There's been no farewell tour, no formal announcement of retirement from 39-year-old Dallas Stars hockey legend Mike Modano(notes). But that didn't stop Stars fans from treating their team's final regular-season home game against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night as chance to say goodbye to the franchise's best player, in one of the most emotional moments of the NHL season:
From the AP, on Game No. 1,458 for Modano with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise:
Fans cheered Modano when he took the ice for warmups, displaying such signs as "1 Mo Year" and "Say It Ain't So Mo," and they roared when Modano was introduced with the starting lineup.
Modano was shown on the video board during a stoppage in play with less than six minutes left in regulation. He had tears in his eyes when he received an extended standing ovation. Even the referees applauded Modano, and the Ducks on the bench stood and tapped their sticks on the boards in recognition.
What made this game more than just an impromptu tribute to a beloved player was that the tribute was reciprocated by Modano.
After that ovation with about six minutes left in the third period, Modano scored the game-tying goal with 1:47 left in the game (video) on a deflection of a Trevor Daley(notes) shot that video review had to confirm. The shootout was the stuff of hockey magic: Goals by Modano and Jere Lehtinen(notes), and a victory for goalie Marty Turco(notes); all of whom have played their entire careers with the Stars, and may have played their final games in Dallas:
But in the end, it was Modano's night. From the Dallas Morning News and Tim Cowlishaw:
Modano has not announced his retirement. But the five-year contract he signed in 2005 is expiring. Modano turns 40 in June. He has indicated that when he finalizes his decision this summer, he expects to call it quits.
"It certainly felt like the end," Modano said. "But I might come down with Favre-itis."
Modano said one of the reasons he didn't want his parents to attend the season finale in Minnesota was to leave the door open for a possible return. And he said his father is trying to convince him that he's not finished. But in all likelihood, this was it. And what better way to exit than as the legitimate "first star" of the night?
Indeed. As Modano told the AP: "It was tough to leave the ice (at the end of the game), not knowing what the future holds, whether that was it or it wasn't." If it "was," than what a grand finale in front of the home fans.