The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the stradiotional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

2021 saw me revisiting the Mighty Ducks movies, and while I had some fun last week with a theoretical ranking of the movies’ 19 players, I also took the chance to binge the newest story in the Mighty Ducks franchise: the series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

sport screen mighty ducks game changers

Key facts

Seasons 1

Episodes 10

Status Active – renewed for season 2

Released in 2021

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Lauren Graham, Brady Noon, Emilio Estevez, Maxwell Simkins, Swayam Bhatia

Synopsis Now a hockey powerhouse, the Mighty Ducks junior team is selective about who makes the roster. After being cut and told he is wasting his time, 12-year-old Evan Morrow and his mother form a new team of underdogs with the help of original Ducks coach, Gordon Bombay, who has since become the despondent owner of a low level ice rink.

Review

Asa fan of the Mighty Ducks, this was one of the early announcements outside of Star Wars and the MC that got me excited about the potential of Disney+. So safe to say it was hard holding off for the best part of a year as I found time to go back over the movies and then find time for the series. But then like a tube of Pringles, once I popped, I couldn’t stop and I binged the show in just 3 sittings, and only that because  forced myself to take some time away from the TV!

While I enjoyed it, it certainly didn’t always feel like a Mighty Ducks story. The Ducks felt very different by being the bad guys of the team, and I will admit that this remained a bugbear of mine for pretty much the whole series, but I trusted in the writers and they addressed this in a way that I was happy with. Much of the familiarity came from Gordon Bombay, who was certainly a more cynical and weary character to begin with, but certainly still had that heart that helped us all fall in love with the movies previously. The Ducks feeling very much relies on nostalgia in this first series, most notably in an episode where 6 former players return, but all the pieces are there in a team of misfits who are playing hockey because they enjoy themselves and go on to be one of the top teams, so I feel that season 2 will feel more ingrained as part of the Ducks’ story as we are more familiar with the characters.

One thing that I really appreciated in the series was the time we had to get to know the characters, with the vast majority of our team fleshed out well in a way we would never have been able to get in a movie. We also saw the families behind the players, something that we never really got in the movies aside from Charlie’s mother, an this just allows for extra depth to some of the players, such as Sofi’s perfectionist parents. However on the whole I did find myself disappointed with the adults’ depictions in the series, as all of them other than Bombay seemed so over the top that it was unrealistic. I understand that this is considered a comedy-drama but even comedy requires some believability.

And sadly one of the least believable things was also for me the most frustrating: the character of Alex Morrow. I don’t put this down to Lauren Graham’s performance, but instead how she was written. She was far too much of a worrier as a mother and coach, and while her character did get some growth in the way that she dealt with her job and her boss (who also happened to be the mother of 2 of the Ducks) I never felt that we saw any signs of her really growing as a capable coach. To me, this needs to be one of the big areas addressed going into season 2.

The other issue that I did have was just how little hockey we got at times. A big staple of the Mighty Ducks movies has been what they do on the ice in games, but it sometimes felt like we were going a couple of episodes without any games, only for a quick scene or montage of gametime, perhaps a slightly longer run of episodes would have given us a bit more of a balance and more time to see the fun on-ice antics.

All in all, a strong first season that I think has given the series every chance for success.

A few final thoughts on the series:

  • While the Hawks now being one of the worst teams has a certain irony about it, I can’t help wonder why the team’s colour scheme has completely changed
  • There was something set up in the initial episode of the show that was shown a couple of ties in the following episodes before being dropped without any mention, only for it to become a key plot point in the final episode (I won’t say what so as not to spoil for anyone who hasn’t watched, but for those who have, it relates to Sofi). I feel that his could have been handled through the series a little better, but again I think this was hampered by how much of the hockey laterin the season was just shown in a couple of montages

The Future

The season has ended in a way that sets the show up nicely for season 2, but the loss of Emilio Estevez has me seriously worried, especially given Alex Morrow seems nowhere near ready to coach the team on her own, so we now either need to create a narrative for how she became competent over 1 offseason or find a reason to bring in a new coach who will blend with the classic Ducks way. A former Duck would be ideal—and Charlie Conway would be the prime candidate—but there is no guarantee that Joshua Jackson or any of the other former Ducks actors would be available to take on such a role. Similarly, we now need to find a reason to write Bombay out while likely still using the Ice Palace, which is always going to feel a little contrived as it was not expected. And that will potentially hurt the show’s longevity, as if we don’t feel that this team are the Ducks we love without Gordon Bombay and we have to rely on a cameo or 2 per season, then many of the longtime Ducks fans may fly away.

Beyond that, I think we need to see an expanded roster for the team this year, which can work easy enough given how well most of the team have already been established. I got a feeling in the final episode of the series that Ruby was feeling a little iffy on some of the coaching decisions made, and with her mum’s closeness to Alex growing, a change of teams wouldn’t feel off, while I would also expect maybe 1 or 2 completely new characters to add to the roster.

If the show can keep things going, it has a great chance to follow the team over the next couple of years and all the challenges that brings with it. Puberty is an obvious one, an we already have the creation of 2 couples in season 1, while it would also be easy enough to bring in an LGBT romance within the team from what has been set up in season 1, especially as Nick having 2 mothers is already normalising this. Meanwhile on the ice, we could see players coping with how their bodies change over the next couple of seasons, and it could be interesting to see someone as sweet and calm as Nick have to become the team’s new enforcer because of how he grows into a physical player, or see Evan transition from forward to defenseman if him going through puberty made him a more viable defensive option than some of the current players.

Beyond that, there is aso the question of how Alex progresses. It can be assumed that she will look to move on in her career, could this provide new obstacles to her coaching the team? Or what if she were to start dating the parent of another player? Logan and his divorcé father have moved in on the same street, while another character could always be introduced. And what if further seasons want to take things further, with players potentially having to compete against each other for the same spot in a higher level—something that certainly feels like a potential stumbling block in Evan and Sofi’s relationship.

If season 1 has set the show up well, season 2 feels crucial right now for the longevity of the series.

What did you think of this series? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Pick of the Flock: Ranking the Mighty Ducks

Pick of the Flock: Ranking the Mighty Ducks

With COVID heavily impacting the sporting calendar over the last couple of years, one addition I made to the site’s content was the inclusion of reviews of sports movies. As soon as I started this, I knew that I would enjoy looking back over the Mighty Ducks trilogy, which I had always loved watching growing up.

Having finally finished going through the movies, I decided that today I would do something a little different: Looking at all 19 characters to play for the Ducks over the trilogy and giving myself the impossible task of ranking them all. This ranking is not based on just their ability, but also their role within the team, so you may find that some arguably more skilful players drop down the list as I have questions about other aspects of their character. I will also be ranking on what I see, not what I think a player’s potential is, so unfortunately those characters who only appeared in the first movie did admittedly find themselves at a disadvantage.

So without further ado, my ranking of the Ducks is as follows:

19: Peter Mark

#24, Defenseman – District 5 Ducks

ice hockey the mighty ducks peter markIt’s never nice to be last on the list, but unfortunately Mark takes this spot. Ice hockey is a physical sport and sadly Mark seriously lacked in this area, while not carrying on with the rest of the team never allows us to see if he finds ways to excel despite this. And to add to this, Mark was also not the best for the squad dynamics, being quick to judge and take offence, and preferring to stage a walk-out rather than try to resolve any issues.

18: Dave Karp

#11, Defenseman – District 5 Ducks

ice hockey the mighty ducks dave karpAnother whose stock was hurt by only appearing in the first movie. Karp is sadly not a great skater, but what puts him above Peter Mark is that he is much less of a distraction off the ice. But he is also more physical, making him a bit more of a challenge for opposition forwards to beat.

17: Tommy Duncan

#2, Defenseman – District 5 Ducks

ice hockey the mighty ducks tommy duncanSomeone who could have rose up the ranks had he remained with the Ducks, Tommy Duncan’s lack of hockey experience hurts his ranking. In fact arguably the 2 best things he brings to the team is his skating ability (due to his figure skating background) and his sister Tammy.

16: Tammy Duncan

#5, Forward – District 5 Ducks

ice hockey the mighty ducks tammy duncanOh what a shame that Tammy Duncan did not appear in D2 or D3, as I really feel that she had the potential to push herself up the rankings had she remained on the team. Like her brother Tommy, she lacked the hockey experience, but her figure skating background meant that she was a natural on the ice, while we also see that she isn’t afraid to get physical when angered.

15: Terry Hall

#1, Forward – District 5 Ducks

ice hockey the mighty ducks terry hallTerry Hall was the 3ʳᵈ member of the Oreo Line, which goes a long way to show his talent. His spot on the list is unfortunately harmed by the importance of other forwards to the team, being stuck in the shadow of his older brother Jesse and not appearing beyond the original movie. If I included potential, he would fly up the list, but from what we have actually got to see, I sadly can’t rank him higher than any of the players who featured for Team USA.

14: Dwayne Robertson

#7, Forward – Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks dwayne robertsonIf we were looking at simply puck handling and ability, Robertson would be right at the top of the list. However we are looking at hockey, and unfortunately the Texan is too much of a showman, often losing possession from showing off with the puck when a teammate was open for the pass. If there was a hockey version of the Harlem Globetrotters, he would excel with them.

13: Russ Tyler

#56, Defenseman – Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks russ tylerThis could be an unpopular pick so low in my rankings but hear me out. Yes, Tyler has a incredible shot in the knucklepuck, but it takes him some time to wind up, which gives the opposition time to blitz him. You just have to look at the final against Iceland, where he is man-marked out of the game until the last minute deception play. And aside from the knucklepuck, there isn’t much else of note to his game.

12: Luis Mendoza

#22, Forward – Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks luis mendozaMendoza may have been one of the hardest players to rank. The forward from Miami has something that translates well into so many sports: pure natural pace. You can’t teach that, and it is frightening to go up against, as it allows him to chase down what would usually be a lost cause if the opponent breaks away, while conversely he is impossible to catch when he breaks away. Unfortunately, his inability to stop himself with any reliability hurts his positioning, as does the quality of his teammates.

11: Lester Averman

#4, Forward – District 5 Ducks, Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d3 the mighty ducks lester avermanWhen putting my rankings together, I was shocked to see how high Averman made it up the list. Most notable for his comedic aspects in the movies, and certainly far from the most physical of players, when you watch the action back, he is a surprisingly competent player, with good puck handling and regularly finds himself on the scoresheet.

10: Jesse Hall

#9, Forward – District 5 Ducks, Team USA

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks jesse hallJust cracking the top 10 is Jesse Hall, and if we’re going on ability alone, he should be much higher. Older brother to Terry Hall and another member of District 5’s Oreo Line, Hall is a supremely talented forward and a natural goal scorer. So why is he so low on the list? Well that is all down to his attitude. Hall can easily get frustrated and lash out, which can cost the team. And it’s not just on the ice either, as he constantly allows himself to be distracted by Russ Tyler’s jibes before they become teammates, while he goes out of his way to not make Banks feel welcome after his move from the Hawks to the Ducks. As talented as he is, that’s not the kind of person I want on my team.

9: Ken Wu

#16, Forward – Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks ken wuWhen I talked about the potential of Tammy Duncan, Ken Wu is exactly what I had in mind. Very much her replacement in D2 and D3, Wu’s Olympic figure skating background makes him a natural on the ice, and while he initially lacks physicality, he learns to stand up for himself and hold his own on the ice.

8: Connie Moreau

#18, Forward – District 5 Ducks, Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks connie moreau“The Velvet Hammer” is exactly what you want in a role model for young girls in sport. Her sex is never really an issue as she gives as good as any of the guys, if not better. A supremely talented skater, Moreau scores her fair share of goals for the team and it’s honestly a shame her character was never given more focus in the movies.

7: Charlie Conway

#96, Forward – District 5 Ducks, Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d3 the mighty ducks charlie conwayIf ever there was someone hard to place on this list, it’s #96. If we’re talking just talent and ability, he should definitely be much lower. However, he is the captain for a reason, as he is the heart of the team—you just have to look at how the Ducks struggle when he walks out on them following an argument with Coach Orion! Charlie is the first to welcome Banks to the team, brings in Tyler to fill the open roster spot on Team USA as he recognises his talent, and then gives up his spot on the roster in the biggest game of his career as Banks returns from injury “for the good of the team”. Give me a team of Charlie Conways over a team of Jesse Halls any day!

6: Dean Portman

#21, Defenseman – Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d3 the mighty ducks dean portmanAs talented as the Ducks are, they are so often lacking in physicality compared to their opponents. Well Portman goes a long way to evening things out. The first of the (official) Bash Brothers to make the list, Portman is the ultimate enforcer in defence, but what often goes unnoticed is just how good a skater he is. Portman is the kind of player who can ruin an oppositions momentum and turn it in the Ducks’ favour.

5: Julie Gaffney

#6, Goaltender – Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks julie gaffneyJulie “The Cat” Gaffney was another who proved really difficult to rank. We only actually get to see her compete in a couple of matches (mostly in a Ducks team struggling to transition under a new coach), as well as scrimmages, as Bombay showed faith in Goldberg as his starter, leaving the fast glove on the bench. However what really shows her quality is the final against Iceland, where she comes in for the final penalty in the shoot-out against Gunnar Stahl (the leading scorer in the tournament) and despite having player no other hockey during the tournament, makes the save to win the Junior Goodwill Games. Gaffney has the clutch gene, and she could probably have rose even higher on the list if we saw her play more.

4: Fulton Reed

#44, Defenseman/Forward – District 5 Ducks, Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey the mighty ducks fulton reedThe other official Bash Brother, Fulton Reed is not a great skater, but improves over time, which stops him falling down this list and allows us to focus on his positives. The other obvious enforcer on the team, Reed’s physicality is huge for the Ducks and his almost telepathic link with Portman creates a deadly combination. But then to finish everything off, he has the mother of all slapshots, which (if you’re smart) you just get out of the way of if you value your body. But more than that too, having appeared to be somewhat of a loner before joining the team, Fulton appears to become one of the most loyal to the Ducks, who really become like a family to him.

3: Greg Goldberg

#33, Goaltender/Defenseman – District 5 Ducks, Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d3 the mighty ducks greg goldbergWho would have thought that Goldberg of all people would end up in my top 3? Certainly not me as I started putting this list together, but he just kept rising. As a keeper, he was capable, though i still think that he was lucky for Bombay to keep loyal to him over Gaffney for so long. However as a back-up, he is more than capable. But what really pushed him up the list was his development under Coach Orion, which saw him become a defenseman, a position where he really excelled. While his skating still may not have been the best, he become a capable enough defenseman to post a shut-out against the Varsity, while also using his physicality to become an unofficial Bash Brother. Perhaps 3 is a bit higher than he should have ended, but his solid defending and ability to cover between the sticks if Gaffney was unavailable gives him a slight push over some of his teammates.

2: Guy Germaine

#00, Forward – District 5 Ducks, Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks guy germaineYou can be forgiven for not having Guy so high on your list as the movies never really give him the focus he deserves. The final member of District 5’s Oreo Line, Germaine is the most natural and talented skater on the District 5 Ducks team and remains one of their best players throughout the trilogy. He does unfortunately get targeted in a number of games, leading to him leaving some games early with injury, but when on the ice he is a natural goal scorer, and it’s telling that the District 5 Ducks wanted him to take the penalty to defeat the Hawks.

1: Adam Banks

#99, Forward – District 5 Ducks, Team USA, Eden Hall Ducks

ice hockey d2 the mighty ducks adam banksHe was the star of the Hawks and became the star of the Ducks. It’s telling of Banks’ quality that he was the only one of the Ducks to make the Varsity team in D3, whereas the rest were the junior varsity team. Being such a talented skater makes Banks a target and it’s no surprise to see him the most frequently targeted player on the ice. He may not have initially wanted to join the Ducks (understandable given he was the star of the best team and was now being asked to join a team of questionable quality) and does have some moments where he is put at odds with his teammates, but is never the aggressor in these circumstances so this doesn’t count against him and secures him the top spot in the list.

Do you agree with this list? If not, what would your rankings be?

Ducks Fly Together!

ice hockey mighty ducks logo

Premier League 2021/22: December

Premier League 2021/22: December

Happy New Year! I hope you have all had a fun festive season. The good news is that the time off has allowed me to catch up with all the action so you’re finally not left waiting til halfway through the next month for my thoughts.

And what an intriguing December it was. COVID reared its ugly head with a number of matches being postponed throughout the month. Manchester City may not have faced any of their rivals in December, but it was still a crucial month for their campaign, as they won 7 of 7 matches, while rivals Chelsea and Liverpool both dropped points, allowing the Sky Blues to welcome in the New Year with an 8-point lead over Chelsea and a 9-point lead over Liverpool, who have a game in hand.

The rest of the Big 6 saw their seasons getting back on track, and all 3 of Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur found themselves in European positions, with 5ᵗʰ-placed West Ham completing the top 7.

At the other end of the table, Newcastle earned their first league win of the season against fellow relegation scrappers Burnley, who also picked up points with a series of draws this month that leaves both teams within a win of Watford, who are currently just outside the bottom 3 after a poor month, though Burnley have a game in hand over Watford, who themselves have a further 2 games in hand over Newcastle. Meanwhile, despite having as many league victories this season as Newcastle and Burnley combined, Norwich find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table and still waiting to hit double digits for goals scored in the campaign.


The race is on!

The race for the Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 15 goals; Diogo Jota (Liverpool) – 10 goals; Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – 9 goals

The race for Playmaker of the Season: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 9 assists; Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) – 8 assists; Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham) & Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) – 7 assists

The race for the Golden Glove: Ederson (Manchester City) – 11 clean sheets; Alisson (Liverpool) & Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal) – 9 clean sheets; Édouard Mendy (Chelsea) – 8 clean sheets


Covid chaos

We just can’t seem to escape the impact of COVID on the sport, but December saw it really rear its ugly head. Whether due to the new Omicron variant or not, players and managers were routinely missing games as they self-isolated, while a whopping 15 matches were postponed during the second half of the month.

The festive period is one of the busiest in the Premier League calendar, now that calendar is in disarray. You just need to look at the table, where the amount of matches a team has played by the end of 2021 ranges from 20 to 16. And it’s not as if the issue is over, with one match having already been postponed this year at time of writing.

At some point, these games will need to be played, and unless the FA chooses to take advantage of a winter World Cup and extend the season, these games will need to be played wherever there is a gap, and that’s just going to make things even busier for some teams.

Stripped

It’s been an interesting month for Arsenal. A team who started with a pointless opening month before going perfect the next found themselves back in an awkward spot as captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was dropped from the matchday squad for the 3-0 win over Southampton for a disciplinary breach. This was the second time that disciplinary action had been taken against the club captain, which is a bad look, so it was no surprise to see Aubameyang officially stripped of the captaincy a few days later.

And since then, things have gone well for the team. It’s not as if he had been firing on all cylinders this season, and having Lacazette regularly starting up front has created some better consistency and chemistry that is bringing the best out of the attack.

The one thing that is missing somewhat is clear leadership. Given Granit Xhaka’s captaincy tenure did not end well I can’t see him taking the armband in more than just the occasional match, while the team on the whole is largely quite young. But this could be a blessing in disguise, as it forces players to stand up and take on a more important role. It may not have been an easy 2 years under Mikel Arteta, but this looks like a team finally going in the right direction.

Breaking through the ceiling

While West Ham have been having a good season, December was somewhat of a blip for them, with draws against Brighton and Burnley and losses to Arsenal and Southampton. Following the Southampton game, an interview with Michail Antonio caught my attention as he talked about the team probably suffering from some mental fatigue, as they were not used to the high number of matches they were playing this season due to their involvement in the Europa League.

This got me thinking about just how hard it is for a team to break into the Europan positions on a regular basis. It’s so rare that you see a team come out of nowhere to win the league like Leicester did, because it is so hard for a team outside the Big 6 to have a squad that has a strong enough starting XI to defeat their rivals and a squad deep enough in quality to keep a challenge going all season. When you add in the extra matches that European football gives you, and it just adds to that necessity for a strong and deep squad.

But that isn’t something that you can just generate overnight. You need to develop players within your squad, spend money wisely on players that will improve the squad and also try to hold onto the stars that got to into these positions as the traditional big teams come calling.

If you can successfully keep yourself in the European positions for a number of seasons then you have broken the glass ceiling, but right now, in a league that is so competitive, there’s no team that has yet managed to consistently break through. Could West Ham be the ones?


Team of the Month

Manchester City

Who else could I really pick here? City went 100% from 7 matches this month, and while they may not have had to play any rivals, the manner of many victories was impressive, with a 6-3 win against Leicester and a 7-0 rout of Leeds.

With 23 goals scored and just 5 conceded, it was another dominant display from the league leaders, and with their closest rivals dropping points, the title seems all but certain to come back to the Etihad this season.