the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft, a champion (Modano won the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999) and who spent his entire career with one franchise.
His wife isn't bad looking either.
In fact, Modano and Tkachuk were two of the pillars of the vanguard of American hockey. There was no 1980 Miracle on Ice moment for either of them, but the U.S. experienced some of its greatest success on the ice with Modano and Tkachuk in tow. Both were crucial parts of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey team which shocked Canada in the Championship round with two comeback wins in Montreal, as well as the Silver Medal squad from the 2002 Winter Olympics.
While many of the great players of those teams (Mike Richter, Jeremy Roenick, Brian Leetch) have already retired, something seems fitting about Modano, who appropriately will be playing his last game back in Minnesota where his career started, and Tkachuk taking curtain calls on back to back nights and potentially being enshrined in Toronto together. That last part may be a pipe dream -- Modano is a stronger lock to make the Hall than Tkachuk -- but for two players who were so successful over roughly the same period it only seems appropriate for them to walk out together.
former Winnipeg Jets remaining in the League (along with Teemu Selanne, who may also retire, Nikolai Khabibulin and Shane Doan, the only one still with the Jets/Coyotes franchise). But over nine seasons in the Gateway City, Tkachuk, or as he was affectionately known there, Walt, has become a fan favorite who stated last night that he has no intentions of moving away from his adopted home, and that he plans on still being a part of the Blues organization when it wins its first Stanley Cup.
Modano, too, became a fixture in Dallas, where he was visibly brought to tears during the closing moments of his last game in Texas and again afterwards when he was treated to yet another standing ovation from the home crowd. Of course, Modano seemed to get his emotions in check fairly quickly, and picked a hell of a way to go out to his home fans. The Anaheim Ducks quickly spoiled the party after his tribute by taking the lead, but it was none other than Modano himself who would tie the game with under two minutes left. Mo wasn't done yet, either. After nearly ending the game on a breakaway in overtime, Modano scored the shootout winner as his final act on the ice in Dallas.
Not a bad way for only the second American ever drafted No. 1 to go out, huh? Tkachuk didn't have quite the same sparkling moment, but he was a pivotal part of a 6-3 win for St. Louis, ironically, also against the Ducks. The gutsy winger assisted on two goals in the third period to cap a comeback for the Blues, another appropriate sendoff.
But as we turn the page on two of the more accomplished players in American hockey history, who gets to step into their places on the forefront of USA Hockey? I'm no expert, but put one vote here for Zach Parise and Patrick Kane, and no, not because they happen to play for my two favorite teams. Aside from already showing themselves to be among the most gifted forwards in the League today, Kane is a similarly dynamic player to Modano, while Parise has the same nose for the net that Tkachuk has had throughout his career, with arguably more scoring ability. The pair has already proven themselves more than capable in the NHL Arena, and acquitted themselves extremely well at the Vancouver Olympics.
Parise memorably scoring with 24.4 seconds left in the gold medal game to force overtime.
If the next generation of USA Hockey is to meet or exceed the standards of what came before it, Parise and Kane's shoulders may very well be where the pressure rests. If they can come close to the legacies of Modano and Tkachuk both in the NHL and in International play, they'll have done themselves and their country proud.
It would be hard to find two better reputations to live up to.