Photos from two historic days in the life of this hockey fan. April 8 is one of the photos I snapped at the game. The October 14 photo was taken by someone else. Both days I was firmly ensconsed in the American Airlines Center to watch my Dallas Stars play.
April 8th, the last day I would see Mike Modano playing for the Stars in the AAC. For most of us fans, we thought we were looking at our star on the verge of retirement. The #1 American born hockey player, every record with the Stars. Northstars, Dallas Stars, it doesn't matter it was the Stars. 21 years with all incarnations of the team. He is, was, and will always be THE face of hockey in Texas.
But like all good things, they must come to an end. At that last home game, I, along with 18,000 fans cheered him until we were hoarse. Cried when he cried and felt our hearts break just a little knowing that he would no longer be flying down the ice with his sweater flying out behind him.
I was okay knowing that he was going to retire. Or so I thought.
I guess leaving the sport that is as much a part of your physiology as breathing is difficult at best, and excruciating at worse. I can imagine it would be like losing a limb. I guess Mike couldn't leave hockey any more than he could sever his own arm.
But never in a million years did I think he would don the sweater of the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings, like the New York Yankees, are a much hated and loved team. Personally, I hate them. So for my Mike to give up retirement from the Stars and sign with Detroit was a dagger in my heart. I was crushed...and ANGRY.
Mike giving voice to retirement and signing with someone else is like Emmitt Smith going to the Cardinals or Brett Favre saying he was retiring. It's just not right.
So after spending 6 months angry, I had to wait for my hockey therapy. Who would have thought that the home opener this year would be one for the hockey storybooks? It couldn't have been scripted any better. Dallas opened at home against Mike Modano and the Red Wings in front of a sold out arena.
You couldn't miss Mike when he stepped out on the ice for the skate around or walking out from the visitor's tunnel at the start of the game. It was surreal. My Mike wearing red and white. My Mike playing on another team. I was prepared to cry. I did tear up when the Stars flashed "Thank You, Mike" on the jumbotron and the camera panned to him. Huge cheers as he stood and acknowledged the crowd. I could have sworn he was teary eyed.
And as quickly as the tribute started it was over. And that's the way it should have been. 60 minutes of great hockey. The Stars dominated the Wings, and in the midst of it all, I forgot to watch Detroit's Mike.
So my dear Mikey Mo, you're free. My heart belongs to the Dallas Stars and while I have your rookie card and an autographed picture...while your jersey hangs in my closet and above all hockey players I will forever adore and love you; I set you free.
Enjoy the blip of time you spend with Detroit. Even if you don't know it, I do; Dallas will always have your heart and you will always be in ours.