A goal known as “The Michigan” has made it to the NHL, and the Maple Ridge coach who scored the original lacrosse-style goal is taking some humble bows.
Mike Legg scored one of the most famous goals in hockey history, when he deftly plucked the puck up off the ice and onto his stick blade, then stuffed it into the top of the net. It was a huge goal en route to his team’s NCAA championship 23 years ago.
“That was an unbelievable goal by Mike Legg,” said the stunned announcer of the game at the time.
Nobody had seen anything like it, but now, it’s turning up again.
Thursday night, Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes scored that same goal against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In the same week, Vancouver Canucks prospect Nils Hoglander got one too, while playing professional hockey in Sweden.
Legg said the latter in particular was a beauty, with Hoglander first banking it off the back of the net to beat the defender.
“I love seeing guys try it and doing it,” said Legg.
He doesn’t claim to have invented the move. Legg was playing university hockey, and on the ice with pro player in Billy Armstrong who was in the New Jersey Devils system. Legg was fascinated to see him making the move.
“I didn’t have the nerve to go talk to him, but I just watched him.”
Soon Legg had done it a million times, before and after practices with the University of Michigan.
After one practice his coach, the legendary Red Berenson, green lighted the move with a simple “Why don’t you do that in a game,” as he left the ice. Otherwise, Legg likely never would have tried the unorthodox manoeuvre.
In the 1996 NCAA tournament, against the University of Minnesota, with his team down 2-0, getting out-shot, and his linemate John Madden just tackled in the corner, Legg took the puck behind the net, and got his chance.
“I had practised it so much… I was just happy to be able to complete something I had practiced,” he said.
His bench went crazy. It was a deflating goal for the opposition. It was a huge boost for his Wolverines, who went on to win the game, and then took the national championship with a 3-2 overtime win over Colorado College in front of 13,000 fans.
It was selected the goal of the year by Inside Hockey, and Legg’s stick was donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Now the hockey innovator is a Burnaby firefighter. He’s also a father of three, and a coach of three – an assistant with the Ridge Meadows Flames junior B team, the Midget A1 team, and part of the development team for Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey.
Do his kids all run around trying to pick up pucks?
“I tell them ‘you’ll be benched,’” he joked.
Actually, his position on the unorthodox play is to go ahead and try it, but first make sure there is not an easy pass to an open teammate out front of the net.
He thinks young hockey players should be encouraged to practise trick plays of any time.
“In your spare time, be as creative as you can,” said Legg.
As his goal goes viral online, he expects to see it on the ice more often.
“Maybe in a couple of years everyone will be able to do this.”