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The Stanley Cup Final: The Los Angeles Kings Can Go Duck Themselves

To appreciate the NHL, our non-hockey fan digs deep into ‘The Mighty Ducks’ trilogy

Mighty Ducks

Evolution of the Mighty Ducks jersey.

Joe Van Wetering

Jensen Karp accidentally found himself with a million-dollar record deal at age 19 under the moniker Hot Karl on Interscope Records, where he released songs with Kanye West, Redman and Will.I.Am. Since then, he opened Gallery1988, created the Get Up On This podcast and produced a recent live read of the Space Jam script, starring Blake Griffin as Michael Jordan and DeAndre Jordan as Charles Barkley.

Over the course of this year’s NHL Playoffs (which seemingly began in, like, January), I’ve gradually come to grips with the fact that I can’t connect with the game of hockey. Even with my hometown L.A. Kings making a push for their second Stanley Cup, I still haven’t been able to muster more than a “good for them.” After much soul searching, I think I know why: I have never seen The Mighty Ducks.

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Despite being 34 years old, and part of a generation that regards these movies in the same way Martin Scorsese might talk about Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds, I’ve somehow managed to completely miss Disney’s Mighty Ducks franchise (which includes the original, D2: The Mighty Ducks and D3: The Mighty Ducks). And now, 22 years after the first film’s release, I can’t help but think maybe I’ve avoided the puck because I’ve avoided the Duck.

So with the NHL Stanley Cup Final starting tonight, I figured it was time to shake my disinterest in the sport. How? By watching the entire Mighty Ducks trilogy, back-to-back-to-back, without any breaks. Hopefully, I’d figure out what the hype was about, and perhaps even fall in love with hockey, a game that (as far as I know) is all about Flying V formations and knuckle pucks.

I even bought two six-packs of Molson Ice to maximize the hockey-tude of it all. And, like Desmond Hume filling an entire chalkboard to find his Constant, I took copious notes. I was ready to quack.

10:04 a.m. PT The movie that started it all: The Mighty Ducks! It’s sad to realize we no longer live in a world where Emilio Estevez’s name can properly sit above a film title, where it belongs. Now it just sits next to the headline “Where Are They Now?” in one of those TMZ click-bait stories. He plays Gordon Bombay, a lawyer with a lack of morals, who, after a DUI is sentenced to coach a hockey team of misfit teenagers. Because all parents want a drunk driver in charge of their kids.

10:06 a.m. Joshua Jackson plays an emo single-mother teen, which, incidentally, is also a strong Warped Tour band name. “We’re trying to get to the Monster Energy Stage by 3 p.m. because ‘Joshua Jackson Plays An Emo Single-Mother Teen’ is doing an acoustic set.”

10:26 a.m. Goldberg, the Jewish goalie, fulfills the Goonies rule of having one fat kid to laugh at and shame. I also just noticed there’s a player with the last name “Karp” on the team. I now know I was destined to see this movie, and in turn love hockey.

10:32 a.m. Two Molsons in, I laughed at the mention of a fax machine, and was also slightly creeped out by Hans, the old pro-shop attendant who has a past with Emilio, and looks like the kind of guy who has to warn people when he moves to their neighborhood. Then they played Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” while trying on new equipment and I was right back in!

10:49 a.m. I know the dude who plays Fulton Reed in real life. His name is Elden and he’s a great guy. I kinda knew he was in Mighty Ducks, but not that he was such a big deal in the movie. People making this type of revelation would usually follow it with something like “I’m gonna ask him so many questions when I see him,” but I think I have everything covered for now.

11:02 a.m. We have our first competitive hockey game. It ends in a tie, which should never be said in sports. Joshua Jackson is also pimping out his mom to Emilio, displaying the type of aggressive gameplay he needs to show on the ice as the Ducks’ captain.

11:12 a.m. One Duck used the term “Cake Eater” as an insult, but to me that’s clearly the greatest thing you can call someone. Cake is glorious. I’d eat it all day.

11:30 a.m. Cameos from members of the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars have a level of magnetism that makes Michael Jordan’s delivery in Space Jam look like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.

11:37 a.m. The Ducks perform the “Flying V,” which is where they line up in V formation and just skate towards the goal, only, here, it’s treated like a mind-blowing signature move. There’s also a professional announcer doing play-by-play for every game. What tragic shit has to happen in a man’s life to be the color-commentator at pee-wee hockey games?

11:40 a.m. Movie ends with Emilio leaving behind the team, and Joshua Jackson’s mom (who he’s banging), for a minor-league hockey contract. Before the bus takes off he says “See you next season! We have a title to defend!” which I can’t help but notice is a real defeatist attitude about his pro career, and the type of Jewish optimism I understand!

12:00 p.m. It’s high noon. And D2 time. Strangely, my TV abruptly shuts off during the opening credits, which may be a sign, but most likely proves I’m four beers in and sat on the remote.

12:10 p.m. Emilio’s professional hockey career comes to a screeching halt when he injures his knee and is forced to return to Minneapolis with a Llewyn Davis level of sadness (and a cane). Hans is gone, replaced with Yan on some real Aunt Viv shit. It’s quickly addressed then forgotten, leaving me to wonder if you can be into both hockey and details at the same time. This may not be working.

12:13 p.m. I’m still confused as to how pre-teen hockey not only has an audience, but is big enough to garner headlines in newspapers framed throughout the pro shop. But I’m most shocked that Emilio admits he lost touch with Joshua Jackson’s mom, and Joshua Jackson never brings it up or even seems disappointed. Anyway, Team USA asks Emilio to coach and bring his Ducks along to Los Angeles – a REAL HOCKEY HOTBED – to compete with the world’s best.

12:45 p.m. We learn that Goldberg’s parents own a deli, because, of course they do. WAIT, Kenan Thompson is in this shit? That’s the first real plus. Maybe hockey has a chance after all.

1:34 p.m. Okay, it’s been a while since I wrote anything down, I know that. I returned a few text messages and found an interview with actor Garette Henson, who played Guy Germaine, and he said he lost his virginity and smoked pot for the first time during filming, and now it’s all I want to know about. Also, I keep trying to make a meme for “Flying V. Stiviano,” where it’s just the Mighty Ducks in V-Formation, all wearing Daft Punk visors.

1:44 p.m. Ducks win. BIG SHOCK. They also filled the Anaheim Pond with fans for their final game, which is something the NHL’s Ducks don’t always do. More importantly, I begin to wonder how I’ll be able to make it through the third film.

2:00 p.m. I’ve now begun D3, widely regarded (by people who regard these types of things) as the worst Mighty Ducks movie and a decent case study for the effects of puberty. It’s been four years since they filmed the first movie and some of the “high schoolers” now have 5 o’clock shadows and wedding rings.

2:15 p.m. All the Ducks have been given full scholarships to a private school called Eden Hall, while Coach Emilio took a full-time gig at the Goodwill Games. The Varsity squad isn’t stoked on all the attention the new signees are getting, and therein lies the plot or something.

2:51 p.m. They keep calling one of the players “Banksy,” and now I’m back to thinking of memes where the kid is painting a street mural of very political duck.

3:30 p.m. I’ve completely tuned out as the team pays tribute to Hans (who died?) by touching the ice before the big game, which is described as a “Norwegian sign of respect,” but is legitimately nowhere on the Internet as a real thing. A professional Mighty Duck, Paul Kariya, appears briefly and reads his lines like Al Qaeda is holding him hostage.

3:37 p.m. Our Ducks beat the mean Varsity squad in an unimportant scrimmage, a rather sad way to end a three-film victory streak. Good news for Jews though, Goldberg scored the winning goal and probably had a knish after the game. Emilio watches from the locker-room hallway, then walks away with a smirk, presumably to find another single mother to ignore for two films after having sex with her.

And that’s it. I got through all three of these films, none the wiser. Unsurprisingly, this did not change my mind about hockey, but it did make me question “cinema” as a whole. I guess I have to live with the idea that I will never be a hockey fan, and what films I’ve seen, or haven’t seen, has nothing to do with that.

Instead, I’ll be avoiding tonight’s Game 1 and drinking my leftover Molson Ice to a real Joshua Jackson classic: Dawson’s Creek on DVD. Once a Duck, always a Duck.

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