Film / The Mighty Ducks

A trilogy of Disney films where a bunch of misfit kids play hockey.

In the first movie (released 1992; called Champions in some countries), Jerk Ass hot-shot attorney Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is sentenced to community service after driving while intoxicated. His duty is to coach a rowdy pee-wee hockey team simply called "District 5." As the cold Bombay softens up, his bond with the kids grows and the team is renamed "The Ducks" after Bombay's employer Mr. Ducksworth. The Ducks eventually make it to the finals, where they face the Hawks, the team Bombay once played for as a kid; in fact, the coach of the Hawks is still the same man, Jack Reilly. Bombay became disillusioned with the sport when he cost the Hawks the championship with a missed penalty shot. The Ducks win the championship, and Gordon's renewed passion for hockey leads him to try out for the minors.

In the second movie (released 1994), a year after the championship game, Gordon is playing in the minor leagues, but his dream is shot down by a knee injury (from a cheap shot by a frustrated opponent no less). He is then approached to coach Team USA in the Junior Goodwill Games. Unsurprisingly, Gordon recruits some of his Ducks, along with five other players to represent Team USA. Team USA proves to be a force to be reckoned with, but fame and fortune get to the team, especially Bombay, as they are pummeled in a game against Team Iceland. Soon after Bombay learns that the game is not about celebrity but about having fun, he is able to put the team back on track, and they compete as the Ducks in a re-match against Team Iceland that will decide the championship.

In the third movie (released 1996), the Ducks are accepted scholarships to the famed Eden Hall Academy, the high school Bombay attended. They also get a new coach in the form of Ted Orion. Orion irritates Captain Charlie Conway with his less-lenient teaching methods ("Your little duck tricks won't work anymore!" Orion remarks), switching of the teammates' positions, and by renaming them the Warriors. The team also faces adversity from the varsity team, as the former Ducks were accepted into the Academy instead of their younger siblings. After Conway becomes more accepting of his new coach following some self-reflection and a pep talk by Bombay, Orion also softens up a little, and re-renames the team the Ducks, and the stage is set for a game against the varsity team.

Despite also being by Disney, the eponymous animated series has nothing to do with the films.

These films contain examples of:

  • Accidental Athlete: Fulton, by way of Broken Glass Penalty. The guy can't even skate when he first becomes a duck.
  • Advertised Extra: Emilio Estevez gets top billing in the third movie, but Bombay barely appears at all.
  • Amoral Attorney: Bombay becomes one, but in a subversion of the trope, his boss doesn't like it.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The knucklepuck simply wouldn't work. The sheer lack of any aerodynamics would result in the puck harmlessly fluttering at the goal rather than improbably flying through the air, as many hockey playing viewers likely discovered in the early 1990's. Which makes sense, because the movie describes it as "hard to do". In real life, it's impossible.
    • There's also Fulton's slapshot. It moves fast enough to ricochet around the arena and STILL knock out Mr. Tibbles, and yet in the tracking shots from behind it appears to be moving all of three miles an hour.
  • Artistic License – Sports: A lot of illegal hits by both teams. Also, no youth league anywhere would let kids play without face cages. And if the Ducks really snuck into the playoffs as the final seed, they should play the league-leading Hawks first, not last.
    • The most egregious illegal hit in the first movie is the checking from behind that a Duck suffered in the first game, though a whistle was blown right afterward, indicating it may have been called. Still, checking from behind is something that in addition to being a match penalty, deserves a long suspension at Pee-Wee level, if not a season-long disqualification.
    • The worst example, though, may be in the third film. One of the players levels another (it may have been a Duck on a varsity player) well after the puck has been passed (a hit that would definitely draw a major penalty and likely a suspension), but on seeing it the dean turns to the man next to him and says "A legal check..." It most certainly was not.
    • Fulton comes to a complete stop during his turn in the climactic D2 shootout; in real life, a player must stay in motion once he controls the puck.
    • The Iceland player who slashed Banks' arm after Banks scored the Ducks' lone goal in the teams' first meeting in D2 would probably have been sent home for the remainder of the Junior Goodwill Games in real life, with more discipline likely forthcoming.
      • Speaking of the Junior Goodwill Games, there never was such a thing. The real Goodwill Games faded into oblivion in the early 2000s.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: The Flying V. Used so much that opponents catch on.
  • Bash Brothers: Dean and Fulton are explicitly called "The Bash Brothers."
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: Sports subversion from the second film. The opposing team's goalie manages to stop a slap shot from the power hitter. The film spends a few seconds showing the goalie take off his glove showing a massive puck shaped bruise.
  • A Bloody Mess: In the third movie, Hans uses ketchup to act like he's just cut himself on his skate sharpener. Charlie isn't fooled for a moment, possibly because Hans has tried this stunt before.
  • Blown Across the Room: In the first film, when Fulton uses his slapshot against the Hawks' goalie (who, unlike a goalie from earlier in the movie, actually stays in to block it), it knocks the goalie backwards into the net.
  • Broken Aesop: The movie sort of blows its "Have fun and don't take youth sports too seriously" moral when Gordon Rules Lawyers away the Hawks' best player (jerking around an 11-year-old) just to get back at his old coach.note 
    • The other Aesop, "it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it only matters if you tried hard and had fun," is kind of broken with the way the Ducks always win in the end.
      • Hell, the tagline includes, "They'll learn everything about winning!"
      • This isn't as much a broken aesop as a slightly bent one: it's shown that, unlike the Hawks, Team Iceland, or the varsity team, the Ducks do have fun on the ice, especially by playing the game their way, while their opponents are more concerned with winning at any cost. As a result, the implication is that the Ducks win because they know it's just a game and are having fun (but still trying to win because that's the point of sports), while the other teams treat it as Serious Business and lose as a result. Truth in Television, as a common refrain from championship squads in pro sports illustrate true camaraderie and a "player's coach" whose leadership strategy straddles competitive energy and fun, while a good portion of Drill Sergeant Nasty win-at-all-costs coaches tend to flame out rather quickly, unable to inspire their team.
    • Not entirely true. There are plenty of Drill Sergeant head coaches who have won and haven't flamed out. Easiest example: Bill Belichick.
  • Butt Monkey: Adam Banks. Injured in the first two movies, and pulled away from his friends and assigned to a new team in the first and third (and taking all the derision that implies). Sorry, cake eater!
  • Calling the Old Man Out: After Banks is carted off the ice on a stretcher having been cross-checked by McGill on orders from Riley, Bombay realizes just how little Riley thought of him while he beat himself up over his missed penalty shot for the past 20 years. That leads to this exchange:
    Riley: (talking to his team) They score against usnote , they're gonna pay the price. Now don't worry, we're gonna get that one back. (Bombay approaches the Hawks bench) You got something to say to me Bombay?
    Bombay: To think I wasted all those years worrying about what you thought. (pause) You're going down, Riley.
  • The Cameo: The trilogy centers around hockey, so obviously, some big-name hockey players - as well as athletes from other sports - appeared in them.
    • In the first film, the Ducks take a trip to the Met Center, then the home of the Minnesota North Stars, where they share a brief chat with then-North Stars Basil McRae and Mike Modano. By the time the second film was released, the North Stars had dropped the "North" from their name, and moved to Dallas.
    • In the second film, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis, and Olympic champion figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi appear, along with the usual big-name hockey players, those in this film being Chris Chelios, Luc Robitaille, and Cam Neely. Also, some guy named Gretzky.
    • In the third film, then-real life Mighty Ducks star Paul Kariya is radio announcer Josh's special guest during the second intermission of the JV/Varsity Showdown.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Gordon suffers one in the sequel during a minor-league game, ending his NHL career before it begins.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Some of the players from the first movie are suddenly gone with no explanation in the sequels. It's particularly noteworthy in the case of one of the players - Jesse's brother.
  • Commander Contrarian: Peter Mark, a duck in the first film. He leads a mutiny against Bombay, and objects to Charlie taking the championship-winning penalty shot.
  • Confusion Fu: What the Ducks rely on. Nobody notices the figure skater has a shot at an empty net, because no one can figure out what she's doing. Fridge Logic dictates that this is the only way the Flying-V can work, either, because by all rights it should succumb to a trap at the blue line: the way to counter it is to have everybody cover the lead man, because the V will go offside if they don't pass to him before reaching the blue line.
    • Or do what Iceland did and body-check the entire formation for a turnover and five-man breakaway. (This is a case of Artistic License – Sports; hitting anybody but the puck carrier is supposed to be an interference penalty; hitting the entire formation should net several of you at least two minutes in the box).
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The second movie:
      • In the Goldbergs' family deli in D2, There's a picture of Greg with the caption "OUR SON, THE GOALIE".
      • Jans has a picture with the Ducks winning the state Championship hung in his store. Gordon mentions how he and Charlie's mother drifted off between movies while observing it.
    • The third movie:
      • Gordon plans on staying on as Team USA Coach in the Goodwill Games after his showing in the previous movie.
      • One of the Eden Hall seniors tries to get Charlie to show him how to triple-deke like he did against the Hawks.
      • Fulton and Dean are immediately re-referred to as the Bash Brothers once they take to the ice.
  • Crippling the Competition: In D2: The Mighty Ducks, Wolf "The Dentist" Stanson whacks Gordon Bombay his bad leg, keeping Bombay from winning a game of three bar against him.
    • Also how Gordon's comeback is derailed in the first place.
    • Done to Banks in the first two movies: in the first, he is hit with a cheap shot that sends him sliding into a goalpost, knocking him out. In the second, his arm is seriously injured after an opposing player hits him with his stick as though it were an axe.
  • Crack! Oh My Back!: Goldberg displays some inflexibility by the second flim. This convinces Bombay to embrace Julie as a backup goalie.
  • Crowd Chant: "Quack, Quack, Quack, Quack!"
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: D1 and D2, District 5/Team USA's first game against the the Hawks and Team Iceland, respectively, are utter blowouts (17-0 and 12-1, respectively).
  • Disappeared Dad: Charlie (divorce) and Gordon (death) bond over theirs.
  • Down to the Last Play: The first film ends with a penalty shot just after the end of regulation.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: A related phenomenon occurs in the first movie. They lose at least half of the games in the season, but due to a series of extreme coincidences they make it to the playoffs.
  • Easily Distracted Referee: In the first game against Iceland, Dean Portman is given a game misconduct penalty and ejected for rushing at an opponent unprovoked and knocking him down, then striking a referee. Later, Julie "The Cat" Gaffney is ejected for "intent to injure" after shoving a pair of Icelandic hecklers. Shortly after, An Iceland player intentionally shatters his stick off Adam Banks' outstretched arm after Banks has scored a goal. He is given a two minute penalty.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Larson after McGill knocks Banks out of the championship game.
    *Larson and McGill find Banks unconscious on the ice*
    Larson: Adam! Adam, are you okay? (to McGill) What'd you do?
    McGill My job.
  • Escalating War: A subplot in 3. At one point, Varsity gets their clothes soaked in liquid nitrogen.
    Orion: Now, for the last time: Stay away from the Varsity!
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Some of the kids overhear Bombay and Reilly having an argument in a hallway but mistake Gordon's "[The Ducks] didn't even deserve to live" as truth instead of sarcasm.
  • Fanservice: In 3, Dean is sent to the penalty box and immediately starts stripping off his clothes and equipment (likely a Shout-Out to Slap Shot). The announcer immediately lampshades it.
  • Golden Snitch: A standard playoff structure (albeit with an unusually low bar for qualification) is made to look like this when the Ducks are able to overcome an 0-11 start and a later forfeit because of an opponents' illness-forfeited season, a win and a draw. They then run through the playoffs and win the state title.
  • Greek Chorus: The commentators, especially in the last two films.
  • Handshake Refusal: A Varsity Warrior puts his chewing gum into Dwayne's hand.
  • Hero of Another Story: The team that beats Gordon's Hawks at the beginning of the first film. Their underdog story could make a good movie in its own right.
  • Hollywood California: The better part of D2 takes place in Los Angeles; Russ Tyler is recruited from South Central. Ken Wu comes from San Francisco.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: One of the kids relates to Gordon what happened to their previous coach: A long rant, followed by a sudden clutch at his left arm. Gordon concludes, "Heart attack."
  • How Many Fingers?: We don't get to hear the answer, but one of the other ducks tells Bombay he wouldn't know the answer normally.
  • Insufferable Genius: "Shut UP, Averman!"
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: In D3, the varsity captain when he says it's not fair that players who would've been on the JV team under normal circumstances, like his younger brother, lost their spots because the school decided to give full scholarships to a team that won the gold medal in an international competition.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Coach Orion. First off although he pretty much destroys the status quo on the Ducks, he is violently protective of them. To the point where he even threatened a Varsity member for their part of the non sanctioned game. As well as defending them when they were about to get kicked out of Eden Hall. He also gave up a career in the North Star hockey team just so he could take care of his Invalid Daughter, whom he spends his spare time skating with.
    Ted Orion: It's a damn good thing I am not your coach, now get your team out of here now!!!
  • Kung-Fu Proof Mook: D3 The Ducks are told "Your little Duck tricks won't work anymore."
  • Large Ham: "Hey Goldberg, if that puck was a CHEESEBURGER you'd stop it!"
  • Lightning Bruiser: Luis Mendoza is brought on in D2 because of his great speed. He just has some issues with stopping.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Hans' death is the turning point in D3.
  • Meaningful Name: Adam Banks. He's rich. "Adam" means "man" in Hebrew, so he's literally a rich man.
  • Miracle Rally: In the title games of the first two films. D1, Ducks were down 3-0 after one period and 4-2 after two (a little more imposing since the pee-wee games had 12-minute periods instead of 20). D2, Team USA was down 4-1 to Iceland after two periods and was facing a 5-2 deficit partway through the third.
  • Non Sequitur Thud: Mr. Tibbles is knocked out by Fulton's slapshot in D2 and when he comes to he orders a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake.
  • No Sell: Fulton unleashes his high-powered slapshot on the Icelandic goalie, who manages to stop it...but ends up with the imprint of the puck in his palm.
    • The Ducks use the Flying V on their prep school counterparts during a challenge game. They proceed to get knocked on their asses.
  • Once an Episode: Each film features a scene in the Mall of America and at least one scene where the Ducks are in roller blades.
  • Oh Crap!: In the second movie, when the returning characters practice against the new recruits, Fulton readies his slapshot. The returning characters immediately panic and rush out of the way. The new characters (especially Portman) wonder why until Fulton takes his shot.
    Bombay: Rancher Dwayne!
    Dwayne: Yes, sir?
    Bombay: Round me up some stray cattle, there! *Hands over rope*
    Dwayne: My pleasure!
    Team: Ohhhhhhhh! *All scatter*
    • Fulton does this again later to Iceland's goalie, when its his turn at the shoot out. The goalie had previously blocked one of his shots but messed up his hand doing so, so he's shaking nervously, and ends up failing the save.
  • Opposing Sports Team: First the Hawks, then Iceland, then Eden Hall Varsity. Slobs vs Snobs
  • Ordered to Cheat: In the first film, becomes a What the Hell, Hero? moment and the beginning of a mild Heel–Face Turn.
  • Parental Substitute: Gordon for Charlie who doesn't have a father. Gordon lost his own father when he was about Charlie's age so he knows how he feels. Gordon even falls in love with Charlie's mother but their relationship has ended by the time the second film begins. Hans is implied to have been one for Gordon in a similar way.
  • The Perfectionist: Gordon Bombay the lawyer at the start of D1. His crooning of his 30-0 record and immediate disavowal of the Frasier case because he "scored with the court reporter" with the "intelligent body" speaks to Bombay's outlook at that point in the plot. It was probably something he got from his old coach Jack Riley, who bemoans the lone second-place banner from the 1973 season among the sea of championship banners just prior to Bombay the coach's first game against the Hawks.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Shut up, Averman!", and, unsurprisingly, "Goldberg!!!"
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:"I am Goldberg, THE GOALIE!!"
  • Put on a Bus: Half the kids from the first film, presumably to make way for the newcomers. Also, Charlie's mom, said to have re-married during Gordon's comeback attempt.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Charlie goes around town gathering his teammates at the start of the second film. Along the way, an Almost Kiss between Connie and Guy is broken up, upsetting the latter (even though he already kissed her in the previous movie).
  • Pet the Dog: Larson staying with Banks until the paramedics arrive after McGill injures him.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: The team mutinies against Bombay when some of them overhear him bad-mouthing the team, although Bombay was actually being sarcastic and defending them against Coach Reilly. When Bombay tells Karp he was being sarcastic and asks if he knows what that is, Karp sarcastically replies, "Nooooo!"
  • Second Place Is for Losers: The philosophy of Hawks' coach Jack Riley, something which he instilled and lingered in Bombay the young player and into Bombay the lawyer.
    Riley: Remember, it's not worth playing...
    Young Gordon: ...if you can't win.
  • Serious Business: Apparently children's hockey games are this in the team's hometown: The local paper covers them, complete with large headers and dramatic photographs.
    • No American state is more crazy about hockey than Minnesota, but the films definitely take it Up to Eleven.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: An $857 formal dinner in D3.
  • Shopping Montage: In the first film, after sponsorship allows the Ducks to buy serious hockey equipment.
  • Smooch of Victory: Connie and Guy at the end of the first movie. The third ends with Luis making out with a cheerleader and Charlie kissing Linda, a girl whom he was courting throughout the film.
  • So Last Season: Several of the Ducks' tricks from the first film get counteracted in the second (including the Flying V and Fulton's power slapshot).
  • Sorry Ociffer: The cop who pulled Bombay over on suspicion of DUI gets enough evidence when, having asked Bombay to turn down the car stereo, he hears Bombay admit that it was "a 'widdle' noisy".
  • Sound Off: Used in D2.
    I don't know but I been told
    Team USA's gonna win the gold
    Listen up and listen good
    We're all headed for Hollywood
  • Spinning Newspaper: Used to accelerate the pace of the first two films.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Adam Banks turns out to be nice.
  • Spoiler Title: The UK video title for the first film is The Mighty Ducks Are The Champions.
  • Stealth Pun: The "Oreo line" from the first film - The Hall brothers, centered by Guy Germaine.
  • Take Five: In the first film, Tommy and Tammy Duncan are spotted on a hockey rink before a game. Bombay tells his team to get ready for the game, then recruits the Duncans.
  • Technician Vs Performer: Adam Banks is a gifted hockey player, but Charlie is picked to be Captain because he is an emotional leader.
  • That Poor Cat: After one of Fulton's slapshots in the third movie.
  • Those Two Guys: The Hawks' players, Larson and McGill.
  • Title Confusion: The Mighty Ducks was called Champions in the UK and Commonwealth countries. D2: The Mighty Ducks was simply called The Mighty Ducks, the same as the international name for the first film. Ultimately the third film was called D3: The Mighty Ducks everywhere.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Pretty much the ENTIRE team in D3. Though the rival varsity players are pretty huge jerks too, the protaganists match them prank for prank through the first half of the movie, and also act very disrespectful towards their new coach, mostly just for the "crime" of shaking up their status quo and holding them to higher standards. A large part of the plot is focused on Charlie in particular getting over his new Jerkassery.
    • Just look at how they treat Banks after he gets promoted to varsity (which wasn't his fault). They stop talking to him, blame him for the pranks the varsity does on them (even though he takes no part and didn't know about them until it was too late), freeze his locker along with the rest of the varsity players just because he's on the team, and Charlie insults him when he tries to explain himself and cheap shots him in the unofficial scrimmage in retaliation for playing clean defense.
  • Truth in Television: Serious hockey players do have to learn to play two-way hockey eventually.
  • Two First Names: Russ Tyler.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Tammy Duncan and Connie Morneau in D1; Julie "The Cat" Gaffney replaces Tammy for the two sequels.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Subverted with the new coach in the third movie.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Well, once Bombay gets the team's act together and adds a couple of very good players in Adam Banks and Fulton Reed, suddenly they can play.
  • Very High Velocity Rounds: Russ's "knucklepuck." Oxymoronic as a knuckler is effective because it's slow. More famously, Fulton's slapshot: he is capable of shattering plexiglass with it, and once left a puck-shaped indent in the hand of the only goalie to actually stop it.
  • Walking Away Shot: Seeing that his team is fine without him, Gordon Bombay happily walks out of the Eden Hall rink unnoticed at the end of D3.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Bombay at the start of D1 - in his case it's Coach Riley and later his boss Ducksworth since his actual dad died when he was young.
    Bombay (at the law firm's office just after another trial win): No calls from the duck phone?
    Jeannine: Nope.
    Bombay: (impatient huff) What's he waiting for? I saw him in the back of the courtroom - how about some kudos here, huh?!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the first movie Goldberg says that he won't be the team's goalie for long, because his family is moving back to Philly. This never happens in the sequels and is never even brought up again.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gordon gets three of them in D2 after he falls prey to the fame and loses what everyone liked about him; one by his team, one by Ms. McKay, and one by Jan.
    • In the third movie, a stubborn Charlie gets it from Hans, his mother, and his teammates.
  • Who Needs Overtime: Played straight for the first and third films - the second one it's averted in the sense that though the game went to a shootout instead of a traditional sudden-death overtime it's still extra play that was required due to a tie score after regulation.
    • D1: Score tied at 4, Charlie draws a hooking penalty on a breakaway with no time left in regulation and is awarded a penalty shot (any Duck on the ice was eligible according to the ref, but Bombay chose Charlie). Charlie triple-dekes the Hawks' goalie and banks his shot off the post and in for the game-winner.
    • D2: Russ, pretending to be Goldberg since Iceland had been swarming him every time he got on the ice as a normal skater, launches his knucklepuck unimpeded and gets it past the Iceland goalie to tie the score at 5 at the end of the third period. The game goes to a five-round shootout with the US going first; after four rounds each side nets three. Banks pots his attempt for the US, then Bombay pulls Goldberg and puts Julie in who gloves Gunnar Stahl's shot to win.
    • D3: Scoreless game going into the dying seconds of regulation, the puck somehow ends up on the stick of Goldbergnote  to everyone's suprise (including Goldberg's) - he fires it top-shelf past the varsity team's goalie.
  • The Worf Barrage: Fulton's slapshot subverts this twice in D2. The first time, it's blocked by Team Iceland's goalie...but the goalie's intense pain (as well as a puck shaped bruise) suggests that it was mainly sheer luck that his glove was in the right spot. Subverted completely near the end, when the shot unexpectedly works perfectly during the tie-breaker shootout.
    • You notice the goalie (same one as before) visibly shaking nervously when Fulton steps up, presumably having the pain fresh in his head from last time, which likely caused him to mess up the save the second time around.
  • The Worf Effect: Adam Banks is considered the best player on the team, but cheap shots knocked him out of the final in the first film and had him injured for most of D2.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Pee-Wee hockey results making front-page news seems a little ridiculous even by hockey-loving Minnesota standards. It goes even more overboard in the sequel, where the hockey finals of the Junior Goodwill Games not only gets huge newspaper coverage, but the paper's preview includes a giant Floating Head Syndrome image hyping Coach Bombay vs. Wolf Stansson.
  • Worth It: Said by an Iceland opponent after intentionally going after Adam Banks and receiving only a 2-minute minor; gets an Ironic Echo later.
  • Writing Lines: After a display of insubordination, most of the team has to write "I will not quack at the principal" in detention.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: How Charlie reacts when Bombay steps down in D3.
  • You Watch Too Much X: Dwayne says his teammates watch too much TV. Russ says it's the safest activity in South Central.