1992’s The Mighty Ducks saw an unlikely group of kids and defense attorney/former hockey star come together and win a state championship. It’s a theme of underdog sports team movies that Disney was known for – like The Big Green and Little Giants. The following year, the NHL would adopt them into a real franchise named the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Some hockey greats like Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne would dawn the duck jerseys. The franchise itself would spawn two more sequels and an animated series. As the kids grew up and scenery changes, the fighting spirit and the ‘flying V’ would live on in some form.
In 2021, Disney revives the franchise with Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. While taking place almost thirty years later, the first episode enters you back into the hockey world immediately. It’s the day of the tryout of The Mighty Ducks 12-14 league and the competition is fierce. Somethings are different this time around. Gone are the days when kids are playing strictly for the love of the game. Enter a time when parents have given their children nutritionists, enter them in summer camps, and wake up at 6 am for practices. Coach T (Dylan Playfair) cultivates a culture where his team’s aspirations are almost like a professional one.
We meet Evan Morrow (Brady Noon), a kid who has his heart in the right place, but not as well seasoned as the other players. His mother, Alex (Lauren Graham) just wants the best for him. Single, a bit more altruistic than the other parents, and sometimes babies Evan, her heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, Evan doesn’t make the cut, and in a big speech, Alex declares they will start their own team. A slight twist because the Ducks were usually the outlet for the misfit kids to go to.
If you haven’t seen any of the Mighty Ducks films previously, the series premiere does a good job of letting the audience know why things were important. These plot points mirror how things came to be slightly like the original film with some updates. Evan, along with his podcast recording friend Nick (Maxwell Simkins) seeks other kids to join their makeshift team. At first, everybody gives it the cold shoulder. There’s a viral video of his mom’s rant that the kids make fun of Nick for. After a while, they accumulate kids that resemble a team. Including a new kid named Logan (Kiefer O’Reilly) who moves in from Canada, has expensive skates, but not the greatest skater. A nerdy kid named Lauren (Bella Higginbotham), Koob (Luke Islam) whose great at hockey video games and potential goalie, and Sam (De’Jon Watts) who likes to operate outside the rules.
The big payoff is the reveal of Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) who owns a run-down ice skating rink called The Ice Palace. He still hates kids and hockey, loves to eat cake, and doesn’t allude to any of his previous histories when Alex comes to him for help. When she let him know of a grant that could help with his money woes, he begrudgingly accepts to allow the team to use the Palace. “Game On” is mostly setup that propels the audience into the rest of the season. There’s a huge recruitment push, push back, and a moment where everything comes together. When Alex and Evan hit a low point, Gordon gives them a pep talk. A making of that underdog magic that resembles those underdog movie stories. At the episode’s end, the team dubbed the “Don’t Bothers” enter a league team event with no uniform, pads, and barely being able to skate. With five more episodes to go, it’ll be interesting to see how all of this comes together.
Will Gordon eventually agree to coach the team? Is there going to be a scenario where Gordon and Alex maybe fall for each other? Probably. If one could make a prediction, this series is going to play to nostalgic story beats you know, and add some new wrinkles here and there to freshen things up. For now, the premiere episode is a good re-entry into a story Disney knocked the dust off of for their streaming series.