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March 20, 2007

Mike Modano

DAVID KEON: Thank you very much operator. Good afternoon, everyone, I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to our all.
Today's guest is Dallas Stars center Mike Modano. Thanks to Mike for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to Mark Janko of the Stars public relations department for arranging the call. Yesterday Mike was named Third Star for last week, after posting four goals and two assists as the Stars won three of four games. His first goal of the week was not only the game winner against Philadelphia, but also made him the 39th player in National Hockey League history to reach the 500-goal plateau. In Nashville on Saturday he recorded two goals to raise his career total to 503 which put him past Joe Mullen, becoming the highest goal-scoring American born in the NHL of all time.
35 points this season and 49 games, he's raised his career total to 1,218, 14 behind all-time American born leader Phil Housley. With ten games remaining in the regular season, the Stars sit 6th in the Western Conference with 91 points and start a three-game road trip in Los Angeles tomorrow, play in Anaheim Friday and Phoenix Saturday. Thanks again to Mike for joining us to answer your questions.

Q. First of all, thanks for doing this, and congratulations. Can you just talk a little about how far the U.S. program has come, when you came in, it wasn't that far removed from the influx of Americans came after 1980. You were still within a decade of that, and obviously the program has come a long way. Can you talk about that?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, I mean, it's come obviously like you said, it's come a long way, and I think the Olympic team is something that started the growth. I think that kind of planted the seed in America and the U.S. about hockey. It certainly put the USA Hockey on the map as far as a tournament win, but I think after that, I think the popularity grew. I think there was still only maybe three or four states in the country that produced hockey players at the time that were pushing them all pretty good as far as Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois to the point now where we're getting kids drafted who are born in Dallas, born in California, Phoenix.
So it's been exciting being a part of that, being a part of the growth. I think Brian Leech and Chris Chelios, and Brett Hull, being a transplant anyway, but those guys had a big impact on the game and U.S. hockey, and Phil Housley, Joe Mullen and those guys as well, Pat LaFontaine. So they are great guys to look up to, great role models for us growing up, and it meant a lot to us to not only play against them and to grow the game together.

Q. Housley is not that far away from you, do you think you've got a shot to get that done this season or do we have to wait until next season for that?
MIKE MODANO: I hope so. Things have been going fairly well lately and we're getting some production, we're getting things positive, things are happening on the ice, so we'll see. It's tough. We have six road games out of the final ten, but you know, we'll see if we can stay hot, I think it will be close.

Q. How much does that record mean to you, as opposed to Joey's record?
MIKE MODANO: Well, I don't know, I think they have -- they are pretty equal in value. I think the goal thing was fun chasing. I knew I was close. I think that if one was attainable, I think that was the one that I could get this year, coming back from the injury. But then the week went so well, so now I'm kind of looking at if we can have a couple big nights and kind of string some games together, could possibly catch him still. It's hard to say which one is really -- outweighs the other.

Q. Your president was very upset that they didn't acknowledge your record at Nashville. A couple of times Calgary didn't acknowledge one of Wayne Gretzky's records because of the rivalry, does it bother you as much as it bothered Jim Lites. And I wanted to ask you about Jordan Tootoo, is that something just the way the NHL has gone, and did you think you might get suspended because your stick came up and whacked him a little bit?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, I think Jimmie was a little bit more worked up than I was on that thing. I think I know he that, you know, we've been -- we've had a lot of guys who have come possibly to Dallas and Minnesota and scored loose goals and hit milestones we didn't recognize. I think the one that -- Jimmie was upset because we recognized Mark Recchi when he scored 500 here in Dallas and we had a little thing on the JumboTron for him.
Every home team is different. I think it's tough, you know, for a home team sometimes to kind of promote another player on another team. I think NHL fans are really diehard and they are loyal to their own team, so I think people there would have felt it as a slap in the face maybe or showing up their team or what.
As far as the Jordan Tootoo, he's a player that you hate to play against but you love them when they are on your team. We have a guy, Steve Ott, who is a lot similar to Jordan Tootoo he's a guy that wants to go out there, plays hard, plays the game on the edge. He's an emotional guy, and he plays hard. You know, it doesn't surprise me that he's out there a lot when we're out there just to try to disrupt our flow or get us possibly thinking about him more than possibly thinking about the game and the puck and making plays.
So, yeah, I mean, the whole incident was tough to see. Obviously the hit on me was clean but I think in the moment, he didn't twist it around and I knew I had my stick coming at him and I didn't want to -- I just kind of held back a little bit on it. I didn't want to -- obviously I had him in a position where I went from behind and one hand on my stick, so I didn't want to push that situation too far on myself.

Q. And do you think that some of the past kind of players are getting free reign to do what they want to do now because there's no tough guy to say no, don't do that?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, it is, a lot of the tough guys who were part of that league to kind of eliminate those guys that are -- there's not many of them left in the game. The game has changed; coaches find it hard to coaches those guys. The type of game that's played out there now is faster and quicker. Those guys are valuable. They were obviously valuable to my career early on and still to this day.
So, yeah, I mean, you need to get a rule and it's something that's been talked about in that situation, too. But when you get players like that who can play the game a little bit and be a pest and hit the body and be physical and tough, you can never have enough of those guys. But still, like I said, you need some guys to kind of settle the situation down if it gets a little too crazy.

Q. A couple of years ago, you had a rough go, in the '03-'04, season, did you think you would ever reach 500 and was there ever a time where maybe 500 was in doubt, something you would not reach in your career?
MIKE MODANO: I don't know, it was a number I never thought about obtaining. Even back three or four years ago, I wasn't really looking at that number as far as something I had to have or had to accomplish.
I think just as the year went by, I looked at where I was at the start of this year, I figured those two records were kind of maybe obtainable if I stayed healthy. And you know, missing the 25 games there throughout the season kind of put a damper on that sort of thing. If not, possibly it could have been a couple of months ago that I could have passed it.
But you know, so there's a lot of catch-up. There's a lot of trying to make the most of the games that were at the beginning of the season and feeling good, but for the most part, it was just getting back to feeling healthy. I thought if I could stay healthy throughout the season I could have got that. I thought about it more probably at the point of the start of the season than, you know, throughout the year.

Q. Do you feel like you have more of an appreciation for the time you have left, coming through an injury like that that almost knocked out half of the season?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, when you get older and you have injuries and you have setbacks, I think you value and you appreciate what you have and, you know, try to stay healthy for the most part of your career. And things happen; flukey injuries happen. That's the game. It's unpredictable, and when you're out there playing, things happen. So you try to not get frustrated or discouraged with it or and try to be better from it and work through it and try to get back to where you were. Yeah, you have appreciation for the game and your job certainly when you get older.

Q. Looking at this group of young American players coming up now, is there anybody that kind of stands out as someone that you think could top your record down the road?
MIKE MODANO: It's hard to say. I think, you know, even the couple of kids that I got to watch in the world juniors, there's going to be some great kids coming up. Shawn Kane, even Zach Parise of Jersey who is playing well; Gomez, Johnson, it's hard to say.
There's always going to be someone that comes out of the system and comes up. And the kids nowadays, they get bigger, stronger, faster than we were when we were coming up. I wouldn't put it past anybody to, like I said, some day kind of catch us. But you know, you try to stay in the game and you kind of try to make it a little more difficult for the next guy to come up and catch you.

Q. Thanks for joining us. Obviously there's a theme about your citizenship. When you came to the Western Hockey League, there were not very many U.S.-born players, and there's quite a few now. What were the circumstances that at that young age brought you to Canada?
MIKE MODANO: Well, I was still at the age where I couldn't get recruited by college. I was 16 and you had to wait another year until you were 17 to talk to colleges in the States. I think at that point I figured I wanted to get out of Detroit. I wanted to move on to a league with great competition that played an awful lot more games and travel, just something that kind of gave you a feeling of what it would like to be at the next level.
You know, my first options was to go to Quebec League. I had a situation with the Olympics where we had something worked out and I was going to go there and they changed their mind and went a different route with some other players. So the draft in Ontario and Quebec were on the same date, so I was limited to Ontario because I made a verbal commitment to Quebec.
A couple weeks later got a call out of the blue from Rick Wilson, who is our coach here in Dallas, and who was coaching at Prince Albert and asked if I wanted to come up and see the town and organization and meet some players and see if I liked it and I could stay and play.
But I think once I got there, I knew this was a great place. Playing in Canada, playing out west, playing in a small town in Canada where it was all about hockey, it just seemed to fit me right at the time that I needed it.

Q. In our market there's a close association between and you Trevor Linden. Are you two close, is there a bond there, drafted one, two and still going strong?
MIKE MODANO: I think there's a silent bond. We know each other obviously fairly well going back to junior days when we were in Minnesota. There's always been a great respect for each other for the longevity we've been able to stick around this long, and play and have the success that Trevor has had. You know, so I think early in our careers, we always wanted to -- there's a little bit of a competition to say who got the better choice of the draft. When I was in Minnesota and the first few years in Vancouver. So he had a great start to his career and still going strong and it was great to see.

Q. Because your careers still are going strong, do you feel like you can play a few more years? Have you given thought to how many more you will go?
MIKE MODANO: I do. I throw that question around a lot. I think, like I said earlier, I think as I've gotten older, I've appreciated the job and appreciated the game for what it's given me and what it's brought me. You can't really picture yourself doing anything else other than what you love to do and being a kid's game and having a job at the same time doing it.
I've enjoyed it. I've just wanted to have fun. If I could, you know, stay at the level I felt I could stay at, you know, work hard at it in the off-season and take care of myself, who knows. I would like to finish out my contract with the Stars and then see where that is after another three years.

Q. If you can, talk about your start back here in Minnesota, of course the obligatory North Star question, the impact your early days had on your career maybe even to this day.
MIKE MODANO: Well, I think there was a lot of pressure going into that situation. I think it was exciting and fun at the same time, but like I said, a lot of pressure to try to help change that organization, to try to change the situation there. But it was a great learning experience. You felt you wanted to come in and really make an impact and sometimes you felt like you almost tried too hard to kind of change things so fast. And it took time. You had to be patient and I think the fans were patient with us and for me personally. But it was -- I think when Bob came in and Dana (ph) came in the second year, that's when things really changed for me and the identity of starting to be an all-around player and playing all areas of the game and be responsible, I think that was something I had not heard before from anybody else.
So it was a learning experience but certainly having the opportunity to play with some of the guys that I did there with Mike Gardener and Larry Murphy, Neal and Brian Bellows (ph) and David Gagne (ph), it was a good group of guys to be around at that time.

Q. If you can, touch on Broughton (ph), another great American kid that did well, did you play with -- inaudible?
MIKE MODANO: I played with him for about four or five years. He was up in Minnesota for a bit and then we came to Dallas together. Got two great guys who had a good time playing with.

Q. Can you touch on Neal and what he did for and you I'll let it go.
MIKE MODANO: Neal was pretty quiet. We were both kind of quiet guys but Neal had a real inviting kind of attitude and personality where you could come to him and talk about anything, and he was really open about, you know, my situation and very supportive of me coming in and playing.
But he was a great guy to watch. He did a lot of things in the game really well and is a great face-off guy and penalty killer and just good with the puck and strong. He did a lot of things that, you know, Bob would tell me, Hey, just watch Neal and see how he plays and the patience he had. But more than anything, he knew the game, he was smart. Other than that, he's a great friend and still is and we keep in touch to this day still.

Q. How much of a luxury do teams have like Detroit or the Islanders when they have a guy like Holmes that's so good at planting himself in front of the net for tips, the physical presence, how much of a luxury is a guy like that in the league today?
MIKE MODANO: Well, you can only count on one hand the guys who sacrifice themselves to go in front of the net. The way guys shoot the puck in the game today, I mean, everybody has a hard time getting in front of those shots. But those two guys have made a living on it. They are good on it. They have great hand-eye, great on the rebounds and they have got the good hands around the net to kind of collect rebounds and do something positive afterwards.
So, I mean, those are troopers. They take a beating for the production they have gotten, and rightfully so. They go to areas of the game where a not a lot of guys want to go to because it's hard and your body is going to take a beating.

Q. Did you think it Tootoo's suspension, was it not right in your eyes, were you surprised at all by that?
MIKE MODANO: Well, it was hard to say. It's such a judgment call and with Colin Campbell and those guys, it's tough to make those decisions and make those calls on games and how many games you should be out. I know Jordan is an intense, really kind of competitive guy, and he's going to protect himself no matter what.
I think the incident with Stephane being out on -- taken out on a stretcher, it magnifies the stretcher a little more and they take a little more broader look at it certainly.

Q. Could you have been called for a slash there?
MIKE MODANO: I probably could. I kind of got swinging around and I had my stick, I think I was in a situation where I if I let it go, I could have been really in trouble or a little higher up on him, I could have been suspended myself. You know, I did pull back a little bit, and honestly -- swing didn't want to swing it around that hard and make it worse than they already were.

Q. Could you talk about the possibility of Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick not hitting 500 goals?
MIKE MODANO: Well, I hope they do. I think they have been great players. They have been consistent throughout their whole career and both Jeremy and Keith have been really strong ambassadors for the game and USA. It's been a lot of fun having an opportunity to play against them, play with them. They have had great, long careers.
So I hope they do. They deserve it and they have dedicated themselves to the game a lot and worked hard for where they are at today, though. I don't see them going away quietly yet. I think they have a lot to accomplish and still want to -- still have that drive.

Q. Have you talked to Joe since you broke the record?
MIKE MODANO: I did. I talked to Joey a couple of days ago, and he sent his best and congratulations and everything. I've talked to him occasionally beforehand leading up to the goal in Nashville, so it was nice to hear from him. I had not talked to him in a long time.

Q. Do you think the record -- Pat LaFontaine -- had not been injured --
MIKE MODANO: Oh, certainly I think Patty was the big guy -- that would have been the main guy. His numbers were amazing with the amount of games he did play. So he certainly would have been the guy that everybody has chasing. So he was -- you know, he was probably one of best guys that -- you know, coming out of the states that I had seen and played against and certainly had the potential of having some great numbers.
DAVID KEON: Thanks very much, Mike.

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