Monday, 1 June 2020

It's Officially "The Armstrong"

I read this story late tonight, picking it up at around 10pm as I was shutting down for the evening. I never expected it to be so poignant when it comes to one of hockey's newest highlight-reel goals, but the key players in the story seem to point to one man who perfected the lacrosse-style goal long before anyone else had dreamed about it. It's where the man to the left, Bill Armstrong, comes in as he'll play a large role in this story that Sam Riches of Longreads.com wrote. For a guy who played just one NHL game in his career, the story of Bill Armstrong, the lacrosse-style goal, and how it's become highlight fodder is all contained in Riches' 5399 words on the matter that answers who Bill Armstrong is, why he's being credited him with the goal, and how the hockey world should embrace this.

First off, Bill Armstrong's NHL career lasted all of one game. He had a long, successful, productive career in the minor leagues, but Armstrong's one night in the NHL saw him record an assist on a Scott Mellanby goal that was scored against Ed Belfour of the Chicago Blackhawks. Nothing on that night was particularly lacrosse-like when it came to goals being score, but Armstrong can claim he recorded a point in the only NHL game he played.

So why are we talking about him? Sam Riches has the answer in his article entitled The NHL's Lacrosse Takeover. Riches spoke with Mike Legg, famously of the Michigan Wolverines who used the move in the 1996 NCAA Tournament against Minnesota, about the goal that set the world on fire.
"Legg watched Armstrong scoop a puck onto the blade of his stick and stuff it into the net. Legg, who was still a few months away from enrolling at the University of Michigan, had never seen anything like it: 'He wrapped it in and I'm like I have no idea how he just did that.'"
While Mike's goal, three years after watching Anderson do it in London, Ontario as he practiced, put him on the national stage thanks to television coverage of the tournament, it's pretty clear that Legg's inspiration for move - both to practice it and to perfect it - came from this big, lanky Anderson kid over which he marveled.

Riches even quotes Legg admitting that Anderson was the guy who planted the seed in Legg's head.
"'He's it,' Legg says of Armstrong. 'He’s the man.'

'He put that image in my head of pulling it off. That's what started it all.'
There have been some broadcasters who want to call it the "Svechnikov" because of Carolina's Andrei Svechnikov being the first to score on a lacrosse-style goal in the NHL, but Andrei told Riches that he too had someone who inspired him to perfect the move. That person? His older brother and current Detroit Red Wings prospect, Evgeny Svechnikov.
"'I saw how he did it and I went to him and said 'Bro, you have to teach me that move,'' Andrei says. 'He would teach me after each practice. You have to teach that move for hours.'"
While the move seemed to originate within the Svechnikov household from a European standpoint, it seems that Evgeny picked up the move by watching another international star when he saw Finn Mikael Granlund use the move against Russia to score a goal at the 2011 IIHF World Championships.
"'I saw Granlund score it and I said 'Oh my God, I want to score that one day' and ever since I saw it I just wanted to practice it,'" Evgeny says.
Riches, though, did his due diligence and went and found the kid whose most recent lacrosse-style goals made him the talk of the hockey world in Nils Höglander. Höglander, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, couldn't pinpoint where he first saw the move used, but did give an interesting point of reference for where possibly a lot of Europeans may have discovered it.
"Höglander doesn't remember the first time he saw a lacrosse-style goal in ice hockey, but he says it's a popular move in Sweden for floorball players, one of the country's most popular sports.

'When I was young, I had fun with a floorball stick and just did the lacrosse move,' he says."
Coincidentally, a second Swede used the move to score in the NHL when Filip Forsberg did so against Mike Smith and the Edmonton Oilers. Whether or not Forsberg's inspiration came from floorball, it's pretty clear that seeing Svechnikov use the move opened the door for him to try it.

The only person that Riches didn't speak with was Mikael Granlund to ask him where he first saw the move that inspired him to use it against Russia, so that will remain a mystery for now. However, the work that Sam Riches did in his article entitled The NHL's Lacrosse Takeover deserves to be highlighted because this blog and this writer will forever attribute the lacrosse-style goal to the man who inspired the first televised lacrosse-style goal.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's officially "The Armstrong".

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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