DETROIT — Mike Modano feels like a rookie again.
At age 40.
Playing for his hometown Detroit Red Wings has Modano experiencing emotions he hasn’t gone through since he was a 19-year-old star of the future for Minnesota in the late 1980s: Nerves and butterflies.
“It’s toned down,” admitted the Detroit Red Wings centre before facing the Calgary Flames Thursday night. “There are still some jitters because you’re playing for this team in front of friends and family.
“There was a gamble bringing me back and playing in this situation, so there’s urgency for me to prepare and do what I can off the ice so I can do things on the ice.”
Sure, he’s not the top-line point producer of years past. But we’re talking about a player who has adapted his game and attitude to perfectly fill a third-line role, with a one-year, US$1.25-million contract.
Moreover, he’s rejuvenated from joining a new team after all those years with the Dallas Stars.
“I had a comfort level in Dallas I was happy about, but for me, it became stale there and I needed something to get me excited and get that nervousness. The tension you need before games wasn’t there. Plus, I wasn’t having much fun. Our team wasn’t doing well and didn’t make the playoffs,” said Modano, who went into Thursday night’s clash with 558 goals and 1,360 points in 1,464 NHL games.
When the puck dropped against the Flames, Modano had one assist in five outings this season, but expectations are he and linemates Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler will soon make their mark.
“We’re hoping so. We have a good understanding of how we need to play and can get some momentum going,” Modano said.
After all, an excited 40-year-old does help even a veteran like Cleary find more energy.
“Once he starts to get confident, he’ll be a huge player for us because what’s caught my eye is how determined he is,” Cleary said.