When I heard that The Mighty Ducks would return as a sequel, I was worried. The original Mighty Ducks and Mighty Ducks 2 were a formative part of my youth. My sister and I wore out our copy of D2 so much we had to buy another one. The original Mighty Ducks were one of the reasons I got into hockey, and for one I didn’t want that rose colored image of my youth squandered for big bucks and branding.
Now, I understand, this is Disney, they’re all about the big bucks and the branding, but I just felt like I wanted to protect a 10 year old me from a disaster. The trailer dropped and it showed a lot of promise, The Mighty Ducks are now the bad guys! That’s inspired, and makes sense. Not only it seemed the new show, Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, wants to tackle the creeping professionalism that amateur sports is dealing with. The idea that kids who want to try out for hockey teams need to be put into thousand dollar clinics, require sport psychologists, and think that if they are not good enough by 12 years old, that they should just quit. I have seen this creeping professionalism first hand, and it’s sad, it’s very sad.
Watching the first episode it sticks to this idea, with the surprising casting of Dylan Playfair, son of Jim Playfair assistant coach of the Arizona Coyotes, and most importantly plays Reilly in Letterkenny, one half of the funniest hockey bro pairings on TV. Playfair plays the head coach of the current Mighty Ducks, a team who is completely removed from the ethos the original Mighty Ducks were created from. The new Mighty Ducks are elite, they have won the championship 10 times, and only care about winning.
When Lauren Graham from Gilmour Girls fame (First thing my wife said “it’s good to see that one from Gilmour Girls talking like a real person”) wants to make a new team to help his son, he finds Gordon Bombay’s rink, the Ice Palace. Emilio Estevez, breaking his code not to come back for any sequels or reunions, comes back to play Gordon Bombay. Now a bitter old man who owns a rink and eats old cakes. He has long turned his back on hockey, and there’s hints that the new elite Mighty Ducks team was a cause of that. Estevez helps Graham secure the rink and a budding romance friendship I’m sure is coming. Graham’s and Estevez’s chemistry works really well here, and there were definitely some parts where I loudly chuckled.
But the kids, the kids are what are going to make this show work or not. And so far so good. There is Evan played by Brady Noon, and Neil the podcaster friend played by Maxwell Simkins who look like they will take the brunt of the acting work and who has some of the funnier lines. There’s also the kid from Canada who hilariously has all the expensive equipment but doesn’t know how to skate, there’s the outcast “nerd” girl with inner rage issues, the popular girl who wants to be independent, the daredevil skateboarder, and the video gamer with amazing reflexes. I was very happy to see the diversity of the kids, kids of all races and colors. These are the kids who are in school and who play hockey now and it was refreshing to see. The original Mighty Ducks had a little of this, and I’m happy to see the tradition continue.
And that’s really it honestly for what I have seen from Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, that it wants to keep the feel of the original Mighty Ducks. I love that honestly, we didn’t need a gritty reboot of the show, we didn’t need a prequel, we needed to see what hockey looks like now for kids. We need to see a little of the heart again, and that’s great to see. I would be very comfortable showing this to younger kids.
The nearest comparison for MD:GC is Cobra Kai, and for a dumb/smart show that Cobra Kai is, MD:GC is not that. I do hope that MD:GC does learn from Cobra Kai and lean into the character development of the main characters, and into that inner struggle a bit more, especially with Gordon Bombay’s character.
One thing to keep an eye on though, this show alludes that we will get into full contact hockey, which in the original Mighty Ducks is played for laughs (full on clothesline, roping, and major pile ups happened in the 90’s Mighty Ducks constantly). I hope in this show that it gets played seriously, especially knowing that a lot of young leagues are dropping full contact unless they become pro. And we know that the league that MD:GC plays in is not pro. I hope this gets taken seriously and not for laughs. It would be amazing if Disney dips its toe into that controversial but important topic, but I think I’m raising my expectations a lot.
Final note on expectations, I hope we get to see some real NHL stars in this. I saw a Minnesota Wild’s hat on the shelf of Evan’s bed, and I wonder if we’ll get to see some cameos. It’s too bad they couldn’t get this year’s Minnesota Wild though, instead of last year’s when they probably filmed it. Who would be the big star? Eric Staal? Matt Dumba? Anyway, this would be a big miss if the NHL didn’t get into this.