Every kid has a movie that inspired them to be more, do more, and dream more. The Mighty Ducks Trilogy was that film for an entire generation of children. The movie centers around a bunch of kids who just needed someone to give them a chance to grow and shine with some guidance, as well as a grown-up who had room for improvement.
Whether or not you are a sports fan, The Mighty Ducks likely left a mark on your heart. The sport of hockey is forever changed by the content found in this famous trilogy. This movie had tons of funny anecdotes from behind the scenes, from learning to skate to navigating a complex storyline.
It Was Initially Much Darker
It is hard to imagine such a fun-loving movie about little athletes navigating the world of hockey centered around anything other than that. According to the man behind the film, writer Steven Brill, the film was supposed to be much darker before Disney purchased the script. How dark are we talking, really?
Initially, the film was far from a typical Disney movie. Brill stated that, “there weren’t murders or anything, but there was some adult romance.” Ooh-la-la! Something did stay the same, though. The DUI scene that brought coach Gordon Bombay to his team was always in the script. Brill told TIME in their oral history of the film that the scene would not stand up today. Overall, the script was edited because Disney flat out told Brill and his team that it needed to be funny.
The NHL Game
In the franchise’s original film, coach Gordon Bombay takes his team to a real National Hockey League game. He took them to a game between the Minnesota North Stars and Hartford Whalers. The team was in awe, watching those who inspired them to play the game in action.
This may or may not be related, but both teams changed cities and relocated within a couple of years of the film. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, and the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. Maybe the teams would have had more success in the long run by rebranding as the teams from the movie!
Each child in the film brought their own strengths to the table. Some of them auditioned for other roles, but ultimately each was placed where the producers felt they fit best. One of the actors who ended up in a different role than he had wanted was Matt Doherty, who played the fun-loving and dorky Les Averman.
Doherty initially tried out for the role of Fulton Reed, who ended up being played by Elden Henson. Who knows if Fulton was meant to start as an outsider? But that’s how it ended up. He played the role spectacularly, with just a bit of mystery. Doherty ended up playing Les Averman, and we could not picture the movie going any other way.
The Fulton Reed Story
When Matt Doherty did not get the role he initially hoped for, Elden Henson filled that void. Doherty originally auditioned for the role of Fulton Reed because of his height, but producers went for someone even taller. At the time of the filming of the first movie in the franchise, Henson was taller than his co-star and on-screen coach, Emilio Estevez.
Fulton Reed first entered our hearts in the scene where the Hawks cornered the Ducks in an alleyway, threatening them. His character stepped in and beat up three of the Hawks players and went on to keep watching the Ducks lose game after game from the stands. Coach Bombay recruited him after he accidentally hit a slapshot into the coach’s van.
They Couldn’t Skate
Most stars in the film did not have natural skating ability. In fact, almost every actor in a leading role in the first film lied about their skating skills! The director and producers could see right through this, so they made arrangements to help their stars as best as they could.
The production team set up hockey boot camps for the cast, which was seemingly a lifesaver. They probably did that for the second and third films as well, but that is unclear. The character of Tammy Duncan was a talented figure skater, but the actress who played her, Jane Plank, could barely skate herself. She had a professional skater as a stunt double for most of Plank’s on-ice scenes.
Bad News Bears, on Ice
If you thought there was a correlation between the famous film The Bad News Bears and The Mighty Ducks, you would be correct. Though the connection is not quite official, writer Steven Brill confirmed that much of the plot was inspired by his favorite movie growing up. Some even think there are some similarities between Brill and a young Walter Matthau from The Bad News Bears.
Brill told TIME that he was primarily influenced by the film, if not totally inspired. “I had idolized The Bad News Bears my whole life. I thought that was a great movie, and I thought it would be really great to make a movie that could stand up and be another.” As a result, he made his own version on ice!
The Little Details
There is one detail that you might not have picked up on, even if you watched The Mighty Ducks trilogy on loop. Of all teams that appeared in the entire film, only two had both their names and numbers on the back of their jerseys. This would make sense as both teams were the focus of the film.
Maybe there was a reason for this, but those who have picked up on it see it as laziness. Realistically, the other teams were probably such minor characters and supporting roles that they likely did not really have any intention of focusing on them.
How Many Mighty Ducks Movies Are There?
The Mighty Ducks is a trilogy. That means there are three films in the series; however, this was not always the intention of the production team. The film was not quite the box-office success they hoped for, so watching the solo film become a trilogy was far from expected for the production team.
Die-hard fans of the films were happy to see more. When the fans want more, and you leave the first film with an unintentional cliff-hanger, it seems that you have to succumb to what the fans want and make another movie. Fans of the franchise are forever grateful for having more Mighty Ducks content to binge!
Where Was The Mighty Ducks Filmed?
The Mighty Ducks was filmed on location in Minnesota. The movie was filmed between St. Paul and Bloomington. One Minnesota landmark used in the film was Rice Park, a public square in St. Paul established in 1849. The movie also featured ice sculptures from the annual Saint Paul Winter Carnival.
Filming in Minnesota added a level of authenticity to the movie that might not have been found otherwise. Joshua Jackson, the actor who played Charlie Conway, hailed from Vancouver and told TIME that filming in Minnesota made his hometown seem like a beach vacation!
Because of the Weather
Some producers shared behind-the-scenes stories about the film that remind viewers of another iconic movie, A Christmas Story. One key point to consider before we spill the beans: Minnesota is brutally cold in the winter. This gives you some perspective as to why this silly little mishap even happened in the first place.
Jordan Kerner, a producer, shared a funny story about something that happened due to extreme weather. “We were in the midst of filming the scene when there’s a kiss between Emilio Estevez and Heidi Kling, who plays Josh’s mom, in 55 degrees below zero in St. Paul. And when they kissed, their lips stuck together. We had to get makeup to grab warm water and put droplets on their lips so they could actually separate.”
How Sequels Came Into the Picture
When coach Gordon Bombay bid his team adieu and boarded a bus in the first film’s final scene to head to a Minor League tryout, fans thought it was a set up for a sequel. As it turns out, the producers had no plans for a sequel. Disney big wig Michael Eisner had his own plans for the future of the soon-to-be franchise.
Eisner was really interested in the possibility of a sequel because he had plans to buy a hockey team and bring it to southern California. He was very excited at the opportunity to cross-promote the film and team. This was ultimately what gave the project the green light.
Writers in the Movie
Steven Brill was already pretty vocal about his movie and the changes that were made. Brill was reportedly disappointed that he did not get to play one of the prominent roles of coach Gordon Bombay. Fortunately, the studio did him a favor and threw him a minor role, as Frank Huddy.
Though he did not get to play Bombay, he did get to play the attorney whom he often beat in the courtroom. He was able to bust Bombay in the courtroom when he was there for his incident of driving under the influence.
Coach Bombay Refused to Do the Oral History Interview
Back in 2014, TIME highlighted the trilogy’s ups and downs in an oral history. This series of interviews allowed the film stars to share their experiences on set, in the storyline, and so on. Some might call it the most fantastic franchise in movie history, but many more just call it their favorite movie.
Emilio Estevez, the actor who portrayed coach Gordon Bombay, refused to be involved in the oral history. He only had a minor role in the final movie, having filmed for only a week. Though he was beloved by his fellow castmates, he seemed to think he was too good for the Mighty Ducks name. He supposedly used his entire salary from D3: The Mighty Ducks to finance his movie The War at Home back in 1996. It was well-received, but it only made $50,000 in box office limited release.
Bill Murray Almost Had a Role
Looking back, it might be hard to imagine anyone other than Emilio Estevez in the role of coach Bombay. Initially, writer Steve Brill hoped to play the role himself but was disappointed when the studio nixed the idea and crushed his dream. It’s okay, though – he was not the only one who missed out on the opportunity!
According to IMDB, comedy legend Bill Murray was considered for the role as well. Unfortunately, studio executives decided he was “too old” and ultimately passed on him. Still, we know that he would have absolutely killed the role and blown anyone out of the water.
Characters Based Off of Real People
Director Peter Berg admitted that one character was inspired by a man who ran a skate shop in Los Angeles. The character of Hans, played by actor Joss Ackland, was created after he and Steve Brill were injured by playing a little too rough. This older man was not about to throw them a pity party; he held them accountable for their own injuries.
“He was based upon this kind of surly old guy, Hans, who worked at the skate shop in Culver. “One day Brill and I were skating, and Brill hit the boards at a bad angle and broke his leg, and he was writhing around on the ice. … And Hans paused and looked at him and said, ‘Well, that’s your own personal problem,’ and walked away.” We can’t decide what’s more brutal – the injury or this guy’s comment!
Making Plays in Hockey
Many of the plays used in the film are used by hockey players today. The film provided innovations for players and skills that future ice hockey players have used to crush their opponents. Hockey-obsessed children were inspired to put the skills from the movie to the test and see what actually works in real life.
Though the movie was almost like a live-action cartoon, it still provided theories that many professionals have managed to try out. Some are just theories and not realistic, but due to the importance of the movie for die-hard hockey fans, the pros wanted to test them out and see what could work on ice in real life!
The Triple Deke
This move mimics the concept of a shootout or breakaway situation. The basic idea is that the goalie does not have anyone to focus on aside from a single player; they have no other offensive players to worry about. Part of the move banks on the goalie, leaving part of the net open and moving laterally.
This was a move portrayed by players in D2 when the team won the Junior Goodwill Games. Charlie Conway was able to score the championship-winning penalty shot in the trilogy’s first film, defeating the Hawks’ goalie. In D2, the Icelandic team used this move and lost the competition. We guess it doesn’t always work!
The Flying V
While hockey enthusiasts see the upside of the Triple Deke, they think that the Flying V is a big joke. Auston Matthews, the center for the Toronto Maple Leafs and possibly the best American player in the National Hockey League, revealed his thoughts on some of the moves from the movie in an interview with G.Q. He had some ideas about the likelihood of them being successful.
Matthews described the play as “the most unrealistic thing I’ve ever seen, but it looks real.” The Flying V is basically an attack strategy where the defense makes a literal V shape on ice to take power away from the puck carrier. It seemed cool in theory but was not realistic in practice.
This play is dependent on a solid defense. It would require the team’s most outstanding offensive players to play back on defense and take a big shot from the back of the rink. The play is seen as relatively dangerous and not super realistic to believe that a slapshot from across the rink would hit the net.
Unfortunately, many hockey fans and players trying these positions might be disappointed when they fall short of what they see in the film. That’s partially why many people love sports movies; they lead us to believe that any play we see could be realistic and help the viewers reach victory on their own.
Why Was Iceland Involved?
In the second film of the trilogy, D2: The Mighty Ducks, their most prominent opponent is a team from Iceland. This was not a random choice. Writer Steve Brill stated that he felt Russia would have been “too obvious” because of political tensions and the fall of the Soviet Union only a couple of years prior.
Brill saw the value of choosing a country that was still mysterious to many and did not have a reputation for much else. He told TIME, “I was like, ‘Iceland, oh my god. People don’t quite know much about it. It’s got that Nordic mystique. I can make them essentially these blond-haired, blue-eyed menacing villains with funny accents and a weird culture.’ It’s a complete fabrication, but it worked. I loved it. Iceland was a great stock country.”
The Sole Icelandic Actress
Despite having a team of actors playing Icelandic natives, only one person from the film was actually from Iceland. The assistant coach from D2, coach Marria, is still a massive star in Iceland today. She was a blonde, beautiful hockey coach and gave us an outstanding performance.
The other actors who made up the team from Iceland were mostly stunt skaters from Minnesota, where the movie was filmed. Of these stunt skaters, Scott Whyte was the only one who played hockey; he was cast as Gunnar Stahl. Maria Ellingsen, the only Icelandic native in the film, helped Whyte perfect his accent.
Different Skating Abilities
Some people were better at skating than others, so much so that the film’s director, Pete Berg, still remembered who struggled the most even years later. Shaun Weiss, the actor who played Greg Goldberg, the goalie, was not a great skater and had a lot of room for improvement.
Berg was kind not to name names but still dished a bit. “There were certain kids who wouldn’t be happy if I mentioned their names directly, who probably were never the best skaters in the world. So, we would play off those things. And, you know, maybe one of them learned to play goalie pretty well, and he’s hilarious. And he didn’t have to skate a lot, you know. He just had to be able to get into his crouch and be able to defend the goal.”
Brothers on Screen
The actor who played Fulton Reed was not the only member of his family to play a crucial role in The Mighty Ducks. Elden Henson played Fulton Reed, while his brother Garrett Henson played Guy Germain. It is unclear why, but for professional reasons Elden needed to dye his hair brown and change his name to Ratliff in order to secure the part.
In TIME’s oral history of the film trilogy, Elden said, “I kind of didn’t really look the role, so Jordan and Steve Herek, the director … dyed my hair, put wardrobe on me, even put like a fake little scar on my face and screen-tested me under the name Peter Quinn.” We would have never known!
It stinks to be left out. It is even worse to be left out in the cold, especially in Minnesota. That’s what happened to many original actors from The Mighty Ducks, though hopefully not literally. Producers wanted to pack the sequel with funnier and more in-your-face personalities.
According to Joshua Jackson, his role was almost recast. In TIME’s oral history, he recalled the process that left him nervous. “I do seem to remember that the second director was kind of keen to recast me, but I managed to survive him. It would have been weird to recast and keep that role played by somebody else. That would have been an odd thing to do.”
One of the Only Girls
Some know her as the cool girl’s counselor in Wet Hot American Summer, but one of Marguerite Moreau’s breakout roles was in this film trilogy. She was one of the only girls on set and had a blast in her position. In the first movie, she enjoyed pushing the boys around because she was bigger than they were. Things changed by the second film, though.
By the time that D2 was filmed, the boys had caught up to her in size. Also, they were all at an age when they wanted to explore the world of romance. She told TIME, “I cannot confirm or deny that I may have kissed two or three or maybe even five of them. I was 15! It was a very exciting time for me. I mean, it’s very flattering attention for a little while, you know?”
The Unexpected Promotion
Initially, actor Vincent LaRusso was set to play a minor character on the Hawks in the trilogy. Fortunately for him, producers made some changes and placed him in the role of Adam Banks. Adam Banks was certainly privileged and luckier than many of his co-stars in many ways.
He was set to play a less significant character, but the original actor in his role was a bit of a diva and caused problems on set. Producer Jordan Kerner told TIME, “[the original actor] was being a little bit of a bully to some of the other kids.… his mother thought of him as Marlon Brando or Brad Pitt or whatever.” Some parents are just too proud of their kids to see the error in their ways!
All Grown Up
Well, maybe they’re not grown up… but by D3, the players were in high school. Producer Jordan Kerner initially had a very different image in his mind of what the film would look like. He originally planned that in the third movie, the team would once again go back to Europe to play in the Goodwill Games.
However, Disney knew what they wanted and what their audience wanted to see, so they insisted that it was a high school story. Naturally, they have the final say. The Ducks came into D3 as high school freshmen who clash with the seniors, which was loosely based on Kerner’s experience watching a UCLA freshman basketball team play the varsity team that won the NCAA championship the year prior.
Where Is Coach Bombay Now?
It’s hard to write about a movie from years ago and not talk about where the stars are now. After playing the film’s PeeWee hockey coach, Emilio Estevez still had a lengthy career. Before reprising his role for the Disney+ Spinoff series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers in 2021, the New York native went on to produce and direct.
He has starred in other films such as The War at Home, The Way, and The Public. He directed The Guardian and Cold Case and also starred in The Breakfast Club. He did not make as big of a scene as his brother, Charlie Sheen did. The star divorced Paula Abdul in 1994 after two years of marriage and now has a son and daughter from a former relationship with model Carey Salley.
Joshua Jackson Moves On
The Ducks’ team captain, Charlie Conway, was played by Joshua Jackson. He has a lengthy list of projects he has appeared in, and in some cases, even he was even the star of the show. Landing The Mighty Ducks was his third major role in the acting world, and he never looked back.
Jackson has established himself as a top dog in his craft. This Canadian-born actor landed roles in Cruel Intentions, André, Urban Legend, and Lone Star State of Mind. He played Pacey Witter on Dawson’s Creek and recently played Bill Richardson on Little Fires Everywhere. He married actress Jodie Turner-Smith in 2019, and they welcomed their first child in April 2020. Her name is Janie.
Where Is the Slapshot King Now?
Elden Henson, who played Fulton Reed in the trilogy, seems to be doing well these days. He continued to have a long career after the film and into his adult life as a star in many big-name films. Some notable titles include She’s All That, Under the Tuscan Sun, and The Butterfly Effect.
Henson also had vital roles in Spivak, Manic, and Cheats. He played Pollux in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2. He was married but split from actress Kira Sternbach in 2016 after two years. Their son is named Dodger.
Shaun Weiss Isn’t Doing Too Well
Not everyone can be a success story! The Ducks’ goalie went on to star in other films, such as Heavyweights, Pumpkin, and Four Dogs. He had recurring roles in shows like Here and Now, The Tony Danza Show, and most notably, Freaks and Geeks. He appeared in the Judd Apatow series from the first episode.
Unfortunately, Weiss is not doing his best these days. The New Jersey native spent 150 days in jail was after being arrested for the second time on petty theft charges. After only a year, he was arrested for public intoxication in California. Going over his rap sheet in full feels like a waste of space, so we will leave it on a slightly higher note. In 2020, he moved into a sober living facility and had spent at least 200 days sober.
Where Is the Ducks’ Resident Goofball Now?
Matt Doherty played the goofy Les Averman. He was known for his witty comments to coach Bombay. Since his days in the trilogy, he went on to appear in several great films. He was in So I Married an Axe Murderer, Graduation Night, and South of Sunset. He also guest-starred in Bones and Grey’s Anatomy.
Doherty studied at Northwestern University and wrote and directed his first short film, First Stone, back in 2012. He is active in the theater world and currently runs a private workshop for writers in Los Angeles. He also moderates the playwright’s panel for Antaeus Playwright’s Lab.
Brandon Quintin Adams Keeps a Low Profile
Actor Brandon Quintin Adams played Jesse Hall, a tiny but mighty guy, in the first two films. After working on the Ducks’ films, he went on to star in The Sandlot, Ghost in the Machine, MacArthur Park, and Beyond Desire, among other titles. The Topeka, Kansas-born actor also appeared in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Adams had a recurring role in Sister, Sister, and Moesha. He also appeared in more than one Michael Jackson music video. Notably, he was featured in Smooth Criminal! Even if he isn’t doing much these days, that’s still pretty cool to have in his acting credits!
Jussie Smollett Went Downhill
Though actor Jussie Smollett only had a minor role in the original film as Jesse’s little brother, Terry Hall, he certainly made it big, unlike some other stars in the movie. He starred in The Skinny, Alien: Covenant, and Marshall. He also played Jamal Lyon on Empire from 2015 to 2019. Unfortunately, he took a turn for the worst in 2019.
A year after his debut album was released, Sum of My Music, he made headlines when he claimed that he had been the target of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago. It did not take long for him to be accused of staging the whole thing. He was charged with felony disorderly conduct for making a false police account. You made your bed, Jussie – now you have to lie in it!
Look Where Guy Is Now
Garrett Ratliff Henson played Ducks’ member Guy Germaine. He is also known for playing Connie’s boyfriend. The star acted alongside his older brother Elden in the film but decided to act for himself. After the trilogy, he appeared in Casper, Three Wishes, The Mannsfield 12, and Babes.
Since then, he has done whatever he can to be active in the entertainment industry. He worked as a gaffer, which is basically an electrician for motion pictures and an assistant cameraman on three separate projects. He is a writer, producer, and director and worked on multiple shorts. In November 2020, he launched an Indie Gogo page to fund his next project.
Wet Hot American Movie Star
Marguerite Moreau played Connie, who has the same last name. Connie is known for being one of the few girls in the movie and one of the only team members. She is also known for dating Guy through all three films. This actress managed to make a name for herself with tons of significant roles after her days with the trilogy were over.
Moreau starred in Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, Wag the Dog, A Night to Regret, and Jackie. She also appeared on The O.C., Shameless, and Grey’s Anatomy, in addition to some other shows. One of her best-known roles was when she played Katie, a counselor at a camp in Wet Hot American Summer. She reprised her role in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. Now, she is married to Canadian actor Christopher Redman, and they have a son together named Casper.
Where Is Tammy Now?
Actress Jane Plank graced the silver screen as Tammy, a figure skater turned hockey player in The Mighty Ducks movies. Though she appeared as a Christmas caroler in Jingle All the Way, she left acting to pursue a career in music. She followed her path as a singer, songwriter, and composer before moving onto something different.
Now, the Minnesota native runs Plank Books, which she cofounded with her wife, Katelyn Plank. Plank Books is a series of stories that helps shine a light on the importance of sharing with the needy. She has stayed out of the spotlight and seems to be living her best life!
How’s It Hanging, Hans?
Actor Joss Ackland played Hans, coach Bombay’s mentor in the film. Hans was a hockey supply shop owner in all trilogy films, and we couldn’t imagine the movies without him! Ackland has a long list of screen credits, including No Good Deed, Milk, Flawless, and A Kid in King Arthur’s Court.
Ackland also had a role in Lethal Weapon 2 and Decline of an Empire. He is a BAFTA nominee and was married to actress Rosemary Kirkcaldy for 51 years. She passed away in 2002, and they were together until the end. The two had seven children together, 30 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren!
Sorry, California Kids!
Disney took a firm stance on not wanting kids from California to audition for Ducks. Perhaps it was for authenticity (wanting everyone to appear like Midwesterners who understand a freezing winter) or maybe they just wanted a mixture of actors they had not seen before.
With or without actors born and bred in the great state of California, Disney knew what they were doing. Disney did a national talent search as a result and put together a great cast. There are ups and downs on every set, but it seems that everything went very smoothly. Whether the stars were Minnesota natives or New Jersey dwellers, the right actors and actresses made it into the films!