Mike Legg didn’t see it live. But when his phone began to blow up Tuesday night, with many of the texts and messages containing a video clip, he could only watch and smile.
“So cool, so awesome,” he said Wednesday.
Andrei Svechnikov’s history making lacrosse play and goal Tuesday for the Carolina Hurricanes has the hockey world buzzing. It came in the third period of the game against the Calgary Flames at PNC Arena and the play went viral on social media about as quick as you could say “Michigan.”
Svechnikov would follow it up with a power-play goal that was the winner in the Canes’ 2-1 victory. But it was the lacrosse move, the “Svech Shot,” that will be remembered.
Legg is remembered as the player who earned instant fame in 1996 with the lacrosse shot. Playing for the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional -- at Michigan State’s Munn Ice Arena, no less -- he scooped up the puck lacrosse style on his stick blade and quickly wrapped it around the post to beat Minnesota goalie Steve DeBus.
Legg’s goal became iconic among hockey aficionados and instantly known as “The Michigan,” although Legg said he didn’t know who gave it that name. Several have tried it in NHL games and Svechnikov tried last season as a Canes rookie against the New York Islanders.
“I’ve been hoping like somebody, anybody,” Legg said in a telephone interview.
But Svechnikov now has the distinction of being the first to pull it off and score in an NHL game, skating behind the net with the puck, stopping, lifting it on the blade of his stick and smacking it past the right shoulder of Flames goalie David Rittich.
“Svechnikov didn’t have much room at all to put that one in,” Legg said in a telephone interview. “After I watched it a couple of times it was like, ‘Wow, that was up tight in that corner.’”
The rub: it didn’t take the top spot in ESPN SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the day. Nils Hoglander, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, also scored on a lacrosse play Tuesday for Rogle BK in a Swedish Hockey League game, knocking the puck off the back of the net before slinging it past the Djurgarden goalie and scoring.
“Everybody is on fire,” Legg said, chuckling. “I love seeing it done over and over in different versions. It’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty neat to see all the different versions in all the parts of the world. Just mind-blowing.”
Mike Legg’s goal
Legg said his goal against Minnesota was a bit different, as well.
“My winger was Johnny Madden, who played in the NHL for New Jersey and elsewhere,” Legg said. “He got tackled taking the puck behind the net. I’m a right-handed shot and he was going into that right corner, and I just pulled it back and used the net as a bit of a shield in a safe position.
“I did it so much in practice and I felt so comfortable with doing it, even though I knew what would happen if I missed it, playing in a playoff game. That probably would have been my last shift.”
But Legg, a junior forward, said he had clearance -- sort of -- from his coach, the legendary Red Berenson. Legg said Berenson saw him “goofing around” and practicing the lacrosse move after a practice and that he skated by, stopped and said, “Why don’t you do that in a game?”
“I don’t think he meant a playoff game,” Legg said. “It was kind of funny because going into the playoffs I was kind of like ‘get it out of your head, don’t think about it, don’t do it, don’t do it.’ And then it so happened I did it.”
Michigan won the game, and the national championship.
Where did the lacrosse shot come from?
Legg doesn’t take credit for the crafty, if sick move, saying he first saw the lacrosse shot attempted by Bill Armstrong. The two are from the same hometown of London, Ontario. Armstrong, a few years older than Legg, played college hockey at Western Michigan and the two were home one summer and sharing some ice.
“He was an NHL prospect with great hands, so smooth, so big,” Legg said. “I didn’t really know him. It was kind of a warmup skate and I was keeping an eye on him on the other end of the ice and it just so happens he goes behind the net, picks it up and puts it in.”
Legg said he was too nervous to ask Armstrong about it. Nor did he want to attempt it with Armstrong watching.
“But I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to try that move,’” he said. “So any extra ice time I kept trying to do it, trying to do it.”
Svechnikov kept trying in practice, with Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour watching at times. Now he has done it in a game.
Legg, 44, played some minor-league hockey and in Finland. Now a firefighter in Burnaby, British Columbia, he congratulated Svechnikov on his NHL first. On the Michigan.
“Tell him it’s just awesome, good for him,” Legg said. “I’m so happy for him.”