When I hear Mike Modano's name, I am instantly reminded of what players like him have done for the sport of hockey in the United States.
Being drafted first overall by a team that was located in one of the most hockey-crazed cities in America is serious evidence of how special Modano was back in 1988. Hell, he even managed to get Texans into hockey when he helped lead the Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999 (Brett Hull cheating references aside...).
When Modano called it a career this week, he finished second overall among American-born players on the all-time list. He averaged just under a point per game in his career and is also 11th on the all-time list (not just American) for 92 game-winning goals.
If there's one word to sum up Mike Modano's career, it would be "consistency."
He always seemed to be around, playing less than 75 games only five times in his 21-year career. As far back as I can remember, Modano was the Dallas/Minnesota captain before heading north to Detroit. He was always just there, you know?
Modano did great things for hockey in the football-crazed state of Texas, but he was also part of the bigger picture of the "American Hockey Dream." He was a significant part of the generation of late-1980s/early-1990s American players to be drafted in the NHL—like Hull, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, Brian Leetch, etc.—who helped make the sport what it is today in the U.S.
Who's to say that some part of Team USA coming within a single goal of being gold medalists in 2010 wasn't due to the groundwork that was laid down by these above-mentioned players?
Modano was a special player who was known for his play on the ice more than anything else. He should take pride in retiring in a time when American-born players are creeping surprisingly close to the Canadians in dominating the draft and Olympic events.
Who knows if we'll ever see the combination of scoring efficiency, leadership and humility all bundled together in an American player again?
Modano was all that and more. He's left quite the legacy behind him.