Monday, May 28, 2007

Thankfully the Mighty has Fallen

By: Paul Teeple

One season ago, Anaheim quietly bowed out of the NHL conference finals to a red-hot cinderella Edmonton Oilers squad and even more quietly made one of the greatest karmic moves in the history of professional organized sports: they changed their name from the Mighty Ducks to simply the Ducks.

Why, you might ask, is this such an important change that it might spin the wheels of karma in favor of a team whose identity in the new millennium is largely based on an inability to get over the hump and win a title? It's quite simple, really:

"The Mighty Ducks" cinematic trilogy is TERRIBLE. All told, it could comprise the worst sports movie storyline of our generation. At best, it is the worst hockey movie storyline.

Not even REMOTELY intimidating.
When the Mighty Ducks were in the Cup Finals in 2003, everywhere you went you heard the movie references: Paul Kariya as Charlie Conway, J.S. Giguere as Goldberg the Goalie, Mike Babcock as Gordon Bombay, etc. And with ESPN and ABC holding the television rights to the playoffs, I mean, hey, why not? Free corporate synergy with a Disney movie (NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD!!) and a Disney-owned team!

Then during the lockout Henry Samueli bought the franchise from The Mouse for pennies on the dollar and thought to himself halfway through the season, "holy crap, my team is named after a bunch of god-awful movies! Time for a change!" A change that made sense because, I mean, would you want your $50 million investment to be associated with a 'hockey story' that involved the following elements:

  • Gordon Bombay as a youth -- Hans says, "You scored 196 goals that season." I'm sorry, WHAT?!? 196 goals? In one season? Are you kidding me? The standard youth hockey league plays 20-25 games in a season. Making a special dispensation because Minneapolis is positively psychotic about hockey, we'll say the Hawks played 40 games that year counting the playoffs. Doing some quick math, that's roughly 5 goals per game. I will repeat that: FIVE GOALS PER GAME. If Gordon was scoring at such a frightening clip, he would've never had a chance to miss that triple deke; he'd be applying for early entry into the major junior ranks so he could throw in some chaw with the boys at age 13. Not only that, but the supposedly invincible Hawks must've had some piss-poor defense to squander those 5 Bombay goals for Gordy to have to hit that penalty shot in the movie open.

  • Adam Banks -- Noone knew what district the best player in the league lived in. I know D5 was a total gongshow before Coach Bombay whipped that ragtag bunch into shape but let's remember that we're talking about youth sports here, even in the early 90's parents were total Loony Tunes about their kids in organized competition (I should know, that's when I was playing little league hockey). I was always surprised that no crazy asshat hockey dad (or mom) from the Cardinals or the Flames or something made a big stink to try and get the best player off the best team to try and give his kid's team a better chance to win a city title.

  • The Flying V -- The most famous play of the Mighty Ducks trilogy featured the five Ducks on the ice lining up in an inverted "V" shape and skating up the ice in tight formation en route to a huge goal. Unfortunately, sports fans, the Flying V is patently illegal at every level of hockey. First off, players without the puck in the Flying V generally set picks on or just flat-out level opposing players that near the formation. Most zebras refer to this tactic as "Interference," a two-minute penalty. Second, in the Flying V's debut, Terry Hall carries the puck into the zone on the Ducks' goal. What's the big deal, you ask? Terry's brother Jesse Hall was the Duck who led the Flying V. That's right, boys and girls, the Flying V was offside.

  • Believability also stops here.
  • Team Iceland -- This is pretty self-explanatory. Despite being the homeland of legendary strongman Magnus ver Magnusson Iceland has never been considered even an outside threat in the world of hockey. Sure, they may dominate fellow hockey superpower Trinidad and Tobago (pictured, left, in their killer jerseys) at the Goodwill Games, but can we realistically expect Iceland to hang when a real country's hockey team shows up?

  • International Mighty Ducks -- This is ridiculous. Team USA is mysteriously allowed to not only go from wearing blue to white jerseys between periods of a gold medal game, but also completely change their logo and jersey color palate. If I were Wolf Stansson I would've been howling at the referees to make them put their regular jerseys back on and penalize them for delay of game.

  • The Timeout -- In said gold medal game, Gordon Bombay employs some old-fashioned Imposing Water Fowl trickeration by disguising knucklepuck specialist Russ Tyler as a goaltender so that Iceland could not mark up on him to prevent him from taking his lethal shot. Nota bene: hockey timeouts are one minute long. Sixty seconds. At a youth level it takes players roughly a half hour to get dressed, usually longer for goalies. So, Hollywood, you expect me to believe that two players can trade equipment, especially goalie equipment during a timeout? Spare me.

  • The Knucklepuck -- This is a minor gripe, but I found it amusing that this shot spawned its own Wikipedia page. From the article:
    In the movie, the knuckle puck somehow sails through the air along a physically impossible sine-curve, causing the opposing team to stare in confusion as the puck whizzes by them and into the net. In reality, hitting the puck from the side as Russ does results in a disappointing shot that bounces chaotically and stops after a few feet.

    And yet it sailed through the air in the gold medal game sequence roughly 190 feet. Riiiight.

  • Eden Hall Academy -- I have such a problem with this concept that I've never watched the entire third movie of the Mighty Ducks trilogy. You take the core of a team that is a world champion--a world champion!--and send them to high school and they can't make the varsity squad, save for Banks? I understand that the school in the movie is loosely based on Minnesota hockey super-factory Shattuck-Saint Mary's but these kids, for better or worse, are world champions... and they're all on JV! I can't watch this movie. I... I just can't.

This guy is smart.
What about suspension of disbelief, Teeple, you ask? It's the cornerstone of cinematic consumption! Look, I'm all about suspension of disbelief. I sat through the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie for 8 hours and went along with the fact that somewhere, some time, there was a French pirate lord that was feared worldwide. I believed Keanu Reeves could be an action star in The Matrix. I walked into Spiderman 3 thinking it wouldn't suck total ass. But I can only suspend my disbelief so far and The Mighty Ducks just pushed me way too far.

Henry Samueli is clearly the same way. As such, he renamed his team to the Ducks and here they sit, three wins away from reaching the pinnacle of their sport; a team that has historically struggled to reach the ultimate prize--no longer.

Today I salute you, Mr. Samueli: your brilliant branding decision has delivered the Ducks to history's doorstep by harnessing the universal power of karma. Ducks in six.


Cormac said...

Relax. It'a children's film. It's the likes of you that take all the fun out of the world....

A said...

"That's right, boys and girls, the Flying V was offside."

No it wasn't. In the clip (below), just as the tip of the V is about to reach the blue line, the puck is passed to the lead Duck -- who carries it on onside.

The camera pans away, but I assume that soon after the lead player crosses the blue line, he drop-passes the puck back to the back of the V.