s and join in the conversation and you’d never know they were famous. There are some who feel they are far superior to everybody else in the room and openly treat others as if they are less than human. Most are somewhere in between. It’s been my experience in 19-years of sports radio — 14 of that covering professional sports — that hockey players are, by far, the best of the bunch. Down-to-earth. Humble. Regular guys. And Modano was among the best of the best.
He is to the Stars what Staubach was / is to the Cowboys.
I remember a short conversation with Tom Hicks on a January night in 2003, inside the Stars’ dressing room underneath American Airlines Center. The team had just honored Modano with a custom Harley and several other trophies in recognition of his 1,000th point and becoming the Stars’ all-time leader in games played. Hicks told me that Modano was always going to be a Dallas Star. I reminded the team owner that he had once said the same thing about Pudge Rodriguez always going to be a member of the Rangers. Pudge had just signed with the Florida Marlins a few weeks earlier after ten years in Arlington. Hicks looked at me and said, “Modano doesn’t have an idiot for an agent.”
Modano may test the free agency waters later this week. Or he may be finished as an NHL hockey player. We don’t know yet. He’s supposed to address all this with the media tomorrow morning.
Either way, much like Emmitt Smith will always be a Cowboy, Mike Modano will always be a Dallas Star. But I’m betting on Modano retiring. He won’t chase money or immortality with a desperate team in a lousy city. He won’t go play for the Cardinals. Or the Predators. He doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t have anything to prove.
Plus, he’s such a really good guy.
The Rangers have the best 75-game record in team history. They’ve won 13 of their past 14. They have the second-best record in the American League. And they own a 4-1/2 game lead on the Halos in the West. But the Angels have won seven of ten. And they’ve captured the AL West five of the past six seasons.
I know. We haven’t even reached the All Star Game break yet. I know. We’re not supposed to care very much about these games. It’s not time yet.
But this is pretty big, isn’t it?
So far, the Rangers have put up huge numbers and tons of wins against losing teams. But they’ve not beat the good teams. Their record this year against the Yankees and Red Sox and other teams of like calibar does not inspire confidence. Not in me. So I think this series means a lot. Late Thursday night when this little three game set is over, the Rangers can be up 7-1/2 games in the division riding a wave of confidence or the Angels can have grabbed the momentum, having closed the gap to 1-1/2 games. Either the Angels realize that this Rangers team is different or they realize nothing’s changed at all. The results of this series can force the Halos to tighten up. Or to relax. The outcome can push Texas to greater heights or bring them back down to earth. The next three nights can launch the Rangers on a dramatic push to the pennant. Or it can be the beginning of their burial.
Or it might not mean anything much at all.