I’ve held a lot of jobs over the years, and one thing that has stayed consistent throughout each job is my passion for training people. Whether it was my job as a teacher, a security guard, a server, or a retail manager, I enjoy watching someone learn something new. It isn’t always easy, sometimes you get frustrated, and sometimes you make mistakes. There have been plenty of times I didn’t always make the best decisions when training someone new. But never have I ever been as terrible a trainer or leader as Gordon Bombay, coach of the District 5 hockey team, a team that later went on to become the Ducks.
When I talk about Bombay not being a good coach or leader, I don’t just mean because he starts the movie on probation and doing community service. That’s definitely a mistake, but I don’t count it because it happened before he was a coach. But the moment he becomes a coach, his actions run a range from poor coaching to outright dangerous behavior. Right from the start, he drives a limousine onto a frozen lake, vaguely threatens the kids, then disrespects them by telling them he doesn’t care to learn their names. Always a great move to walk into a leadership situation telling your charges that you don’t care about them. I’ve had to be the disciplinarian manager before, it isn’t fun. I’ve started out strict and then lightened up as I went, but that’s very different from immediate indifference.
I said that I’ve started strict and lightened up, Bombay did something a little different. He started indifferent, then became outright hostile, then moved on to telling his players to cheat. He goes from telling the kids he doesn’t care to screaming and asking why they won’t listen to him. The only coaching he is giving them is how to cheat until both his mentor and a parent shame him into trying. But the craziest thing is, he doesn’t suddenly become a great coach even after he starts caring. First of all, he’s definitely sleeping with Charlie’s mom. That’s generally frowned upon, although it’s just as much on her as it is him. She’s the one sleeping with the parolee who hangs out with her kid just because he apologized. But still, it’s in poor taste for a coach to date his player’s mom regardless of how long he’s been around.
Separate from the poor taste of Coach Bombay’s bedroom partner, he has one more MAJOR moment of being awful. Not necessarily as a bad coach, but definitely a bad person (and still also kind of a bad coach). I’m speaking, of course, about his aggressive recruitment of Adam Banks. Coach Bombay sees a way to improve his grossly under-performing team, and pursues it no matter what. It turns out the district lines have been redrawn, and Adam Banks is on the wrong team Because oh yeah, you guys, this is a city-wide PEEWEE HOCKEY tournament. I get that later they go to the world championships and get scholarships to a prep school, but the series starts with the hockey equivalent of Little League. So Banks is in the wrong district, and Bombay lets the league officials know so Banks can be on the Ducks. Banks protests, because he’s been on the Hawks for years and wants to play with his friends, but Bombay insists, even threatening to bring lawyers into the mix. This is after he’s suddenly the good guy. He takes a child away from his friends and puts him on a worse team surrounded by children who are mean to him. Great move, coach.
So the kids go on to win, despite the fact that they’re playing a better team that has practiced more and harder. I get that the Ducks are the heroes, but there’s no world where the little bit of coaching they got (everyone shooting pucks at Goldberg, players passing eggs back and forth) is enough to win the state championship. But in this hypothetical situation, the Ducks win. Also, my friend Jacob Rubin (a very funny comedian in his own right) pointed out that during the Ducks’ string of wins, there are multiple newspaper front pages describing the Ducks’ victories. These headlines are on “Let’s Play Hockey,” which describes itself as “America’s #1 Hockey Publication.” Unless it’s #1 the same way PBR earned a blue ribbon, Jacob and I call bullshit. But whatever, the Ducks win and the entire country knows about it. I can suspend that disbelief, but the entire premise of D2: The Mighty Ducks is insane.
In this movie, the corporate sponsor for the American hockey team convinces whoever is in charge of the Junior Goodwill Games (I think the Olympics said no to sponsoring them) that Gordon Bombay should coach Team USA. Even suspending that disbelief, that rather than grabbing literally any other more qualified youth hockey coach in America, they go with the guy who barely won a single state championship once and made it through less than a season of minor league hockey due to injury. You know who would have been a better coach for Team USA? How about the coach of the Hawks? That dude won almost every state championship for like 25 years, and the two years that he didn’t, he took second place. That’s a much more impressive resume than the “Minnesota Miracle Man.”
And here’s the thing: Gordon Bombay continues being a mediocre coach even when taking his team to the not-Olympics. There is absolutely no reason he should have taken the Ducks with him. Maaaaybe Conway and Banks. Probably not Fulton, regardless of his power he wasn’t a strong skater. Absolutely not Averman, that guy admitted to not practicing in the off season. Also not Goldberg, 100% of his skill as a goalie comes from his mass. He eats like crap and has a slow glove. So right from the start, Bombay is making poor recruiting choices. But then Mr Tibbles gives him 5 amazing players from all over the country, and none of them are starters. For crying out loud, Julie “The Cat” Gaffney is a monster. 3 time state champion who gives a killer demonstration, while Goldberg literally just falls over, and Bombay has her on the bench. The only time she actually gets any playing time is the one time she definitely shouldn’t. During the final shootout with Iceland, Bombay sends Julie in on the final shot. She hasn’t played the entire tournament, she hasn’t warmed up, and he sends her in on the most important shot of the game against Iceland’s leading scorer. Even that isn’t the worst though. In the final game, after Banks recovers from his injury, there’s no room on the team because they added Russ into the open team slot. So team captain Charlie Conway steps down and allows Banks into his spot. No. No, no no. That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Russ has a physics defying shot that wins the game for them in an illegal play where he wears someone else’s jersey and changes sticks on the ice. The “Knuckle Puck” is the biggest proof that this is a Disney movie, because it’s as unrealistic as birds and forest rodents helping you clean your house. What I’m saying is, now that Banks is healthy, Russ is back off the team, it’s that simple. You don’t bench your team captain in favor of a loudmouthed kid you met last week. That’s the worst in a series of questionable recruiting and line decisions.
Another thing Bombay does is engage in semi abusive coaching practices. After the Ducks lose catastrophically to Iceland, a team significantly bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced than they are, he forces his team to practice beyond the point of exhaustion. He screams at them, calls them pathetic, drives them so hard they’re falling asleep in class. All because a team of kids who barely beat the best team in Minnesota last year got smoked by the best ranked team in the world. I’m definitely the best fighter in my apartment, potentially even in my entire building. But putting me in a ring with an actual boxer, much less the best boxer in the world, I’m gonna get creamed. It’s honestly a miracle the kids even beat Italy and Trinidad, much less Iceland at the end. But Bombay doesn’t care about that. He’s selfish, and only cares about how their loss relfects on him and his future.
For the first part of the movie, Bombay is largely absent from his team. He spends a long time ignoring them, allowing them to get into hijinks in Los Angeles, a city they’ve never been to. He’s having photo shoots, going on dates with one of the staff members for the Iceland team, living in a mansion miles from his team. So even when he’s not screaming at the team, he isn’t really there for them. After sexually harassing a group of high end retail employees, the kids play an aggressive game of street hockey against local kids and could easily have been hurt. Bombay has no idea. Hell, in an elimination game, Bombay doesn’t even show up. If Ms. McKay hadn’t pretended to be the coach, the movie would have ended right there. I don’t care how much Bombay needed time alone to center and find himself, if you don’t show up to your job that means you are bad at it. There’s no paid time off at international sports tournaments because you realized you were being mean.
So in both movies, Bombay disrespected and abused his staff, ignored them, coached them poorly, and made terrible staffing decisions. I once worked for a company owner who did all of that: screamed at employees, maintained unrealistic expectations, disappeared when you needed him, and blamed all his failures on the team. That business failed in less than a year. In the real world, so would Bombay’s coaching career. Way to go, Disney. I’ll suspend disbelief on the knuckle puck, but not on parents allowing their kid to be abused by a parolee who drives a limo onto the ice. That’s it for now, love and kisses!
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