REVIEW: ‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers,’ Episode 1 – “Game On”

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The Mighty Ducks Episode 1

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is a Disney+ Original series based on the classic film series. Evan (Brady Noon) is cut from The Mighty Ducks, the best youth hockey team around, but he and his mom (Lauren Graham) won’t let that stop him from playing and having fun. So they rally a ragtag team of misfits to start a team of their own and play for fun rather than glory.

I’m a big hockey fan but I’ll admit it, I’ve never seen The Mighty Ducks. So I’m taking in this series blind. And so far, I’m a fan of what I’ve seen. It’s as typical a youth sports TV story as it gets, down to the obnoxious coach and the old pro (Emilio Estévez) who reluctantly decide to help out. The script is cheesy and the child-acting is mediocre, but none of that matters. Just like the heart of the show itself, it’s all just about having fun.

The first episode does that in spades. “Game On” sets everything up nice and easy, with a typical hero’s journey structure, a bunch of middle school bullies, and some of the least-likely kids to succeed in hockey. But corny as it may be, I chuckled all along the way, found it endearing when the rousing speeches and swelling score marked big moments and found myself more than ready to see more.

Beyond its simplicity though, what makes the show shine for me is that it’s an extremely modern story. There’s Tik Tok, kids trying to be hockey podcasters, and language coming out of the kids’ mouths that sound like actual 12-year-olds, even if some of the lines are delivered a bit stilted. Kids don’t always act like modern kids on TV because they’re written by adults, and so far, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers feels like the most 2021 kids show I’ve seen.

Moreover, the show delivers a very strong message about who can play hockeyanybody. The league the kids play in is coed, for starters, and absolutely no point is made about it. The kids just play and that’s that. And I hope very much that once the season gets going this remains the attitude. Even when they talk about how every kid’s got to start thinking about the future already, there’s no implication that the road will potentially end earlier for the girls than the boys. 

The same is extremely true of the characters’ races as well. There’s certainly some tokenism going on, with only one non-white kid per race shown playing hockey. Hopefully, that will be remedied as the show goes on. But frankly, the NHL, and the culture of hockey as a whole, has a severe racism problem. And so a marquee TV about kids of all races and colors playing hockey together is absolutely something the hockey-loving world needs. Kids need to know that hockey is actually for everyone and see it with their eyes, not just hear it from talking heads. So I very much look forward to The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers hopefully following through on this great promise. 

I also hope the NHL itself somehow takes an opportunity to celebrate this show and the ways it displays the “hockey is for everyone” mantra. Broadcasting rival NBC holds the television rights for the league, and the Anaheim Ducks no longer have an ownership stake by Disney. But a Minnesota Wild logo does make an appearance on-screen, and many individual NHL teams are known to host Star Wars nights at their games, so I will hold out hope that there might be a way the league uses the show to inspire kids from diverse backgrounds to get into the game. Or at least an episode where the team goes to a Wild game and maybe even meets Matt Dumba and company.

The only small complaint I have about how the show represents hockey in its first episode comes from a joke made about how one kid has a college counselor already when in reality, college is not necessarily the post-high school goal for hockey players. While it’s one path, a lot of players aim to get into top-tier Juniors leagues so you can get drafted as soon as possible by a major league team. It’s made to sound like college is the only and obvious path for every future NHL star and that’s just not the case.

The premiere episode of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers shows great promise as both a fun, kid-friendly show about hockey and an opportunity to show that hockey is truly for everyone and anyone. The acting from the kids isn’t always stellar, and the script is a bit corny, but it’s still very fun and really, that’s all that matters.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is streaming on Disney+ with new episodes every Friday.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, Episode 1 - “Game On”
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

The premiere episode of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers shows great promise as both a fun, kid-friendly show about hockey and an opportunity to show that hockey is truly for everyone and anyone. The acting from the kids isn’t always stellar, and the script is a bit corny, but it’s still very fun and really, that’s all that matters.