The fall of 1992 would be the beginning of a franchise that included multiple sequels, a tv spin-off and NHL expansion team named after a fictional youth hockey squad whose origins can be directly traced back to its head coach getting wasted and playing drunken slalom through the twin-cities during a snowstorm. The DUI and eventual DL suspension/community service sentence ultimately would result in a former pee-wee all-star’s rediscovery of his love for the game while ditching a successful legal career after six years of higher education in the process. Only Disney could make something so unimaginable a reality that we so blindly accept.
We start with a flashback to his failings and an introduction to the infinite wisdom of Coach Riley, who advises a 12-year-old that recently lost his father to make a penalty shot or let down what was left of his family and team. The puck hits the post and with that Gordon Bombay’s attitude, career choice and extracurricular activities are set in stone. Following the drunken rally-car racing incident his boss becomes a voice of moral guidance and boom, we are coaching hockey from a limo with pay. It’s quite a backstory that encapsulates all of nine whole minutes to tell before the first practice. At least his designated driver is cool. The Ducks are first presented playing a timeless prank involving dogshit, a purse, and a crooked asshole dumb enough to fall for it. Now with both origin stories firmly in place, let’s play some puck.
Introductions include the team falsely accusing Bombay of being a drug kingpin, followed by a duck and cover as he removes the roster from his jacket pocket like Billy in Young Guns 2. Gordon’s proclamation of being their new coach is met with laughter that is the perhaps most genuine part of this whole plot. A forced limousine ride on the ice is abruptly ended by a worried mother and Bombay defending himself with the ridiculous argument of just knowing how thick the ice is based on skating it…twenty years ago.
Game one of his coaching career as ordered by the state of Minnesota, turns out to be a vivid, introspective nightmare. Playing his former team against his old mentor complete with a pep-talk reminding of how badly he screwed up decades ago prior to face-off sets the tone for the evening. Their opponent the Hawks, resemble a Hitler youth rally on skates as they chant in unison and hurl racial slurs at the opposition as the puck drops that I’m sure would have made old Walt’s goose-stepping ass proud e.g., Song of the South. Yeah, I said it. The guy was a fucking racist and a Nazi. Deal with it. The first period is a barrage of goals in mere seconds against the rag-tag Ducks, highlighted by the class of coach Riley on full display as he encourages his team to “run it up”. Bright spots for the Duck’s side included a breakaway turned whiffed shot on goal, pithy comebacks on the bench, well rounded sarcasm and eventually, apathy by all. 17-0 Hawks, final. Postgame was brought to us by a temper tantrum of obvious projections about his own adolescence from coach Bombay who is then checked up by a 12-year-old that clearly knew more about life than he did.
An off day for the team from District 5 entailed looking at discarded soft-core porn in an alley together before being hassled by the future S.S. on rollerblades in January, only to be saved by what would become their starting defenseman, Fulton Reed. Practice the following day was a blizzard of lawyer tricks as a new strategy of cheating by their fearless leader, emphasizing taking falls and acting indignant. Game two ends just like the first with a meltdown by Gordon who again is checked up morally, this time by a parent. He seeks out his old friend Hans afterwards, who is the equivalent of a Norwegian Yoda that offers sage advice and fakes lacerating his hand for fun. A quick pond session with new skate’s courtesy of Santa leads to childhood memories, soul-searching and concludes with a fake apology to his team captain and a dinner date with the mom. Bombay then hustles his law firm out of 15k that Hans happily finds a home for. The kids get new gear and sign much needed free agents that include enforcer Fulton Reed and the ice-skating duo of Tammy and Tommy, completing the dream team. Extra points for the Marky-Mark track during the swinging-of-momentum montage.
Emilio starts acting like a decent human being and surprise, surprise the kids respond. A sweet set-play using Fulton as a decoy earns them a tie that somehow gets them into the playoffs at 0-2-1 under their new coach’s tenure. After some clever gerrymandering courtesy of a certain Scandinavian who may or may not be an ex-cold war spy the Ducks acquire the best player of the Hawks, essentially through blackmail. Coach Riley confronts Bombay, an argument ensues and the whole team quits on him after overhearing, clearly not have any fucking understanding of sarcasm at all. School the next day they fight in class, all making their way to detention. Prior to doing so is a fantastic dick joke with a science teacher questioning the color of his balls.
Across town their coach has a fallout with his boss that includes getting fired over not yielding on the Hawks player issue, quacking on the way out and some of his best acting since Men at Work. He then bails his team out of detention, apologizing for the misunderstanding thus paving the way for a possible playoff berth in between trips to the unemployment office. That night’s game features a Fulton buzzer beater that rips the net, simultaneously securing the postseason and delaying Bombay’s suicide attempt. The new uniforms combined with their hostage/star player “cake-eater” transform them into a dominant force as they stomp through the playoff field and into the finals against the Hawks and all their coach’s childhood fears. We all must relive it again in case we didn’t understand the first five of six times they replay the flashback how much a penalty shot shanked at 12 years old has completely shaped his life. We fucking get it. Were you guys 2 minutes under the 90-minute runtime or something? Jesus.
The rematch of the bird bowl starts much like the first meeting with Riley’s privileged Nazi pre-teens scoring early and often, up 3-0 after one period. Banks gets the Ducks on the board after finishing a breakaway while suffering possible severe head and neck injuries as ordered by coach Riley in the process. Gordon has him carted off and then addresses his former mentor with a line all sons biological or not, wish they could say to their ignorant fathers.
Having successfully completed his therapeutic journey with the sudden realization his idol is a total douchebag, Gordon turns his attention back to the game. Defenseman Reed answers with a slap shot from the blue line that would make Al MacInnis proud and gets the Ducks right back in it. Their next goal at the start of the third period is perhaps the most illegal, blatant disregard for high-sticking ever not called in hockey history as Tammy executes several upright spins while wielding her stick like a Blackhawk chopper clearing out the front of the crease for an easy but insanely illegitimate goal.
Estevez then contributes his own racial faux pas to the movie, calling for the “Oreo-line” to imitate migrating fowl as an offensive strategy that leads to the equalizing goal late in the 3rd. With no time left on the clock, somehow, they are awarded a penalty shot and a chance for Gordon to vicariously defeat his pubescent nightmares down to the detail of using his patented triple deke, all now resting on the narrow shoulders of his young center, Pacey Witter. The ending is pure Disney as Conway goes upper-ninety with the ease of Sidney Crosby even though a few short weeks prior he was literally whiffing at the same puck. Post championship Bombay makes the fiscally sound decision to try out for the minor leagues in his late 30’s, gives his player’s mother the tongue in front of the rest of the team at a bus stop (classy) and finally says good-bye by promising to return next season, opening the door for many more lucrative sequels.