The loss of Modano leaves Final Four in NHL 94

Mike Modano's EA CardMike ModanoOn Friday, it was announced Mike Modano was retiring after 21 years in the NHL. He was the first overall player drafted in the 1988 NHL Draft by the Minnesota North Stars at the tender age of 18. He never looked back.

He holds the record for most goals (561) and points (1,374) scored by an American-born player. He was named to the All Star team eight times. Most importantly, he hoisted Lord Stanley’s chalice in 1999 for the Stars.

A class player, Mike Modano got in only one fight in his career, and that was against fellow ’88 Draftee Rod Brind’Amour. He was a finalist for the Lady Byng in 2003.

After playing for one season in Detroit, Modano signed an honorary contract with the Dallas Stars. There’s no mistake how much Modano means to the Stars franchise. He was the last player to have played in both cities as a Star, and was captain of the team from 2003-05. He also served as alternate captain from 1995-2003 and 2006-10.

While all that is important to note, I think it’s more devastating that now there’s only four active NHL players who were on the perennial video game NHL 94. (Not counting Owen Nolan, who is trying to find a spot on the stacked Canucks roster or the 12 players overseas.)

With Modano leaving the game, that leaves Jaromir Jagr (who is returning to the NHL and signed in Philly), Teemu Selanne (who is still with Anaheim), Nicklas Lidstrom (just off winning his seventh Norris Trophy in Detroit) and Roman Hamrlik (who signed a two-year deal in Washington). Talk about impressive company.

Like any gamer of the last 15 years, NHL 94 has become the definitive video game for hockey fans. I know I spent many long hours in the garage, playing countless games against my friends and the computer. Trash talking, instant replays, everything you saw in Swingers happened in my inner circle. (Well, everything except anyone calling the Kings a b**** team.)

The replay value was ridiculous, and the game coincided with the NHL’s popularity peaking in the mid 90s. With Gretzky on the West Coast and Messier on the East Coast, it was the last time the top two markets in the nation had premiere teams. My love for NHL 94 is well-documented.

Modano is hotBecause I spent many long nights playing NHL 94 with my friends, we would take to blindly selecting teams. My friend Dave loved to play with the Stars, in part because of Modano. It was Dave who cribbed the taunt “Mo-Da-No! Mo-Da-No! Mo-Da-No!” referencing Robin Williams in that famous scene from The Birdcage.

Actually, Modano was the only player worthwhile on Dallas. Basically, if you could stop Modano, you could stop the Stars. Funny thing is Modano enjoyed the best seasons of his career in the 1992-93 and 1993-94 season. I always wondered why he wasn’t ranked higher in the game.

To be honest, Modano’s stats in NHL 94 were confusing at best. He was ranked with “five pucks” in speed, shot power, stamina, stick handling and agility. Not sure if I agree with those rankings, although I never thought handling or agility mattered much in the game. He was also ranked with four pucks in offensive and defensive awareness, more odd categories that I doubt factored in the gameplay.

But the weird stat was his shot accuracy: for someone who have a monster shot, great offense awareness and speed, he was ranked with two pucks in shot accuracy. He also had two puck rating for checking, which is probably the only stat that is right on.

Because he was dinged in those two categories, he had an overall ranking of 82 (The pic on the right says 83, because he was on a hot streak). That put him behind such players in the game as Theo Fleury, Gary Roberts, Joe Sakic, Mark Recchi and the Kings’ own Luc Robitaille.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a formidable player. In the right gamer’s hands, like Dave’s, Modano could be deadly. Especially if you skated down and caught him on a one-timer down the middle, or skated from behind the goal and unloaded a shot at the faceoff circle. The only problem was he was stuck on a mediocre team (in NHL 95, that is. The Stars had an overall 67 rating. Only six teams had a worse overall rating. The Ducks were the worst at 51. Snort.)

It may be up for debate whether or not Mike Modano is a true Hall of Fame player, but he’ll certainly go down in the annals of NHL 94 as a legend. At least in my garage.

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