Matt Hendricks has a framed picture on his wall from a game he played in 2009 while with the Colorado Avalanche. But this special photo isn’t of his first NHL game or first NHL goal.
It’s of him taking a faceoff against childhood hero Mike Modano.
“It’s pretty neat and something I’ll never forget,” Hendricks said.
“I have always said that on all the teams I have played on and/or coached he was by far the most skilled — the most skilled player that I have ever played with,” said Caps assistant coach Dean Evason, who spent two seasons with Modano in Dallas. “To watch him in practice — it was almost beautiful to watch him skate, shoot, pass. Everything was effortless.”
Modano is revered for his speed and production — John Erskine called him “one of the fastest I ever played with” – but that’s not everything.
“There was nights where [coach Bob Gainey] pushed him hard to go to those core areas, those dirty areas, to score goals and not just be a perimeter player,” Evason said. “And I think Mike didn’t get a lot of credit for how gritty he played the game.”
Modano became the best American-born forward in history during his 21-year career in the NHL and also played for the United States in 11 different international competitions from the world junior championships in 1988 to the Olympics in 2006. He helped the U.S. win a gold medal at the 1996 World Hockey Championship.
And inspired U.S.-born players like Hendricks a long time ago.
“He was a phenomenal player — someone I tried to emulate to the best of my abilities. Obviously I don’t have the abilities that he has,” Hendricks said. “But what an energetic, exciting player to watch.”