It’s absolutely gonna be “the Flap.”

On March 16 at 4 p.m., Mike Modano gets his statue. And unlike the Dallas Mavericks, which shared a miniaturized draft of Dirk Nowitzki’s “fadeaway” nearly a full year before the actual unveiling on Christmas Day of 2022, the Dallas Stars have taken more of a cloak-and-hockey-stick approach, keeping all the details secret. Even the fact that the Stars had commissioned a Modano statue—which comes a full decade after the team retired his number nine—wasn’t revealed until four months ago. Only Modano and his family, sculptors Omri Amrany and Sean Michael Bell, and a handful of Stars officials know what it will look like.

“We’re just trying to have fun with it, and have it be a big surprise when we unveil it,” says Stars CEO Brad Alberts.

Modano is the Stars’ all-time leading scorer as well as the most prolific U.S.-born scorer in NHL history, with 561 goals and 813 assists. An explosive human highlight reel as a skater, shooter, passer and defender, he spent 20 of his 21 NHL seasons with the Stars, and led Dallas to the Stanley Cup in 1999.

 “Mike was the face of hockey in Dallas,” Albert says. “Mike was the greatest athlete that I’ve ever been around. Just naturally gifted in so many ways. And a champion. We wouldn’t be what we are today without Mike Modano.”

That’s a lot to get into a statue. But in terms of the specific look and pose, there’s really only one way to immortalize him.

“I’ll be really pissed if it’s not what I think it’s gonna be,” says former Stars goaltender Marty Turco, who played nine seasons with Modano and is now president of the Dallas Stars Foundation (the team’s community-giving arm). “Dirk’s got his signature move. We need Mike with his. So hopefully it’s the jersey flap.”

“It’s gotta be him skating with the puck on his stick, and the stinkin’ jersey flapping in the back,” says Blake Sloan, the feisty fourth-line winger on the Stars’ 1999 team. “The jersey flying like a cape.”

“That effortless stride he had, that we got to witness every day,” says former Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who was a rookie on the ’99 team. “That’s what will be in my brain and vision, ingrained forever. Of course, with the jersey flapping.”

Omri Amrany and his wife, Julie Rotblatt Amrany, are the sports statue people. They started with Michael Jordan’s statue outside of Chicago’s United Center in 1994. Since then, their studio has grown to include many other artists, including Bell, and it has produced more than three hundred public works. Not all of their sculptures are sports-related, but besides His Airness, the studio has also immortalized Nowitzki, Gordie Howe, Augie Garrido (at Cal State Fullerton, not the University of Texas), and Kobe Bryant, to name just a few.

“They had a couple ideas in mind and so did I,” Modano says. “When we started narrowing it down, we came towards this certain photo that we both had circled early on.”

While Alberts good-naturedly stonewalled any specific questions about the appearance of the statue, Modano was a bit less OPSEC-conscious.

We picked a unique shot,” says Modano. “It’s not your typical slap shot or ‘Cup over the head.’ We wanted to go in a different direction, which more or less described my style and my look. It’s a little bit more of an action shot. Stride. Kind of skating. Picturesque. When people see it, it’ll pop in their brain real fast.”

Even Alberts, when asked for his specific memories, mentions seeing Modano in the locker room after winning the Stanley Cup in Buffalo, his chemistry with linemates Jere Lehtinen and Brett Hull, and yes, “all of the games watching him skate with the speed that he had, with his jersey flapping in the wind.”

“I think one thing I can say without revealing the design is that he was very well-known for his speed,” says Sean Michael Bell. “Even among NHL players, he was extremely fast. And I think what we’ve come up with does show that to the viewer.”

But as Turco notes, there’s a lot more to the Flap than speed. “You have to have speed in order for a jersey to flap,” he says. “But there’s people that were just as fast as Mike Modano whose jersey didn’t flap. And that’s because of the way Mike skated. He was such a thoroughbred. The skill he put into the skating part of it, it was just elegant, and needed that amount of elegance to have that jersey flap. It looked almost perfect.”

Amrany is a fan of hockey, having watched his son, Itamar, play it as a child, while also rooting for the Chicago Blackhawks. Many of the people in his statues, including Dirk Nowitzki, seem to be defying gravity. And hockey is a game where the players are essentially flying over frozen water and never actually on the ground.

He says the Modano piece also attempts to capture the speed at which elite players process the game: “When we’re looking at the sculpture, basically you’re looking at a player who has to make a split of a split-second decision. What to do with the puck, who to give it to, how to shoot it. That’s a very strong part about hockey, which I wanted to show through the eyes of Mike.”

Not focusing on the Stanley Cup itself makes sense. Yeah, it was the greatest moment in Stars history, and the Cup is the most iconic trophy in sports—a statue in its own right! But that moment exists for every NHL champion team—including the 2012 and 2014 Los Angeles Kings, whose captain, Dustin Brown, was sculpted by the Rotblatt Amrany studio last year with, yes, a “Cup over the head” pose. And Amrany tries not to repeat motifs. “It’s getting harder and harder,” he says. “You think, ‘Okay, what can we do next?’ ”

Modano’s career also didn’t necessarily lend itself to focusing on a single, spectacular play, like Harry Weber’s statue of Bobby Orr’s “flying goal” in Boston. Brett Hull scored the, ahem, not-at-all-controversial overtime goal that clinched the ’99 Cup for Dallas—with Modano and Lehtinen assisting. Modano had a spectacular Game 5 overtime winner against the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 Final, but that series ended in tears. There were other milestones, such as his five hundredth goal, one thousandth point, and the short-handed goal that broke the U.S. scoring record.

Modano will soon be passed by Patrick Kane atop that list. But he might have scored seven hundred goals and 1,600 points in his career had he not also turned into a top defender. To current New York Rangers and former Minnesota North Stars broadcaster Joe Micheletti, that, much more than the point total, is what made Modano “the greatest U.S. player that’s ever been.” And he’s not only saying that because he’s Modano’s father-in-law (Modano and his wife, former pro golfer Allison Micheletti, now have five kids and live in Minnesota, where he works as an advisor to Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin, another former Star).

Every Stars fan who was there in the late nineties knows the story of how Modano rose to the occasion when general manager Bob Gainey and head coach Ken Hitchcock challenged him to change his game. “[They told him], ‘You have to not only continue to be our best offensive player, but you have to become our best defensive player as well,’ ” Micheletti says. “ ‘We have to play you against the other team’s best players. You have to kill penalties. You have to be the kind of player that we can put on the ice at the end of the game to secure a win.’ He did that. And that’s what led to the Cup.”

If the Stars’ coaching staff from ’99 had gotten to design the statue, maybe it would have shown Modano backchecking, or winning a key face-off to kill a penalty. “Probably him pointing at me, yelling at me,” Modano jokes when asked what form Hitchcock might have chosen for the statue.

In the end, regardless of what else the statue shows, “the Flap” encapsulates Modano from all sides, symbolically and physically. To use the parlance of 2024, the Flap was Modano’s vibe. If he was on the move, stick in hand, skates moving, jersey flapping—with the puck or ready to receive a pass—something big was probably about to happen. The fans would be ready to jump out of their seats. The same could be said for the Stars players on the bench.

“Unreal,” says Sloan, who played four seasons with Modano in Dallas, when asked to describe the center. “Get out of your seat! Even as a teammate, it was sort of, ‘Oh boy, here he goes!’ ”

Turco can remember, as a rookie, being guilty of just watching Modano in practice. “Until I realized he was coming at me,” Turco says, “and shooting a ninety-mile-per-hour snapshot in my direction.”

And no one has ever meant more to a hockey team and hockey market than Modano did to Texas. His Stars forged a relationship with fans that was unlike anything the area had seen before, as they fell in love not just with a team, but with an entire sport. It probably helped that the Stars managed to do in just six years what took the Texas Rangers and Dallas Mavericks decades to accomplish in professional baseball and basketball, respectively—that is, a championship.

“He just had a way about him, and we used every ounce of that to catapult us into popularity,” says Turco. “Mike was the face of this franchise. And he still is, to be honest. You think of tissues, you think Kleenex. You think Dallas Stars, you think Mike Modano.”

And from here on out, when fans walk up the stairs in front of the American Airlines Center, they’ll see Modano’s likeness, and all signs point to them thinking of the Flap. “I’d better be right!” says Turco.