Modano still carries his star well from two cities
By: By Michael Russo, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Superior Telegram
MINNEAPOLIS -- He's not 19, but Mike Modano still looks good in a North Stars sweater.
Following what might have been his final NHL contest -- a 4-3 Dallas Stars shootout win over the Wild -- Modano emerged from the visitors' locker room and waved goodbye to the Minnesota faithful in a white No. 9 Modano North Stars jersey.
"Sometimes I really wish I was in my prime playing here -- to have that high level of playing in front of the fans here," Modano said afterward.
Modano, drafted first overall by the North Stars in 1988, was kept off the scoresheet, but in a nice gesture by the Wild as he perhaps completed a Hall of Fame career in the state in which it began 20 years ago, Modano was named first star and was also honored during a first-period tribute that made Modano emotional.
"The reception was phenomenal," Modano said.
In both teams' season finale, it was the Wild's No. 9 and a rookie who barely looks old enough to drive that nearly ruined the farewell.
Wild captain Mikko Koivu scored two goals to finish with a career-high 22 goals and 71 points and rookie Casey Wellman, the former UMass sniper signed by the Wild last month, scored his first NHL goal. Both couldn't score in the shootout, however, as Jamie Benn won it.
Wellman tied Brian Rolston's record for fastest goal to start a period when the baby-faced 22-year-old scored nine seconds into the third period. Wellman pounced on Kyle Brodziak's rebound, but the clock didn't start.
So during a goose bump-inducing moment as the clock was fixed, the Jumbotron zoomed in on a sky-high Wellman as the crowd roared.
"It was definitely a different feeling just to have all those fans cheering for me. It was really cool," said Wellman, who finished with four points in 12 games. "I've been pretty close a few times. I got robbed by (Columbus' R.J.) Umberger in my first game, so I was beginning to wonder if it would happen.
"It was good to get it out of the way, and hopefully it'll open something up for next year."
Eight hours earlier, Modano, the highest-scoring American in history, reunited with former North Stars/Stars teammate Neal Broten, one of Minnesota's hockey greats and a mentor to Modano as a kid.
Broten told Modano he should continue playing because he "only plays two minutes a game anyway" and joked, "I can still play two minutes a game and I'll take half of whatever he's making."
"He still acts and looks the same. Now he's a grandpa," Modano said of Broten.
Modano will make his retirement decision this summer. If this was his last game, Modano said it was special that it was in Minnesota.
"Rare and unique to say the least," he said. "I'm kind of exhausted and tired and in some ways I'm glad the season's over. You need a break to get away. But you do get the itch at the end of July and August to figure out what you want to do."
-- Copyright (c) 2010, Minneapolis Star Tribune/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services