When Mike Modano received the call that he was going to be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame, it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, Modano is the highest-scoring US-born player in NHL history with 557 goals, 802 assists (1,359 points) in 1,459 games played. All those statistics mentioned are also records for an American-born player from a career that spanned four decades (1989-2011).
Modano was the first overall pick in the 1988 draft and should have been awarded the Calder Trophy in the spring of 1990, only to lose to a then 31-year old Sergei Markov; a debate that still riles up any passionate Minnesota hockey fan.
Despite only spending four full seasons in Minnesota before that fatal day in 1993 that saw the North Stars play their final game in the northern state and relocate to Dallas, Modano made the most of those seasons. The 1992-93 season saw Modano set a career high in points with 93, while playing in all 82 games. He would only match that season point total once more in his career and it was the very next season, the inaugural campaign in Dallas. It was that same season in Dallas that Modano would score 50-goals, the only year he would accomplish that feat in his career.
During three of his four seasons in Minnesota, Modano would help lead the North Stars to the playoffs, which included that memorable run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1990-91. Neither the North Stars nor the Wild have made it back to the finals since.
One could argue that Brian Bellows was another historic figure in the North Stars era and given he played 10 seasons in Minnesota, the comparisons are close. Bellows’ best year was in 1989-90 when he scored 55 goals and totaled 90 points in 80 games for the North Stars.
Bellows, like Modano was taken in the first round of his eligible draft year, but was the second overall choice in 1982.
Some hockey fans might argue that Marian Gaborik could be the greatest hockey player to every play in Minnesota’s history. But the flashy Czech native never scored more than 42 goals in a season and only more than 80 points once during his eight years in Minny. Granted the game was much different when Modano and Bellows played than it is now or ten years ago when Gaborik broke into the league. Scoring is down and the game has changed in terms of systems and defensive focus now being the norm with many clubs, not exactly the case in the early 90’s.
But perhaps it’s more than just the points put up or the number of years served playing in Minnesota that makes Modano’s case so unique. He is clearly the best player in North Stars/Stars history, but when talking about the Minnesota era only, Modano was responsible for building up the game in the United States, something that separates him from the others mentioned.
He has been recognized as an ambassador of the game and without question put hockey on the map in Dallas, but he also restored the game in Minnesota. He was also honored in 2007 for his achievements in US hockey further cementing his legacy as the greatest American-born player.
It’s just a damn shame that the North Stars relocated, otherwise all of Modano’s accomplishments would have came with a North before the Stars. While it was the same organization technically, it’s still many miles between Minnesota and Dallas and for hockey fans in the north, there is and will always only be one stars team they remember so fondly.
Is Mike Modano the greatest player to ever play in Minnesota? That’s debatable and we welcome your comments on who you think deserves that honor.