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

D3: The Mighty Ducks

D3: The Mighty Ducks

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies 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.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie 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, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they used in their old show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

It’s been a while since I started watching the Mighty Ducks movies again, with a busy rugby schedule, work getting busier and a house move, but it’s time to finally complete the trilogy with a look at D3: The Mighty Ducks

ss d3 the mighty ducks

Key facts

Directed by Rob Lieberman

Music by J. A. C. Redford

Released in 1996

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Joshua Jackson, Jeffrey Nordling, Heidi Kling, Margot Finley

Synopsis: When the Ducks are enrolled at Eden Hall Academy on junior varsity sponsorships, they must adapt to a new environment, including romances, being seen as outsiders, dealing with bullies and the varsity hockey team and a new coach in Coach Orion. But is it too much change all at once for Charlie?

Review

I used to watch this and D2 all the time as a kid, and while I always enjoyed them both, I always did prefer the second, a feeling that persists with this re-watch. I think a part of this is the relative lack of actual hockey in this movie, with just 3 games given any time in the movie. Instead, we get a load of hijinks such as the constant rivalry between the Ducks and Varsity, Goldberg’s inability to skate and Charlie and Fulton’s truancy, many of which I feel could have been left out or shortened for more important story and character moments, such as the Ducks’ relationship with Banks after he gets picked for Varsity.

But probably the biggest surprise in this movie is that though he receives top billing, Emilio Estevez appears in just 1 scene in the first half of the movie, and though he has an important role later in the story, he is definitely not one of the main protagonists. Instead, after being the heart of the team for 2 movies, this movie sees Joshua Jackson’s Charlie Conway become the lead protagonist, and on this re-watch it really felt that rather than ending a trilogy, this was meant to be the movie in the middle of a larger franchise, which would see the focus move from Gordon to Charlie.

This is a very different movie to the previous 2: the Ducks are united (on the whole) for once, so the conflict is created by giving them a new coach, who is far stricter and has much more of a focus on defence than Gordon Bombay, who made it fun. Similarly, with the team now all in their teens it feels like the whole movie is an allegory for puberty, with a number of players ending the movie with some form of romantic interest and change all over the place: the style of hockey they play, their standing and role within the team, heck even the score feels similar but different to the previous movies.

But here we come to the issue, there are so many changes that they don’t always feel fully fleshed out in a movie with a runtime of 1 hour 24 minutes. Orion comes across overly strict and uncompromising, but then immediately becomes best pals with Charlie as he re-joins the team. Banks appears to be ostracised by the Ducks after being selected for Varsity and even fights with Charlie, but then the next time we see him he’s playing with the Ducks as if there’s never been an issue. With everything going on, I think that the Banks storyline was probably the biggest mistake as it separated him from the team for the third movie in a row, while having Ken Wu’s only story beat of note being that he gets bullied doesn’t look great—though that’s still more than some of the team got!

Ultimately though, this is a good tale of Charlie growing as a person. He learns the hard way not to judge someone by first impressions, to be willing to adapt and to stand up to bullies. But more than that, he learns that being the heart of the team and the captain is a role that must be earned rather than just given. Is it a perfect movie? No. Neither does it feel like an ending. Hopefully with The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers being renewed for season 2, we will see Charlie return to the story sometime soon and see how his life has gone on.

Sports perspective

Like with the other 2 movies, I’m not going to be able to go into much detail at all as Ice Hockey is not a sport that I’ve ever really been able to invest any significant time in. However the movie does a good job of not needing you to have a detailed knowledge of the rules, so that as long as you can understand the basics that each team is trying to put the puck in their opponent’s net more often than the other, you’re completely fine!

As in the previous matches, your rival team (previously the Hawks and Iceland, now Varsity) are a bigger and stronger team, while the officials always seem to punish the Ducks more than their rivals. However what I can comment on this time is Coach Orion’s focus on teaching the team defence. While any team can have success when you with great attacking play, once they get older it becomes more important to be able to stay organised and defend well, as the Ducks have shown themselves just how easy it can be to score in just a few seconds. And that really shows with the hockey being much more grounded than we saw in the previous movie.

One final thing to note is a side-story in this movie about attempts to get the name of Eden Hall’s sports teams changed from “The Warriors” to something less offensive, with the name eventually becoming the Ducks at the end of the movie. Considering this movie is 25 years old, this oddly mimics something that we are currently seeing in sports, with a number of American sports teams rebranding away from anything inspired by Native Americans, something that is also currently being requested of the English Premiership rugby team Exeter Chiefs.

Fist-pump moment

I had a feeling before the movie of what my fist-pump moment would be, and it didn’t change on this re-watch, though I will say that Dean Portman’s return ran it closer than I expected.

The moment in question: the final training session before the JV-Varsity game, when Orion calls in the team and while looking stern, tells them that they’re not skating like Warriors, before telling them they’re skating like Ducks and beginning to hand out the Ducks jerseys he took off them in the first session. This is one of the few times we hear the familiar Ducks fanfare through the whole movie as the team receives their jerseys before one final shot of them coming together skating in a circle and bringing back the classic “Quack” chant.

It shows in this moment that though they may have been changing though the whole film, with a new coach and a new focus on defence and two-way hockey, they are still always going to be the ducks at heart, and nothing can stand against that.

Favourite line

So I must admit that there weren’t many lines that in themselves stood out to me in this movie, though Gordon’s monologue to Charlie about how Charlie and the Ducks saved him and how he told Orion that Charlie was the Minnesota Miracle Man brought a ear to my eye as it mirrored D2’s scene between Jan and Gordon. Instead I settled on a line from Hans as he talked with Charlie:

“He took away the “C”, Charlie. Not what was under it.”

It’s a timely reminder to Charlie that he has put too much focus on his standing as captain of the Ducks. He was always the heart of the team well before this, and it is clear from the game the Hans has just been listening to that the Ducks are missing Charlie. He was never the best player on the team, but what made him so important was that he was what the Ducks embodied: honesty, integrity, fair play and a love of the game.

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

D2: The Mighty Ducks

D2: The Mighty Ducks

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies 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.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie 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, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they used in their old show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today I will be continuing my trip down memory lane by looking at one of my favourite movies as a child and the sequel to last week’s movie: D2: The Mighty Ducks

Key facts

Directed by Sam Weisman

Music by J. A. C. Redford

Released in 1994

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Kathryn Erbe, Michael Tucker, Jan Rubeš, Carsten Norgaard, Joshua Jackson

Synopsis: After injury robs Gordon Bombay the chance of making it into the NHL, he is appointed the new head coach of Team USA Hockey for the upcoming Junior Goodwill Games. Coaching a team made up of many of the previous Ducks and some of the best players from across the country, the group grow as a team and individuals while Bombay is forced to adapt to newfound fame and expectations.

Review

I absolutely loved this movie as a child and I’m actually quite surprised that I never wore the VHS out! I’m such a fan that I ended up buying a replica of the white Ducks jersey from the climax of the film (#96 Conway, for anyone asking) So to find out that this only had a 59% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes was a massive shock to me. But hey, we all have different tastes and I loved it as much as ever!

Much like in the original movie, the person growing the most is surprisingly not the kids, but Gordon Bombay, who suddenly finds himself thrust into a world of sponsors who love him when he wins but turn their back as soon as he loses, while he also finds himself suddenly among the cream of the crop in LA and spending to much time at sponsor events rather than prepping the team, leading to a damning loss against Iceland which he reacts badly to. Though the character of Hans doesn’t appear in this movie, his “brother” Jan fills the exact same role, helping Gordon to see the mistakes he has made and sort himself out in time to earn the team’s trust back and get the win in the big game playing fun hockey. This is hinted at almost immediately, with the opening sequence flashing between Gordan as a child skating on the pond behind his house and Bombay playing in the minors and being on route to the NHL until he receives a career-ending injury. In this opening, we hear Gordon’s father tell him “No matter how far you go, don’t forget your home” and when you combine the orange colour palette for this moment with the colour palette later in the movie as Bombay goes skating at sunset in LA to get his head back after reaching his low point, it’s clear that this is Bombay learning his lesson.

Of course, the Ducks still play a key role, but it is an interesting situation. While Charlie still feels like the heart of the team, he is given much less weighting in this one—his role as the heart of the team really being shown by being the one to round up the Ducks and to drop out in order to open up a roster spot for Banks in the final—as we are introduced to a number of new characters, who have to be given time to bed in and grow themselves. While some of these characters are effectively replacements for Ducks who didn’t return—Ken Wu taking over from Tammy Duncan as the figure skater in the team—many provide a new dynamic, like Dean Portman bringing in another physical, confrontational edge to pair with Fulton Reed, while Russ Tyler’s knucklepuck is a fun variation on Fulton’s slapshot from the first film. What this does mean though is that some characters don’t get as much time as they properly deserve, with Guy Germaine especially falling foul in this movie.

One player who does really benefit though is that of Adam Banks, the best player on the team, who seems to take on a bit of the role Charlie had in the first movie, as a surrogate son for Bombay, and he and Emilio Estevez share a wonderful scene that I had to mention, as Bombay is forced to bench banks due to injury, and does a great job of talking to him and realising that being benched will not be the end of the world and realising what is important.

What probably doesn’t help the situation of giving all the team enough time is a couple of moments that feel really out of place, with Bombay going on a date with the Iceland team’s trainer after one very quick meeting that was nothing more than an introduction, only for them to not have any more interactions together in the movie and for her to be firmly sided with Iceland for the rest of the movie, while following this we get a few hints of a budding romance between Bombay and team tutor Michelle McKay. Neither of these relationships has any payoff—besides the date with Maria helping fuel the team’s distrust in him—and I can’t help feel that these moments could have been removed in favour of more time with some of the Ducks.

Finally, I need to spend some time talking about the main antagonist of this movie, and Carsten Norgaard is great as Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson, the head coach of Iceland. He looks physically intimidating but what really stood out for me on re-watch was that—barring an anger issue which results in a cheap shot on Bombay—he doesn’t actually come across as that bad a person, especially when you consider Coach Reilly told his team to injure Banks in the last movie. Instead, Stansson is tactically solid; we see him and Maria watching a number of USA’s matches, with the movie often showing them watching USA’s weapons (Fulton’s slapshot, Russ’ knucklepuck and the Flying V), all of which Iceland stop in games. Yes the Iceland team play rough, but it is only Olaf Sanderson who really takes things too far on the ice. And then at the end, Stansson actually realises (after a cutting remark from Gunner Stahl) that the win wasn’t everything and is able to shake Bombay’s hand and congratulate him on the win. If we’re looking at characters who could pop up in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers down the line, I think that Stansson could be a good one to come in as an acquaintance of Bombay, similar to how Rocky and Apollo Creed became friends.

Sports perspective

Like my review for the original, I’m not going to be able to go into much detail at all as Ice Hockey is not a sport that I’ve ever really been able to invest any significant time in. However the movie does a good job of not needing you to have a detailed knowledge of the rules, so that as long as you can understand the basics that each team is trying to put the puck in their opponent’s net more often than the other, you’re completely fine.

Once again, many of the goals we see the Ducks score would ever be seen in an actual game, as the Ducks often rely on gimmicks – like making Russ Tyler and Goldberg swap kits to hide Tyler from the Iceland players and give him time to get the shot off. Even more so than in The Mighty Ducks, we see the tropes of the main rival being a bigger and more physical team that plays in black, who are allowed to get away with a lot more than USA are – most notable when you look at Sanderson getting 2 minutes in the box for deliberately attacking Banks while Portman is ejected just seconds into a game for pushing a player over.

Useless trivia

The Goodwill Games was an alternative to the Olympics, also running every 4 years. There were 5 Summer Goodwill Games (Moscow 1986-Brisbane 2001) and 1 Winter Games (Lake Placid, 2000). Other planned Games were Phoenix (Summer) and Calgary (Winter), which were both cancelled before they could take place in 2005.

Ice hockey was part of the Summer Games.

Fist-pump moment

“They’ve got on new uniforms. They’re wearing the logo of the Duck!”

My fist-pump moment for this one has to be the moment that Team USA come out for the second half of the final wearing new uniforms, the new white kit with the Ducks logo. This is by far my favourite of the kits the team wars during the trilogy, but more than that, it is the moment where the new members officially become Ducks, with a very corporate Team USA jersey until then. Right before this, during the “Ducks Fly Together” scene, we have had the familiar ducks theme playing, but with this reveal, the music comes back stronger, and as the team skate back out onto the ice, you can not just the players but the crowd also spurred on by the change. And trust me, when you have the crowd behind you, you feel invincible.

Favourite line

This movie, there was a line I already remembered before my re-watch and it still stood out this time around:

“Gordon, when I told the Goodwill Committee who you were, I did not talk to them about your good looks. I didn’t tell them you would win at any cost. I told them you were a man who loves the game. And I told them you were a man who could teach the kids about more than just winning or losing. I told them you were the Minnesota Miracle Man and only you could teach them to fly. So be that man. Be that man, Gordon”

It comes at a key moment as Jan helps Gordon realise the mistakes that he has made and reminds him that helping the kids grow is the most important thing rather than coming away with the victory.

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

The Mighty Ducks

The Mighty Ducks

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies 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.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie 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, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they used in their old show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today I will be starting a trip down memory lane by looking at the first film in one of my favourite movie series as a child: The Mighty Ducks

ss The Mighty Ducks

Key facts

Directed by Stephen Herek

Music by David Newman

Released in 1992

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Heidi Kling, Joshua Jackson

Synopsis: Hotshot Minneapolis lawyer Gordon Bombay (Estevez) is arrested for drink diving and forced to undertake 500 hours of community service coaching the struggling local “District 5” Pee Wee ice hockey team. Though there is initially no love lost between him and the team, they slowly remind him of the love he once had for the game and he looks to turn around their fortunes on the ice.

Review

As much as I loved this trilogy of movies, I can’t remember having watched the original that many times, as for some reason I only had the sequels on VHS (ageing myself here!) as a kid. So it was really fun watching this one again as, though I remember the brad strokes, I don’t remember the detail anywhere near as well.

As a kid, these were just fun sports movies, but watching this now as an adult – and someone who played at my local rugby club as a kid and later in life went back to help coach there – there is actually a really poignant story here, and I would go as far as to suggest any adult who wants to coach children’s sport should watch this movie. Bombay starts the movie as a lawyer who is not afraid to play dirty to ensure that he wins his cases, and that is the same mentality that he initially brings to the team. It is clear that as a child he loved the game, but a bad moment in a match and the reaction of his “winning is everything” coach made him fall out of love with the game.  But as time goes on, we see Bombay getting that love of the game back and helping the kids improve so that they start winning, but also ensuring that the focus is on them enjoying playing the game rather than having to win. It’s a hard balance for a coach to manage, and watching this should be a good reminder for coaches watching to ensure that all the team is having fun, and that the stars of the team are treated just the same as the weakest of players.

Estevez does a great job as Gordon Bombay, showing that change in mentality over time and going from an arrogant jerk at the beginning of the movie to an inspirational coach by the end, but the real standout to me was Joshua Jackson as Charlie Conway, who is far from the best player on the team, but is the heart and soul of the movie, someone who is there because he loves the game – refusing to cheat when Bombay tells him to and being the first to welcome Banks to the team – and while his mother does have a romantic storyline with Bombay, it feels more like the true romance is Gordon falling back in love with the game as Charlie reminds him of what he was like at that age. The rest of the kids do a great job – finding child actors is always a risk but they do well on the whole – but Lane Smith also does a great job as the main antagonist of the movie, Coach Reilly, who was Bombay’s old coach and still coach of the rival team the Hawks.

One final thing to mention in this section is the score, and this really stands out to me in the matches, but especially the matches against the rival team, where we get some extended action. There are 2 obvious themes, one for the Ducks and one for their rivals, and they are meshed together throughout the games does such a great job of adding feeling tot he action, especially with how the theme for the rivals – who are generally bigger and stronger – feels ore overbearing than that of the Ducks.

Sports perspective

So I’m not going to be able to go into much detail at all as Ice Hockey is not a sport that I’ve ever really been able to invest any significant time in. However the movie does a good job of not going into detail about the rules, so that as long as you can understand the basics that each team is trying to put the puck in their opponent’s net more often than the other, you’re completely fine.

Of course, I highly doubt that many of the goals we see the Ducks score would ever be seen in an actual game, as the Ducks often rely on gimmicks – like using a figure skater spinning next to the goal to create space to receive the puck and score. I did appreciate though the “Statue of Liberty” play using Fulton Reed’s powerful slapshot as a dummy for a team play, much as the play in American football sees the quarterback faking a pass to disguise the running back rushing with the ball.

While the Ducks rely on these fun gimmicks, we also see the Hawks allowed to get away with a lot that would probably be penalised in the game and the Ducks getting penalised for much less, and this just helps to set up even more how incredible and against the odds their victory will be.

Useless trivia

Ever heard of the NHL team the Anaheim Ducks? Well they were founded in 1993 by the Walt Disney Company, going under the name The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, which was inspired by this movie. The name was changed to the Anaheim Ducks following Disney’s sale of the franchise, however they still pay homage to their founding on occasions with their kits and the appearance of their mascot.

Fist-pump moment

My fist-pump moment comes halfway though the championship game against the Hawks, immediately following Adam Banks being stretchered off the ice after one of the players did as Coach Reilly had instructed and took him out of the game. After checking on Banks, Bombay takes a detour back to his team via the Hawks, where he looks his old coach in the eye and states:

“To think I wasted all those years worrying about what you thought. You’re going down, Reilly”

The music has remained soft through this moment as it mourns Banks’ being forced out of the game, but on this proclamation it builds up. This is Bombay’s big moment. Throughout the film we have seen him affected by his tie as a Hawk under Reilly, which made him fall out of love with the game. We have seen him try to copy the Hawks early on, then play dirty by having the team cheat to try winning at all costs, but as the movie has gone on, the Ducks brought his love of the game back, leading to him getting fired for making sure Banks couldn’t play for the Hawks for fair play reasons and he even found that the new District lines would make him a Duck rather than a Hawk.

But it is in this moment that he finally sees just how far Reilly will go to win that he is finally able to fully break away from his Hawks past and be his own man, the man the Ducks need him to be.

Favourite line

Having spent so much of my life in teams, both as a player and a coach of junior rugby, and also with the Pistol Shrimps, there was a line from Bombay that rally stood out to me:

“A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.”

This really stood out to me as you get out of being in a team what you put in. A team is a family in itself, a group that has your back when you need help. Winning isn’t everything, but instead it is about the time you spend together and the memories you make along the way.

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