It’s been more than 20 years since we last saw the Ducks on the ice, but now they’re back … with a twist. In the new Disney+ series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, 12-year-old Evan Morrow (Brady Noon) is cut from the Mighty Ducks junior division hockey team once they move from the everyone-is-welcome 9-11 bracket to the much more cutthroat 12-14 bracket. After Evan’s coach tells him not to bother with hockey any longer as he’s not an all-star talent, Evan’s mother, Alex (Lauren Graham), pushes him to start his own team.
Of course, in order to form a hockey team, they need three things: A coach, a place to practice, and, of course, players. Evan and his next-door neighbor Nick (Maxwell Simkins) manage to scrounge up a team, and Alex volunteers to coach. But when it comes to finding ice, they need a little help from a familiar face — Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), reprising his role from the original movie as an ex-hockey player, lawyer, and former Ducks coach who now owns a struggling ice rink. The name of the new team? The Don’t Bothers.
Game Changers is a fun series that is warmly familiar to any adult who remembers the ’90s trilogy of Mighty Ducks films. But callbacks to the original movies aren’t the only things the grown-ups in the audience will pick up on. These are the details, nods, and references only adults will notice in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.
Sexism at work
In "Game On," the first episode of Game Changers, we meet Alex Morrow in her workplace. A paralegal for a corporate law firm, Alex is hurrying to get out of the office in order to get Evan to practice with the Ducks. But before she can make it out the door, her boss tasks her with going through a list of tenants who need to be evicted from one of their clients’ properties. When Alex tries to tell him that she can’t take on more work just then and suggests a female coworker take on the task, he replies that she’s already left to take her kids to practice, because "she’s a great mom."
Kids will pick up on the obvious irony of the fact that the other woman has already started on the task Alex is attempting to do, but they will likely miss the workplace sexism at play. Alex, a working single mom, is expected to perform above and beyond at work — her boss calls her the firm’s "most brilliant paralegal," although it’s said in a tone that indicates he’s saying it ironically, implying that she needs to work harder. Yet she’s also expected to be a "great mom" who never misses a practice. Obviously, she can’t do both — but it’s clear that she’s expected to. It’s an impossible standard that women everywhere will find all too familiar.
The hockey parents aren’t as out-of-control as you might think
Scenes of the parents at the hockey rink won’t connect with kids, beyond the obvious fact of the parents pushing their progeny way too hard. But any parent who has had a kid compete in organized group sports will find these scenes unsettlingly familiar. Whether it’s hockey, soccer, football, or any other sport, most parents know there are two types of adults who get involved in youth athletics: The ones whose kids are participating for fun, and the ones who are in it to win it.
The parents in Game Changers are definitely a little exaggerated — most parents have probably not already consulted a college counselor for their 11-year-olds. Still, adults watching the show are likely to either relate to Alex’s laid-back approach to her kid’s hockey career, or the deeply invested hockey parents who sign their kids up for $1,000 clinics and 6 AM practices. While Game Changers definitely feels more sympathetic to Alex’s point of view, both types of parents are vividly portrayed. Moreover, both types are completely real. Game Changers is facing reality head-on in this detail, in a way grown-up viewers appreciate.
Tracking down Koob13 is a dangerous mission
On the hunt for new team members, Evan and Nick seek out someone who keeps beating them in an online hockey game. From his username, "Koob13," they determine that he must be 13 years old, and manage to sleuth out his home address. They proceed to invite themselves over to his house and make their pitch for him to join the team. Thus, Jaden Koobler (Luke Islam) becomes their goalie.
Kids will likely accept this plotline at face value, but adults may be horrified at the implications. First of all, there’s the fact that these kids assume that someone who has played over 10,000 hours of an online game is their age, based solely on the number in his name. For all they know, he could have 13 severed heads in his basement! But the thought that it may be dangerous to go to a stranger’s house without telling anyone where they’re going doesn’t seem to occur to Evan or Nick.
Then there’s the fact that they go from looking him up on their phones to knowing his home address. Even putting aside the extreme coincidence that he happens to attend their school and live within walking distance of their houses, it’s troubling that two 12-year-olds can find the home address of another kid with nothing but his first name and an internet search engine.
Gordon Bombay has reverted all the way back to his character from the first movie
When Alex stumbles across the Ice Palace, she serendipitously crosses paths with Gordon Bombay, star of the first two Mighty Ducks movies. But when she asks to use his space for hockey practice, he refuses, telling her, "I hate hockey and I don’t like kids." This line will be familiar to fans of the films — it’s the same thing he says in the first Mighty Ducks movie when meeting his team for the first time.
While kids may pick up on the obvious callback if they’ve seen the first film, they’ll likely miss what this suggests about Gordon himself. Last we saw him in D3: The Mighty Ducks, he was leaving to be Director of Player Personnel for the Junior Goodwill Games Committee, putting him in charge of their international junior hockey program. Later, he returns with his lawyer hat on, arguing for the scholarships of his former players. He leaves with a smile on his face after witnessing their victory in the final game.
So what happened between D3 and Game Changers? Gordon was last seen accepting a dream job to help kids around the world play hockey. Now he hates both kids and hockey again? Surely it’s something the show will dig into eventually, but adults will quickly realize something significant must have happened to undo his character development from the first three films.