A move that was once a unicorn has become commonplace in modern hockey

Every time I see it, I’m left in disbelief.

Mike Legg was the first person, at least that I know of, to successfully execute the lacrosse-style goal in a competitive hockey game. That moment in 1996 lived in hockey history as one of the most spectacular goals to ever find the back of the net for its creativity and uniqueness. Over the next few decades, it seemed like the only place a hockey fan ever saw this move attempted was during downtime at practice or in the middle of pre-game warm-ups. 

Maybe it’s the surge in social media or the general filming of games compared to where the hockey world was at 20-plus years ago? Or maybe a move that used to be a once-in-a-lifetime, stars-aligned-just-right type of goal has just become far more commonplace in today’s game?

There’s no level of hockey — and I mean none — that is immune to this fancy wrap-around. Andrei Svechnikov became the first player in the NHL to flash the move last October… and then he did it again less than two months later. That really put it back on the map, so much so that with the right button combination on a PlayStation controller, you can execute the move yourself in EA Sports’ NHL 21. 

Truth is though, that the “Svechnikov” is now happening in international leagues, it’s happening in junior leagues, it’s happening in high school and travel leagues and it’s going down all the time now. Check your social media feed after a weekend of hockey, and you’re bound to find some grainy footage of a kid moving right to left behind the net and swatting the post before the goalie can get over to defend the sneaky move.

That’s exactly what I did on Monday, only to find Michael Kadlecik from No. 18-ranked ‘04 Bishop Kearney ruin my feed with a beauty against Little Caesars. 

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It didn’t stop there. Eleven-year-old Connor Brucz, a kid who can’t even see over the crossbar, gets a fortuitous bounce off the back boards and figures, “ah, what the Hell…” and boom!

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An ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD. Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. Call the move whatever you want, at this point. I’ve seen it now hundreds of times from dozens of different players and skill levels, and it never gets old. Ever. 

Graeme Clarke has done it so many times, I swear it’s just a replay. I almost expect him to do it. Doesn’t matter, I will watch every single time in near disbelief, as each time gets more bizarre than the last one. 

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I’ve got two questions in all of this…

When do we start teaching how to defend it?

From a defensive standpoint. Hugging that playside post, when does the defender commit to swatting at the stick attempt? Calgary’s Oliver Kylington tried to obstruct Svechnikov’s first attempt to no avail. From a goaltending standpoint. I can’t even pretend to know how some might approach it. Full disclosure: I’m not a goalie guy. However, even his second strike against Winnipeg, Connor Hellebuyck tried making his 6-foot-4 frame bigger by shrugging his shoulders and reaching for the crossbar, yet Svechnikov just goes low with it. 

This isn’t a two-on-one line rush. It’s not an in-zone penalty kill. How do you teach kids how to defend this?

Where does it go from here?

I really want to see some people fake it. I think it’s become so commonplace in today’s game now, that you don’t even have to fully execute the move to turn people’s heads. If I’m behind the net, and I can’t physically execute the move, maybe I dish the puck one way and swiftly move to the other post with an empty stick blade. If I can get the goalie or defender(s) to hesitate for even a moment, it could definitely set up a scoring opportunity for a teammate.

Variations? Set plays? Fakes? What’s next for “The Michigan.”

What do you think? Connect with @WorldHkyHub on Twitter and @worldhockeyhub on Instagram to share your thoughts and youth highlights.