MIKE MODANO … U.S. OLYMPIC HOCKEY TEAM, SILVER MEDAL, 2002 … 7-TIME NHL ALL-STAR … STANLEY CUP CHAMPION, 1999 … NHL CENTER, MINNESOTA NORTH STARS, DALLAS STARS, 1989 PRESENT Hockey players are like mules. They have no fear of punish – ment and no hope of reward. EMORY D. JONES, St. Louis Braves (CHL) general manager MIKE MODANO 163 My dad, who worked every day of his life, taught me how to play sports. He was a construction worker in Detroit and I watched how hard he worked, how he went to work outside in all kinds of horrible weather with bosses few would like to work for. I knew I did not want to live that kind of life, and my dad did all he could to keep me from that life. He was not a vocal guy, but he modeled how I wanted to approach life.
He would never let me be the one who pointed the finger or who told others what they should do. He taught me to be positive and to do what I could do. Early on, I was in a lot of trouble. I was always getting into fights, not listening to the teacher. My parents put me into hockey to wear me out a little bit, to burn off some of that energy. I liked it so much, they then used it as a discipline tool. If I acted up or I got a bad report card, no hockey. It worked because I had such a love for the sport. I also had little energy to get into trouble at home or in school after an afternoon of practice. I was doing well enough that at fifteen I got an offer to go to Canada and play, so, with my parents’ blessings, I just packed up and left. MY MOMENT I was worried that I’d end up back in Detroit doing construction with my dad.
Until one tournament in Russia, I had no idea how I’d measure up internationally. But when I was named to the Junior Olympic team, I did well. After the tournament, the leading scouting bureau came out with their list of young prospects and I was up near the top. That’s when I said, Wow, this really might work out. I could actually have a career doing this. RAISED ON HOCKEY When you leave home at fifteen you are thrust into many different situations and it’s expected that you will grow up quickly. I did. I was so much older than my sister, it was as if I were an only child and I felt like I could get what I wanted when I wanted it. Joining a team, I quickly learned that wouldn’t be the case. 164 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME The more I think about it, the more I realize how much about life I learned playing hockey. I was able to see and experience different countries and cultures.
I saw how big business worked as we interacted with all our sponsors. I learned about all the different people and personalities from every corner of this country as well as from Canada, for that matter. MESSAGE TO THE KIDS After doing that scene in the Mighty Ducks movie, kids seem more attached to me and that’s okay. I get kids coming up to me all the time, telling me how they are going to be a pro player like me. I think it’s great, but I let them know the amount of sacrifice that goes into it. I try to let them know about the hours away from the ice, how much training is involved in the off-season. They see the glamour of the glossy hockey cards and the highlights on TV, and I think that’s cool. I don’t want to discourage anyone, because it’s a great life, but like anything else, it takes a lot of work. To make it, you also need a lot of luck.
It’s also clear to me that the process of refining your skills and expending the energy and sacrifice to be a pro is a wonderful teaching tool, even if you don’t make it. HOW HE PLAYS THE GAME I play the game with a quiet intensity. I try to keep my emotions in check. Yes, I have an intensity that matches anyone else on the ice, but I try to keep it low-key and under control. It’s what works for me. WHAT’S NEXT? I know I have just three to five years left in my hockey career, and I’ve often thought about what’s next. I have sat in my accountant’s office and gotten the sense of what his job is like. I think it will take the same type of drive to be successful in my post-hockey career as it did in my hockey career. I like to think I am ready for it, and I plan on bringing that quiet intensity to whatever I do next.
MY WRAP Mike has sacrificed his entire life to be the best hockey player he can be, and in return he’s had some incredible success: All-Star games, Stanley Cup wins, MIKE MODANO 165 and many, many more thrills. As he admits, his life was heading south at a young age, but getting involved with sports truly straightened him out. It should be interesting to see if the star with the matinee idol looks will, indeed, win another Cup, or maybe start another life in management in the sport that he loves.
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