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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Mighty Ducks

And so marks the day after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and I have to say that as someone who is Canadian, I have a lot of pride for all of our athletes.  Every single person who competed in the games, whether they won a medal or not earned their spot on the Olympic team this year.  And that goes for every single athlete representing all the countries that had Olympic teams this year.  Every single one of you deserve your chance to shine in the spotlight, and believe me when I say without a shadow of a doubt that all of you are much better athletes than I could ever hope to be.

(You see...myself and sports.  We go together like a bubble bath and a plugged in hair dryer.)

Now, of course all the athletes did their thing and if they were skilled enough and had a little bit of luck on their side, they were rewarded with a bronze, a silver, or a gold medal.  But I know that here in Canada - where the sport of hockey is as celebrated as soccer is in Latin and European countries - all eyes were on the men's and women's hockey teams as they fought hard and won the coveted gold medals in both events.  I'm telling you, the amount of pride and joy that Canadians felt in seeing their Olympic team bring home the's just absolutely wonderful.  And, all of the other athletes who took home a medal received just as much praise and attention for their wins as well.  One thing you can say about Canada is that we definitely show appreciation to everyone who represents us in a public forum.

(Well, okay...maybe not politicians, but you get the idea.)

So, I decided to do something with the Monday Matinee feature that pays tribute to Olympic athletes - but is sort of more focused on those athletes who played on both Canadian hockey teams, mainly because I can't find any movies about curling.  This Monday Matinee will be a film that has hockey as its main theme.

And, fair is a movie that is marketed towards kids.  I know.  I was a kid when it first aired in movie theatres.  But it's a movie that did very well at the box office, even though critics didn't seem to like it that much.  But then again, I always found most movie critics to be the stuffy sort anyway, and if there's anything I don't ever want to be described as, it's stuffy.

But, seriously, the reason why I opted to choose this film is because of the fact that all of the people who won the gold at the hockey finals in Sochi all likely had one thing in common.  They all loved to play the game, and I would imagine that almost all of them developed the love of the game as children, skating at public skating rinks, or sliding on frozen ice patches in the middle of a January frost.  Maybe some of them even played the game of hockey in the junior hockey leagues in their youth which allowed them to pursue the quest to become an Olympic athlete.  I know that my 15-year-old nephew has played hockey for several years now, and he has certainly developed his skills along the way, and that his team has had a brilliant season so far.

(If only he'd now be able to play without incurring penalties.  But I suppose nobody gets through a game of hockey without incurring at least one every now and then.)

Well, what happens when you have a team of self-delcared misfits who can't seem to get it together and win at least one hockey game in the PeeWee league?  And, what happens when their coach is only there because of an obligation he is forced to honour as a result of community service?  Could there be any common ground whenever the two shall meet?

That's the question that Gordon Bombay asks himself when he is assigned to be the coach of one of the worst teams in the whole league.  And in the process, he learns more about himself and begins to heal from his own shortcomings as a child.

The film is "The Mighty Ducks", which debuted in theatres on October 2, 1992.  And, the film stars Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay, a hot-shot lawyer who is literally all alone in the world.  Seeing him in action as an attorney, it's easy to see why this is the case, as his courtroom antics have alienated him from the rest of the people in the firm.  And as far as romance goes, well, we can automatically skip that.

Basically, Gordon Bombay is the kind of guy who feels as though the rules don't really apply to him.  So, when he is caught behind the wheel driving under the influence one fateful day, he feels as though he can find a way to get out of serving jail time...and surprisingly, Bombay manages to get his wish.  But there are conditions.  Instead of serving time behind bars, he is forced to serve time coaching the local PeeWee hockey team from District 5.

(Yep...the team that initially had no name.  What luck, huh?)

And just who are the kids that make up the team?  Well, there's Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson), Dave Karp (Aaron Schwartz), Greg Goldberg (Shaun Weiss), Peter Mark (J.D. Daniels), Jesse Hall (Brandon Adams), Terry Hall (Jussie Smollett), and Les Averman (Matt Doherty).  And, initially, when Gordon tries to introduce himself to the team, they don't exactly give him the warmest of welcomes.  And, Gordon is not exactly in the greatest position to be a coach, as he has a deep-rooted hate for hockey.

As it turns out, there's a lot more to the story than anybody really knows.  The real reason why Gordon dislikes hockey is because when he was a young boy, he too played hockey as a child.  He was given the opportunity to make a penalty shot during a huge game, and if he made the shot, his team - The Hawks - would have won.  But because Gordon blew the shot, it cost his team the game, and it made his then-coach Jack Reilly (Lane Smith) so disappointed in him that he never let Gordon forget the fact that he lost the game, and because of that, Gordon never played hockey again even though before that moment he really liked the sport.

To complicate things, would you believe that the first game that the District 5 hockey players had to play in was against the very team that Gordon was once a part of two decades earlier?  And that the Hawks were still being coached by Reilly?  Talk about awkward!

But, after the team loses horribly to the cocky Hawks, Gordon decides that he will try a different approach to coaching the team after he quickly realizes that yelling at the team to do what he says is futile when they question everything that he says.  After running into his old mentor Hans (Joss Ackland), who runs a sporting goods store, we learn more about Gordon's past.  He actually quit the team after the championship game that he bombed - but that wasn't the only reason.  His father had died months before that game, and Gordon never really allowed himself the time to grieve his loss.  And, after Hans gives Gordon the encouragement to reignite his childhood passion - which never really went away - Gordon has a change of heart and starts taking his coaching duties more seriously.

He starts by arranging his boss to donate the funds needed to purchase all new equipment, and arranges for the team to have more practice time - allowing Bombay to beef up his coaching skills in the process.  He even decides to give the team a proper name - The Ducks.  The team even manages to recruit three new players to join the Ducks - figure skating siblings Tommy and Tammy Duncan (Danny Tambarelli and Jane Plank), and Fulton Reed (Elden Henson), and the team begins to win more games as a result of their growing teamwork, and Coach Bombay's coaching style.

But not everything goes as planned.  What happens when the team discovers that a key player on the Hawks should really be a Duck?  What happens when former player Bombay goes up against his former coach?  And when Bombay is forced to make one of the toughest decisions ever which could affect his career and his reputation, what choice does he make?

Well, you know what it's like...I can't reveal movie endings.  But given that there were two (not worth watching in my opinion) sequels to the movie, I think that it's a safe bet to say that the movie will have a happy ending.  After all, it is a film made by Disney.

Anyway, there's still a little bit of time left.  Let's talk trivia.  I have a dozen items for you to read about.

1 - Yes, that is the same Joshua Jackson that appeared in "Dawson's Creek" and "Fringe".  Clearly one of the few child actors to have success outside of "The Mighty Ducks".

2 - The year after this film debuted, a real-life hockey team was started up based on the name.  You might know them as the Anaheim Ducks.

3 - Eldon Henson's brother, Garrette played the role of Guy.

4 - Eldon Henson had to dye his hair blonde to secure the part of Fulton.

5 - Many of the boys who tried out for the film lied about their actual ice skating experience.  When the boys were cast and had no choice but to admit they lied, a trainer was brought in to get them ready for the ice.  I have to wonder which boys were the ones who told that little fib?

6 - Prior to winning the role on "The Mighty Ducks", J.D. Daniels had small roles in "Going Places" and "Full House".

7 - Bill Murray was once considered for the part of Gordon Bombay, but was turned down because of his age.

8 - Katie Wahlquist was Jane Plank's stunt double in the figure skating scenes, as Plank did not know how to skate.

9 - In the United Kingdom and Australia, this film was released under the title "Champions".

10 - Emilio Estevez had gotten married to Paula Abdul while he was filming this movie.  The marriage dissolved just two years later in 1994.

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