Every time I visited the old Northlands Coliseum (and all of its sponsorship iterations), I made it a point to go out to the statue of Wayne Gretzky and touch his skate for good luck.

It’s a weird ritual, but I honestly felt it worked.

It kept me connected to the game and made me appreciate the greatness of Gretzky.

After a while, I didn’t want to skip the ritual because I had been doing it for so long.

That’s the power of a sports statue, a power I hope Stars fans over the years feel in the new Mike Modano sculpture on PNC Plaza. It is something to behold, with Modano frozen in time flying up the ice with his jersey flapping behind him. I always heard that Modano’s sweater waved like Old Glory above Fort McHenry because the American icon refused to tie down his fight strap – a connection on the back of every NHL jersey designed to make it difficult to pull the fabric over an opponent’s head during a fight.


The logic made perfect sense. Modano wouldn’t need the fight strap because he never fought. It was also a bit of a slam at his “pretty boy” game, but you could understand those jealous of his skating speed to seek that kind of forensic study.

The thing is, that’s not what happened.

Listen to Modano’s explanation: “I always tied the fight strap. People said I didn’t, but I had a crosscheck guard back there, so I had to tie it down. I didn’t like a tight jersey. I wanted it loose in the arms. Everybody had a 52 or 54 and I swear I had a 56, which is fairly big for my size. I was more concerned with the sleeves than the length, but because I wanted the sleeves loose, I think it was longer and looser at the bottom.”

Fact is, the thing that made Modano so identifiable was created by a loose jersey and a whole lot of speed. The lanky center could jump into top gear at a moment’s notice, and that’s when you saw the jersey flap.

“Can you imagine him today?” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said of the fact Modano played in an era of clutch and grab hockey. “He was really that era’s [Connor] McDavid as far as skating went. He was the guy who could skate by everybody on the ice. There’s usually one or two of those every era. In that era, I think it was Mike Modano, so he would have been electric with today’s new rules.”

That’s what’s great about Modano and his statue – you could set up a coffee table there and gab on a hundred subjects. You can talk about his speed and the way he played. You can talk about the fact that hockey is now a huge part of Dallas. You can talk about how the game has changed. He is a lightning rod of topics for Stars fans.

Of course, we have been through these chats before. When he left and signed with the Red Wings. When he came back and retired with the Stars. When he went into the Hockey Hall of Fame. When he had his No. 9 retired by the Stars. Modano is hockey in this town. So getting a chance to go back again was fun on Saturday. Even though the outdoor ceremony was rained out, fans in attendance were able to shower Modano with applause and create just one more moment of joyful tears from the franchise icon.

“Unfortunately, the weather didn’t permit, but it was nice being in the building with all of the fans,” Modano said. “It might have turned out okay.”

It was more than okay. It was a wonderful walk down memory lane. Modano brought his wife and five kids into the celebration and you really started to understand just how hectic his life is these days. In addition, he was able to feel the love from an arena full of overjoyed fans looking to say thank you just one more time.

This whole experience has been an emotional one for Modano. The process of designing the bronze monolith meant looking at hundreds of photos, discussing what would capture his “essence,” just finding a way to freeze 1,675 (regular season and playoff) games into one moment. It sure seems like artist Omri Amrany did just that. There was some speculation that the statue might be of Modano hoisting the Stanley Cup in 1999, but this one seemed a better fit.

“I didn’t want it to be the one with the Cup, I wanted it to be something unique that explained my style, my skating,” he said.

Right next to him on the PNC Plaza is Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki taking a one-legged fade-away jumper, so this is the perfect bookend.

The jersey flap is a perfect image that will be a reminder of just what kind of player Modano was in his day.

“It was cool to see his skill and speed and just the way he went about his game,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn, who played his rookie season during Modano’s last year in Dallas.

And now? It’s cool to see what hockey has grown into.

“It’s definitely an awesome day,” said Benn. “It’s pretty cool. Hockey is not what it is today in Texas without Mike being a big part of that.”

In fact, fans who want to stop by and soak up his aura or just get a bit of good luck from touching his skate, they can do that for a long time going forward.

“You think about legacy and what you meant on the ice,” said Modano, who leads the franchise in goals (557), assists (802) and points (1,359) – numbers that might never be broken. “But what we have accomplished off the ice, kids playing the game, and the growth of hockey in Texas, that’s a lot more important and more satisfying than what we did on the ice.”

Modano speaks to media after his statue is unveiled.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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