North Stars reunion: Modano, Broten cross paths in the bowels of the X
By: By Bruce Brothers, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Superior Telegram
Mike Modano stepped out of a training room at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday morning and spotted Neal Broten. Teammates for four seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and two more with the Dallas Stars, the two exchanged warm greetings as Modano grinned like a kid on Christmas morning.
"What are you doing here?" Modano asked.
"I had to come and see your last game," Broten responded.
A warm 15-minute conversation ensued about Broten's two grandchildren, golf, the old days and the likelihood that Saturday night's Stars game against the Wild at the X would be the final NHL game for Modano, who has said he is seriously considering retirement as he closes in on his 40th birthday.
"Keep playing," Broten said.
Then he smiled and added, "Unless you're sick of it."
Modano laughed, and Broten added, "Hey, you're only playing two minutes a game."
"Trouble is," Modano said, "they want me to come back and practice the next day. What do I need practice for; I'm only playing two minutes a game!"
When someone commented to Broten, who owns a horse farm in River Falls, Wis., with his wife, Sally, that he appears to be in good enough shape to play, he smiled and said, "I can still play two minutes a game."
Later, Modano met with the media to talk about his days in Minnesota and the possibility of retirement. If he needs a job, someone commented, maybe Broten would hire him to help with the horses.
"Ain't no chance I'm going to Wisconsin," Modano said with a laugh.
During the game, Modano was saluted during an emotional first-period break, visibly fighting off tears during a prolonged standing ovation.
Before the game, he talked about his first four seasons in the NHL in Minnesota beginning when he was an 18-year-old rookie in 1989. He said teammates such as Brian Bellows, Stu Gavin, Curt Giles, Mike Gartner, Basil McRae, Shane Churla and others "were hard on me, but it toughened me up, made me humble."
Wild coach Todd Richards was working out at an Eden Prairie rink one summer 20 years ago when Modano showed up, and Richards realized his road to the NHL might not be an easy one.
"You look at that and think, 'That's a whole 'nother level right there,' " he recalled.
"I remember him really well," Modano said. "I met a lot of people along the way. Just some great guys, great players, a lot of history with a lot of people from Minnesota."
Modano recalled how the North Stars sneaked into the playoffs in eighth place in 1991 and then beat Chicago, St. Louis and Edmonton to reach the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to Pittsburgh -- which he called "a Cinderella story."
"It was pretty electric," he remembered. "You get to that point at an early age, you couldn't wait to do it next year, but it didn't happen for another 11 years or so. You took it for granted and you didn't realize how hard it is to make it to the Finals until I was 29, 30 and we got there and won. And then we lost again in the final the following year against New Jersey.
"It's tough, it's a hard road, but certainly that time there was pretty special."
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