NOTE: This review contains minor spoilers and about Episodes 1 and 2.
Duster – [duhs-ter] noun: a player who does not get a lot of playing time and collects dust sitting on the bench.
“Dusters,” the second episode of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, is a fitting description of the underdogs recruited to play on the new team — called The Don’t Bothers, as a dig to what Coach T. told 12-year-old Evan Morrow in the first episode. (“It’s like at this stage, if you can’t be great at hockey, don’t bother.”)
Youth hockey has changed a lot over the past 25 years — and much of it not for the better. While equipment, training and nutrition have all improved, gone are the carefree days of playing a sport with friends and having fun. It’s all so serious now. Much of youth sports today, particularly hockey, are fixated on getting kids to the next level, without really enjoying the level that they are at. The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, a new series on Disney+, is a sports drama about a youth hockey team of cast-offs, told that they weren’t good enough, that just want to play the game they love.
NOTE: This review does not contain any spoilers but it does mention some plot points that have already been disclosed in the trailer and press release.
I have an unpopular opinion to share: D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996) is better than D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994). No, D3 is not as good as the first Mighty Ducks movie from 1992, and yes, it does recycle a lot of the same elements from its two predecessors. But instead of trying to raise the stakes by putting the Ducks in an even bigger tournament, D3 shifts the focus to perhaps the greatest challenge in everyone’s life: growing up.
Think about it for a moment.
Everyone has a favorite time from their childhood. But then we all reach a point where we realize that the world around us is changing, we are getting older, and that things will never be the same, no matter how hard we wish otherwise.
We all struggle with that change to some extent, and everyone deals with that change differently.
D3: The Mighty Ducks isn’t so much a sports film as it is a coming-of-age film. It is about learning to let go of the things that we found comfort in during our youth and taking on the unknown.
After the success of The Mighty Ducks in 1992, Disney immediately went to work on the sequel and released D2: The Mighty Ducks in early 1994. Like most sequels, D2 is not as good as the original. It is the typical follow-up in the way that it raises the stakes while also rehashing much of the first film, albeit with some new characters and new uniforms.
Note that my “retro review” of D2: The Mighty Ducks assumes that you’ve seen the first film. This review also contains some D2 spoilers, but that’s OK, because reading this will save you two hours of your life.
With The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers streaming series premiering on Disney+ this Friday, now seemed like a good time to re-watch and review the original The Mighty Ducks trilogy of films. The first Ducks is one of the all-time great hockey movies, and I am very excited that it is being spun-off into a hockey-themed TV show.
“Red Penguins” is a new hockey documentary about the strange partnership between the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Russian Red Army hockey team and the Walt Disney Corporation. Back in the early 1990s, the famed Red Army hockey team was broke, so it reached out to NHL teams for help. The Pittsburgh Penguins answered the call, and for two seasons co-owned the Red Army team, re-branding it as the Russian Penguins.
Things went well at first. Pittsburgh Penguins ownership brought in a marketing team that introduced “North American Hockey” to an unsuspecting Russian fan base — from opening-night theatrics, game-night giveaways, strippers (seriously), bears drinking beer and more. It was nothing like Russian hockey fans had ever seen. Unfortunately, this also drew the attention of the Russian Mob, who wanted a piece of the action, too. And that’s when things really go off the rails.
If this story sounds familiar to you, it is because I wrote about it last year for The Hockey News. Last fall, “Red Penguins” was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival and received strong reviews. The film was set to be released in theaters this spring, but then the COVID-19 pandemic swept the continent and closed theaters.
However, “Red Penguins” is finally available as of today via streaming services. You can stream “Red Penguins” on iTunes and on Amazon Prime Video for $5.99.
Stumbling around in a discount book store last fall, I found a copy of 99 Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky sitting by the cash register. I’d seen this book before and had passing interest, as in I was mildly interested in reading it one day, but I’d always passed on it. But this one has a gold sticker in the corner advertizing it as a signed copy and I actually had to put my eyeballs on the ink to see if was real. It was! Who is going to turn down a $15 autograph of the man whose many accomplishments also include hawking a ready to eat soup mix from your own Stanley Cup?
Back in 2018, I was paid $250 to play hockey. No, it wasn’t on a professional tryout contract with a minor league team, but rather for a television commercial. That said, they would recruit practically anyone who owned hockey gear — including me, a guy who had been playing for less than five years at the time.
“Hockey is for everyone” is a wonderful message of inclusion and diversity from the NHL. While it is important that they lead the charge in this effort, there are many inclusive leagues throughout North America. The Madison Gay Hockey Association, in Madison, Wisconsin, is one such league. The MGHA makes sure everyone feels welcome and encouraged to join, regardless of their skill level or orientation.
Maggie Augustin works as the Member Relations Liaison for the MGHA. Being a leader wasn’t always in her blood, but playing hockey helped her discover more about herself than she ever imagined. I recently spoke with Maggie about her work with the MGHA and how hockey has helped forge her into a leader.
KYLE SCULLY: How long have you been a part of the organization?
MAGGIE AUGUSTIN: I have been a skater since fall of 2016. Before that, I had attended some games in the stands just to get a feel for the organization and hockey itself.
KS: What drew you to the league?
MA: My partner introduced me to the league. They said, this is what I do during the winter, it’s really fun and exciting, and it’s so much more than just a sport; it’s a community. So, they kind of put the bug in my ear and that’s why I started watching them play and getting a feel for it. I was 30 at the time and even though I’m athletic, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I had very little experience with hockey, and to me, everything looked so fast. I had no concept of positioning or anything like that, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to learn it.
I’ve been playing recreational hockey — or beer league, as many call it — for about six years now, and I’ve seen my share of crazy stuff. I recall one game being cancelled because the Zamboni broke down in the middle of the ice. Another time, I remember a guy getting kicked out of the game because he was trying to fight with his own teammate. But the craziest thing that has happened is when I had a teammate get up and quit playing on my team — in the middle of a game.