DALLAS (AP) — Even if the next face of the franchise is in the building when the Dallas Stars retire Mike Modano's No. 9, any comparison will fall short.
This is the guy who made hockey cool in Dallas as many fans were just trying to figure out what they were watching. This is the guy who knew how daunting the task was the moment he arrived from puck-mad Minnesota two decades ago.
Sure, Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin could be the one leading the Stars back to championship contention one of these days. But after Saturday, any return to glory will come under Modano's number hanging in the rafters.
"The only difference is I was 22, 23 coming into a town that didn't know anything about hockey," Modano told The Associated Press.
"So I grew up with this town, with the sport, so people couldn't relate to the sport without relating to a few of us in the same sense. And having the success that our team did and individually that I was able to have, those opportunities and those scenarios don't get played out too often in many cities or organizations."
It'll be a pretty rare party Saturday when the Stars play Minnesota, where Modano started his career as a No. 1 pick before the North Stars moved south in 1993, replaced by the expansion Wild seven years later.
There are 53 names on the "green carpet" list for the pre-game festivities, many of them former teammates who beat Buffalo for the franchise's only Stanley Cup in 1999 and lost in the finals a year later to New Jersey.
Modano had several tearful farewells as his playing days wound down — first saying goodbye to Dallas and Minnesota fans in 2010 and then leaving the game in 2011 after the Livonia, Mich., native's one season with Detroit.
Now an executive with the Stars, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer and two-time Olympian had a big hand in planning this send-off. But that won't make it any less emotional for someone who hasn't been afraid to show his soft side.
"To walk out there, I think it's going to be really tough," said the 43-year-old Modano, the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history. "And then walking over to the jersey and watching that get lifted up. I think those two moments are going to be really tough and having family and friends really close on the ice with you. It's going to be a real up and down night."