Everyone loves an underdog. From Rocky to The Bad News Bears, Hollywood has been capitalizing on our love for the little guy, pitting our hopeless heroes against seemingly invincible opponents. With most other major sports already taken, Disney turned to hockey for 1992’s The Mighty Ducks.
Self-absorbed lawyer Gordon Bombay is haunted by memories of blowing the final shot in the peewee hockey championships. When Gordon gets hit with a DUI conviction, his boss, Mr. Ducksworth, orders him to take a leave of absence from the firm to coach a peewee hockey team. The ragtag moppets represent a cross-section of cultures and character types (the overweight kid, the skate princess, the tough kid, etc.), and Gordon doesn’t like a single one of them.
The coach’s attitude begins to change when his team suffers a hard loss to the rival Hawks, a team still coached by Gordon’s cruel ex-mentor, Coach Riley. Gordon gets the team a new sponsor (Mr. Ducksworth), new uniforms, and a new name – The Mighty Ducks. After whipping the guys and gals into top game shape, Gordon puts the Ducks on the path to the championships’ and a rematch with Riley and the Hawks.
This fairly low-budget sports comedy was a surprise hit for Disney, and the company responded with a slew of spin-offs. Two movie sequels followed, as did a cartoon adaptation (this one starring actual ducks, albeit from outer space), and yes, a real-life National Hockey League team, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Apparently, everybody loves a winner.