Mike Modano knows a thing or two about hockey.
The Hockey Hall of Famer suited up for 21 NHL seasons where he notched 1,374 points (561 goals and 813 assists) in 1,499 games for the North Stars/Stars and Red Wings. His goals and points total sits atop the list among American-born players.
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He also knows a thing or two about winning. In 1999, he potted 23 points in the playoffs to lead the Stars to the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup. And he’s won an Olympic silver medal (2002) and was a member of the upset-wielding American squad at the 1996 World Cup.
But does he know anything about interior design? That will soon be determined as the Minnesota Wild’s executive advisor has teamed up with Little Caesars and Pepsi for one hockey fan to get an Ultimate Hockey Hangout designed by him. The contest runs from now till June 8.
So, will the guy who was the equivalent of the fine arts on the ice have the same aesthetic in decor? That is to be determined. But, until then, Sporting News recently caught up with Modano to chat on a number of topics including decorating, USA Hockey and the Wild’s postseason chances.
Editor’s note: The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Sporting News: What are your design plans and is it gonna be like a lot of [the Dallas Stars color] Victory Green?
Mike Modano: The hangout probably, [will be] very plush, very big and cozy. I’m not sure about Victory Green; might have a little green and red and black in there with the Wild. But yeah, I’m thinking oversized couch cozy, nice pizza warmer and Pepsi in the fridge and maybe a bubble hockey for between periods. We’ll come up with something pretty neat.
SN: Do you do have a kind of place like this in your house to watch hockey games?
MM: I used to till I had kids. Now it’s like makeshift. So I gotta get the cozy couch in there but I’m missing all the fun stuff that I used to have: coolers and microwaves and warmer ovens in my little TV rooms. Now it’s a lot of toys and Hot Wheels I’m stepping on and everything so it kind of gets loud. I try to venture off into somewhere I can hide and actually, our bedrooms turned into our TV room now, so at least I can lock the door.
SN: You’ve played in a shortened season back in 1995 so you kind of know what it’s like to have this condensed schedule a little bit. And there were no fans, and still none in Canada. Does this all impact the playoffs?
MM: Yeah, cause you feel like it’s a little bit of a drag race. Usually, in an 82-game season, you can kind of have your ups and downs and still kind of get on some runs there and still make a situation where you can make a run into the playoffs and get in. But with 56 games, you have to have got to be on your game for a good long amount of time. But, with that travel, with the condensed schedule, you have injuries, you had the COVID situation. So, teams got slowed down in those situations where you had some good teams lose some good players that affected their schedule and affected their record as the season was coming to an end.
I couldn’t imagine no fans. It just kind of, it adds to that whole intensity level of playoffs and I know that Canadian restrictions are different than the U.S. But the U.S. is just letting up a little bit, so I know some buildings will be allowed to have a little more capacity coming up here. [It] just kind of makes the whole situation, the whole sense of playoffs, more exciting for fans and for players,
SN: Speaking a little bit about the Canadian division, Auston Matthews is having a phenomenal year. What about his shot makes it so deadly?
MM: Well, he gets it off in a hurry. He doesn’t really waste any time with it and he has a really good idea where it’s going. But you talk to a lot of great goal scorers, it’s just a matter of getting the puck on the net quick. Not allowing the goalie to really kind of set up and challenge the shooter and he does have an amazing release and I think that’s half the battle in beating goalies; Not allowing him to get set and face you as a shooter. Plus, he’s a big man, he’s a big guy, hard to move around, but he’s got a good reach but certainly, his hands are fast and it’s heavy and it’s coming at you pretty quick. When you have those things and you’re able to get a half a dozen shots a game, you’re going to get a good basic goals going in for you.
SN: He’s the first American to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, and the first American to win the goal-scoring race since Keith Tkachuk in 1997, how important is it for USA Hockey?
MM: It just helps phenomenally. I think the growth of the game in these states that we never had hockey before the expansion in California and Arizona, Texas, Florida, I think it’s just kind of have increased the hockey pool that we get to pull players out of. He was a rare exception out of Phoenix, the No. 1 draft pick, goes to Europe to play before his draft year and then the national team in Ann Arbour. It’s a rare exception I think to find someone come out of Scottsdale, and to be the amazing player that he is.
It does a lot for USA Hockey. It shows that the growth is there, the increase of popularity is there. Certainly for a player to win the Rocket, being an American, that’s just, like you said, it’s never been done before, and I’m sure for the way he plays and scores and creates probably won’t be the last award he wins either.
SN: Your group of American players, you, Doug Weight, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, you guys paved the way for this generation of American players. What’s it like seeing where USA Hockey is now?
MM: I think there’s a lot of pride that comes with it. I think as kids, our coming out was 1980. I think for a lot of kids now, they’re coming out with the ’96 World Cup. I think ’02 Salt Lake Games against Canada was a big attractive thing for these kids that were becoming world junior players and be able to get into a national team format. You look at that crop of kids now, there’s probably hasn’t been that much talent, probably since that World Cup ’96 team for us. We got a lot of skill in [Patrick] Kane and Jack Eichel, Auston, the Hughes brothers. I mean, the list kind of goes on, it’s increasing. This next Olympics could be a real good coming-out party for a lot of those guys too.
SN: Obviously mentioning Connor McDavid, I mean what’s it been like watching him in his game and just what he’s done this year.
MM: Oh it’s been phenomenal. I think it’s just, he’s at a whole other level. He’s just a level above everybody. He’s just a rare player that comes around that everybody seems to want to watch. You feel like you’re entertained every night. I’m sure it’s killing the fans in Edmonton not to be in that building, full house, to watch that, and to see the type of season he put on.
I know everybody’s itching to get back in the building, same with our guy Kirill Kaprizov in Minnesota, the season he’s had for the Wild — and probably the Calder Trophy winner. A lot of good things that, hopefully, the fans will get to watch soon here in person.
SN: Regarding the Wild, they’re having a spectacular season. Your thoughts on their playoff chances.
MM: It’s been amazing. The turnaround’s been great. I think Kaprizov has kind of added this whole exciting dynamic to their team. [Mats] Zuccarello is healthy, playing really well. So, they had a lot of positive, good things going on that they just kind of got this momentum going. They played with a lot of confidence this year. They’re well-coached. I played with Dean [Evason] in Dallas for a few years and he’s [a] very straightforward no-nonsense guy and, being one of the guys in that room to help hire Bill Guerin, he’s kind of the same way; Just no-nonsense, just doesn’t take excuses very well, you either show up and do your job or you’re not going to play.
They set the tone early in the season and players seem to be buying in. . . . Minnesota has always been known as a kind of ‘meat and potato’ team, kind of grind it out, low-scoring type of style games. Now, they’re keeping pace with Vegas, keeping pace with a lot of the teams that can get up and down the ice quick and make some plays.
I think their first round is going to be tough. . . . They got their hands full. But, the goal is to get in and when you get in, you just never know what can happen.
SN: Do you have a prediction for who will win the Stanley Cup this year?
MM: I’m going to try to have my Wild as my Dark Horse. But, I think, you look at Tampa, you look at even Pittsburgh’s come on strong. The same teams kind of seem to pick up at the same time of the year. But our division, especially, I think the Vegas-Colorado thing and Minnesota could be very interesting how that plays out.