As a kid who didn’t exactly follow hockey in the 90s, some of my earliest memories of the sport start in the road in front of my dad’s house, where the neighborhood kids gathered in inline skates, attempting our best knucklepuck or flying V, not fully realizing that those aren’t things that actually happen in real life. I’m not sure that you could have convinced us of this — after all, we did see it happen in The Mighty Ducks films, and Disney would never lie to children.
The Mighty Ducks were a cultural touchstone for kids of the 90s, interest in hockey or not. A diverse ensemble cast of kids, playing on a team in a district where money was tight, learning that the system was rigged against them and winning anyway ... the movies are often called cringe by adult hockey fans, but it’s easy to get caught up in the inaccuracies of the hockey, instead of focusing on that story, the reason we loved it as kids.
I’m delighted that the reboot of the franchise on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ will respect those roots in a modern way. The series Mighty Ducks: Game Changers checks in on the District 5 Ducks now, which are, as the trailer says, “a little different than the Ducks of the 90s.” The team has now won 10 state championships, with their roster as competitive as the Hawks of the original franchise.
Evan, played by Brady Noon, doesn’t make the Ducks’ roster and his mother, Alex (played by Lauren Graham), sets off to start a new team in the spirit of the original Ducks franchise. Emilio Estevez reprises his role as Gordon Bombay, whom Alex recruits to coach the new team.
Though there isn’t an official release date for the ten-episode series, a trailer was recently debuted at Disney’s Investor Day event.
Here are my favorite moments from the teaser trailer:
The Ducks Jerseys
The original District 5 Ducks jersey was both very cool and extremely hokey, featuring a green base color with yellow and purple stripes and a crazy-looking duck in a hockey uniform for the logo.
But we’re not in the 90s anymore and the modern District 5 sees a Ducks team sporting purple (!!!!!!) jerseys, with white and teal accents, and a duck-head crest with crossed hockey sticks behind it. It feels like a nod to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, whose existence came about thanks in part to the original films. It’s not uncommon for youth teams to use NHL team branding as a starting point for their own look.
Though the existence of the Anaheim Ducks in the Mighty Ducks universe does raise some questions.
If you’re a fan of hockey and hockey-adjacent shows, you’ve almost certainly watched Crave TV’s Canadian comedy Letterkenny. The series follows the residents of a small town in Ontario, including a few members of the local hockey team, the Letterkenny Irish. It makes sense that in casting a show about hockey, Disney would look to actors who can actually skate, and not just passably skate.
Dylan Playfair, who plays delightful himbo hockey player Reilly in Letterkenny, shows up in the series as a coach for the Ducks who cuts Evan with some brutal honesty: “If you can’t be great at hockey, it’s like, don’t even bother.”
Pretty sure hearing that would have traumatized me into never playing any sport ever. But that leads into the next bit...
Alex Speaks Up
Look, I can’t pretend that Lauren Graham isn’t the biggest sell of the series for me. It’s not just that as Lorelai Gilmore, she was practically my TV mom, but also that she is so good at portraying that fierce maternal love and warmth and drive without being, well, in 2020 terms a “Karen.” Whatever the opposite of Karen energy is, she has it and has always had it.
After her son is cut, Alex calls out another parent for bringing two private trainers to her 12-year-old’s hockey practice. When she says, “Shouldn’t kids be allowed to play sports for fun?” you can feel the frustration that I’ve seen in my friends who are hockey parents themselves about the lack of opportunities in the sport for kids who just want to play.
If the Alex character doesn’t work, I don’t think the show works, and she’s perfect.
Of course, the other thing that needs to work is the team itself. We don’t get a feel for too many of them — just a brief montage of faces, including two girls and two people of color, as well as skating footage. I still cannot wait to get to know them all.
There’s a character who may or may not join the team — as he explains in the trailer, he “would not be an asset, physically” and he “has more of a podcast body” — that I especially cannot wait to see more of, just based on the comedic timing of that line. The main character, Evan, also gets his moment when he doesn’t understand who Coach Bombay is referencing when he calls himself “this guy.”
The original series let kids look and act and talk like actual kids and the series seems to be picking up the snark right where it left off.
Emilio Estevez Returns
We first see Coach Bombay walk out from the fog and shadows from behind an ice resurfacer. I knew he was reprising his role and yet, the first time I watched this trailer, I still got chills. Estevez plays off both Noon and Graham so naturally. I can’t wait to see him with the rest of the team.