On Wednesday, the United States Hockey Association announced their 2012 Hall of Fame class which included New Jersey President and General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, former Chicago Blackhawk and current NHL on NBC analyst, Eddie Olczyk and the greatest American-born hockey player and former Dallas Star, Mike Modano.
Modano holds the record for most goals scored by an American-born player in the NHL when he broke Joe Mullen’s record of 502 when Mike scored two goals in a loss to the Nashville Predators on March 17, 2007. Earlier in the season, he broke Phil Housley’s (Modano’s idol growing up) record of total points by an American NHLer when he scored two goals in San Jose, the second coming on a shorthanded breakaway.
Mike represented USA in international play for 18 years, the first coming in 1988 when he played seven games in the World Juniors, in which he tallied five points. The following year, he tripled his production by scoring fifteen points.
The year before the North Stars headed south to Texas, Modano and USA earned a silver medal in the 1991 World Cup of Hockey. In the final World Cup before the format was eliminated due to NHL players representing their countries in the Olympics, the Stars and Stripes found themselves standing on the middle podium after defeating Canada for the gold medal. Some in the states would point to this monumental moment as establishing hockey as a mainstream sport south of Canada.
“That team definitely had a confidence boost after winning gold,” Modano said when asked how the 1996 Gold Medal victory helped prepare him for leading the Stars to their Cup run in 1999. “For the next 5 to 6 years were great for a lot of us.”
When asked about his most proud moment in his hockey career, Modano of course referenced the Cup victory in 99 and took a friendly “shot” at fellow Hall of Fame inductee, Lamoriello, “And almost having a repeat if it weren’t for the New Jersey Devils in 2000.”
His longevity was something he never expected but found the chasing of Mullen’s and Housley’s records something he’s very proud of. Those of us who witnessed it not only saw amazing records fall, but the class and humility that has been the cornerstone of Modano’s career.
Mike was asked who was most influential in his game and as he has done every step of the way, he mentioned his parents immediately. “Their hard work made the game and the travel possible.”
“There were a ton of coaches whom I learned the staples of my game as a kid,” Modano added.
Make no doubt about it, there’s one more Hall induction in Mike Modano’s future, but this potentially could be the most rewarding. Very often, you hear players, even those who achieve world champion (in this case, Stanley Cup champion) state that the most rewarding moment of their careers was when they represented their countries. The game of hockey, state of Texas and United States of America could not have asked for a better ambassador than Michael Thomas Modano, Jr. Today, we learn his legacy will be forever enshrined.