After a mighty impressive rookie season in which he held his own with both the AHL’s San Diego Gulls and the Ducks, the Bedford native has taken his game to another level in 2021-22, and on Thursday, he showed exactly why he was a former ninth overall pick in the first place, pulling off the one and only “Michigan” for one of his two goals on the night.
The “Michigan”, as it’s known, is doubtless one of the most famous moves in all of professional hockey. Go behind the net, cradle the puck on your stick either standing or in motion, and tuck it into the top corner all in one motion. It’s fluid, elegant, and it’s above all else, absolutely sensational.
While current Nashville Predators forward Mikael Granlund managed it during the 2011 World Juniors, for the longest time, it seemed as though no NHL player could pull off the move successfully, in spite of many failed attempts from the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Tyler Ennis.
Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov was the first to do it during the 2019-20 season (having since duplicated the feat) and since then, Predators forward Filip Forsberg and now Zegras, have joined him, and it’s always a spectacle to behold.
However, while the NHL itself has tried to brand the goal as the “Svechnikov”, in reality, full credit of the goal should go to former Michigan Wolverines forward Mike Legg, and to a larger extent, his former hockey skills coach, defenseman Bill Armstrong.
Now, in the current day, both Armstrong and Legg (as players) have long been forgotten by the hockey world, drifting amongst the vast arrays of names that make up the more obscure and quite frankly bizarre side of websites like HockeyDB. While Armstrong is currently serving as General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes, the Richmond Hill native initially cut his teeth in a nine-year stint in the AHL and IHL as an enforcer/stay-at-home defenseman.
Legg was a talented, albeit underappreciated scorer with the Wolverines when he pulled off the move, stuck behind future NHLers like John Madden, Bill Muckalt, Brendan Morrison, and Jason Botterill on the depth chart. Having managed 55 points over 41 games in his senior season in 1996-97, it was ultimately the move Armstrong had reportedly used as a joke during a skills camp, that made him a brief household name in the hockey world.
In a 1996 tournament game against the University of Minnesota, Legg went behind the net, picked the puck up on his stick, and tucked it behind Minnesota goaltender Steve Debus for what was seen as an unheard-of goal at the time.
Along with being awarded “Goal of the Year” by Inside Hockey, the stick Legg used was donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame and goes down as one of the more unlikely moments in the history of pro sports, especially considering the more defensive-minded style of play that defined professional, and especially, NHL hockey, in the 90s.
Unfortunately, while Legg had his 15 minutes of fame and capped off an impressive career at Michigan, that was the closest he would come to anything resembling an NHL career.
From Ducks forward Zegras to Legg, here’s the history of the “Michigan.”
At a generous 6’00 and 194 pounds, Legg was taken 273rd overall by the New Jersey Devils as one of the last picks of the 1993 NHL Draft, and ultimately never played a game in the NHL. Aside from two all-too-brief cups of coffee in the IHL with the Fort Wayne Komets and Utah Grizzlies, Legg drifted around the lower tiers of professional hockey, along with a season spent in the Finnish SM-Liiga, and in roller hockey with the RHI’s Dallas Stallions (yes that was a thing).
Establishing himself as a talented playmaker and top scorer, Legg enjoyed several productive seasons with the likes of the Lubbock Cotton Kings, Columbus Chill, San Antonio Iguanas, and all the other wonderful names that defined what was very much the wild west of minor league hockey in the 1990s. After securing a full-time role in the ECHL with the Columbia Inferno and Augusta Lynx, Legg called it a career after the 2002-03 season.
Since then, the Michigan has become known as a signature move in the world of professional hockey, and one I doubt we’ve seen the last of, especially with a player as young as Zegras (same age as myself) pulling it off.
As the NHL has continued to improve and adapt its style of play, the skillset of the next generation up will only similarly improve. The Ducks are one of the NHL’s most exciting teams this season and find themselves in the midst of an unheard-of playoff push considering their less-than-ideal track record over the past few seasons.
With the likes of Zegras, Getzlaf, Sonny Milano, John Gibson, and even Vinni Letieri and Buddy Robinson leading the way, it seems like there’s nowhere to go but up for this young, hungry, and talented Ducks squad. Similarly, just as Mike Legg pulled off the now-famous move 25 years ago today, the Michigan will continue to live on as one of the signatures of the upper-class men of the world, of professional hockey.