On March 24, 1996, University of Michigan hockey star Mike Legg scooped up the puck on his stick and dropped it into the net over the shoulder of a University of Minnesota goaltender.
Acknowledged as one of the most spectacular goals in the sport's history, the lacrosse-style play—from behind the opposition's net!—became a highlight clip for the ages. It has been viewed countless times on the internet and TV and copied by pro stars for a quarter century. Legg even donated the stick he wielded in that game to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Now, "The Michigan," as it's known, skates into EA Sports' NHL 21. Users can pull off the play for the first time in the latest iteration of the video game. And Legg himself—who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils but never made it to an NHL roster—is being added to the game as a player.
In the two-minute film below, Legg, now 45, recounts how he practiced the play ahead of time, just in case an opportunity ever arose. And check out the dude's humble, heartfelt reaction when he learns he's part of NHL 21:
" 'The Michigan' has been a hockey legend forever, but this is the first year you can actually pull it off in a video game," says Trevor Gourley, who directed the mini-doc through Partners Film. "Anyone who grew up playing or watching hockey knows about the shot, but very few people know the history behind it."
The play's novelty and enduring popularity drew EA to immortalize it in pixels.
"It's a unique story to tell—so much attention is paid to the superstars of the game, but there are people who aren't household names that have also had a really big impact," Gourley says. "This year's iteration of NHL 21 is all about recognizing greatness. This film is a perfect expression of that—paying homage to someone who helped shape the game as we know it today."
Indeed, the original "Michigan" clip became one of hockey's first viral videos. Gourley recalls visiting a computer lab in the '90s and "waiting 20 minutes to download a blurry six-second QuickTime file. It was the hockey equivalent of footage of the Loch Ness Monster."
Gourley shot his film, "The Man Behind the Michigan," in late October, directing the action—which took place in British Columbia—from facilities in Toronto.
"Getting on the phone with Mike before the shoot was surreal," he says. "I had seen his goal probably thousands of times since I was a kid. He was such an easygoing guy, a total natural storyteller."
"Mike downplayed the difficulty of the move and said he could teach any hockey player how to do it in half an hour," Gourley says. "That was probably the only time I was glad to be shooting remotely. As a very bad beer-league player myself, I feel like I might have put us into overtime trying to get Mike to teach me to pull it off."
Client: EA Sports
Senior Manager, Global Marketing Strategy: Drew Hebb
Senior Manager, Global Brand Marketing: Ashkon Nowtash
Global Marketing Partnerships Manager: Matt Sacks
Producer, EA Sports: Reza Vajihollahi
Production Company: Partners Film
Director: Trevor Gourley
Director of Photography: Liam Mitchell
Executive Producer: Aerin Barnes
Line Producer: Madeleine Davis
Post Producer: Wendy Tao
Editorial House: Saints Editorial
Editor: Christopher Chang
Executive Producer: Tory Osler
Producer: Mackenzie Goodwin
Online House: Darling VFX
Executive Producer: Kristen Van Fleet
Producer: Morgan Campbell
Colourist: Kassi Bellamy
Jr. Flame Artist: Lauren Rempel
Audio House: Imprint Music
Executive Producer: Cassandra Salz
Producer: Tim White
Engineer: Sydney Galbraith