They call Gordon Bombay the Minnesota Miracle Man. Rewatching The Mighty Ducks trilogy, it’s not hard to see why.
The Ducks aren’t exactly a team of elite hockey players. That’s why they’re a great underdog story. But even in D2: The Mighty Ducks, when they rise to the international stage and add legitimate talent from around the U.S., they’re still outclassed and outmanned by the infamous Team Iceland. Despite the odds, the Ducks somehow emerge victorious and return home to high school, only to be outclassed and outmanned by their prep school’s varsity squad. In truth, after winning the Minnesota peewee championship, the Mighty Ducks in D2 are mostly used as a publicity stunt to fatten the wallets of executives at Hendrix Hockey, and then to increase Eden Hall alumni donations in D3. They’re never, at any point, the best team on the ice.
But there’s certainly a hierarchy within the Mighty Ducks—for every Les Averman, there’s an Adam Banks; for every kid who can’t skate, there’s a kid whose slap shot can break glass. And with Disney+ rebooting the franchise for the streaming era on Friday, there’s no better time than now to look back on the original trilogy and determine how that hierarchy plays out. Without further ado, here is a ranking of every hockey player to ever put on a Ducks sweater.
19. Dave Karp, no. 11
First of all, it seems safe to assume that all of the kids from the original movie who didn’t make the Team USA roster in D2 are the worst players in Ducks history. They were so bad at hockey that when it came time to build a team for the Junior Goodwill Games, even Gordon Bombay was like, “Nah, fuck them kids.”
Of the D1 castoffs, Dave Karp (played by Aaron Schwartz, also known as the Kid From Heavyweights) is the worst of the bunch. He seems to struggle to skate, which is a pretty top-line requirement for playing hockey; he has terrible hands and he doesn’t record a single point in a game. His best moment as a player is when he blocks a shot with his face. (After which it’s insinuated that Karp is incapable of counting to three.)
Generally, his head doesn’t seem to be in the game. He’s more focused on … running a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition smuggling ring?
Some kids grow up loving sports. Other kids launch careers peddling nudie mags to fellow tweens.
18. Peter Mark, no. 24
When I was kid, I assumed Peter Mark was a criminal—mostly because he wore a leather jacket and spoke to adults with his entire chest. Now that I’m grown up I can see that he was merely a shrimpy child overcompensating for his size by dressing like Joey Lawrence in Blossom.
I don’t think Peter or Karp would’ve been recruited for Team USA anyway, but I also imagine that if Bombay had asked what those two were up to, Charlie would’ve just been like, “Oh yeah, those guys got caught selling salvia to eighth graders. They’re in juvie now.”
17. Tommy Duncan, no. 2
Tommy is one-half of the figure-skating brother-sister duo that Bombay adds to the District 5 Ducks halfway through the first movie. (By the way, who the hell is running Minnesota’s peewee hockey league, and what are the goddamn rules? You can just add unregistered players on a whim? Isn’t this an insurance issue? Why does it feel like the only rule enforced by the Minnesota youth sports cabal is the one that says kids must play for their respective districts? They’re super intense about making Adam Banks play for the Ducks, but they have no stance on roping in ringers mere days before a game?)
Anyway, between him and his sister, Tommy is the worse hockey player. Sure, his heart’s more in it, but when Mighty Ducks was filmed, Danny Tamberelli, the actor who plays Tommy—also the actor who played Little Pete in the Nickelodeon classic The Adventures of Pete & Pete—was about 4 feet tall. Even in peewee it’s hard to overcome such a size disadvantage. At least he picks up an assist in the championship game.
16. Terry Hall, no. 1
Ah, poor Terry. His story is perhaps the saddest. He’s a semi-functional player in The Mighty Ducks, though he’s undoubtedly overshadowed by his brother, Jesse. And when it comes time for the Junior Goodwill Games, he’s left off the roster. I gotta imagine that was pretty awkward for Charlie when he was rounding up the team in D2:
Charlie: [blows duck-call thing]
Jesse: Hey Charlie!
Charlie: Jesse! We’re back!
Jesse: Oh my God, yes! Should I go get Terry?!
15. Tammy Duncan, no. 5
Tammy scores a pretty important goal against the Hawks in the peewee title game. That, on top of the fact that she’s about a trillion times better at skating than the above four, is why she’s ranked highest among the OG Ducks who couldn’t hack it for D2.
14. Greg Goldberg, no. 33
I love Goldberg, I do. He’s always ready to rip a fart when the time calls for one, he loves Philadelphia enough to rock Drexel gear, and he’s the mastermind behind the plan to pose as Aaron Spelling’s nephews in order to watch pretty ladies model outfits on Rodeo Drive. But holy hell, he sucks in net.
I can barely describe how bad he is. For much of the first movie, it seems he can hardly grasp the concept of goaltending, let alone how to physically do it. The amount of goals against that he’s solely responsible for is mind-blowing. It’s difficult to overstate how frequently he’s out of position. And not, like, in a small way—this kid is leaving the net absolutely GAPING on a regular basis, in all three movies.
That’s right—he gave up a goal to Trinidad and Tobago.
Mercifully, by the middle of the third movie, Eden Hall’s coach Orion (somehow it’s spelled this way and not like O’Ryan) becomes the first person to realize that Goldberg should not be in net and finally moves him to defense. That’d be a good thing, except pretty much all of Goldberg’s comedic moments in the franchise are centered on the fact that he sucks at skating. It does somehow work out: Goldberg scores the only goal in the climactic JV vs. varsity game in D3: The Mighty Ducks. It’s a wild fluke, though, entirely set up by a beautiful move by Charlie Conway. Goldberg is simply not good at hockey—hopefully he gave it up soon after freshman year and started pursuing a career in the art of deli meats, like his father before him and his father’s father before him.
13. Dwayne Robertson, no. 7
Great hands; absurd dangle. In D2, Hendrix Hockey’s Don Tibbles says that the Texas transplant is the best stick handler he’s ever seen, and that includes NHL players. To Dwayne, hockey is “easier than ropin’ hogs.”
But here’s the thing: Anytime he gets the puck in D2 or D3, he basically just stick-handles in a circle while saying “Yeehaw!” before turning the puck over and getting completely wiped out of the play. The kid refuses to pass or, ya know, move the puck toward the net. He’s a complete liability out there—which is never more obvious than when he JUMPS ON THE ICE WITH A LASSO AND ROPES DOWN A GUY ON TEAM ICELAND. No team wants a player who will take an absolutely absurd penalty in a championship game when you’re down multiple goals. This is easily the most ridiculous moment in the Mighty Ducks franchise, which is really saying something. YEEHAW!
(Final note: Robertson is also the only player not to score in the decisive shootout against Iceland because, despite being an ridiculous stick handler, he opts to forego a deke and simply shoots the puck directly into the goalie’s glove.)
12. Lester Averman, no. 4
Averman isn’t a bad player, per se. He’ll do some things for you out there, and off the ice, his comedic timing is unparalleled. (In the Ducks universe, Averman for sure grew up to be Bill Burr.) But the extent to which Averman gets dominated throughout the trilogy cannot be overstated. I’ve never seen a person get toppled over after a faceoff so many times:
And then in D3, he takes a crotch to the face so hard that he gets a concussion:
If Averman spent more time in the weight room and less time reading, like, Mad magazine, he probably would’ve ended up higher on this list.
11. Luis Mendoza, no. 22
From the hockey hotbed of [checks notes] Miami, Florida, Mendoza is “the Fast One” who joins the squad in D2. He’s really fast—like as fast as Benny Rodriguez in The Sandlot. Tibbles tells Bombay that he’s been timed going from blue line to blue line in 1.9 seconds. From what I can tell, that is pretty impressive for a teenager, but maybe not Future Superstar Speed. (Using math—that’s right—we can discern that Mendoza’s top speed is around 18 miles per hour; guys like Connor McDavid can top out at around 25 miles per hour.)
But you all know Luis Mendoza’s biggest flaw: HE CAN’T STOP. Literally. The kid has presumably played high-level hockey for years, yet no one has ever been able to teach him how to do a thing that you learn on Day 1 of playing hockey. (First, you learn how to skate. Then you learn how to stop.) And, really, stopping is a never-ending problem for Luis. In D2, it seems that Jan (not to be confused with his brother Hans) has finally taught Luis this very basic task—Luis successfully stops and scores in the championship game against Iceland—but unfortunately, by D3 Luis is back to recklessly launching himself against the boards to use them as a backstop.
Ultimately, Luis ranks a little higher than people who can do the thing all hockey players should be able to do because the whole stopping thing doesn’t always prevent him from making an impact. Like I said, he scores against Iceland; and in D3, not stopping actually works in his favor, as a goalie is too concerned with the man barreling toward him and jumping over the net to stop the puck.
10. Russ Tyler, no. 56
The premise of Russ Tyler (shout-out Kenan Thompson) is that, as good as the Mighty Ducks and their new additions are, there’s a kid chilling in South Central L.A. who’s just as good as them. Seriously—there’s a sequence in D2 in which a bunch of street hockey players teach Team USA how to be good at hockey. (It’s scored by the song that most people now know better as “that ice cream song from the Geico commercial.”) Russ’s secret weapon is, of course, the knucklepuck—an absolutely awesome thing you definitely tried to pull off as a kid, only to learn that it doesn’t actually work in real life. The knucklepuck is basically a cheat code—as Iceland’s coach, Wolf Stansson, understands, the only way to defend the shot is to prevent it from being taken; once Russ gets it off, you might as well put the goal on the scoreboard.
But that’s the thing about Russ and his trick shot—they can be stopped. He’s not a particularly good skater; in D3 he doesn’t even score, and maybe doesn’t even touch the puck once. If you can knock Russ off the puck, there’s no way for him to hurt you. Really, you just have to hope that he doesn’t switch jerseys with the goalie and change into all of the goalie pads during the 60-second timeout in order to disguise himself on the ice before scoring a tying goal as time runs out.
As long as something like that doesn’t happen, you’re golden.
9. Ken Wu, no. 16
“Wu Wu Wu Kenny Wu!”
No one really talks about how Bob Miller had one of the most iconic calls in sports history during the 1994 Junior Goodwill Games final.
Anyway, Kenny Wu is a legend. The former Olympic figure skater—Bombay always needs at least one figure skater on his teams—not only pulls off a triple axel in a gold-medal game against Iceland, he also picks up a Gordie Howe hat trick, recording a goal, an assist, and a five-minute major for fighting. No one else but the third Bash Brother can boast that accomplishment.
8. Jesse Hall, no. 9
Before Adam Banks joins the team in The Mighty Ducks, Jesse Hall is clearly their top scorer. Really, he’s the only one who even mildly resembles a hockey player at the beginning of the movie. He’s a smooth, tough player who is also one of the team leaders, though he does begin to get passed up by D2. (Believe it or not, he doesn’t score a goal on screen in that movie.)
Jesse Hall is also a bit of an anomaly. His trust issues are off the charts, his temper is a problem, and he’s not always a team player. Adam Banks is DEFINITELY a cake eater, and deserves to be called one relentlessly, but Jesse’s cold shoulder toward him lasts a bit too long in the first movie. Then, in D2, Jesse lets Russ Tyler’s wisecracks get under his skin like an amateur. Then there are the off-ice issues: As we said earlier, Jesse straight-up abandoned his brother in favor of youth hockey glory. Not cool. And of all the original Ducks who also appeared in D2, Jesse is the only one not to join the Eden Hall JV team in D3. There are probably real-life reasons for this—an extremely unsubstantiated line in the Trivia section of D3’s IMDb page speculates that this is because the actor who played Hall, Brandon Quintin Adams, didn’t get along with Kenan Thompson—but this ranking is not concerned with real life. We can go off only what the text tells us, and in this case, the text is telling us that Jesse Hall flamed out after making a decent impact in the Junior Goodwill Games.
7. Charlie Conway, no. 96
It might seem controversial to rank the face of the team this low, but it’s really not. Just take it from all of Charlie’s teammates:
- In D1, everyone calls him “spazzoid” and “Spaz-Way” because, well, he’s a total spaz.
- In the peewee final versus the Hawks, when Charlie draws a last-second penalty shot, the refs tell Coach Bombay that he can pick any player to take the shot. In that moment, literally everyone on the team is like, “Guy! Let Guy take the shot!” And they are all very nervous when Bombay announces that Charlie will be taking the shot instead.
- At the end of D2, when Charlie offers to give up his roster spot so that Banks can rejoin the team, no one argues with him. You’d think there’d be at least one person who was like, “Hey, why not sit the undersized figure skater or the rancher kid who never passes?” but no—they are all very cool with the idea that Charlie will not be on the ice with them.
- When Charlie’s going through all of his emo puberty stuff in D3, no one takes his side. Even Fulton is like, “Hey man, we probably need to learn how to play defense and move on from that triumphant moment we had when we were 11.”
All that said, Charlie definitely has the clutch gene; the big moments simply find him. He nets the game-winning goal in the peewee final, he draws up an incredible aerial play against Iceland, and he’s the one who sets up Goldberg’s game-winner at the end of D3. But we all know he’s a better coach than player, and honestly, his emo journey in the last movie is pretty insufferable; a little too much Pacey going on there.
6. Dean Portman, no. 21
Dean Portman is a teenager who looks 30, has a tattoo, and can easily break wooden stools over his kneecap:
He’s an absolute beast who gives the Ducks some much-needed physicality. Also, he is perhaps the only hockey player to ever flip an opponent through the glass, get a penalty, and then proceed to strip in the penalty box.
But the best thing you can say about Portman is that he completely unlocks Fulton Reed’s potential as a hockey player. In D1, Reed is a bumbling, tentative oaf who’s mostly good only for his slap shot. But after he meets Portman in D2, he turns into an all-around stud defenseman who can throw vicious body checks and rush the puck.
It is funny to me though that Dean’s idea of hard rock is a ’90s cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
5. Julie “the Cat” Gaffney, no. 6
Gordon Bombay’s most indefensible move as a coach isn’t hooking up with the lady from Team Iceland—it’s refusing to start Julie “the Cat” Gaffney over Goldberg. Goldberg, as we’ve already discussed, is straight trash between the pipes. Gaffney, on the other hand, is a goalie who actually tries to get in front of pucks. She’s the one with the nasty glove save against Iceland’s Gunnar Stahl that wins the gold medal for Team USA—a save she makes despite being forced to ride the bench for the entirety of the tournament. She’s also the one who finally pushes Goldberg away from the goaltending trade when Coach Orion makes her the starter in D3. And from there, she never relinquishes the job. Technically, Goldberg is the hero of the JV vs. varsity game, but Gaffney’s the one who keeps varsity off the scoreboard by standing on her head like she’s friggin’ 2003 Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Without her, the Ducks would’ve gotten hammered and Goldberg’s goal would’ve just made the final score 9-1.
One last thing here: Do you think Julie freaked the fuck out when she realized that Gunnar Stahl had expatriated from Iceland to become a goalie for a Minnesota prep school?
Clearly, shunned by his home country after Iceland’s embarrassing failure in the Junior Goodwill Games, Gunnar Stahl fled to the United States, changed his name to “Scooter,” ditched his accent, and started playing goalie, all as a ruse to get closer to the female goaltender who once stonewalled him. I really hope this was the beginning of a romance story rather than a true crime story. (Seriously, though, I’m almost impressed that the Mighty Ducks brain trust had the gall to cast the same actor in two different roles in back-to-back movies.)
4. Connie Moreau, no. 18
Connie Moreau is the most underrated player on the Ducks. She’s shockingly fierce and uniquely flexible—throughout the movies, she can be seen manning the blue line and taking faceoffs. But she’s also one of the purest playmakers on the team.
Please put some respect on Connie’s name.
3. Fulton Reed, no. 44
Fulton’s slap shot can:
- Break a passenger’s side window
- Cause plexiglass to shatter
- Hit a chest so hard that the door shuts
- Propel a child-aged goalie backward into a net
- Rip through a net
- Knock a teenage goalie unconscious
- Leave a disconcerting imprint on someone’s hand
These are things that NHL players could never do—that’s how elite Fulton is. And like I said, once he gains confidence and learns how to skate, he quickly becomes one of the Ducks’ most daunting forces. (He leads the movies in on-screen points with six goals and four assists.) It’s certainly a little weird when he strips the Hawks players down to their boxers and ties them to a tree at the beginning of D2, but to be fair, they were about to punk his friends.
2. Adam Banks, no. 99
Growing up as a Mighty Ducks fan means growing up with the knowledge that Adam Banks is an absolute stud on the ice. He begins as a rich-kid villain—go back and watch the first Mighty Ducks, he’s a total jerk in it—who nonetheless puts up a record-breaking amount of goals against the Ducks. Then, in an earth-shattering move, he joins the Ducks and goes on to make a handful of game-breaking plays for them. When D3 rolls around, he’s the only Duck who gets elevated to Eden Hall’s varsity team. It’s not hard to imagine him leaving Eden Hall for the juniors world before getting drafted by an NHL team.
Banks doesn’t have the best stats on the team, but there’s a decent reason for that: He’s so damn good that multiple teams go out of their way to injure him. In D1 he gets laid out so bad by a couple of Hawks that it briefly seems like he’s dead. (“What did you do?!” one Hawk asks. “My job,” the other says, like the little 11-year-old sociopath he is.) Then in D2, a player from Team Iceland takes a stick to his wrist with so much vigor it’s surprising Banks’s hand didn’t slice clean off.
When grievous injury is the only way to stop a guy, you know he’s good. (As revenge for that slash, Banks scores in regulation and in the shootout against Iceland.) But don’t think for a second that Banks is useful only in the offensive zone—look at my boy taking a puck to the chest to save a goal in the JV vs. varsity game in D3:
He’s a full-on cake eater, for sure—he exclusively wears Polo-branded polo shirts and his dad has “I was involved in Operation Varsity Blues” written all over him—but he’s a crucial member of the Mighty Ducks. There might not even be a Mighty Ducks without him. However, he’s not their best player ...
1. Guy Germaine, no. 00
Yeah, that’s right.
Guy Germaine isn’t the flashiest player—he doesn’t have Banks’s talent, Conway’s leadership skills, or Fulton’s power. But he’s the smoothest player on the Ducks, a two-way force with skilled hands, elite vision, and a knack for finding the puck. (If you watch carefully, you’ll see that Guy basically never leaves the ice.) Through three movies, the Ducks score 38 goals on screen—Guy assists on almost a quarter of them, while netting three of his own. Everyone wants to marvel at Fulton’s shot or Banks’s ability, but Germaine is the one who makes the team tick.
The thing that truly separates Guy Germaine from his teammates is his confidence. I mean, seriously, this is a kid who was spitting game at Connie Moreau from DAY ONE. (Successfully, I might add.)
This is a kid who basically invented modern-day fashion. This is a kid who, every day, woke up, looked at himself in the mirror, and said, “You bet yer ass I’m gonna wear this hat.” And then he did it for TWO WHOLE MOVIES.
You can’t teach boldness like that—the kind of boldness that’ll win you titles, that’ll get you this close to kissing Connie Moreau in front of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. That’s why Guy Germaine is the best player on the Mighty Ducks.