Why the Mighty Ducks Deserved to be Team USA
As a lifelong fan of sports, I think it goes without saying that I am also a huge fan of sports movies. Naturally I like the classics (Caddyshack, Bull Durham, etc.) but nothing gets my blood pumping and heart racing like some of the worst films known to man. Movies like Little Big League, which I probably only enjoyed because I wished I was Billy Heywood, or Alley Cats Strike a movie that had the most hilariously awful climax since Faye Dunaway in Network.
Despite all of these horrendously awesome movies, there is one that ultimately shines above the rest: D2: The Mighty Ducks.
Although the second part in a supposed trilogy it easily pulls away from its brethren in terms of both its quotability and replay potential. If it’s on TBS at 4 in the morning, I will not go to bed until everyone’s sitting around a campfire singing “We Are the Champions.” The first movie was fine but it was basically a Bad News Bears rip-off, and the third movie simply did not happen (Ed.: Really, the best junior hockey team in the world was no better than the JV in high school? Give me a break.), as far as I know.
Now, just because D2 is one of the greatest movies of all-time does not mean it is not without its flaws, I assume most have you have tried to shoot a knuckle puck, but two of the most glaring plot holes may prove to be otherwise as they are critical to understanding the movie as a whole.
When I first began this bizarrely detailed analysis one of my main points of contention was that, much like the Vikings of the early 2000s, nobody played defense. Most of the team is made up of wings, with a few centers like Jessie and Averman thrown in, but who can we actually pinpoint as playing defense? I guess you’d have to go with Fulton since he usually takes his shot from the point, and when Portman is ejected from the first Iceland game he is clearly coming in from a defensive face-off position, but of the original members of Team USA that’s it. Luckily partway through the movie they add what appears to be another defenseman in Russ Tyler, but he’s more of a sixth/seventh defenseman type. Someone who can barely skate, much less stick handle, and is only out there to get off his devastating shot.
This is when I realized the real problem with the movie; there are only fourteen players on the team! And that’s including two goalies. It then dawns on you, those are only the players on the full roster. As we find out when Banks comes back from injury and Charlie bravely decides to sit out the Championship game, they can only dress thirteen players. For reference, in the NHL you can dress 20 players, and at the Bantam level, which the Ducks were now at, most teams dress between 17 and 19. Are the Junior Goodwill Games trying to kill these kids? What kind of rotation can you have with eleven skaters? It’d have to be something like five defenseman and two full lines or four defenseman with two lines of wings and three centers rotating through or even three defenseman with three lines of wings and two centers rotating through. As absurd as this seems, it at least explains the lack of defenseman on the team.
Of course, the most ridiculous plot hole of the movie was that a rag tag group of peewee hockey players from Minnesota would become the core of a national team. Even with the miracle upset of the Hawks it would seem that no one on this team, except Banks, would be asked to tryout, much less actually make the team. But then if you think about the rules of the Junior Goodwill Games, namely the limited roster, it becomes clear that endurance is the key component to any national team assembled and this is where the Ducks come in. Why do you think they have so many unbelievable comebacks in the third period? It’s because they’re still as fresh as they were in the first and the other team is looking like Patrick Ewing. We also find out early on in the film that the Ducks haven’t actually been training in the off-season, yet they are still able to keep up with the “ringers” brought in to reinforce the team. When Russ admonishes the team during their pickup game, he tells them that they need to get back to what they do best, they need to “take a few breaths, slug some water and get out there and do it again.” Because he knows that their path to success is through their super-human endurance and that is the reason why they were strategically picked to lead the US to the gold.