Inside a cramped referees locker room with low ceilings and wood-paneled walls—a bucket of hot rocks away from a small sauna, basically—Andrei Svechnikov is lacing up his skates and listening to instructions. Alongside fellow Hurricanes winger Martin Necas, the 19-year-old will soon make a guest coaching appearance at a practice for some under-10 boys and under-12 girls teams. It won’t be a heavy lift, Emile Hartman, the Hurricanes’ youth and amateur hockey coordinator explains to them. Just hop into drills, pass pucks, bump fists ...
“And,” says Hartman, nodding toward Svechnikov, “I’m sure all the kids will want you to pull out the move.”
Well, duh. Ever since Svechnikov whipped that mind-melting goal over Flames goalie David Rittch’s right shoulder in late October—the only successful lacrosse-style attempt in NHL history, until he did so again less than two months later—greater Raleigh hasn’t stopped gushing over his signature, eponymous skill. Especially its youngest fans. “He’s created a following,” Hurricanes forward Justin Williams, who coaches his son Jaxon’s team, recently lamented. “My practices have gotten like five minutes longer because, after picking up pucks, these kids are always trying The Svech behind the net and I’m trying to get them off the ice.”
Sure enough, as he emerges from the locker room and hops over the boards on this mid-January evening, Svechnikov is tasked with helping oversee a simple skating and shooting drill involving some cones and tires. Instead he is quickly encircled by awestruck skaters, the station grinds to a halt, and nothing much productive gets done for the next half-hour. The goalie, a girl rocking a hot pink mask, abandons the crease to follow Svechnikov behind the net, poking his midsection and badgering him about trying the move on her.
At last Svechnikov relents, scooping a puck onto the blade of his stick, swooping it through the air, and shoveling it just underneath the crossbar.