There was one movie that every hockey player wanted to watch growing up: The Mighty Ducks. Every hockey player wanted to be Charlie Conway or Adam Banks and every coach aspired to lead their team the way Gordon Bombay led the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. When I was nine years old, I played hockey. I saw The Mighty Ducks for the first time at a hockey summer camp. It inspired me and my love for hockey grew. This sports comedy always provided great lessons on sportsmanship, perseverance, redemption and accepting a loss just as much as a win.
The story is about Bombay, a lawyer who only cares about winning. He is still haunted by his team’s loss of the city championship when he was a child playing hockey. His father, who got him into the sport, passed away shortly after the team’s devastating championship loss. As a lawyer, Bombay finds cheats and loopholes to win every case as he believes winning is the only thing that matters. After a DUI charge, he has to do community service, which involves coaching a district five peewee hockey team, who are the bottom of the league and underfunded. He tries to make them cheat in order to win. However, when he speaks with his older mentor, Hans, Bombay rediscovers his joy for hockey. Through coaching the team, he learns how to be a great leader and to accept losing just as much as winning. He also learns fair play helps make his players not just good hockey players but good people as well. The movie is wholesome and light-hearted.
Critics have misunderstood these types of movies throughout history. However, some criticism is valid. Several of the jokes have not aged well, and would not be featured in any family comedy released today. The theme of fairness is on point until the second act where Bombay finds a loophole to get one of his rival team’s best players moved to his team, which defeats the purpose of the lesson. The movie also falls apart at certain points if you have knowledge of hockey. In real life, many illegal actions by the players on the ice would have resulted in penalties and suspensions. It makes it seem like the filmmakers only had a bare minimum understanding of hockey. A love story between Bombay and Charlie’s mom feels a bit rushed and happens very late in the movie for it to matter as much as everything else. It feels like they just threw that in so that Bombay had a better ending to his story. Despite these flaws, the movie is successful at what it attempts, which is to be inspiring to children.
The performances by the actors make you want to follow their journey as a team and the route for them to win. The comedy is infectious without overshadowing the serious moments. The growing bond between Bombay and his players shows the importance of being a good mentor and how the lessons he taught can be followed for the rest of their lives. Bombay’s inspiring monologue on why the team is called “the ducks” made every child who watched the movie want to be part of the lineup. The way the team learns to build a community with each other and the chemistry all the actors have with each other is endearing to watch and will keep you rooting for them until the credits roll. The hockey game camera footage feels like highlight reels you would see on ESPN. The editing and sound design allow the audience to feel the impact of every hit, pass and shot that happens on the ice. Every one of these elements constructs this story that even today can inspire kids to want to play hockey and be part of a team like “The Mighty Ducks”.
The Mighty Ducks is a must-watch for anyone who wants to get into hockey, both as a player and as a fan.