More than two decades since its release, the tale of The Mighty Ducks (1992) is remembered as an all time great underdog story, spawning two sequels (D2: The Mighty Ducks and D3: The Mighty Ducks) and even its own real-life National Hockey League team, the Anaheim Ducks.
Led by washed-up lawyer Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), The Mighty Ducks saw a struggling pee-wee hockey team deke, elbow and slap shot their way from perennial losers to sporting champions. It was a heart-warming tale, introducing the world to the hitherto unknown, insanely awesome Flying V play.
Taking inspiration from The Bad News Bears (1976), the first Ducks movie is not only a great Disney film but a great sports movie, period. Today it sits alongside the likes of Cool Runnings and The Sandlot as one of the best loved '90s sports movies. But what happened to the team after they hung up their skates?
Here's Where Are They Now? The Cast of The Mighty Ducks.
Emilio Estevez plays the Mighty Ducks’ coach Gordon Bombay, a lawyer so obnoxious that his number plate reads "JUSTWIN." Bombay finds himself charged with coaching an under-performing pee-wee hockey team following a DUI charge. By the time the Ducks win the championship, Bombay has faced down his own childhood hockey demons and made the transition to full-on inspirational figure. Yet it could have been Estevez’s brother, Charlie ‘Tiger Blood’ Sheen, delivering the pep talks, having originally been offered the role.
A veteran of the '80s brat pack films (St Elmo's Fire, The Breakfast Club) Estevez’s star began to wane during the '90s, appearing in a string of misfires and TV movies, with a few notable exceptions (Judgment Night, Loaded Weapon). Estevez is now better known as a director, having used his entire salary for D3 to fund his directorial debut War at Home. Subsequent efforts behind the camera include the well-received Bobby and The Way, the latter of which starred Estevez’s dad, Martin Sheen. Next up for Estevez are directing duties on The Public.
Shaun Weiss played the team's goalie, Goldberg, whose phobia of getting hit by a puck contributed to the Ducks’ dismal league position. By the end of the movie, Bombay’s coaching had turned Goldberg into a puck stopping machine. Weiss went on to star in Ducks screenwriter Steve Brill’s directorial debut Heavyweights (he also featured in Brill’s 2008 effort Drillbit Taylor), followed by recurring roles in Here and Now, Mr Rhodes and The Tony Danza show.
Perhaps most notably, Weiss played Sean in Freaks and Geeks. The show launched several careers, including creator Paul Feig’s – who went on to direct Bridesmaids and the upcoming Ghostbusters remake – and stars Seth Rogen and James Franco. Unfortunately, Weiss didn't enjoy the same success, and acting work has been sporadic since his '90s heyday. In 2014, Weiss tried to raise $21,000 on the crowd funding platform Kickstarter to fund a comeback documentary, Back on the Map. Alas, the campaign only raised $210.
Every movie sports team needs a wisecracking comedian, and Doherty filled this role as the bespectacled Les Averman. Like most of the other actors, Averman lied about being able to actually skate, leading producers to put on an ice hockey boot camp prior to filming. You’d think that for an ice hockey movie, the producers probably should have checked the cast could actually skate, right?
After the first Mighty Ducks movie, Averman appeared as Mike Myers’ brother William ‘Heed’ Mackenzie in So I Married an Axe Murderer before reprising the role of Averman in D2 and D3. Doherty has since had small roles in Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Unit. He even appeared in Oscar winner Argo, albeit in an uncredited role as a butler.
Tantalizingly, Doherty revealed in a 2015 episode of The Quack Attack (a podcast dedicated to all things Mighty Duck) that there had been discussion of a possible fourth entry in the series, with work already underway on a script. Whether this will ever become a reality is unknown, but presumably, it’ll be a new generation of kids donning the skates, rather than original cast (all of whom are now in their thirties). Will Coach Bombay return to lead this new generation to championship awesomeness? We can only hope.
A veteran child actor, Henson had already appeared in The Charmings, Arachnophobia and Highway to Heaven before he picked up the stick to portray Guy Germaine, one of the Ducks’ more talented players. By the time the credits rolled it was revealed that Guy and Connie (Marguerite Moreau) were actually something of an item. Aww!
Luckily for Henson, Disney executives didn’t spot that they had cast both him and his brother Elden (more on him in a bit), due to the latter auditioning under another name.
Following The Mighty Ducks, Henson went on to appear as Christina Richie’s crush in that other '90s kid classic Casper (1995). After sporadic film and TV work, Henson left acting behind to focus on his college education. When interviewed by the badly-missed sports and pop culture website Grantland, Henson revealed that at first he initially felt embarrassment when recognized as a Mighty Duck by the general public. Nowadays this has changed, with his work on Ducks being a source of pride. Recently, Henson has returned to the world of film, directing the short features Shades of Yellow and Sina Forma.
Larusso played Adam Banks, a star player for the Ducks’ bitter rivals, The Hawks. Much to his chagrin, Banks was forced to join the Ducks when Coach Bombay finds that Banks actually lives in the Ducks' district. This earns him the infamous nickname ‘Cake Eater’ due to his privileged background – more on that in the next slide. Of course, this being a Disney kids sports film, it’s not long before Cake Eater is accepted into the fold.
After The Mighty Ducks, Larusso largely left acting behind him and went on to study business at Boston’s School of Management. Since then he has made a couple of minor appearances in projects like Dollhouse and Superhero Movie. Revealingly, Larusso cites the moment he is introduced to the rest of the team as the finest three seconds worth of acting of his whole acting career in Time magazine’s comprehensive oral history of The Mighty Ducks.
Loud mouthed, straight talking forward Jesse Hall will always be remembered for taunting poor Adam with the immortal insult ‘Cake Eater,’ that and his legendary skills with the stick. Apparently ‘Cake Eater’ is a real-life derogatory term applied to the people of Edina, Minnesota – not just the inspired wordplay of Ducks’ screenwriter Steve Brill. When Coach Bombay first arrives on the scene, Jesse naturally thinks the new coach is a drug dealer before coming to trust him–a textbook example of Occam’s razor.
Like many of the young cast, Adams left acting behind to attend college, although he did have roles in Nickelodeon’s Sister, Sister and Moesha, after having starred in another '90s kid classic, The Sandlot. Most recently, Adams featured in the 2014 short film Stuck in the Corners. He also lent his voice to the character of Raijin in Disney's classic RPG Kingdom Hearts II, and even gave the rap game a try, releasing the mixtape B. Lee in H.D back in 2009.
Despite a relatively brief appearance as Tommy, Tramberlli’s career was sent into overtime after The Mighty Ducks. From 1992-1996, Tramerilli played Little Pete Wrigley in The Adventures of Pete and Pete – where legend has it Iggy Pop blew up Tamberelli’s amp while teaching him to play a Stooges song during filming – followed by voice work on The Magic School Bus and 30 episodes of All That.
Tramberlli’s last major credit was as Turtle in Iggby Goes Down –the excellent Kieran Culkin-starring retelling of Catcher in the Rye – before he headed off to college. Tamberelli has since resurfaced in a couple of short films and also plays bass in punk rock band Jounce. Memorably, Tamberelli provided the voice of Michael De Santa’s spoiled son Jimmy in the all-conquering, unit-shifting video game Grand Theft Auto V. By February 2016, the game had sold 60 million copies, which means that at least 60 million of us have heard Tamerelli’s dulcet tones curse once again, two decades after The Mighty Ducks.
By the time Lane Smith came to play Gordon Bombay’s nemesis, Coach Jack Reilly, he had already chalked up memorable appearances in Network and My Cousin Vinny, alongside a Golden Globe nominated performance as President Richard Nixon in The Final Days. Sci-fi fans may also recognize Smith as the treacherous Nathan Bates from seminal mini-series V (itself remade in 2009).
Smith followed Ducks with a scene stealing performance as Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet and Clark Kent’s boss, in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which is considered by some to be the definitive portrayal of White committed to film (sorry, Laurence). The part made him a household name, with the show being broadcast internationally. This was followed by a lead role in HBO series From the Earth to the Moon as a news reporter covering the Apollo space program. Smith’s performance provided the narrative glue that held the show together.
Sadly, Smith passed away in 2005 after a battle with ALS. His final film role was in the Will Smith/Matt Damon starring film, The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Moreau played Connie (aka ‘The Velvet Hammer’), one of only two girls on the team and Guy Germaine’s girlfriend. Right before the then 14-year-old Moreau went into her audition for The Mighty Ducks, her father told her to tell the producers she was actually 13. According to Moreau, the lie spooked her so much that she was convinced she’d messed up the audition.
Thankfully for her, she got the part. After playing Connie in all three movies, Moreau went on to appear is series like Shameless, Grey’s Anatomy and Life as we Know It. In 2015, Moreau reprised her starring role as Katie in Wet Hot American Summer in the Netflix sequel Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp opposite Hollywood royalty Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. This was followed by an appearance in the acclaimed drama American Crime Story:The People Vs O.J. Simpson, where Moreau portrayed key witness Laura Hart McKinny, a screenwriter whose interviews with the LAPD uncovered institutional racism and undermined the case against Simpson. Moreau also hosted her own Mighty Ducks reunion, with the original cast forming a poolside Flying V.
Despite having a storied career going all the way back to 1952’s Ghost Ship, Ackland will probably be best known for playing Gordon Bombay’s gruff mentor, Hans. That’s not to say Ackland hadn’t had his share of memorable roles, having played evil Arjen Rudd in Lethal Weapon 2 and the decidedly uncool De Nomolos in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
According to Peter Berg, Steve Brill's roommate when he was writing Ducks, Hans is based on a ‘surly old guy’ who ran a skate shop in Culver City near the duo's apartment. When Brill broke his leg out on the ice, the original Hans came over and muttered ‘Well, that’s your own personal problem’ before walking off. So who better than classically trained British thespian Joss Ackland to play the man?
Following The Mighty Ducks, Ackland continued to work in major films, including K-19: The Widowmaker and has recently been active in several long-running British television shows, including Midsomer Murders and Kingdom.
Jesse Hall’s younger brother Terry wasn’t afraid to make his thoughts known on Gordon’s less-than-stellar coaching at the beginning of The Mighty Ducks.
Jussie Smollett, who played Terry, will be instantly familiar to viewers of Fox’s smash-hit drama Empire. In one of the show’s most powerful storylines, Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, the rejected gay son of hip-hop producer Luscious. The performance has earned rave reviews – no small feat when acting alongside the likes of Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson as the indomitable Lyon matriarch Cookie. This breakout performance has landed Smollett a part in Ridley Scott’s hotly anticipated follow-up to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant and the upcoming slavery drama Underground. Before landing the gig on Empire, Smollett had picked up guest parts on The Mindy Project and Revenge.
Smollett is also a recording artist in his own right, co-writing several songs for the Empire soundtrack and released his own 2012 EP, The Poisoned Hearts Club.
At first, Henson was turned down for the role of Fulton Reed, the shy kid with the powerful slap shot, much to the dismay of the film’s producer, Jordan Kerner. To get around this, Kerner died Henson’s hair black, put a fake scar on him and got him another audition — and this time the same execs who had cut him from the team suddenyl thought him to be perfect for the role.
Henson’s been active ever since, with roles in several major films, including Cast Away, '90s teen classic She’s All That, and The Butterfly Effect. However, his best known role is undoubtedly that of Foggy Nelson in Netflix’s Daredevil, Matt Murdock’s best friend and law partner and possible glue to the rest of Netflix's small screen MCU. He also played mute cameraman Pollux in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2. Off-camera, Henson has kept up his involvement with youth hockey, hosting hockey camps for disadvantaged children in Los Angeles. The original Bash Brother is a resounding success, on and off the screen.
For some, Joshua Jackson will always be Charlie ‘Spazway’ Conway, The Mighty Ducks’ captain and heart of the team. For others, he will be Pacey Witter in late '90s teen drama Dawson’s Creek. Yet things could have been a lot different had the first choice to play Conway, Donnie Darko himself Jake Gyllenhaal, not turned down the part.
Following the success of both The Mighty Ducks and Dawson’s Creek, Jackson has carved out a successful television and, to a lesser extent, film career, appearing in mid-'90s teen thrillers in Cruel Intentions and The Skulls. He even teamed up again with Emilio Estevez for the big screen historical drama, Bobby.
In 2008 Jackson returned to the warm embrace of television when he joined the cast of Fox’s sci-fi hit Fringe as FBI agent Peter Bishop. This was followed by a role as Cole Lockhart in the acclaimed drama, The Affair. Nowadays Jackson is married to German actress Diane Kruger. Spazway turned out alright, it seems.
Okay, so Kenan Thompson wasn’t in the original Mighty Ducks, only taking to the ice in D2: The Mighty Ducks as Russ Tyler. But it was Tyler’s invention of the awesomely named "knucklepluck" that led Team USA to glorious victory against Iceland (you remember, the country that wore black jerseys to an international competition so you knew they were the bad guys) and secured Thompson’s place in Ducks' folklore.
Kenan then partnered with Kel Mitchell for Nickelodeon’s long-running sketch show Kenan and Kel, with the orange soda guzzling duo going on to appear in the seriously surreal cult classic, Good Burger. Unfortunately, this partnership was broken when Thompson was cast on as a regular on Saturday Night Live, while Mitchell failed his own SNL audition. Thompson is now SNL’s longest-serving cast member, having made over 250 appearances since his debut in 2003. He also holds the record for most celebrity impressions on the show, coming in at over 100. Standout impersonations include Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Cosby, and the Steve Harvey impression pictured above.
While Thompson is most well-known for his TV work, cult film fans will also recognize him from that precursor to all things Sharknado, Snakes on a Plane, and more recently as the voice of Greedy Smurf in Smurfs and Smurfs 2, though we're keeping our fingers crossed that he finds a way to work a knucklepuck or two into an SNL sketch before his tenure on the series is up.