In just 5 short years, Mike Modano found himself the number one overall draft pick, a Stanley Cup finalist and in the midst of a season that saw him reach a career-high in points (93). His career was running smoothly just as he did up and down the ice. Then, his world got turned upside down.
And a new address: Reunion Arena. 777 Sports St. Dallas, TX.
The Minnesota North Stars were relocating the franchise to Dallas and over the years, players and personnel began to switch out, just as they do across the sports industry. However, there were two who were synonymous with the Stars franchise: Modano and Stars play-by-play broadcaster, Ralph Strangis. Mr. Strangis was kind enough to offer up his memories and thoughts about Mike as we approach this Saturday's game versus the Minnesota Wild as the Dallas Stars will retire Modano's number 9.
StarsInsider: What is your greatest memory/moment of Mike Modano as a hockey player? A person (off ice)?
Ralph Strangis: I think I'll always remember how emotional he was about things, yet that emotion never collided with his ability to be there when the game needed him to be the best player on the ice.
SI: Upon the move to Dallas, knowing that Modano was going to be a foundational piece, did you two develop a relationship that was different than with any of the other guys?
RS: Mike and I and several others were a part of the relocation - and that kind of thing creates an immediate and unique bond. As the others drifted away - we were sort of the last men standing. He and I are friends not because he's Mike Modano - but because we worked together for a very long time and developed a friendship over time.
SI: One Cup, no scoring titles, no individual awards (Calder, Hart, etc). Do you think Modano reached his maximum potential in regards to his overall greatness or do you think the move to a non-traditional hockey market like Dallas may have stunted his ceiling?
RS: Colin Fraser has 2 rings. That's not anything against Colin Fraser - good for him - but sport is circumstance as much as anything else. He's a great player - one of the best ever. Period. And everyone in hockey knows it.
SI: Gretzky brought hockey to the south, but I’ve always said it was Modano who cultivated it. Agree or disagree? Why?
RS: Let's be clear - Gretzky brought hockey to LA. I don't feel Texans identify at all with California on much - and that Gretzky's presence there somehow contributed to the Stars moving here. It didn't. The move to Dallas was a complicated one. The reason it worked here I think though - and the reason other non-traditional markets have struggled even though they've won - is we had Mike. Mike was our poster boy - well liked by everyone - and a hell of a player.
SI: Modano in a Red Wings jersey: Your thoughts?
RS: This is a tough business. You're reasonably deep at center and he doesn't want fourth line minutes. I understand the decision.
SI: Overall, where would you rank Modano in best overall hockey players you’ve seen in your career?
RS: It's always hard to compare. So much apples to oranges. But as I said - we are not the franchise we became if not for Mike.
It's only fitting that the final game that Modano played as a Star was one for the ages. And the calls provided by Ralph Strangis, just as he did 428 times as a Dallas Star, provided a perfect narration.