Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Last North Star

It was the late '80's.  I had recently graduated, started my career, and was hopelessly broke.  And I was also a huge North Stars hockey fan.  Sure, I loved the Twins and Vikes, but nothing registered for me like the Stars, and even though I didn't have two nickels to rub together, I found my way into a season ticket package shared by a bunch of buddies.   

The games we saw!  Gretzky and the Oilers, Lemieux and the Penguins, Secord and Savard and the Blackhawks.  And the Stars' own players - Neil Broten, Craig Hartsburg, Dino Ciccarelli...  But of all the Stars players, the most complete and best player was Mike Modano.   

He joined the team for the '89-'90 season as a much-heralded US-born player acquired by Lou Nanne.  He was touted as having the ability to change the franchise.   

Unfortunately, we had heard that exact same story before with Brian Lawton.  Lawton went so far as to wear #98, one less than Gretzky, when he came into the league.  However, we could soon tell he was just an ordinary player, and that sweet Lou had overestimated.  Big time.  

But Modano was different.  A big-bodied kid, he could mix it up in the corner.  He was a gifted and an incredibly fast skater, especially for his size.  But his best asset was his shot - wristers were hard and impeccably placed, and his booming one-timer was feared.  Finally, for the bombastic Nanne, the performance matched the hype.   

Fast forward to 2011.  The North Stars are long gone - nearly 20 years now.  The Minnesota Wild is now Minnesota's NHL franchise, and have been that way for 11 years.  I've worked a career, with 9 different companies and added grey to what's left of my hair.  And Mike Modano, the Stars' greatest player, has finally decided to retire after a stellar career which featured 8 All-Star game appearances and a Stanely Cup win.   

He was amazingly good for an almost unbelievable amount of time.  And he leaves being the last player that could still trace his experience back to the North Stars. 

As a fan, I don't think there could have been anyone else that we'd want to have this distinction.  I'm not alone in that sentiment.  Here's how the Wild honored Modano in the last game he played in Minnesota:   

Thanks for everything, #9. Enjoy retirement. You earned it.

1 comment:

  1. I was lucky enough to attend Modano's first NHL game. It was an incredible moment of intense anticipation (if you remember, Modano held out his first year). He was so young, and when he scored his first NHL goal during the game the future of the North Stars looked so bright.

    Every memory about the North Stars seems to be from such a bygone era. Bobby Smith, Steve Payne, Al McAdam, Don Beaupre, Tommy McCarthy, Curt Giles, Craig Hartsberg, Marc Tinordi. Like an old fart, I remember it like it was yesterday, and hold the modern day NHL and Minnesota franchise with some contempt.

    Long live the Minnesota North Stars.


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