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High Notes

Red Wings have shown interest, now it’s up to Mike Modano to decide whether to play or retire

Mike Modano is deciding whether to sign with the Red Wings or retire.  Dallas did not offer him a new contract.  Sarah Baicker tweeted*: “Honestly, I think Mike Modano should retire. I’m all for going out on a high note.”  Hm.  I usually agree with her, but not this time.  In her defense, I suspect a lot of people are thinking this way, and not only about Modano.

Mike Modano should not retire unless he is absolutely as positively sure as anyone can be that he wants to.  I don’t see how letting your team tell you it’s time for you to retire is a high note on any scale.  I know, professional sports is a special business, it has nothing to do with real life and regular folk.  Right.

I have a friend who got pregnant for the first time when she was 50.  She had twins, not surprisingly, because she went through the grueling process of fertility treatments. (Yes, she tried to adopt- they don’t let you adopt at that age, irony of ironies.)  Another friend, on hearing this news, said “why would she do that at her age?”

He was older than she was, and had raised 2 kids, so I couldn’t attribute his reaction to inexperience or callow youth.  My only response, aside from anger, was “why, should she wait until she gets younger?”  She did fine, carried them to term, worked until days before her due date, and had two healthy baby girls.  She was glad to have twins- she didn’t want to go through that again!  That is not the norm, it is not the best way to go about it.  But if she didn’t decide she wanted kids until then, who had any right to tell her she waited too long?

There are some things you just can’t not do, some things you do when you do them, late or early, in your own time.  That is the only way to do some things, major life decisions among them: marriage, child-bearing, and retirement.  If you are lucky enough to have the choice about any of these life changes, the worst thing you can think about is timing.  As the lumbering Mondoshawan says in The Fifth Element: “Time not important. Only life important.”

We tend not to think so much or so clearly about doing things too early, when we are young and hasty.  Still, once you make a decision, who is to say it really was too early?  And too late?  What, “you’re too late, the show has started, please wait for intermission to enter the theater?”  That will only make you later.  Better to regret being late than missing the show entirely, or leaving early.

Playing hockey is dangerous for young and old.  It would stink to consider retiring and then get badly injured the very next season.  But I don’t think there is much difference between a 39 year old body and a 40 year old body, so I don’t think the odds of such injury go up much in one year.

If Modano doesn’t feel like retiring, if the Red Wings want to give him a spot, I hope he takes it.  It isn’t as if he hasn’t had time to consider it, retiring I mean.  He is at the age when pro athletes consider such things.  If he has not considered it and was counting on Dallas to give him another year, then he was not ready to retire, and he should not.

I suspect the Red Wings know how to use players of his status.  They say they do.  I believe them.

Go out on a high note?  Whose notes?  People don’t want to see him falter in old age, not be what he once was, embarrass himself?  Again, not much has changed since last year, I think.  I could be wrong.  If he feels he has something to offer a team, if the Red Wings agree, then probably he and they are right.  It may not be what people knew him for once, it may be something different.  He may find an entirely new role to enjoy, even if it is for a brief time.  He may get nothing more than the experience of being a Red Wing.  So what?  If he enjoys it, he will be glad he didn’t retire.  If he doesn’t, he will retire with a confidence that is not evident in his words at this point.

Professional sports are different.  A professional athlete might be a role model for his audience.  Why in the world would anyone want to keep doing something if the odds are good that he can’t keep up with the young guys?  What kind of an example would he be setting, a man of his age continuing to play professional hockey?

If I had to answer that question I would say that maybe kids aren’t the only ones who need role models.

*Darn, I wish this program had footnotes: Sarah Baicker, no callow youth she, has since tweeted: “I should add — selfishly, I’d love to see him retire a Star. Going to the Wings or ‘Hawks just.. I don’t know. Ruins it?…  Modano should do what feels right to him.”


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