DETROIT – Mike Modano was hoping to feel a bit like a rookie Thursday morning at Joe Louis Arena.
He got his wish.
“It’s a big change, almost like you’re starting over,” Modano said after participating in his first informal practice with his new team. “You get a little bit of enthusiasm and a little bit of excitement getting out there. I was hoping that would happen and it did. I’m a little bit excited about that.”
Modano, who signed a one-year deal with Detroit on Aug. 6, played his youth hockey at Joe Louis Arenas as a member of the Little Caesars hockey program. Then, his entire 20-year NHL career was spent in the Stars’ organization.
“It feels good being back at the Joe and skating again,” said Modano, a native of Westland. “It has always been a life-long dream I suppose ever since growing up and watching them. I’m finally here playing at home. I could be a good fitting to my career if I go out and have a good year and have some fun.”
Modano, 40, looked quite comfortable on the ice with some of his new teammates.
During a two-on-one drill, he threaded a pass between the legs of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson onto the tape of Pavel Datsyuk, who in turn beat goalie Chris Osgood with a wrist shot.
“It was everything I thought it was going to be skating with them,” Modano said. “It was pretty easy. They’re a talented group of guys. They’re carefree, good puck moving guys that enjoy the game. They work hard and have fun.”
It was also a nice change for Modano to have All Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom to play with and not against.
“You get those nice passes,” Modano laughed. “It still looks like it’s so effortless and he still moves as good as he ever has. He’s a testament to longevity and how well he’s played over the years. It’s nice to finally play with one of the all-time greats.”
Modano’s one-year deal is for a base salary of $1.25 million. He can earn an additional $250,000 in bonuses, which can be applied to the 2011-12 salary cap.
Modano, who was the No. 1 overall in 1988, is the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history, with 557 goals and 802 assists in 1,459 career games.
Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk decided on June 29 not to re-sign Modano, which made him an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“It was tough (leaving Dallas),” Modano said. “But once I made the decision to come here, slowly to cord was cut and you’re mindset goes to heading somewhere else and you have to get ready.”