The Mighty Ducks: OG Game Changers

April 29, 2021
The scrappy young cast of The Mighty Ducks were barely teens when they broke into the spotlight back in 1992, featuring opposite Emilio Estevez in this enduring family dramedy about a ragtag youth ice hockey team. And now they’re back for 1 special episode in the Disney+ series.

The popular film would spawn two sequels before disappearing for almost three decades, today resurrected as a ten-part Disney+ series featuring a brand new set of kids; Estevez returning as coach Gordon Bombay alongside Lauren Graham as the new team’s mum.

All grown-up now, we caught up with the original Ducks – Elden Henson (Fulton), 43; Matt Doherty (Averman), 42; Marguerite Moreau (Connie), 43; Vincent La Russo (Adam Banks), 42; Garrette Henson (Guy), 41, and Justin Wong (Kenny), 40 – excited to reprise their roles for Episode 6 of the new series.

While some of the cast continued acting, notably Elden Henson with roles in The Hunger Games, Lords of Dogtown, and Moreau featuring in Free Willy 2, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and various TV appearances, their cast mates pursued other paths, happy to be reunited once more.

How was it getting back on the ice after all these years?

GARRETTE: It felt like riding a bike – like it was just right there, like I’d never stopped skating and it had probably been about ten years since I’d skated… it’s such a fun game.

JUSTIN: As soon as you get out there you really feel like a kid again with the wind in your face; it’s pretty thrilling.

MARGUERITE: Hard! I felt like my knees were gonna buckle under me. I was a mess. It was not like riding any bike that I know of.

ELDEN: It was definitely harder – because I got a lot fatter.

MATT: Like Justin, I still play hockey so, it was great for me. Like free ice time – let alone that we’re making a show. I’ve got hockey playing bones, so it was all about, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to let us play here for free for hours. Amazing’. I grew up wanting to be good at a sport, but I was never really good at one, but then hockey became my thing and it’s always been a big part of my life. It’s a wild game to play and the best thing I ever did for myself was taking it up.

VINCENT: The fact that we were able to step on the ice after that long and then they actually built this arena for us to skate on, which we did for a couple of hours, was pretty incredible. Good times.

Elden and Garrette are brothers, so obviously you’ve stayed in touch. How did the rest of you break the ice again after all this time apart?

MATT: It was the World Series, so we spent a lot of our quarantine time at Elden’s place watching baseball on TV and laughing at the fact that it seemed like no time had passed. To me, my favourite time of being up there was just hanging with these guys again. It’s like family.

VINCENT: It was almost like we didn’t even need an ice-breaker, because as soon as we get around each other it’s like no time has passed and everyone sits down and relaxes. I think that comes from the fact that we had all spent so much time together when we were young.

MARGUERITE: But we had to quarantine for two weeks and if we hadn’t had that mandatory two weeks, we might have all come in, shot for three days and gone home. But the fact that we had quarantine – followed by this magical week where we didn’t have to shoot – so thank God for the World Series! We also went hiking.

ELDEN: I would like to take this opportunity to thank Steve Brill and Disney + for the free vacation in Vancouver. It was amazing! We literally had this whole week off just to hang out, watching a ton of baseball.

MATT: I don’t know if you noticed but we had a pandemic going on – so to actually be together without masks and to just have time where you saw somebody else was incredible.

MARGUERITE: Also, I felt like I really got to know Justin for the first time. When we were younger, we always had this age difference, so we never got to know each other even though we did all these movies together. The age difference is meaningless now.

Justin – talk about the trick shot you pull off in Episode 6. Did that come naturally, or did you have to train a lot?

ELDEN: Justin is an amazing figure skater, don’t let him tell you anything else!

JUSTIN: As much as I’d love to have you believe that – that was actually Patrick Chan, Gold medallist for Canada in 2018 and Silver in 2014, so he did all that while we all watched in awe. Actually, he was probably the most popular person that day. Like the six of us were surrounded by people saying how great it was that we were back but when Patrick Chan walked in, now that was something. But I’ve been playing hockey for the past 15 years so getting back on the ice was easy for me.

How has your post Ducks life treated you?

JUSTIN: I’m an audio engineer, so most of my work is in live concerts and I worked in a couple of theaters in Vancouver and communicate with the musicians on stage to get the perfect sound. I used to have a studio and record a bunch of local bands and of course that makes absolutely no money. It just costs a lot of money to run the studio, so I stepped away from that and just focused on audio for live entertainment as well as doing some dialogue for cartoons. I also do photography.

GARRETTE: I went back to graduate school and got my MFA in screenwriting and directing from Columbia University. I’ve been teaching and making a bunch of short films and have a feature film that I’m trying to get off the ground. I’ve been able to take that experience of growing up on sets and use it as a foundation to build on to make movies of my own.

How does it feel to bring your legacy to a whole new audience?

ELDEN: I’m just happy to be a part of it. I feel like I have very little to do with the new show and just felt very lucky and humbled that they asked us to come back. It didn’t come without some pressure because it’s a new generation now and all these kids are fantastic. Such great actors and great kids so it was nice to just have a front row seat and be a part of it.

MARGUERITE: It was a real treat just to be there and a lot of childhood memories that we got to revisit; people don’t normally get to do that, so it felt very special.

VINCENT: There was a lot of pride there from 25 years ago and this is sprouting up now and I think there’s so much recognition for how good the show is and how great the kids are but there’s simultaneous recognition with what it came from.

MATT: And just how needed and timely it all is to have a story like this be in our world right now! It brings a lot of joy and talks about themes of being discarded and under-represented. To me, it’s the underdog story which will always live… and to play a part in that again is pretty humbling.

GARRETTE: I’m so impressed with the reboot. It’s so well done and funny. It’s not overly-sentimental and I’m thoroughly enjoying watching these episodes with my kids.

ELDEN: It’s fantastic and I think what I was struck by was how it’s cool to be the good guy again. I feel like we’ve been in this time where almost being the bad guy is cool as long as you don’t get caught, so it’s nice to see something out there about being the good guy and having a lot of heart. This is about having each other’s backs and being a family and loving each other.

JUSTIN: For me, I’ve spent so many years away from it that I had no idea the impact all three of the movies had on kids of our age and now a bunch of new kids get to experience the same thing. All these new kids in the show get to experience the same kind of thing that we all did when we were young doing the movies, and now, they’re all going to grow up being a part of this great thing that Steve Brill has created. The new episodes are amazing and I’m loving them all. The new kids are great, and Emilio is awesome and hilarious in it. Steve Brill has done a great job re-building the world and trying to include us all in.

Were you happy to see where your characters are at now? Did you have any say over the new scenes?

ELDEN: For me, I just felt happy to be there. And Steve created these amazing films back then and he’s done such a great job with the show now. It was fun to revisit but I didn’t have any preconceived ideas going in about where my character would be now. I just felt lucky to be there and get to do this again. I mean, who gets to do this?! Who gets to revisit characters like almost 30 years later? We all felt a degree of happiness to be there with all the love again.

How did the dynamic with Emilio Estevez change for you coming back as adults?

ELDEN: I don’t think it changed at all. In real life, Emilio was very much like how Gordon Bombay was to the whole team. He had such a positive impact on my life, and I still strive to be like him on set. It was great to revisit and to be able to tell him that.

GARRETTE: He was such a positive influence on us as kids and to get to reconnect with him as adults and confirm all those feelings that we had and to see someone living up to that image was really satisfying. Over the years, we’ve got to see each other but I’ve not seen Emilio since we wrapped D3 and to get with him again and skate on the ice was really good.

VINCENT: It felt like we’d never even skipped a beat which was pretty incredible.

MARGUERITE: I think I was a little more nervous around him than you guys were, maybe because I was a girl and he was an older man, so to meet him as an adult was much easier. Also, Ducks was my first movie and now, having worked for many more years, the set was so much more fun, not just in the social time I was having with everyone but also, I felt I was able to have more fun connecting with the other characters in more complex ways. And that included having real conversations with Emilio. I asked him, ‘Do we seem different now that we’re all adults? Is that tripping you out?’ And he was like, ‘No. Not at all. You’re exactly the same.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, OK’.

JUSTIN: It’s weird thinking that we are all now older than he was in the first movies. He actually pointed out, ‘You guys are all adults now, and actually older than I was doing the first movie’. So, he was a kid too when he did those movies. Does everyone remember when he rented out that entire Fun Palace for us with arcades and sprung us from school to do that?!

MATT: Emilio is a lot like Gordon. This guy changed my life, and he stands for something always; he treats everybody the same and that’s a rare thing. He is who is on screen and that taught me, in terms of character, how to conduct myself. He was and is kind of like a coach and to be able to share that with him as an adult was amazing. A lot like when you go back and see a teacher who was an influence on you at high school and to be able to talk to them as an adult, that was a powerful moment.

ELDEN: And when we were kids, he was so funny, and he has such a great laugh. It’s great to see him doing some comedy stuff in these earlier episodes because his comedic timing is so good. And it’s cool to see that because I remember having that great experience with him as a kid, so it was great to see it all again.

Where is the strangest place you’ve been recognised over the years?

MARGUERITE: It just happened on Saturday and it was so weird. I happened to be wearing my Mighty Ducks cap because the show is out right now and so I was having a run while my son was at Little League and I walked to the bleachers and this nine-year-old girl clocked me and dragged her mom over. She said she’d seen all the old shows as well as the new ones. It was shocking but wonderful. Nine years old!

JUSTIN: I get zero recognition and try and keep it a secret until my co-workers end up telling people and then their jaws drop and go, ‘Oh my God!’ And now that I’m starting to do promotion on instagram, people who have known me for ten years are finally figuring it out.

ELDEN: People still recognise me all the time, which is crazy, but I think the worst place to get recognised is the bathroom. I’m like ‘Wait until we get outside!’

MATT: I often just get called “Averman!” when I’m out. I play hockey on Wednesday nights and I had my mask on and everything so you couldn’t see me at all, but then I got the line, ‘Dude, I thought you’d be better than this!’ So, the weirdest place was literally on the ice.

ELDEN: Did you fight him Matt?

MATT: God no, he was twice my size!

Do you recall any favourite scenes from the original movies?

MATT: It’s hard to encapsulate three movies that then turns into a sports franchise and then now this. But to be able to meet these legendary sports stars like Wayne Gretzky and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and then Michael J Fox, who just happened to visit…to Kristi Yamaguchi and Greg Louganis, not to mention all the hockey games we got to go to. We were so blessed, and my life just changed. I come from a neighbourhood where my brothers work in the steel mills, so when you ask me that question, I say ‘Yeah! We got to play hockey in front of 13,000 people!’

VINCENT: One of my favourite scenes, and embarrassingly I don’t recall how much of it made it into the movie, but when we did the Coca Cola cans as champagne bottles – like we shook up all our Coca Cola cans and poured it all over each other – that was absolutely incredible. That was a riot. I remember being a kid and thinking ‘Wow’. Like, when do you get to be together with ten friends, spreading coke all over the place?!

MARGUERITE: I have a five-year-old son, so I showed him the old movies before we went to Vancouver to do this. Just the first scene of the original Ducks, there’s kind of like a booby trap where the four boys put the dollar in the purse, and I think it just sets the tone for how the group gels and the spirit of the Ducks all the way through. And even in the third one, where we’re still doing little tricks on each other and on the other team, and it was just really fun to be a part of that mischief. Connie was trail-blazing back then on the team and pushing hard, just like the boys and not like the token girl. And even if she was, she didn’t see herself her like that. I mentioned that to Steve because so many people reach out and say, ‘I started playing hockey because of you…’ and now there’s women who play for the Olympics etc. So, I was keen to keep her spunk and her wanting to do what she wants to do no matter what.

JUSTIN: The first scene that comes to my mind is the shaving cream scene, putting shaving cream in the cowboy’s hand and doing the feather thing. It’s like you’re not even acting, you’re kinda doing that thing for real and it was so much fun with a bunch of shaving cream. And then you cut to the scene with the boys on their beds, using their hockey sticks as guitars. That always sticks in my mind from D2.

Episode 6 of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers will stream from Friday April 30, 2021


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