Oh, the 90’s… A decade that brought us inspiring and impactful sports movies like The Big Green and Angels in the Outfield but also brought us crap like The Sandlot or Rookie of the Year. However, the biggest crap-pile of family-friendly sports films has got to be The Mighty Ducks… Wait… That’s wrong. The truth is I, and millions of others born between 1985 and 1989 have fond memories of being seven to ten years old and getting to enjoy all of those movies and more. That last film, which added millions of new fans for the NHL, happens to be my favorite 90’s sports movie. Yes… better than Little Giants.
The Perfect Sport
Yes, there are more popular sports in America than Hockey, even though of the 31 NHL teams only seven are in Canada, but this sport is faster than baseball and football, offers decent face coverings for replacing actors with players, and it’s known for on-ice antics like trick shots and fights. Add in some 11-year-old ragtag kids, an adult with a lesson to learn, and the House of Mouse and you get The Mighty Ducks.
Every sport has its movies and they are generally either family-friendly or adult-oriented. No normal 9yo wants to sit through Tin Cup. Hockey has Slap Shot for the grown-ups, but my love of Hockey and the nostalgia keeps me coming back to what would become a three-film franchise.
Emilio Estevez plays hotshot attorney turned junior Hockey coach, Gordon Bombay. Estevez’s performance ranges from believable to phoning it in and you sometimes wonder if the character’s drinking problem is affecting the actor… crude? He’s not just any hotshot attorney though. He’s a former Junior Hockey player who had mad skills but botched a penalty shot as a kid costing his team, The Hawks, the championship.
I mentioned a drinking problem for Bombay which leads to a DUI to community service to the kids of District-5 in the local Junior Hockey league. After struggling to be a good coach, Bombay meets with a childhood mentor and has a change of heart. Fighting hard for his team he gets a sponsor, his boss Gerald Ducksworth, which gives the district team an actual name.
Proving himself worthy of leading the Ducks to victory, Bombay is fully redeemed by the end of the film and is getting a shot at playing in the Minor Leagues (think CHL or AHL). That’s not all though, we have to talk about the kids.
Our future Mighty Ducks are made up of a fairly diverse group. There are female players, a Jewish goalie, and African American representation. It’s actually the African American player’s dad speaks to Bombay about some less than savory game tactics, that puts him on the path to redemption. You could say this movie features a diverse cast and is nearly universally loved… Now I’m actively trying to start S#!%. Bad Kyle!
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The team’s captain, Charlie Conway, gets to double as our hero and the connection between Bombay and the requisite love interest of the grown-up. Comedy rests with Averman and Goldberg. Averman is mouthy and does impressions while Goldberg is a bit low-brow with slap-stick and fart jokes. The team also gets a couple of secret weapons in the form of hard-shooting Fulton Reed and a figure skater.
The kids make the movie. The acting ranges from horrible to tolerable, but it’s their journey from barely being associates to being life-long friends that gets you in the place I’m told hearts are supposed to exist. There are classic scenes like meeting Fulton, shopping for gear, and Fulton’s first time on ice for a game. There are memorable lines too, but I honestly don’t want to do all the grammar work to quote them here.
Charlie does become the hero of the day though. The Ducks are playing Bombay’s former team, The Hawks, for the championship when it comes down to a shoot out. Charlie uses a move taught to him by Bombay, the triple deke, and scores the winning goal. Yay, the Mighty Ducks won the big game!
A fun cast, a feel-good story, and a sport. That’s all you needed to turn out a film in the ’90s after the wild success of The Mighty Ducks. As I mentioned earlier, this movie spawned two more sequels, a cartoon, and became a legitimate NHL team in California.
The movie holds up well as I recently watched it on Disney+ to write this piece. It sparked my interest in Hockey and I was fully sold on the sport when I heard there was a team with my (8-year-old) favorite animal, the Penguin, as their name and mascot. Okay, I still love Penguins but I bleed Pittsburgh black and gold every October to June-ish.
What’s your favorite Ducks movie? Who are your favorite characters? Did this make a Hockey fan of you? Let me know in the comments below!
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