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NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 14, 2009
JULIE YOUNG: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's conference call with Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano.
Last week, Mike was named to the Western Conference roster for the 57th NHL All-Star Game to be played Sunday, January 25th at the Bell Center in Montreal. The game will be played at 6:00 p.m. eastern time, and will be carried by CBC, RDS, Versus, and NHL radio.
It will be Mike's seventh All-Star appearance, and he will return to the city where he made his All-Star debut in 1993. Mike has played his entire 19-year career with the Stars organization, and is the franchise leader in goals with 541, assists at 768 and points at 1309. He passed Phil Housley in November of 2007 to become the highest scoring U.S.-born player in NHL history.
With the Stars overtime victory in Detroit early this week, they move to within four points of the 8th and final playoff berth in the Western Conference and have gone 8-2 in their past ten games. They host the Sabres tomorrow and the Kings on Saturday at the American Airlines Center.
Q. Your teammate James Neal was named last week to the rookie roster for the young Stars game in Montreal, where they'll face off a team of sophomores. Wondering what kind of advice you would give him on the All-Star experience and what to expect?
MIKE MODANO: I really haven't had a chance to talk to him, but I think I would just let him know just have a good time. There's a lot going on, but invite some friends, have a good time.
Montreal will be a great city, I'm sure, a great host of this event. You know, like everybody else, I'm sure he's excited. But just to have fun and enjoy it, and it's over before you know it, so take some time with some friends and family or whatnot to share in the experience.
Q. Two quick questions, first of all, I was wondering what you think the main reasons have been for your sort of team's better play over the past month, and how you've been better able to overcome sort of the injuries and the roller coaster you had earlier in the year?
MIKE MODANO: Probably the injuries was probably number one. I think any time you have Zubov, Morrow, Lehtinen, Ott, Lundqvist, I mean, those five or six guys were out all at the same time for a good stretch of time. It was tough to find some rhythm and find guys who could fill those holes, obviously. It was just asking a lot of the young team, inexperienced team to fill those holes from those guys.
So eventually we got those guys back, four of the six back, so that made a big difference. And now they feel like they're back to game shape, and being more of an everyday player.
Q. Secondly, now that you've sort of had a few weeks behind you, how would you assess both yourself and your team and how you handled the whole saga with Avery, and wondering if there was anything you might have done differently if you had to go through it again?
MIKE MODANO: Well, I don't know. I think we would have analyzed it a little bit more over the summer before you go into the free agent market, and do a little more homework and detailed analysis of players, I think. Impacted on opinions of players who have played with him or how guys feel about it.
So I mean it could have been avoided, I think, but I think Brett felt having him as a teammate, he saw something in him. Talent-wise, he's a very skilled kid and player, but I think character-wise and personality just didn't blend with the criteria that we've always had as Dallas Stars since Bob Gainey was here. We've kind of implemented a personality and character figure in Tom Hicks, and so that's where that eventually went off and tailspinned and got corrected.
Q. I talked earlier to Derek Mears who is playing Jason in the upcoming "Friday the 13th" movie, and he talked about meeting you and your wife there. I just wondered as a guy who has given goalies a lot of nightmares over the years, how would you like watching a guy in a goalie mask giving your wife a nightmare?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, as soon as I was over the playoffs, I went down to Austin and hung out for a week and saw some filming. Met all of the cast and everybody. You know, kind of got explained to how everybody gets killed off in the show. So it's getting hyped pretty good.
It's going to be, hopefully, a good opening weekend. But, yeah, she's excited about it. Her first major motion picture, so we're hoping it has a great first weekend.
Q. Derek was saying that the three of you went out for dinner one night, and he admitted he wasn't much of a hockey fan, but he was just amazed at how many people recognized you and kind of gave an indication how popular hockey really was in Texas?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, in Austin, we still have a lot of people who are obviously fans in Texas that Austin not being too far from Dallas and having a minor league team there, too and semi-pro team. I mean, our minor league team is going to be there next year, so there are fans everywhere in Texas, and it's amazing how much of an impact us coming to Texas has on the whole state.
So, I mean we've got a few people coming up to us as the dinner went on, but there was a lot of explaining to him how hockey works.
Q. Just back to the topic that never dies, of course. Sean Avery. Have you talked to him at all since all this went down?
MIKE MODANO: No, I haven't.
Q. Nothing, no communication. What about the rest of the team or people?
MIKE MODANO: None that I know of. I haven't talked to really, I haven't brought it up to Brett either. But I'm sure he's kind of kept in touch with him. But I haven't heard anything from the other guys, either, that have had any contact with him.
Q. So no idea what the future holds for him?
MIKE MODANO: No, none. I don't even know where he's at or what he's doing. So it's hard to say right now with how this is going to work out.
Q. A quick one about the team. We were talking about how better the team was playing recently. And how tough is it to focus on on the year with the knowledge that Brandon Morrow is, you know, out for such a long-term?
MIKE MODANO: It's tough. He's become a major center piece in this organization, and he's kind of he evolved into a player that we certainly have prided ourselves on here as developing and he does everything so well. It's tough to miss him.
It's killing him not being able to play and such a major injury at this point in his career. Just when he felt things were kind of taking off and in such a positive note.
But I'm sure he'll bounce back. He's been really adamant about his rehab and therapy. It is time consuming, so, mentally, it's just something that you've just got to already fast forward to next year, and just say, hey, I'm going to be ready for October and come out and be a part of camp.
Q. A final one from a selfish standpoint. I have Marty Turco in my hockey pool?
MIKE MODANO: Uh-huh.
Q. How's he been doing lately?
MIKE MODANO: He's getting there. He's coming around. And everything that we've done as a team and how we've played has kind of been reflected on everything. Marty's play and our special teams and the defending and goals against. So it's just kind of been an accumulation of a lot of things that unfortunately, you know, your last point of defense is your goalie. And unfortunately that position gets -- you can be the hero or the one playing for everything.
Q. I had a bunch of All-Star questions for you. I wanted to start, back in 1993 when you showed up in Montreal for your first one, what was that experience like? What do you remember taking away from that?
MIKE MODANO: Oh, I don't know. Just being in the forum, and having all of the tradition of hockey and all of the ex-players around and former Canadiens and some of the former NHL players for that fact. Just having them around and seeing some of those people.
But just generally being in Montreal for that type of celebration was just you knew they would put on a great show, and it turned out to be one of the greater ones that I remember.
Q. I know that some people say after their first All-Star Game they come along with so much confidence. I don't know if you necessarily needed it, but after that first one being in the room with everybody else knowing that you're an All-Star, how much confidence did you gain just from one game there?
MIKE MODANO: You definitely do a lot. It does a lot to you. You have the practice, you have the game, and then you just feel playing with such high level, it kind of rubs off on you. You come home and you feel very -- your confidence level is fairly high.
It does have a positive impact on you. You come home and feel very comfortable in your game and what you're doing. Being recognized as one of the more better players or elected into the All-Star Game is certainly an honor. It does have an impact on you.
Q. In '99 in Tampa Bay, I'm pretty sure you guys won and had a goal and three assists with some other guy named Gretzky had three points and got the MVP. If Gretzky wasn't in that game, do you think you would have been the MVP?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, yeah. I remember the game, and Bourque came up to me and said Marty get one more point, and I think you've got the MVP wrapped up. And we didn't get any more, and they gave it to Gretzky, so I think it was Gretzky's last All-Star Game, too. So maybe they'll have that response to me if I only get a couple of points.
Q. Going back to Montreal for an All-Star Game kind of brings it full circle for you, doesn't it?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, I mean the draft and being first All-Star Game and being part of that was certainly a lot of fond memories and things that I'll remember obviously for a long time.
So, yeah, it's gone full circle, and you know, you never know if it's going to be your last. But you certainly remember your first and the draft. Certainly if this is the last one, I'll definitely go out on a high being part of that whole celebration.
Q. One of the ones -- you didn't play in the one in Dallas, but you were a part of it. Very much a part of it. Just talk about that and the fond memory of an All-Star Game you didn't play in?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, it was tough. Being at home, I was really looking forward to it. Being part of this. It rarely happens. It's probably going to be a long time down the road before it comes back. But, yeah, it would have been fun. I was bummed I missed it, but they put on a good show here in Dallas. They he did it up fairly well.
But, yeah, that will be one that I remember that I wish I was a part of.
Q. You've had a pretty good run at All-Star Games, I think it's like ten points in the six games. What do you chalk that up to? Is it just that you're playing with all these elite guys or is it you can somehow pick up the game even though it's an All-Star Game?
MIKE MODANO: Maybe a little bit of both. You love the speed and the tempo, and the play making. Obviously, you get passes that sometimes catch you off guard that you don't normally get on a consistent basis.
But you're dealing with guys who are great one-on-one guys, so if you can pass it to a guy in your own zone, he might go end-to-end and make some great plays and score. That's what's so exciting about the game.
So you're around great players who can dominate and make plays. You've just got to get them the puck and things have happened well.
Q. Do you have a favorite one of the ones you've been part of?
MIKE MODANO: God, I think probably the Tampa one, and Montreal. The Tampa game was a lot of fun, and the one in Toronto was certainly a lot of fun. But Tampa, with me being so close, and having the type of production we had that night. Playing with Corea and Amante, and certainly some other guys. We just had a lot of fun that night.
Q. Wanted to ask you a couple of quickies. We're doing stuff on fastest skater in the league. Who in your mind are among the fastest skaters in the league right now?
MIKE MODANO: Well, I think it's classified as or separated as two different skaters. You have an all out around the rink speed, and then you have someone behind the blue line. You can just offer from the stand still and get going at the drop of a dime. I always thought Paul, even Corea was one of those guys from blue line to blue line is one of the faster guys I've seen.
And even I'd say Ovechkin, blue line to blue line. But around the rink, I'd say Niedermayer, you know, Fedorov was one of those guys that once he got it going, he just got quicker and quicker.
Q. How about now? Is Niedermayer still in that class or guys like candle and Keith?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, kind of along the lines there. I'd take Campbell as one of those guys that's right up there. Even the guy we have here, Stephane Robidas is a very underrated skater. You know, so the list is probably pretty long.
Q. What are the tricks to the trade? Other than being in great shape and having strong legs. You've got to have something else to be that fast. Can you put your finger on it?
MIKE MODANO: It's hard to say. Because sprinting on the track, you know, I'm the worst probably sprinter-runner. I've worked out with a lot of guys who are fast runners and not the quickest with skating.
But it does use some different muscles. You get on the ice, and it's a different kind of rhythm, and different movement in the body. But, yeah, it's a timing thing. Just really getting a constant flow to your stride is a big part of that speed.
Q. Have you ever participated in the fastest skater competition? I can't remember?
MIKE MODANO: God, I'm trying to think. I think I did once a long time ago. One of the first couple that I did it. I don't think I did it in Montreal, but I think the one after I did.
Q. The Tampa one? Or Vancouver, Vancouver?
MIKE MODANO: Might have been Vancouver.
Q. Do you remember what it was like? You have one shot, really. Do you remember what it was like?
MIKE MODANO: Oh, it's hard to say. You know, you're sitting around, you're cold and tight and you have to go out there and try to go 100 miles an hour. You know, some guys are a little hesitant going full bore just because you've been sitting around.
But you know, it's a little nerve-racking because you're sitting there, and it's just one guy going around the ice, so you don't want to flub up or lose an edge or something going around there.
Q. What do you think you're going to do this year in the skills?
MIKE MODANO: I don't know. I don't know. I hope I'm more of a spectator. I want to sit and hang out and watch. Dish out the pucks if they need to. I'm just kind of a little bystander.
Q. In today's game, do you get the sense that speed is even more important now than it was before the lockout?
MIKE MODANO: Yeah, very much so. I think with the rule changes and the way the game is played, obviously, the quicker guys and the guy that's can skate have the advantage because if there's no stick work, and you have the body position or you have to step on a guy, you get the benefit of the doubt. And if you do get a little tug on you, you know you're going to get calls and penalties and stuff and whatnot.
It is quick. The game happens a lot quicker. In hindsight guys have become almost better defenders because now you have to have better position, you have to be better with your stick. You know, quicker with your feet to be able to recover if you got beat.
So before if you got beat you could get that stick out or grab a guy and slow him down and recover that way. Now you're depending solely on your feet to get you back.
Q. Knowing how competitive Marty Turco is, how tough was it to see him go through these struggles this year? Is there anything you can do as a player or skater, sort of to help him out and just basically how tricky it is to walk that line between supporting the guy, and sort of telling him to buck up, as it were?
MIKE MODANO: It's difficult. More difficult, probably, with the goaltender because they have a regimen and schedule, and preparation is very, you can't really compare to a defenseman or a forward.
But being him, he's so competitive. He wants to be at such a high level all the time, that sometimes it's hard to. You're going to have some dips and some valleys in your game, but, you know, unfortunately for us at the start of the season, we kind of hung in those valleys and dips a little longer than we'd hoped to, and we just didn't bounce back out of them.
So it's been tough on everybody. But I know Marty's handled it very well. You know, the pressure of a goaltender situation, it's always taking the good with the bad there.
Q. I asked him this a year ago this time and I'll ask you. Other teams sort of look upon this time as sort of dog days, but since the lockout you've had this ridiculous sort of record around this time of the year, especially in February. Any theories as to why you seem to be able to sort of find a gear at this time? Is it veterans, conditioning, what are your theories on that?
MIKE MODANO: It's hard to say. I think for the first part we do travel a lot, and we're not at home quite a bit. So we tend to have our ups and downs early in the season until we kind of get back on a normal schedule where we're here a little bit more often because of our time change, and heading out west all the time. Allowing our bodies to recover physically when we get back.
You know, it's hard to say. I think, we recognize that it is those dog days. Right now it is as important as ever to kind of maintain a level and knowing that March and April have come around that you hate to lose out on these points. For us right now we're kind of in a playoff mode so we don't want to fall much more behind.
Q. I'm curious about what you think about Loui Eriksson?
MIKE MODANO: It's been great. It's really fun to watch and follow him as he's grown up and developed into a player. But he's certainly had a tremendous first half for us. He's been really consistent. So it's been great.
I'm sure he's enjoyed it. It looks like he's having fun and finally enjoying himself.
Q. What does he develop most do you think?
MIKE MODANO: Just probably his confidence. Just getting playing time and getting some experience and being thrust into a major role and asking him to play a lot of minutes and being in a lot of situations for us.
So the more you put into those ideas and areas, the more he's been able to gain some confidence and know that he's relied upon very heavily here.
JULIE YOUNG: Thank you, Mike.
End of FastScripts