Later today, Mike Modano will be signing a ceremonial contract for $999,999 with the Dallas Stars and then he will retire. It’s fitting, I think, that when he hangs up his skates, it’s “with” the team he played with for all but the final 40 games of his NHL career. History, I hope, won’t remember those 40 games with the winged wheel on his chest. Instead, it should remember his black sweater billowing behind him as he galloped through the neutral zone, while an arena held its breath expecting something incredible and, more often than not, getting what they wanted.
In light of Mike’s retirement, I thought I’d share my 9 favorite images of Dallas’ favorite (adopted) son & the stories behind them.
My love for this image is less about the image and more about the place the image showed up. I’d had this idea during the 09-10 season to do a stop-motion piece for the team, but we weren’t quite sure where or how it would be used. As the season approached the Olympic break, they decided it might be cool to create something to use as a season seat holder renewal piece. What came from that was this film, entitled Reset. The image above wasn’t originally shot for Reset, but had the perfect contemplative mood and gave the entire story another level of dimension. Without it, I think Reset would have been far less meaningful.
It’s hard to imagine athletes as fully human, sometimes, especially the one’s who are the best of the best. And Mike Modano certainly fits into that category – he’s the single greatest Dallas Star as well as the greatest US born hockey player of all time. But he’s so much more than that and this image, more than any other in my archive, shows that multi-dimensionality. He loves his wife; he’s human after all – and that makes what he accomplished on the ice all the more incredible.
Mike Modano & Jere Lehtinen played the better part of 14 seasons on the same line. Mike’s grace and speed, matched with Jere’s work ethic produced mesmerizing results. I love this image because there’s such story tied up in those skates and the character of the player seems reflected in them.
6. The Stanley Cup
What needs to be said? These three guys rewrote history for the Dallas Stars franchise. Brett Hull with the goal to bring home the Cup, Jere with the assist, and all three of them on the ice that fateful night in Buffalo. Watch the film, if Hull hadn’t gotten to that puck, Modano would have and in this photograph, just before the ceremony to honor Hull’s induction into the Hall of Fame, they’re laughing about that very thing.
5. A Sort of Homecoming
I jumped off the plane first and ran about halfway down the steps. I didn’t know what would happen. When Modano stepped off the plane he just looked off before walking past me. I don’t know what was running through his head right then, but I can’t help but wonder if he was contemplating the first of many “lasts” he’d be going through as a Dallas Star.
4. Pre Game
This is the last time Modano pulled on a Stars sweater just before the third period in Minnesota. I love the lack of ceremony, as if no one seemed to notice this really special thing that was happening but me. That’s the thing about ritual, I guess; they can get to the place where they’re mechanical, no more than muscle memory. I don’t know, maybe the lack of ceremony was everyone’s subconscious way of expressing their hope that this wouldn’t be the last time or, maybe, I’m reading a whole lot into a guy getting dressed to go to work.
3. Opening Night
Opening night of the 2009-2010 season, and even then, we were all wondering, would this be Mike Modano’s last opening night. As he watched the video on the scoreboard over center ice, it’s like he was experiencing opening night for the first time, not the twentieth.
2. The Ovation
If you were there, you know why this image is so special. For more than two minutes during a break in play in the third period of the final home game of the season, 18,000 fans rose to their feet to say thanks to the guy who brought hockey to North Texas. But it wasn’t just the fans who saluted him – his teammates, trainers, coaches and even the guys on the other bench, all stood to say thanks to Mike. And he stayed in his seat, face in his hands, overcome with emotion.
1. The Speech
I was standing outside the locker room just after that final home game when Stretch opened the door and pulled me inside the room. I’d been in there a handful of times, but never during team time; it was like getting called into the holy of holies. After a few minutes, the room got quiet & all eyes turned to Modano. I don’t think he wanted to, but he started to give a speech about not taking “what they do” for granted. He only managed a couple of sentences before he could say no more and we all sat in reverent silence as, again, Modano placed his head in his hands, then stood up and left the room.