Sports is all about big dreams: dreaming to make it to the pros, dreaming to win a championship, dreaming to go out on top, etc. Sports movies are all about seeing people achieve those dreams. I watched a lot of those movies when I was younger: Sandlot, Space Jam, Little Giants, you name it. However, this Minnesota kid could only relate to Mighty Ducks. The funny thing is that I can’t play hockey.
Being a Minnesotan who can’t play ice hockey is like having a third eye. It’s hard to fit in. I can fake my way through boot hockey (hockey without the skates) and floor hockey (hockey indoors). However, all bets are off when I mix skates, sticks, and ice. That didn’t matter to me when I was seven. I was engrossed with how Coach Gordon Bombay led a rag-tag bunch of kids to multiple championships.
Why did I idolize the Mighty Ducks when I had a more realistic chance of succeeding in another athletic endeavor? Well, the Ducks were the only team that spoke to me as a Minnesota kid who daydreamed way too much.
Basketball is far and away my favorite sport. However, there is no way I could live out the dreams through hoops inspired cinema. The two biggest kids-hoops movies of my youth Air Bud and Space Jam. Would I ever play with a hoops shooting dog or the Looney Tunes? I had a better chance at seeing my 5’8 dad dunk.
Sandlot was the gold standard of baseball movies. I still adore the movie’s characters to this day. However, in the age of structure, who really had time to get together eight friends on a whim and play pickup baseball all day? Catcher Ham Porter would probably be stuck at wrestling camp and Benny the Jet Rodriguez would be playing traveling ball all summer. The movie Little Big League was about the Twins. However, my dad wouldn’t spend more than $10 a piece on any sports ticket. So, I likely would never be bequeathed a baseball team.
Football? No thank you. As much as I love the sport today, my mom thought I was too nice to play the game. I played for a few years in elementary school. My mom was right.
Could I have been a soccer player? Maybe. Although, like 98% of elementary school players, I stopped having dreams about making it as a player after the age of 12.
So that left hockey movies as the refuge for my sports dreams. The sport captivated me because I never had a chance to taste it.
My dad refused to sign me up because he didn’t want to invest time and hundreds of dollars in expensive hockey equipment. He also didn’t want me selling frozen pizzas door to door to pay for the expenses. I shrugged it off, not really knowing what I was missing. I accepted my role in the Community Services Independent School District 831 recreation basketball league. Looking back on that time, I don’t blame him. Basketball was a much cheaper option.
So that left it to me and my brother to recreate the hockey magic on our own. Most January weekends, my brother and I would venture to our backyard pond, lace up our rented skates, and try to recreate scenes from the Mighty Ducks movies. We loved imitating the Flying V and always tried to do a “triple deke”. Our favorite move to recreate was Russ Tyler’s immortal “Knuckle Pick”. We lived in our own world apart from the NHL or organized hockey.
The reason I loved Ducks movies is that I could have been one of those kids. If only a few things were different. If only someone could have taught me to handle a puck. If only my dad paid the money to get me into the Forest Lake Hockey Association. If he’d only let me sell pizza. The Ducks were (mostly) Minnesota kids playing the Minnesotan game. And I was left in the cold.
Today, I rarely watch hockey. The last full game I watched was the 2010 Olympics. I’ll follow the big news and take in the SportsCenter highlights, but my relationship with the sport will probably not go any farther than that. I didn’t grow up playing the game and the Wild came along too late for me to become attached to them. I am invested in the Timberwolves, Twins, and Vikings. And with all their failures, I don’t think I could stand to get my heart broken by another team.
Even so, I still respect the sport. I’ll go to a game if I’m invited and I’ve never had a bad experience at one. It’s just that I’ll never love the sport the way I do basketball, baseball or football. I’ll probably never buy a Minnesota Wild jersey and I’ll never be invited to play in a rec league game.
However, if my future kid says they want to play hockey, I won’t say anything. I’ll just pop in a DVD (or whatever we have then) of the Mighty Ducks and let them dream away.
I also loved Breaking Away, but I didn’t get my training wheels off until I was nine.
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