Once he got there in 1993, he didn't miss a beat.
Modano, the highest-scoring U.S.-born player in NHL history, joined longtime New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, and player-turned-broadcaster Ed Olczyk, as the newest inductees to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night.
Modano lived up to his billing after being chosen with the first pick of the 1988 NHL draft.
By the time he retired in 2011, the Livonia, Mich., native was the Stars' leader in games played (1,459), goals (557), assists (802) and points (1,359). He also holds franchise records with 145 playoff points in a club-high 174 games.
Modano, who played his final NHL season with the Detroit Red Wings, leads U.S.-born players in goals (561) and points (1,374).
Olczyk was taken with the No. 3 pick in the 1984 draft by his hometown Chicago Blackhawks and went on to play 16 years in the NHL after starting his career as an 18-year old rookie.
Olczyk finished with 342 goals and 794 points in 1,031 games with Chicago, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Winnipeg Jets, the New York Rangers, the Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He returned to the Blackhawks for his last two years in the NHL and retired in 2000. Olczyk is now NBC's lead hockey game analyst.
Lamoriello is entering the U.S. Hall of Fame as a builder, three years after his induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
"The Americans are here, if that's the way to say it, and here to stay in every way," Lamoriello said.
Lamoriello's distinguished career started long before he joined the Devils and built them into perennial winners. With New Jersey, Lamoriello has earned three Stanley Cup championships in 24 seasons, and two other Eastern Conference titles — including last season.
Along with Modano, Lamoriello was also part of the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Lamoriello served as the general manager of the American squad that beat Canada for the title.
"We wanted to change what they thought of us as players, that we didn't belong at their level," Modano said. "It took a long time, but we always felt in the back of our minds that we could prove a lot of countries wrong, that we could play with them."
Since then, the United States has remained among the hockey elite. The Americans earned the silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
"After the '96 World Cup, the American player is here," Lamoriello said. "That's when they got recognized, and the way you get recognized is when individuals have success. That was a long time ago. Now there's nothing to distinguish."
Before that, Lamoriello had a 22-year career as a player, coach and athletic director at Providence College. He was inducted into the Providence College Hall of Fame in 1982 and joined the Devils five years later.
A big reason for the United States' development as a hockey powerhouse is how the game has spread at the youth level to many non-traditional areas, including Dallas, where Stefan Noesen was a first-round draft pick in 2011 by the Ottawa Senators, and Seth Jones is predicted to be one of the top five selections next year.
Modano played a big role in that growth down south.
"In hindsight now, it's been a real remarkable transition the way the game has increased down here," Modano said. "I'm real proud of being part of that when it first started and watching it evolve, see the popularity increase. It was great to see and it was fun to be a part of."
Olczyk, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, is also helping to grow the game now in his high-profile position on television.
"I've just been really lucky throughout my entire career, and I've worn a lot of hats," Olczyk said. "I was a fan, I was a player, I was a coach, broadcaster and a dad, so on any given night, I can have one of those hats on. I love the game, and hockey has been my and my family's life."
That dedication and commitment isn't lost on Modano, a teammate of Olczyk's in international competition.
"Just a class guy, his approach to the game and professionalism," Modano said of Olczyk, his teammate in the 1991 Canada Cup. "He was a lot of fun to be around, so we've always had that connection since 1991. He's been remarkable for the game and on TV, and what he's done with NBC. He's our face and voice of USA Hockey, I feel."
Also on Monday, Bob Chase-Wallenstein and Dick Patrick were presented with the Lester Patrick Trophy. Chase, who made his mark at WOWO — a 50,000-watt station in Fort Wayne, Ind. — has had a great impact on the careers of many current sports broadcasters, including Hockey Hall of Famer Mike "Doc" Emrick.
This year marks the 60th straight season that the 86-year-old Chase will do play-by-play on the radio for the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. When he began calling games for the Komets in 1953, the Negaunee, Mich., native was three months removed from college at Northern Michigan.
Dick Patrick is the third member of the Patrick family to earn this award named for his grandfather — joining uncle Lynn Patrick and cousin Craig Patrick. Dick Patrick has helped hockey grow in the nation's capital during his 30 years with the Washington Capitals.
Murray Costello was honoured with the Wayne Gretzky Award for his work that helped the Canadian Hockey Association and the former independent Hockey Canada organization join forces to form the new Hockey Canada in 1994.
After the merger, Canada won four of the next five gold medals at the World Junior Championship with Costello at the forefront. Costello also oversaw the formation of the Canadian women's team and the rapid development of the sport that paved the way for the debut of women's hockey at the 1998 Olympics.Suggest a correction