An Oral History of the Mighty Ducks Trilogy

Quack, Quack, Quack: An Oral History of the Mighty Ducks Trilogy

The cast and crew of 'D3: The Mighty Ducks'
The cast and crew of ‘D3: The Mighty Ducks’ with Anaheim Mighty Ducks star Paul Kariya Jordan Kerner

D2: The Mighty Ducks celebrated the 20th anniversary of its release earlier this spring. To commemorate the occasion, TIME spoke with the cast and crew to get the full story behind the making of the trilogy — and find out whether a another sequel might be on the way

Like the fictional team, The Mighty Ducks film franchise was always an underdog, one that forced its way to three movies and a fiercely devoted following through dedication, passion and, as often as not, good fortune. Few would declare it the greatest trilogy in movie history. Many more would call it their favorite.

The Mighty Ducks arrived during what can only be called the Golden Era of children’s sports movies. More than a decade after Bad News Bears became the genre’s gold standard and just a few years removed from the release of more adult-friendly fare like Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers and Major League, the early 1990s marked a renewed focus on the youth market. Movies like The Sandlot, Little Giants and Rookie of the Year became the films that 80s babies called “classics.”

You’ll notice, however, that none of the films mentioned above were hockey ones. That’s because, aside from R-rated antics of 1977 cult classic Slapshot (and Youngblood, if you insist), there really weren’t any. During the 1970s and 1980s, the reasons for the omission were readily apparent. Hockey was, by all accounts, a fringe sport in the United States — one better left to Canada and the Soviet Union. The 1980 Miracle on Ice began to change that opinion, and by the time Wayne Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles in 1988, hockey fever had begun to grip the United States.

One young writer living in Los Angeles was particularly affected by hockey’s growing popularity — and later, Gretzky’s arrival. Steve Brill wrote the first Ducks script while living just miles away from where Gretzky would soon play his games, drawing from his own childhood experiences on the ice and his rediscovered passion for the sport.

A decade later, The Mighty Ducks trilogy had left an indelible mark on both the sports and pop culture landscapes. It may not have directly spawned a major professional sports franchise, but it’s the only film franchise to have one named after it — as well as three sports movies that hold up just as well today as they did upon their release two decades ago.

Earlier this spring, D2: The Mighty Ducks celebrated its 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, TIME spoke with many of the cast and crew of the hockey trilogy:

(UPDATE: Cast Members Discuss the Possibility of a Fourth Mighty Ducks Movie)

(EXCLUSIVE: See Behind-the-Scenes Photos from The Mighty Ducks Movies)

(MORE: The Mighty Ducks Then and Now: See the Cast 20 Years Later)

The Origins of the Quack Attack

STEVE BRILL (Writer): I was living in Culver City, in an apartment with Peter Berg, the director. We were unemployed. He was an actor, I was a writer. And we had nowhere to go to spend our days without much money. There was a rink near our house, and we would go skating there most days of the week. Spend four bucks, I think you could skate all day.

PETE BERG (Director, Friday Night Lights): Steve had a theory called “The Working Man,” and since neither of us had jobs, Steve’s theory was that we should stay as far away from the working man as possible so as to not diminish our self-esteem. I was always a hockey fan, and so was Steve. Back when we were starting out, the [Kings] were so bad — this was before Gretzky — that you could buy student tickets in the cheap seats way back for five bucks. The place would empty out by the third period and we’d move down and sit real close. And that was like in part of Steve’s philosophy of the working man: Wherever they weren’t, we were.

BRILL: I loved sports movies and I was really looking to make a movie that could talk about my old sports experiences. I had idolized The Bad News Bears my whole life. I thought that was a great movie, and I thought it would be really great to make a movie that could stand up and be another Bad News Bears. I also wanted to make a movie that really showed the sport, where the sport wasn’t just incidental to the story. You’d get in there and root for a goal crossing the line, or you could sort of be educated in the movie about how hockey feels and looks. And a lot of the script was reflective of that.

BERG: Steve kind of reminded everyone of a young Walter Matthau from The Bad News Bears. He had that persona. And so I think the combination of having a lot of free time, playing a lot of hockey, and Steve’s natural likeness to Walter Matthau from The Bad News Bears all gave birth to The Mighty Ducks.

BRILL: I was 26 years old, and I just wrote it as a spec script. I wrote it on my own in that apartment.

BERG: Steve would write sort of hunched over. He would sleep in as I recall ’til about 1:00 with his pillow kind of wrapped around his face in a very odd way that sometimes made me think that he had in fact died during his sleep, because of the way he would choke himself with the pillow. I would check on him periodically. He would scream at me to get out of the room. He would then get up, pour a cup of coffee and go back to his desk, which was right by his bed. My memories are of Steve hunched over his computer in his underwear with his hair sticking straight up, drinking coffee, writing The Mighty Ducks, cackling. And then every once in a while, he would read me scenes. There was our friend Joe who lived on the couch. He’d read Joe scenes and we would all comment. And he would kind of listen to us and then kind of mutter and go back into his room and keep writing.

BRILL: I had an agent, a small agent who looked at the script and tried to put it out there in the marketplace, and it didn’t sell. Eventually it went out with a CAA cover in like ’88. And it got bought by Disney. That was just very lucky. I mean, it was partly because it was repackaged, but also we were fortunate because it turns out Michael Eisner in the back of his mind had been sort of waiting for the perfect opportunity that our script provided.

MICHAEL EISNER (CEO, Walt Disney Company, 1984-2005): We had made The Bad News Bears at Paramount — we’d made a lot of sports films. And a hockey film seemed like a good thing to do. I was following my sons around in hockey, so I understood about junior hockey and I understood about professional hockey, and I certainly understood about California hockey and places where it wasn’t exactly, you know, like Boston hockey and stuff like that. So I understood the milieu, let’s put it that way.

BRILL: The draft I wrote in that apartment was much darker. It wasn’t a Disney movie. There weren’t murders or anything, but there was some adult romance. And a lot of hockey — that was always the key thing. As far as dark humor, there was always that DUI at the beginning, and I don’t think would hold up right now in a Disney movie. Then in the movie there are sort of having-sex-with-your-mother jokes in there and flatulence jokes, and guys are getting hit in the nuts. I think the producer, Jordan Kerner, had a mandate to — when the studio says, “It’s got to be funnier,” — make it a little broader in some parts. So you have a mix of very serious character-driven story and then broad humor.

JORDAN KERNER (Producer): In those days, there weren’t many little indie films. So as a smaller indie film, I think that a darker script would have been terrific. And had there been more language and it was more Little Miss Sunshine, I think that could have been very successful. It just wouldn’t have been a Disney movie. And here we were in something that we felt we could tell as a dramatic story, and we didn’t want to digress from that. We didn’t whitewash it — we just didn’t show certain things. It was more lyrical, what Steve ultimately wrote.

As with any studio film, compromises are inevitable. One of the biggest ones that Brill had to make was in the role of the Ducks’ head coach, Gordon Bombay.

BERG: I was sort of starting out as an actor, and the plan was originally that I was going to star in it. We went in there and Steve said, “Here’s my man.” And the financiers kind of looked at me and then looked at Steve and were like, “Yeah. No, he’s not your man, Steve.” So, Emilio Estevez was the man, and, you know, the rest is history.

KERNER: Emilio is just — there’s nobody better than Emilio — kinder, more creative.

[Estevez declined repeated interview requests for this project.]

Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay in "The Mighty Ducks."
Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay in “The Mighty Ducks” with Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson) by his side. Disney

Though Brill’s first choice for Bombay had been nixed, he did manage to cast another person integral to the film’s genesis: himself.

BRILL: I said to Jordan, “I’m going to be in this movie.” I can’t remember if I wrote the role of Frank Huddy for myself, but there was a role in the movie for a young lawyer who went against Emilio, and I said, “I’m going to play that role.” And they said, “Okay, that’s a good use of you.” That role shot in the first week up in Minnesota, and I went up there ostensibly as an actor. Writing the script was kind of locked, but I remember once I got up there, I got the script — the shooting script — and I just started breaking it down, pleading my cases, making a few points. Some stuff was kept from other writers, but I started like trying to tailor it back to what I thought it should be and they just let me do it. And then I stayed up there on the set the whole time.

D1: The Ducks Take Flight

The first Mighty Ducks film told the story of Gordon Bombay, pee-wee hockey player-turned-obnoxious lawyer-turned-pee-wee hockey coach with a heart of gold. After a DUI, Bombay is compelled to perform 500 hours of community service by coaching the local pee-wee hockey team. Though he initially loathes the position (and his team’s utter lack of talent), he eventually grows fond of the kids, particularly Charlie Conway. Serving as surrogate father to a kid starved for one and gifted coach to a team that desperately needs one, Bombay ultimately leads the Ducks (previously known simply as “District Five”) to the league championship over Coach Reilly and his Hawks — the same coach and team that Bombay played for as a kid.

The cast of "The Mighty Ducks."
Most of “The Mighty Ducks” cast gathers around Estevez and Kerner (kneeling). Jordan Kerner

BRILL: When everyone saw Josh, everyone wanted Josh. I thought he was really grounded and good. And a lot of the characters were goofy, funny guys, but he brought real heart to a more serious role.

JOSH JACKSON (Charlie Conway): God, I might be making this story up, but I think this is true. That this was my first lesson in Hollywood about bad auditions. I went in and I auditioned for Charlie, and then they asked me to audition for one of the other kids, and I think I was pretty upset by it because I didn’t understand that that was a good thing. You know, that they were trying to see if you could do anything else. And then — if I remember correctly, the audition process was over and I guess they sort of put all the kids together to see how everybody interacted, and at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure that’s how they cast the movie.

BERG: The character of Hans (Joss Ackland) was based upon this kind of surly old guy, Hans, who worked at the skate shop in Culver. One day Brill and I were skating, and Brill hit the boards at a bad angle and broke his leg, and he was writhing around on ice. Hans kind of came over and looked down at him, and Brill said, “Hans, I think I broke my leg.” And Hans paused and looked at him and said, “Well, that’s your own personal problem” and walked away. I think that was a very formative moment for Brill when he wrote that character. I’ll never forget that.

MARGUERITE MOREAU (Connie Moreau): I remember that when I went in, my agent had said, “Don’t tell them that you’re 14. Tell them that you’re 13.” And I said, “But my head shot has my age on it!” And he said, “It doesn’t matter. If you tell them your 13, they will think you’re younger, and we don’t want them thinking you’re too old.” I was so scared, especially that I would mess up Charlie Conway’s nickname. Spazway, right? So I had to say that in the audition and for the life of me, because I was so nervous about telling them that I was 13, I couldn’t say it. I would always say, “Spazroy” or something. And I left feeling like I had wasted my parents’ time and then a week later I had to put it out of my mind and get to know people at this new school. I was going to these cheerleading trials, which were not going well. My mom picked me up one day, and I was like, “Mom, I can’t do this … Do you think I’m going to make it?” And she’s always super-positive. She’s always like, “We’re just going to make it work and you’re going to do it,” and this time with the cheerleading, she was like, “No, I don’t think you’re going to do it.” I turned to her like, “How could you say that to me!?” And she said, “Because Monday you’re getting on a plane and going to Minneapolis, you got that part in The Mighty Ducks.”

ELDEN HENSON (Fulton Reed): I was in New York at the time. I auditioned for the film and I guess there are some people who thought I kind of didn’t really look the role, so Jordan and Steve Herek, the director, they flew me to Minnesota, dyed my hair, put wardrobe on me, even put like a little fake scar on my face and actually screen-tested me under the name Peter Quinn. And then I got the job. My skating ability was that of zero. I grew up in LA, man, so, I played baseball and football and stuff like that. But I’d never played hockey. It wasn’t really on my radar.

MATT DOHERTY (Les Averman): They were looking for kids from all across the country — they did an actual talent search. I think I had originally auditioned for Fulton and then I think they threw Averman at me while I was there, which was funny for me, as Fulton. I’m like a big guy. Like any other actor, I’d lied and said I knew how to skate. And then you get on the set, and you find the joke is usually on you because the director and producers know actors are probably lying, so they’ve already set it up with hockey camps and all that stuff.

KERNER: There was a guy named Jack White, who was a famous trainer in hockey, that we brought in. Half of our kids had never skated before and had to learn to skate. And half of our kids who skated, they had to learn to act. And so we literally had acting boot camp and skating boot camp. I wanted to have 12 or 16 weeks to do that. But of course with any studio, they’re not going to give you the money to set up a huge organization that far away from shooting, so we had to rush it. And whether we could get everybody ready to be able to perform on the ice, both from a standpoint of skating and being credible and being good, although they had to be comedic as well — that was on us.

BRILL: I was very involved with the cast because I was on ice skates all day because so much of it was on the rink. I would practice with them. I would work with them. I would hang out with them. It was like summer hockey camp, and it was so fun. And things would come out — character stuff —like the Bash Brothers. All their routines sort of evolved from playing around on the ice. And in the first one, none of them were really good skaters, so we did do a lot of smoke and mirrors in the beginning.

KERNER: There were certain kids who wouldn’t be happy if I mentioned their names directly, who probably were never the best skaters in the world. So we would play off those things. And, you know, maybe one of them learned to play goalie pretty well, and he’s very funny. And he didn’t have to skate a lot, you know. He just had to be able to get into his crouch and be able to defend the goal.

JACKSON: Garette became by far the best of us. But there were several of us who really loved hockey and continued playing. So being in an environment where you’re getting sort of near professional level coaching with some really top level guys to play with was an incredible gift. You know that was often the most joyful part of the film was the hockey camp.

GARETTE HENSON (Guy Germaine): I would say I was the best. No, I’m kidding, I just think everybody sort of took to it to varying degrees, and the reality is that we all had stunt doubles and they made us look way better than we actually were. So it wasn’t even that detrimental that we were never that good at skating.

MOREAU: Oh, yes, Garrett was fantastic. He really got good. I think also Matt Doherty got pretty good at puck handling and Josh and Elden as well. They just got so big, they could really do a lot more than I could by the third film. I think I paid mightily for being the tallest one on the first film and then I stayed short and everybody else got big, and ooh, boy! They all turned to me like, “I remember how you would torture us. It’s your turn, ‘Ro!”

DOHERTY: I remember getting concussed in my last hockey game in high school because everybody wanted to check the Mighty Duck, you know? They’d always be talking on the ice.

JACKSON: I play in a men’s league here in L.A. and I still get that stuff all the time. It’s hockey. If you’re not talking shit, you’re not really playing.

When the cast and crew assembled in Minnesota, they encountered a few problems — none of them particularly surprising for a production involving many first-time actors and locations where subzero temperatures were the norm.

KERNER: When you bring that many parents or guardians together with kids in a foreign location and they’re 9, 10 and 11, you’re going to have some problems. And I was waiting. One of the young actors was being a little bit of a bully to some of the other kids. He wasn’t as good a skater as he needed to be, but he thought of himself as a great performer, and his mother thought of him as Marlon Brando or Brad Pitt or whatever — someone who was a dramatic actor. And he just wasn’t going to do all the work he had to do in skating. There was a lot of attitude and there were problems on the ice. We tried to have the meetings with all the parents and guardians once a week, twice a week, three times a week depending. At some point, I brought everybody together and said, “There’s been an incident today, and the people involved with it know who they are. Here’s the deal: If it happens again, you don’t need to come to me, okay? You can just go back to your hotel. The production will already have your return plane tickets there, and we will make adjustments.” And literally four days later it happened again and I called the mom and said, “You and So-and-so, you’re going home.” That kid’s role was a sort of central villain who would eventually turn and become friendly to the Ducks. And we took one of our other kids from a much smaller role and moved him into that role. And he just was terrific. It was the Adam Banks character.

VINCENT LARUSSO (Adam Banks): Yeah, that’s right. It was kind of strange. Definitely a life-changing event. I was cast along with two other Hawks: Larson and McGill. Their names are like burned in my memory. At that point I was cast as one of them, I just wasn’t cast as a particular one of them. I remember seeing my Polaroid on the wall with just three names slashed beneath it. Then the young kid that they had hired to do Adam Banks, he was let go, and they asked me if I would audition while I was already there in Minneapolis, and so I did. It’s really a very few memories of those ages but I remember that audition pretty clearly, and I got the part.

LARUSSO: I think selfishly that my favorite scene is when I first get introduced to the Ducks, because as I grew older, I sort of realized that it wasn’t my craft. But at that age, 11 years old or however old I was when I did that, it’s probably the finest 3 seconds of acting I ever did.

Brill, Kerner and Co. had sorted out their Adam Banks problem, but that did little to aid the frigid conditions in Minnesota.

JACKSON: Okay, so, so you know what cold is, right? I’m from Vancouver. We have cold. In fact it’s a little bit colder in New York than it is Vancouver but that to me is what winter feels like. That’s nothing like what Minnesota is. It’s not just subzero. It’s minus 40, minus 50. Humans should not live in this shit. Only Scandinavians would have ever stopped in this place to make a city. So yeah, it was extremely jarring. I mean extremely jarring and dangerous. I remember bundling up in ski gear, going out into the streets of Minneapolis, and discovering one day that all of downtown Minneapolis is connected on the second floor by these like human Habitrails because it’s so fucking cold that nobody goes outside. We didn’t know that, so we’re outside, like, “Wow, this is incredible,” and after about 10 minutes, you’re like, “Oh, my God, I can’t feel my face. This is terrible!” We’d get into this panic of like, we thought we were going to die on the streets here trying to tour and sight-see around Minneapolis.

KERNER: We we were in the midst of filming the scene where there’s a kiss between Emilio Estevez and Heidi Kling, who plays Josh’s mom, in 55 degrees below zero in St. Paul. And when they kissed, their lips stuck together. We had to get makeup to grab warm water and put droplets on their lips so they could actually separate.

G. HENSON: Yeah, I mean it was like — it was beyond an issue. It was so insane, it was almost comedic. Growing up in California, I’d never experienced anything like that before.

KERNER: In spite of the cold, we all loved Minnesota and they loved having us. Because of the effect the film had on them — they had so much pride about it and they’re all sort of hockey nuts — they passed something called the Mighty Ducks Bill. We shot in maybe 20 arenas while we were there and they probably had 80 or 100 arenas in total. And they built like another 15 arenas so that they could accommodate all-girls teams, and it was an effort to mainstream girls into boys’ teams. So the bill was something that created both new rinks and more coaches to help girls want to develop and become hockey players. So in Minnesota to this day girls all play hockey. They have the ability, any time they want to be on a team, they’re on a team. And that was because of The Mighty Ducks. It was really great being in a smaller city that was crazy about what you were doing. I ended up building a home in Minnesota, and my wife and I were married there.

Despite the freezing temperatures, inexperienced cast and unenthusiastic reviews, the production turned out to be a success. The Mighty Ducks, released in October 1992, earned more than $50 million at the domestic box office — no small feat for a live-action Disney production at the time.

The Mighty Ducks: Stephen Herek and
Kerner (r.) and “The Mighty Ducks” director Stephen Herek pose by an enormous poster for the film. Jordan Kerner

JACKSON: I think of the three, my favorite would definitely be the first. Mostly because it was such an innocent time in my life as well. I was 13 years old. I had no idea what I was doing. I was suddenly in hockey bootcamp in Minnesota with a group of kids that I didn’t know and trying to figure out that now, all of a sudden, I was a special actor. I just really have very, very fond memories of the whole experience.

BRILL: When we were shooting the final scene in Ducks 1 when Bombay gets on the bus to go to his try-out, we were making jokes like “This is a good sequel set-up,” but we were not nearly presumptuous enough to think we would have sequel. This movie was off the radar. It was a small movie. It was going to be a Disney release, but it wasn’t like real Disney. That said, Eisner had told us that his interest could possibly extend farther and the movie hadn’t even been put together or shown at that point. The movie was not a huge hit its first weekend. It was right before the era where people really watched box offices, but I think it made like $4.5 million opening weekend [Ed. note: $6 million], and that was not awesome. But it did the very strange thing which movies rarely, rarely did: On the second weekend it went up to like $7 million or something [Ed. note: $8 million], that’s what showed that it was viable. There was an agenda at work which I was not privy to. I was just optimistic and a cheerleader on the side about whether we were going to do another one. The second one came out of Eisner knowing he was going to buy a hockey team and seeing the cross-promotional and synergistic possibilities. So it was sort of the weird, unknown territory of being a promotional tool and at the same time a movie. And some people were cynical about it, but it worked very organically I felt. I didn’t feel we became a marketing machine.

KERNER: One day as we were doing the second movie, Michael said to me, “I’m going to buy — I, Disney, we, Disney — are going to buy an NHL franchise. And we want your designers, to create a new logo.” And they did that. And we did it. And they had this idea of a Jason mask, and we had the idea of crossing bones behind it as the sticks. It was a little more graphic than the image that we ended up with. They decided it was a little too gruesome and we needed to use the sticks. And we all loved the Jason mask, and we did a version of the uniforms with all that on it in the District 5 colors: the green, gold and purple. And Michael said, “Oh, no, no. We’re not using those colors.” And I said, “What colors are we using?” And he said, “Oh, we’re using aubergine and teal.” And I said, “Michael, what — I know what teal is. What’s aubergine?” And he said, “Well, it’s kind of purple, kind of a maroon purple.” And I said, “These are such ’90s colors. The Dolphins got away with the sort of Miami Vice colors because it was so attached to that show and the ’80s and all that stuff. They got away with it. And so they’re still like one of the only teams that has colors like that. But these are not hockey colors. Don’t do this.” And Michael in his inimitable way — and you have to understand, I love the man. He’s a genius. He was wonderful to us. Steve and I had the greatest time with him. We called him Papa Duck, and he and his wife, Jane, would come out, and Michael would get on the ice. He was always there as a fan and supporter and he was a huge reason we made these three movies. But when he said this to me, he chuckled and he said, “Do you want to tell the costume designer or do you want me to?” Now, this is not the president of Production. This is not the president of the studio. This is the chairman of Disney Corp! And I had everybody in the room when he said that to me. I had him on the speaker, because I was boasting like I’d talk him out of it. And when he said that, we lost. And they became the colors of the team.

EISNER: I’d like to say there was a lot of studious research and thoughtful analysis, but there was none. Basically we were very interested in Anaheim. Bruce McNall, who was owner of the Kings decided that it would be a good idea for Southern California to have a second hockey team. He called me up and said would Disney be interested in having a hockey team. I said no about four times. And then one day I was thinking, “Boy, we’re building a second park in Anaheim, and they were really having trouble with this arena. Maybe I could be helpful to Anaheim and bring a hockey team to the arena, which otherwise was sort of millstone around Anaheim’s neck.” So I called up Bruce and said, “Yes, Bruce. We would.” And then we quickly negotiated the deal, and there was an owners meeting in Florida which I had to go to called in a very short period of time. And the night before I got on the plane, we talked about what were we going to call it. And I said, “Well, why don’t we call it the Mighty Ducks?” And not enough people disagreed with me. So I had our costume department make a Mighty Ducks logo, which I think at that time was very similar to The Mighty Ducks movie logos, although we changed the logo and made it, you know — upgraded somewhat for hockey. And I showed up at the owners meeting with a sweatshirt on saying the Mighty Ducks. And they all said, “Fine.”

DOHERTY: I remember at like 10 AM on a Saturday morning, my dad waking me up to say they were announcing on CNN that Disney was buying a hockey team. And I was like, “What?” We didn’t know that when we were doing that first movie. Nobody knew that.

MOREAU: When we finished the first one, I think there was a collective feeling of having made something really special, and we were so excited to see it. And then the response when someone mentioned something about a sequel, I mean you can’t imagine a kid who’s just beyond excited. But in terms of how big it got once an NHL hockey team was named after the Ducks — I mean we were running around like pinching ourselves like every day was Christmas. We couldn’t believe it. It was also my home team because I lived in Orange County, so I felt particularly proud of that development.

BERG: The hockey team naming themselves the Mighty Ducks was a huge moment for all of us. I think that was the first time we all realized, “Wow! You really can control your own destiny in this business,” and that this idea that was hatched in this dumpy little apartment — I think Steve’s desk at the time was an old door on top of two sawhorses. I mean, it really was that you could come up with an idea and put the work in and write it, and the next thing you know, there’s a professional hockey team named after your film. That was kind of a great moment for I think everyone, not just Steve, but all of us that watched that happen because it’s — it sounds kind of corny, but it is — why people get into this business. Because crazy, awesome things can happen.

D2: The Ducks Go Global

BRILL: There were a few kids we wanted to bring along for Ducks 2, but I wanted it to be this great idea of finding the best kids from around the country and then melding them with the Mighty Ducks. And there were always core ones that I wrote and I knew they were going to come: Averman, Goldberg, Guy Germaine, Fulton, a few others and, of course, Charlie. That was plenty for the core of a team and we could then surround them with the five others we brought in, and that felt like a good team.

KERNER: There were certain roles and characters that just weren’t as strong as characters, and we wanted to get some bigger, more comedic characters into the movie, because the movie inherently was a dramatic story. Those cuts weren’t based on personality or anything. They were all wonderful kids.

JACKSON: Well, in typical Disney fashion they sign you for three-picture deals. So it was never going to be my option, whether I got brought back or not. I do seem to remember that the second director was kind of keen to recast me, but I managed to survive him. It would have been weird to recast and keep that role played by somebody else. That would have been an odd thing to do.

The cast shake-up wasn’t the only significant change for D2 — the sequel also moved the Ducks from the friendly confines of Minneapolis to the global stage.

BRILL: Ducks 2 felt pretty good on a bunch of levels. As a movie move it felt right because there was precedent for it. Even though I don’t remember seeing The Bad News Bears Go to, wherever they went, Japan, a lot of these movies I feel the second one you’re allowed to do that. You’re allowed to go bigger if you stay in the realistic world. And there is a realistic world of the traveling hockey team and, and that would conceivably represent the flight of play on a much larger stage. I thought that was reasonable and that our team was the best in Minnesota. But the small town Minnesota thing, we’d done. I felt these characters would go back there and we were going to meet them there in the beginning again and reestablish that. But we were going to try and take them on the global stage. And we knew that you can’t go higher than that, like they’re not going to go, you know, play interplanetary hockey. Then if we do another one it’s going to go back to small scale.

Team U.S.A. in "D2: The Mighty Ducks"
Team U.S.A. in “D2: The Mighty Ducks” Disney

KERNER: At that point in time, I had a very close friend who was one of the heads of Turner, and that was Scott Sassa. In ’92 or ’93, we went with him to the Goodwill Games in Moscow. And the idea, we threw it out to Scott and to Ted Turner, was to do the Junior Goodwill Games because the Olympics would never allow that. To have the Ducks competing on a world stage seemed like something that would be a lot of fun for us. Once Turner and Turner Films said, “Okay,” and gave us the right to do that, that’s when we moved very quickly into the world of them on a sort of worldwide scale, where it was still credible, where they were playing teams their own age. And it was important they come up against formidable teams while not alienating the major hockey-playing countries.

BRILL: I was like, “Well, what would be the final hockey games? Russia would be too obvious and also geopolitically, Russia was at a stage where it wasn’t working anymore. They weren’t the Evil Empire. Glasnost had broken and it wasn’t playing that way. And the eastern European thing, I felt again it just was a little too dire or political. And so when I went in my head looking around the globe, I was like, “Iceland, oh my God. People don’t quite know much about it. It’s got that Nordic mystique. I can make them essentially these blond-haired, blue-eyed menacing villains with funny accents and a weird culture.” It’s complete fabrication but it worked. I loved it. Iceland was just a great stock country. The one woman [Maria Ellingsen] was actually a huge star in Iceland so that was great. And a lot of the blue-eyed, blond-haired kids who played the Iceland team members were actually stunt skaters from Minnesota.

KERNER: It wasn’t making fun of any country where hockey is like in their blood, like Russia or Canada or some other place like that. It was little Iceland who we all love and we were able to have fun with.

CARSTEN NORGAARD (Iceland Coach, Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson): I auditioned along with, I’m sure, a ton of other actors for the role. And I guess I must have moved the producers with the way I developed the character. I had thought about American sports coaches and I like to sometimes anchor a part in a reality, in a real character. I mean, I loved the tapes of so many U.S. coaches. When I saw Pat Riley, his slickness, his style, his coolness, his swagger, that spoke to me. And he sort of became my base for the character.

SCOTT WHYTE (Gunnar Stahl): I think I was the only actor on the film who had really played hockey before the first movie came out, and I was also pursuing acting at the same time. I went to the theaters, saw Mighty Ducks and was like, wow, this would be the most incredible job I could ever book. And literally two weeks later I think I was auditioning for Mighty Ducks 2 for the role of Portman. It was Aaron Lohr and I that did the final test for it and Aaron obviously booked Portman. We were heading home and got a call. They said, “Well, you didn’t get Portman, but we liked to offer this role of Gunnar.” It was a bit of a burn because I really wanted to play Portman, and I didn’t even know what Gunnar was, the character or anything. But I was still stoked to be part of the film. It was still a win. And Gunnar was definitely the nice bad guy who had a heart. With all the other bad guys, you never really got to know or see any other side other than the typical Disney villain archetype.

Not only was the stage bigger for D2, but the Ducks themselves had grown as well, changing the off-screen dynamics somewhat.

LARUSSO: We just had a lot of fun off the set, as you might imagine. I went from 11 to 16, or I guess almost 17 years old during those films, so that was huge growing up for me. It was really amazing for me to go leave my suburban home town and meet kids that were friends with me without animosity and without sort of that stereotypical suburban spin on childhood. I was thrust in with kids that were just much different than what I was used to, and I was embraced by them.

JACKSON: We got into a lot of trouble, definitely, but you’re supposed to at that age.

MOREAU: We all were just fucking around all the time. We had all this downtime, but they never wanted us to take our equipment off because it would take so long to put it back on. So we spent like 8 hours a day in all these pads and with our skates on and just lying all over the locker room on each other. Just like because we couldn’t move any more.

BRILL: I spent so much time with these guys — watching them grow up and go through puberty. Oh my God! It was crazy to see these kids be the sweet little calling-their-mommies guys to then, you know, stealing golf carts and going out and missing curfews and just being teenagers. But they were all really good kids I have to say, and I really looked out for them as much as I could or should.

MOREAU: The whole experience was a big deal because during the first one I was a 14 year old girl and I mean I cannot confirm or deny that I may have kissed two or three or maybe even five of them. I was 15! It was a very exciting time for me. Very exciting. I mean it’s very flattering attention for a little while, you know?

No less exciting for the cast and crew was the move to Los Angeles and the opportunity to play at Arrowhead Pond.

BRILL: It was all Minnesota for the first one. The second one started shooting in LA because the Pond had just opened. So we shot the end scene of Mighty Ducks 2, the big showdown, the big final game, the final matches we shot first in LA in that new stadium. We were the first people to christen that stadium.

DOHERTY: They packed the place for the championship game against Iceland. We had like 12-15,000 people in there. And during the rest of the time we’d actually have cardboard standups that we would move around. That day was an exciting day because we felt like we were like professional hockey players. It was really high stress for everybody except for us because we were just playing — I mean, you’re 15, you just think this is normal. Jack Whyte somehow managed to convince — because he was a very convincing kind of guy — everybody to let us scrimmage for 20 minutes or 30 minutes. His justification was, “Hey, you’ll get great reactions from the audience if you just let the cameras roll.” And I guess everybody wanted to watch these kids play. Plus you’d make a memory for a lifetime for everybody and all the kids. I still clearly remember hopping over those boards and going out and playing hockey in front of all those people. And yet like not being set up where you’ve practiced the way the moves are. It was literally like a scrimmage.

WHYTE: We all really played the hockey, and we all really were all very good at it, at the sport. We weren’t just slacking off on the ice and having stunt doubles do all the work. As a child actor, they can only keep us on set for eight hours or whatever it was, so those times were really the only ones when a stunt double came on for me. The stunt double became more of a stand-in whenever I was on the ice. But one of the scrimmage days, it was me out there with a bunch of the stunt doubles and stuff because I had shown up earlier, whatever it was, and I got to get out there and some of the Ducks were missing, and it was just me and very few of the actual actors out there on the ice. And we had all these kids that were like junior Olympics hockey players and all of our trainers were these amazingly full-on pro hockey players. So I got hit a couple of times along the boards — it wasn’t as fun as I would have hoped.

KERNER: My office was the Ducks’ head coach’s office. I was the first guy to sit in there and work for a month, and Steve shared it with me. I would walk down the hallway and I would dream about what the yells would sound like in a year and a half when they actually had a team. And the team that was going to be the Mighty Ducks.

BRILL: I mean, I got my full fix of hockey. Like I would say, “We should have Gretzky come in, and give the team a speech in Mighty Ducks 2” and that’s how I got to meet Gretzky, who I just idolized forever.

KERNER: It was so good that I went to Michael [Eisner], and Michael introduced me to the head of the NHL, Gary Bettman. I met with Gary, and we started talking to him about a gyrocam like they’re using in the National Football League now — a camera that could move in 3-dimensional space and could follow a breakaway. For the movies, we shot it with cranes of course because we could shoot in pieces, but to shoot an actual game, you needed something that could fly down the ice, that would be above anybody holding his stick up high, that would be right in the action of a breakaway or be right in the middle of the net as people are all smacking each other trying to get to the puck or following a big hit against the boards somewhere. So we started to develop a rail camera, and we developed this flying camera. In the end, it was the NHL owners who defeated it because it was going to be too expensive for them, they’d lose a couple rows of seats, and they just didn’t want to have all of this in it. We felt it would have changed the sport. I think Gary did too, because it would become a television event much more than it is now. It’s hard to watch unless you’re there. And I felt really badly because Gary was a great supporter, along with Michael, of this new way to shoot hockey.

Without question, D2: The Mighty Ducks was the trilogy’s biggest film. A few key members of the team formerly known as District Five teamed up with hockey prodigies from around the country to represent the United States at the Junior Goodwill Games. Bombay — having recently returned to coaching after being injured in a minor league game — led the team but also allowed his ego to get the best of him once they arrived in Los Angeles. After a devastating loss to Iceland, Bombay rediscovered his love for the game and the Team U.S.A. Ducks pulled off an unbelievable come-from-behind shootout victory against their rivals in the tournament’s final game when Julie “The Cat” Gaffney saved Iceland’s final attempt by Gunnar Stahl.

D2: The Mighty Ducks celebration
Bombay and his Team U.S.A. Ducks celebrate at Arrowhead Pond. Disney

WHYTE: I’ve got to say this damn Triple-Deke-going-glove-side has haunted me the rest of my life. Everyone writes me on Twitter and stuff, like, “Gaw, why’d you have to go glove side? What if you went stick side?”

LARUSSO: God bless him. I can’t believe he puts up with it but that’s great.

WHYTE: Maria [Ellingsen] had became my dialect coach. When I did, “You lost it for yourself” and all at the end of the last game, I had the whole accent because she phonetically went through it for me and helped me out. But at the very end of shooting, she had left and they kind of said, “All right, let’s throw in a line, `Good work, Captain Duck.’” When you listen to that movie, it’s like, “Okay, ‘You lost it for yourself.’ I don’t really know what an Icelandic accent is, so I’m guessing, okay, that’s correct Icelandic accent for an actor trying to be Icelandic.” But then when I get to the word Captain, it totally becomes a Russian-like accent because she wasn’t there, and it was like, “Scott, just go, `Good work Captain Duck.’” And I was like [Ed. note: mimicking Russian accent]: “Uh, good work Captain Duck!” It was just awesome because that really didn’t work out, but no one knows that.”

BRILL: Ducks 2 really was an idea of a movie that was about taking those guys off the farms, too, and putting them in LA. There’s the subplot of Gordon Bombay getting his head turned a little by the glamour. And I just thought that was fun stuff — this being their crucible and the soul of the Ducks being the question and then ultimately they wind up back flying home together.

LARUSSO: I think 2 would be everybody’s favorite, right? I don’t know.I think 1 was definitely the least silly of the three for me, but 2 — 2 was my favorite because that was the age that I was I think most conscious. I wasn’t a little boy and I wasn’t — by the time we did 3, I was kind of on my way out I think of the industry anyway. And again those were the years that I think I had the most fun behind the scenes, during Ducks 2.

D3: The Ducks Come Home

BRILL: So coming out of Ducks 2, the movie was wildly successful. The team became successful. The Pond opened up. And I think the third one, I mean, I was always open to it, but I was off directing other movies. I did Heavyweights between the second and third one, and I was like, “I would love to but I have no control.” I think Eisner did it out of not nostalgia, but I think he was like, “If you’ve got one, we’ll do it.”

EISNER: I think that probably is true. I mean, the films did well. People liked them. They were fun. They were, you know, good Disney products. So in those days of Disney, we were trying to reinvent the brand and strengthen the brand and this was an important part of it. And they did a good job obviously. They wouldn’t have they made three if they hadn’t. So, yeah, it was a good period of time for Disney, taking a company that had kind of not made a lot of movies into more the modern era.

KERNER: It was the third movie where we had a lot of battles with the studio. We ended up telling, as you know, the story of the Ducks coming in as freshmen and then playing the seniors, which largely based on my experience watching the the UCLA freshman basketball team play the varsity who’d won the NCAA championship the year before. That freshman team was Lew Alcindor and Mike Warren and Keith Wilkes and all that. And the freshmen beat the varsity 100 to 75. Having said that, that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to go back to the Goodwill Games and I wanted the Ducks to go back up the rankings, but it was going to be done in Europe. It was going to be one of these stories where it was a grudge match between the Ducks and Iceland and they make it all the way up to the semi-finals. And before that game, something goes on in a restaurant where three or four of the teams are eating. And we were going to use — and please forgive me, Bulgaria — we were going to use the Bulgarian team that would say something off-color to Goldberg, and could be anti-Semitic possibly — making fun of a guy named Goldberg — and fun of a guy like who’s a little bigger than the average guy on the ice. Then a fight would ensue and in that room was also the Icelandic team who hated the Ducks. And rather than having them sort of look and chuckle, they got involved, and they helped Goldberg. Then the Ducks lose to Iceland in the semi-finals. Now they’re going home and they’re depressed and they really don’t feel good about anything. And Bombay at one point would say, “Is this what we’re all about? Is this how it ends?” And they don’t know what he’s talking about, and he says, “You were about to get the you-know-what kicked out of you, and there was a team that just beat us that stood up for you. And they’re a team that plays more mechanically. They just beat us physically. They play more mechanically but they’re going to play against a team that we know isn’t necessarily the fairest team. And wouldn’t they be helped out if they got a little bit of Duck in them and they got to know the kinds of things that we do?” Then of course the third act of the movie is the Ducks training the Icelandic team and being the scrimmage team with them. And it’s a story of your former enemy now becoming your friend, and a team that seemed mechanical and physical becoming a team that had finesse and surprise. At the same time, for the Ducks, it would be about conquering your anger and conquering the things that once you thought you could never conquer all of a sudden you do, and you help others who helped you. I just thought to have the Ducks lose would have been a really great way to go out. But in the end of course, yes, they lost, but they gained so much. That was the story I wanted to tell. We ended up telling the high school story because the studio really felt strongly about that, and it was a different studio kind of at that point than the studio of 1 and 2. So we didn’t get to tell that story.

Not only were they unable to tell the story that Kerner had initially hoped to tell, but they’d have to make the third film largely without the the Minnesota Miracle Man — Estevez was directing and starring in The War at Home.

BRILL: I don’t think we had a choice. Emilio was directing a movie and made a deal where he would do whatever he did in our movie, three days’ work or four — a week’s work, a symbolic visit. And the script we wrote for the third one was definitely more somber, with some real serious moments. But that’s a great tradition of these movies. You’ve got to make some moves. We could have stayed with Emilio’s story. We didn’t. And then we did the best story we could with a new guy coming in and creating friction with the team, which I thought was new and dramatic, because what could Emilio have done except have another sort of relapse and then come back to them?

JACKSON: It was weird. Emilio explained the reasons why he couldn’t come back and it is a business and so we all understood the business reasons for it. But yeah, it was weird. And then at the same time, it wasn’t all that weird because at that point, we were 17, and at 13, he basically made this thing happen. I look back on it and I’m amazed that he was patient enough to be able to deal with us as a bunch of totally unprofessional 15 year olds. And then by the third one we were a bunch of 17 year olds and we probably would have been much more trouble than it was worth to him to be around.

G. HENSON: One of my fondest keepsakes from the films is this Polaroid of myself covered in shaving cream with Emilio right beside me giving a big thumb’s up. If he ever found somebody sleeping in one of the locker rooms, he would immediately grab a camera and shaving cream and start some art work.

E. HENSON: My memory of it was just that we were having a blast. And I think a big part of that was Emilio. He was really incredible to us and actually I feel like he was really heavily influential on me just in terms of how to carry yourself on set and be respectful of everyone, but still have a good time. Take your work seriously, but not take yourself very seriously. He would take us to the Grand Prix on the weekends and put a bunch of credits on all the video games, or take us to the. I mean, he was really, really a great guy.

JACKSON: Ultimately not having him around didn’t catch me completely off guard. Having Emilio essentially as the team mentor that teaches us all how to be professionals, I still to this day think it’s probably the most valuable thing that happened to me in my career. He’s such a pro and such a good dude, and he taught us everything when we were willing to listen and learn, which we were not always willing to do.

LARUSSO: Emilio was a tremendous presence. He was a shock to me as a 12 year old because he was certainly the first star that I had ever worked with. You wouldn’t know it to meet him. He was always very gracious and always very helpful and he treated us all like we had all been friends for years. I’ve since seen him in Los Angeles and I have to say I was shocked and flattered: I recognized him turning and I said his name, and he turned and he had me immediately. He said my name immediately. After all those years, I mean I can’t even do that with people that I meet now the next day. He did it after all those years, after all the faces.

DOHERTY: I have very fond memories when he was in Minnesota for that week during Ducks 3 and all he wanted to do was spend time with his dad. I remember showing Martin Sheen how to skate, which I still to this day am incredibly proud of. And then he asked me if I would want go protesting with him. I think he got arrested the next day for like protesting some nuclear launch. It was really funny.

KERNER: It seemed logical of course to have a new guy — Jeff Nordling — come in as a coach because they were now going to play for the high school team. Emilio agreed.

JEFF NORDLING (Ted Orion): I got a call — I think they were already up there, but we’re talking 18 years ago. I believe Jimmy Sheridan was already cast, and apparently had a mishap and he had to back out. I think he was doing the hockey training and took a pretty bad fall. And then I came in about two weeks before shooting and did a crash course, for lack of a better word, in skating and off we went.

DOHERTY: I loved Jeff. I thought Jeff was a great actor. Jeff had a good influence on me because Jeff and his wife have a classical theater company and I remember getting into writing plays. And he’s like, “Hey, man, you really like this.” He got me into reading a bunch of stuff, so he was instrumental in a lot of those sorts of experiences.

Though Nordling replaced Estevez as the team’s coach, Josh Jackson’s Charlie Conway remained at the emotional center of the Ducks trilogy.

BRILL: You know, he’s the heart of the movie, that kid. He evolved and devolved and he became a selfish player, egocentric in the third one. He became a total team guy in 2, that’s where he was oriented. But things, like his childhood or whatever stuff we had laid into his psyche exploded a bit by 3, which seems fair. We thought we should have some sense of growing up and pushing against certain things and sort of testing boundaries and testing their character.

KERNER: In the end, what we really wanted, you know, was to complete the Charlie Conway story.

JACKSON: And if I was more of a precocious teenager in the third one, it’s probably just because I was a precocious teenager. I’d never really thought about it like that, but I was a tall, lanky, voice-cracking 17 year old at that point. I haven’t thought about these things in many, many, many years, but it’s fun now at 35 to sort of climb on back there.

DOHERTY: In terms of the actual favorite film for me, I would say the third one I had the most fun on just because I was at a crossroads, asking myself, “Do I go to college? Do I study art? Do I do this? Do I go to Hollywood?” And the group of people that were around that one. And I’d say the third one for me just for the experience of it. But, yeah. I mean, it’s hard to separate them. It’s really hard.

Despite Kerner’s hopes to the contrary, D3: The Mighty Ducks returned the team to Minnesota, this time as high school freshmen enrolled at the prestigious (and fictional) Eden Hall Academy. Without Bombay and reluctant to buy into the teachings of new coach Ted Orion, the Ducks nearly lost their scholarships until Bombay himself made the 11th hour save, using his legal acumen to earn the Ducks a stay of execution. The Ducks ultimately triumphed in their final game — featuring an announcer booth cameo from Anaheim Mighty Ducks star Paul Kariya — against the school’s varsity team. One of the film’s final and most memorable shots was of Bombay walking away from the ice and his celebrating former players, turning back only for one final smile.

KERNER: We gave him that hero’s sendoff at the end through the tunnel. There’s no denying he was the heart and soul of the films.

PAUL KARIYA (Five-time NHL all-star): That was after my first season playing with the Ducks in ’94-’95, and I don’t recall like who called me, but they just asked me if I wanted to make a cameo in Mighty Ducks 3. And I said, “Yeah, sure, no problem.” They flew me out and it was shot at a prep school in Minnesota. It was a great experience. I always joke that it was my one and only time in a movie, so I obviously didn’t do a very good job. On the first take, I got my lines perfectly, and I was really proud of myself, and the director said, “You know, that was great, but do you think you could put a little more emotion or like a little more energy in those lines?” And I said, “Well, I’m playing myself. This is how I would do an interview.” Any time it’s on TV, one of my teammates sends me my role and tells me how bad I did. I’ll just randomly like open up my phone, and there’s my scene being played. That’s how hockey teammates are.

A Final Chapter?

KERNER: I wanted to license this dark adult play, That Championship Season. It was going to be the death of Gordon Bombay as an older man, and Marty was going to play him. And Goldberg would be played by like Jim Belushi. You know, we were literally going to pair up everybody with a present-day actor, but it was going to be not unlike Chariots of Fire, the sort of look back at a moment in time when their coach came back to them and did something that changed their lives forever. So you cut from the present of the kids and they would have been all of 18 or 19, so they would have become the high school seniors. And we probably would have played the third movie that I wanted to make, which would have been that return to the Goodwill Games and losing to Iceland. But it would be set against this thing going on in a bar or restaurant where all the present-day guys grown up talking about what this coach meant to them. And we’d see that played out against them as 18-year-olds on the ice and Emilio playing in that and his father playing in a series of scenes where he was dying and they had to say their goodbyes. So I was looking for a really literate and emotional way for all of them to come back together again as men and to say goodbye to the man who meant so much to them. But it wasn’t meant to be.

BRILL: The regime changed. Eisner went away. The team I think is not even owned by Disney anymore, so you can’t make the case that it was part of feeding that machine. So it has to be: Do we want to revive the franchise? It wasn’t huge like Aladdin or anything. But one of my original ideas was doing a Broadway show. Ice skating is easy. Not easy, but that would be an event. It would be like Annie or something with kids. We kind of talked to Disney about it at certain points, but they haven’t given us any green light by any means..

KERNER: Remember Disney has a big theatrical unit, and Steve and I actually talked to the guys there right in between 2 and 3 about the idea of doing it. This would have been 1994 because 3 came out in ’96. And it just seemed like a huge investment to the studio because they had to build the ice and do all those things in a theater. We didn’t want it to be Ducks on Ice, like those Disney traveling companies. We wanted it to be in a Broadway theater, father and son story at its core — a musical on Broadway.

JACKSON: I feel like a fourth film should happen, and if there was space for any of the original kids that come back and have a role, I would be surprised that anybody didn’t want to do it, The next generation should have its own version. Not that we need to come back as adults, but I hope my kids grow up and play pickup hockey and I hope that they have their own movies like my generation had those movies. In that way, yeah, of course, I’d be a part of something like that.

KERNER: There have been a number of times that we have discussed with the studio the idea of either bringing it back and bringing it back possibly with one or two of the guys who are now in their thirties as the coaches, and having a few more of them be their friends in their lives and having the kids come back. And I’ve been pitched a story two or three times. It hasn’t been the right story yet, but the idea of doing that is something Steve and I have talked about and actually Disney and I have talked about. So I’m not going to fuel the rumor mill that it’s going to happen, but I’m saying to you that the studio said to us, “We’d be interested if you come to us with the right story.” And that’s something that we’ve been all thinking about independently and I think that we may be coming closer to having the right idea for that.

Regardless of whether a fourth film is made, the legacy of The Mighty Ducks franchise has proved to be a lasting one — for cast, crew and fans.

BRILL: It’s funny, Ducks 2 was a lot of work. 2 I’m very proud of the fact that it works. It’s a different kind of movie. It’s a big as hell. It’s a successful movie, and I think it’s satisfying. There’s a 20-minute skating sequence at the end of that movie and it’s amazing that we were able to pull that off and people cared. So I love that. And then 1 is just sentimentally — it’ll always have a place. My first movie that got produced, my first experience. And there are certain heartbreaking things in 1 that I really love. I mean, comedy’s comedy. I went on to be a comedy director. But I like the dramatic stuff or the sweet stuff in 1 a lot. Much more emotional, that movie, so I like that. And 3 in a way, 3 is remarkably good to me when I look at it. I’m not as emotionally invested in it, but I think it’s a good end of the trilogy.

Steve Brill, Emilio Estevez, Paul Kariya,
(From l. to r.) Steve Brill, Estevez, Paul Kariya, Kerner on the set of “D3: The Mighty Ducks.” Jordan Kerner

E. HENSON: The Mighty Ducks is an interesting thing because when I was younger and I was in high school, kids would quack at me and try to start fights with me because I played like a tough guy. And I’m really not like that at all in my real life. I’m a very mellow, laid back California kid. At the time I didn’t really grasp the scope — I was a kid. I was more interested in having fun with my friends and trying to meet girls, you know what I mean? I don’t think I had an awareness of what was going on or even like how many people were watching the movies until I got older.

MOREAU: We were in Minneapolis filming the third movie, and I got my roommate for college and found out she was from Edina, which is where the huge rival from the first movie, and I was terrified! “Oh, no! What is this person going to be like?” I’d never really met many people from Edina — the extras from the first movie weren’t really from there. And so the first time I called her, I was terrified, and she ended up being the coolest girl who broke every soccer record at our college. I mean she was just as much of like a spirit of the Mighty Ducks as you could ask for. I couldn’t believe, just the synchronicity of that.

NORDLING: I run into some of the kids from time to time. Mike Vitar (Ed. note: Vitar played Luis Mendoza in D2 and D3, as well as Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in The Sandlot), I maintain contact with him. He’s a fire fighter now in LA. Great, great guy. When Mike and I were shooting, we both kind of found that we really loved baseball, so I recruited him into a hard ball league and we played together for like four or five years.

NORGAARD: I think that the films’ success was a testament to Jordan Kerner who became a mentor of mine. And his affinity for casting, this amazing ability to make everybody around him feel like they’re the only ones and that they matter. And I think that’s when you get the most out of people. And then obviously Steve Brill — his dialogue — still to this day people remember lines from the movie. A couple years ago, I was in Hawaii and was hiking in the mountains. And suddenly there was a kid with his family, and the kid said, “You’re the villain in Mighty Ducks, Wolff Stansson, right?” And the kid was like 8, 9 years old. I mean, the thought of him being conceived was not around at that time in ’94. And you know it makes me proud to be part of a movie franchise that meant so much to so many kids, and that it’s really stood the test of time.

JACKSON: I’m constantly amazed at the legacy of those movies, especially in Canada but even in the States. It’s partially because nobody has made another hockey movie for kids. So when you want to dig something up like that, this is what you dig up. It’s really managed to stand the test of time. I went out the other day to play and one of the guys was wearing the Ducks jersey, the original one. I was like, “Where did you even find these?”

DOHERTY: I used to get embarrassed when I was in my early twenties. I was like, “I’m more than a Duck.” Now I say to myself, “No, man, Shut up. It ain’t got nothing to do with you.” And that’s just exactly what we were taught by the coaches when we were kids signing autographs. I remember I’d stand there and you listen, and after a while it turns out like there’s something about these films — the coming of age thing, the overcoming — I think the idea of being counted out, being considered less than, being on the wrong side of the tracks, being the underdog, and being young and awkward, and ultimately being victorious, I mean, come on. Why can’t we make more movies like that?

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser