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TMU men's hockey player Kyle Bollers skates on the ice
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The moment behind ‘The Michigan’

By Alex Wauthy

On their way to Thorold, Ont. for a standard regular season road game against the Brock Badgers, the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team stopped at an ONroute rest stop for refreshments and to stretch their legs late in the afternoon. 

After sitting on the team bus for nearly two hours, the players rushed inside, trying to beat each other to the front of the line. 

Third-year forward Kyle Bollers walked past Wendy’s, Pizza Pizza, Dairy Queen and other fast food chains along the inside to get in line at Tim Hortons. The afternoon sun peeked through the restaurant’s open-concept layout, which featured the patented wooden chairs, tables and display cases commonly found at all locations. 

After waiting in line, he finally reached the front to place his order. Mulling over his options in line, the day’s dwindling sunlight hitting his back, Bollers has to make a quick decision—Sour Cream Glazed or Boston Cream.

“I was feeling the Sour Cream Glazed,” Bollers said. “So I got that.” 

To go along with his order, Bollers grabbed a medium iced cappuccino, which differs from his typical pre-game order of a caffè vanilla frappuccino from Starbucks—something he gets before nearly every Bold home game at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC). 

After his teammates made their choices, Bollers, along with third-year forwards Chris Playfair, Cole Resnick, Elijah Roberts and first-year defenceman Jaden Raad, huddled around the order pick-up desk as others kept to themselves—their headphones blocking out their surroundings. 

As Roberts and Bollers reminisced about their last excursion to Brock University, featuring a Taco Bell pre-game meal and a Bold overtime win, Raad talked about moves they could try out on a goalie. 

Raad jokingly mentioned he would try to pull off ‘The Michigan’—a move players have rarely done.

“They were poking the bear, I guess you could say”

The playful conversation led to the first-year prodding the third-year star—making Bollers pay closer attention to the conversation. ‘You won’t do it,’ and ‘It’s never going to work,’ Bollers heard. Then, Raad challenged him. 

“If I get the puck behind the net, I’m pulling the move off before you are,” Raad said to Bollers. 

‘The Michigan’ goal gets its name from Mike Legg, a former men’s hockey player at the University of Michigan. Legg was the first player to execute the move in a professional game, hence the name.

The play consists of a player flicking the puck onto their stick behind the net, wrapping around the goalie’s cage and trying to shoot it lacrosse-style into the net—typically over the netminder’s shoulder. In recent memory, it’s one of the hardest moves to pull off in a live-action hockey game. 

Bollers, who practices ‘The Michigan’ nearly every practice, has never pulled off the move in an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) game. However, his track record attempting the move extends beyond the confines of the MAC.

Bollers pulled off ‘The Michigan’ during his time in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) and took a stab at it during his first year against the York Lions, but the puck fell off his stick. Given his stick-handling ability and track record, Raad’s light-hearted banter turned into confidence. 

“I bet you if you get it up on your stick tonight, it’s going to go in,” Raad said. 

“Alright, I’ll give it a shot if I’m in that position,'” Bollers replied.

With ‘The Michigan’ floating in his subconscious and their orders ready, the team returned to the bus and continued their trek to Brock University. However, for Bollers, despite not actively seeking an opportunity to attempt the move, their conversation planted the seed.

“They were poking the bear, I guess you could say,” Bollers said. 

  • TMU men's hockey player Kyle Bollers drops to his knee in celebration of a goal
  • TMU men's hockey player puts his glove in the face of McGill Redbirds player in a post-whistle scrum
  • TMU men's hockey player Kyle Bollers skates with the puck while in alone

Midway through the second period against the Badgers, the Bold capitalized on a five-on-three power play, knotting the game at one apiece. Bollers and the Bold continued pressing as they still had the man advantage. Their second power play attempt came up empty. 

Still, Bollers found himself on the ice for the two-man advantage, the one-man advantage—and now—at even strength. His linemate, third-year forward Kevin Gursoy, was in a similar boat. Bold head coach Johnny Duco was hollering at the duo to get off the ice. 

“KB, Gurs’, get off the fucking ice!” Bollers recalled him yelling out their nicknames. 

“I don’t know if he swore, but in my head. I heard him swear,” said Bollers. “But we were on for way too long.” 

While Gursoy listened and headed to the bench, Bollers was deep in the right corner of the offensive zone. 

As Bollers heard Duco’s screams, the puck landed on his stick following a handoff from second-year defenceman Jaden Condotta. Noticing the Badgers’ defenceman was covering him off his left hip and the lane opened behind the net, he realized he had room to make a play. As he began skating towards the net, Bollers’ attitude shifted. 

“I said, ‘fuck it, let’s just do it,'” Bollers said.

“I’ll try [The Michigan], and if it goes in, it goes in. If not, my coach is not going to be mad at me because he knows I can do it.”

Bollers lifted the puck onto his stick as he went around the net. First-year Badgers goalie Connor Ungar hugged his right post, tightening the gap between his shoulder and the upper-left corner. As Bollers wrapped around the net, an oncoming defender barreled towards the left side to attempt to cut him off. 

“I said, ‘fuck it, let’s just do it'”

Yet, Bollers stuffed the puck between Ungar as hard as he could, hitting the netminder’s shoulder. The puck got by Ungar, bounced off the back of the net and dropped to the ice—netting his 10th goal of the season. Bollers blacked out. 

“I usually blackout after doing a play or scoring or something like that,” Bollers said. “I don’t know, I kind of just lose [my] mental state.” 

Bollers hoisted his stick in the air, took two strides, descended on one knee and fist-pumped as his teammates mobbed him along the boards. His longtime friend, Roberts, was one of the four teammates who celebrated with him on the ice, making the moment extra special. 

“[They] kind of gave him a little bit too much space,” Roberts said. “And you know, it’s all he needs.”

Over on the bench, Raad, who poked the bear earlier that day, watched on as Bollers beat him to ‘The Michigan.’ 

“The whole bench just got up,” Raad said. “I looked at Dustin Hutton, who was standing right beside me. He had his hands on his head and his jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it either.”

“Even Johnny gave a little chuckle like he couldn’t believe what he just saw,” Raad continued. “I think a bunch of the boys were just a little bit stunned at what they saw because we hear about it all the time. ‘Guy pulls off ‘The Michigan,’’ but you never really see it in person.”

Bollers went to the bench, flicking his wrist down for the oncoming fist bumps as he flew by his teammates. Once he sat on the bench, Duco approached him, gave him a fist bump and gave him props. 

Despite Bollers’ game-breaking goal, the Bold fell 6-3 to the Badgers—their second loss in a row, after falling 3-1 to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues earlier in the week. Instead of a joyous locker room overzealous about his historic move, their second straight loss resulted in a quiet locker room, tense team meeting and a ‘very, very’ quiet bus ride home. 

“I wish we could’ve won the game,” Bollers said. “It would have made it ten times better.” 

  • TMU men's hockey player Kyle Bollers skates past his bench and fist bumps his teammates
  • TMU men's hockey player Kyle Bollers steps out on the ice

The ride home wasn’t a time to congratulate Bollers, but after Raad watched the goal back on the bus, he made sure to talk to him again. 

“Dude, it looks even crazier on video,” Raad said to his teammate as he showed him the clip

Bollers got the bulk of his praise through social media. The Bold posted the goal to social media, and the highlight blew up within the hockey community. TSN, Bardown and his teammates plastered the 18-second clip everywhere since the tense atmosphere on the bus didn’t call for a celebration.

“I didn’t really need the praise that I got, especially after a loss and how hard I take it to heart— losing back-to-back games against two of our top opponents in our conference that we need to beat to get that top spot,” Bollers said.

“But, everyone posted stories, and all the team really supported me and kind of gave me that praise. So, I’m really thankful for them—we’re a close team, and we’re so close, so close to being a really good team.”  

In the following days, the goal continued its rounds on social media. Classmates debated giving props to Bollers, while some took the initiative and went up to him.

“No doubt still I can do it almost whenever I feel like it”

To an outsider, the goal is a masterclass moment highlighting the skill of the Bold team. But to him, it was nothing more than another goal, especially given the game’s ending. 

“No doubt still I can do it almost whenever I feel like it,” Bollers said. “I know it sounds weird, but again that happened with three minutes left in the second period with shit ice, so I’m really confident I can do it whenever. It just comes down to time and place.” 

As practices resume at the MAC and the dust settles following his highlight-reel goal, Bollers and Playfair may resume discussions about a play they’ve discussed for years. 

Bollers considers stick-handling his best ability and with ‘The Michigan’ now checked off his list, there are some new moves he’s been practicing that may be ready to show off in the OUA. 

“One I would like to try is kind of on a breakaway coming off the left side, like a half breakaway, but I’m almost coming off the dot cutting to the net, then I kind of just pick it up and go over the goalie,” Bollers said. “It’s hard to explain, but I’ve done it multiple times in practice.”

The holiday break is putting TMU men’s hockey on a month-long hiatus as the squad gears up for the U Sports national championship tournament in March. However, once the season restarts in January, Bollers will get more chances to flash his skill like he did on Nov. 24.

Bollers’ teammates agree that another ‘The Michigan’ could be on the table before the season’s end. 

“I don’t think it’s the last time we see him do it this year,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again.”

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