Mike Modano's no. 9 became the first jersey to be retired by the Prince Albert Raiders organization in an emotional pre-game ceremony on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
It's been 24 years since Mike Modano left the Prince Albert Raiders and the WHL behind to join the Minnesota North Stars in the NHL, but he still knows his way around town.
"It's been a long time," said Modano of his last time in Prince Albert. "A few things have changed here and there, but I still figured out my way around with the rental car."
The Raiders retired Modano's no. 9 in a stirring pre-game ceremony at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday, followed by a 7-1 Raiders victory over the Regina Pats in a fight filled affair that included 156 penalty minutes.
"Thrill, shock, honour, all in the same breath," Modano said of watching his number rise to the rafters of the Art Hauser Centre where he scored his first WHL goal, and then two more, in his first game as a Raider.
"I had never imagined in a million years that game unfolding like it did," Modano said of his first WHL game with the Raiders where he scored a hat-trick. "Playing with Pat Elynuik made life real easy, he was a gifted guy, a couple of great passes from him and that was that. It was a remarkable way to start a career out here."
In three years as a Raider, Modano amassed 294 points in 176 games, placing him sixth all-time in Raiders scoring. Modano was the first Raider to be taken first overall in an NHL Entry Draft, selected by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988.
Modano would play 20 of his 21 NHL seasons with the North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, before hanging up his skates in 2011 after a brief season with the Detroit Red Wings. Retiring with 1374 points in the NHL, Modano ranks as the highest scoring American of all-time, 23rd amongst all NHL players.
Crowned Stanley Cup champion in 1999, Modano attributes his NHL success to his time with the Raiders in the Western Hockey League, where he was prepped for action in The Show.
"A big majority of my adjustment to the NHL was made here," Modano said of his time with the Raiders in the rough and tumble WHL. "The type of talent that was here, the toughness, the travel regiment, long playoffs; I could've had better preparation for the NHL."
While playing minor hockey in Detroit, Mich. in 1986, Modano received a call from former Raiders coach Rick Wilson, inviting him to join the Raiders in the WHL, an offer Modano said was critical to his NHL success.
"I didn't know what I was getting myself into," Modano said of his decision at 16-years-old to leave behind his home in Livonia, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. "I really didn't know where I was going or what the WHL was all about, but I think once I got up here, saw the town, it was just a fun place to be."
As Modano looks forward to retirement, he will never forget the town dubbed Hockey Town North.
"Everything around here is based around the game of hockey and the Raiders," he said. "I look back at it as some of the best times of my life."
Modano will stick around Prince Albert this weekend, attending the Kinsmen Sportsman Dinner on Saturday to honour Prince Albert's local male and female athletes.