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Capitals

With live sports on pause and most people stuck at home due to the coronavirus, hockey fans have to find other ways to pass the time. Watching a good hockey movie can certainly help, but the fact is some of us haven't seen these movies since we were kids.

So how good are they really? Do they actually hold up? With nothing but time on our hands, let's find out.

Every Friday during the pause, I'll have a hockey movie review in which I will watch a movie the night before, take notes and provide those notes and a grade for each movie just to see how good they really are.

Last week's movie was "Happy Gilmore." This week's movie: "The Mighty Ducks"

Gordan Bombay, played by Emilio Estevez, is an arrogant lawyer who gets booked for a DUI and is sentenced to community service which he serves as the head coach of a Pee-Wee hockey team. This brings up bad memories for Bombay as he abandoned his hockey aspirations after missing what would have been the game-winning penalty shot in the state championship. The team is awful and made up of a rag-tag group of kids. Neither the coach nor the team are happy with the arrangement at first, but eventually grow together and -- spoiler alert -- win the championship by defeating Bombay's former coach and team. But really, who didn't see that coming?

 

Most people would view this movie to be a kids' movie, but it makes a lot of salient points on youth hockey. I have not seen this in years and was surprised by how much this movie from 1992 still felt relevant in its commentary.

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Here are my notes from watching:

  • A pet peeve of mine in movies is when the antagonist is just cartoonishly evil. When you have to go over the top to prove someone is the bad guy, it's usually just bad writing. Coach Reilly, coach of the rival Hawks, really walks the line between realistically over-competitive and just completely ridiculous. His pep talk to Bombay as a kid before he takes the penalty shot is pretty brutal. The kid's dad died that year and he's telling him if he misses the penalty shot he'll let the team down. Ouch, no pressure.
  • Look at that goalie mask!

  • Bold choice having the main character get arrested for DUI in a kids' movie.
  • Bombay ends up getting community service because of the deal his boss cuts for him. His boss also makes him take a leave of absence and pays for a car service since his license is suspended. I don't think many bosses would have reacted that way. I also love the idea of his community service being to coach a Pee-Wee team. Is that just a Minnesota thing or a sign of the times? I can't imagine that going over well today. So what made you want to coach a kids hockey team? Well, funny you should ask. I was arrested for DUI and was forced into it. Don't worry though, your kids are in safe hands!
  • Bombay's introduction, "I hate hockey and I don't like kids."
  • Bombay is not the first coach of District 5. Apparently, the first coach had a heart attack. The team is so bad, however, it makes you wonder what the heck that coach was doing.
  • I can't tell whether Coach Reilly popping the collar of his jacket all the time is a nice touch or laughably dumb. I'm leaning towards the latter.
  • "It's not worth winning if you can't win big." See the first point on Coach Reilly. This line is a bit over the top.
  • Even for Pee-Wee, Goldberg is an awful goalie.
  • After literally one game, the team hates Bombay. When they found out he was a Hawk growing up, no one trusts him. When they find out that according to district lines the Hawks' best player, Adam Banks, should be a Duck, the team doesn't trust him either. Initially, I thought this was all pretty ridiculous. I didn't think kids would care or carry that kind of rivalry with pee-wee teams, but this is part of the more nuanced commentary going on beneath the surface of this movie. The Hawks have matching uniforms, equipment, jacket, etc. while the Ducks can't afford ice time, their uniforms are literally just shirts with D5 tapped on and their equipment is whatever they can get their hands on. Some kids are even in football helmets. The Ducks don't like the Hawks because they are the rich kids from the rich district. That's why they call Banks a "cake eater" when he joins the team. I had to look it up, it's a derogatory term for a rich kid. The Ducks don't really find any success until Bombay is able to get his boss to sponsor them so that they can buy equipment and uniforms. The cost of playing hockey is still a major obstacle in growing interest in the game at the youth level. When you watch the movie through this prism, you start to realize there's a lot more going on here than just goofy kid hockey hijinx.
  • "Now imagine, sir, being 10 years old and stepping out onto that ice with old copies of the Enquirer tapped to your shins instead of pads. The point I'm trying to make, sir, is that you wouldn't be taken seriously and neither are these kids."
  • There may have been a subtle "Animal House" reference when Hans talks about what the kids will remember before Bombay goes back to being a doctor and Bombay has to correct him that he's a lawyer. What's the difference?
  • I'm getting too old. The flashback scene where Bombay is skating around playing hockey while his dad looks on? Man, someone's cutting onions. Hey, lay off me. I've got a two-year-old son. I think about these things now.
  • Can kids from Minnesota really complain about the name "Ducks" considering the University of Minnesota's mascot is the Golden Gophers?
  • The most dated scene of this movie? One of the kids gets hit in the helmet with a puck and falls over. The scene is played for comedy and they even add in bird sound effects when he's initially hit. Clearly this was before we knew too much about concussions.
  • Scratch that, the most dated scene of his movie is when they go to a hockey game and watch the Minnesota North Stars host the Hartford Whalers.
  • Scratch that, the most dated scene is when Banks gets cross-checked from behind on a breakaway, is hurt bad enough he has to be carried off on a stretcher and the player is given a two-minute minor for cross-checking.
  • Considering how bad the Ducks were before Bombay got there, how are they suddenly in the playoff hunt after one tie? Their best game before that was a 5-0 loss. One tie and all they have to do is beat the team in front of them and they're in? How bad are the Huskies then? And why don't they play the Hawks in the first round instead of the championships? Does that mean the Ducks upset the best team in the league in the first game of the playoffs?
  • If Anaheim wore the green jerseys from the movie, I'd be all for it. The Ducks currently have the worst jerseys in the NHL.
  • Coach Reilly telling two of his players to take Banks out felt depressingly authentic. You know there are coaches out there who do this.
  • So the flying V is just basically all five players skating in a V, then a drop pass once they get into the offensive zone with the four other players all blocking like a wedge play in a football kickoff. There were four simultaneous interference penalties on that play.

Final Grade: B+

This movie is a pretty sharp commentary on youth hockey disguised as a kids' movie. I was surprised by how it addressed issues in youth hockey that are still prevalent today. If you watch this movie with that expectation and understanding, it is an entirely different movie than what you expect.

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