A new edition of ESPN E60 tells the true story of The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, a professional sports team that was inspired by a hit Hollywood movie.
Disney’s The Mighty Ducks, a film about a group of misfit kids in Minnesota who rose to become hockey champions, led to the formation of a franchise that overcame a slow start to go on a dream run to the Stanley Cup.
In the late 80’s, Steven Brill was an aspiring screenwriter living in Los Angeles, scraping to get by. Then, one day while skating at a local rink with his best friend, director Pete Berg, he saw a group of young players waddling around the ice and had an idea.
Brill began writing a script for a family hockey movie he would call The Mighty Ducks. It told the story of a team playing in the Twin Cities, and their Coach Gordon Bombay, a high-powered lawyer forced to lead the team as a form of community service.
At first, there were no buyers for the script. Then, Michael Eisner and Disney stepped in. The film went on to defy all expectations, earning more than $50 million at the box office.
Fan’s love of the story gave Eisner his own idea: buying a real pro hockey team.
To the shock and dismay of the traditional hockey world, in the spring of 1993 Eisner announced the ‘The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim’ were coming to Southern California. The plan was for the team to take the ice in within the year. There was only one problem: they had no players, no coaches, no staff.
That’s where this story really begins. Somehow, some way, an entire franchise was assembled within a calendar year. Mirroring their fictional counterparts, the Ducks would go from lovable losers to NHL contenders. In 2003, they made a fairytale run at hockey’s ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup.
E60 intertwines the origin stories of the film and the team, with Brill and Eisner, former Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, providing background and anecdotes along with others involved in the movie (in front of and behind the camera), players for the “real” Ducks, rival players, broadcasters and journalists who covered the team, and more.
Former Ducks players interviewed for the program include Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Jean-Sébastien Giguèr, Steve Rucchin, Guy Hebert and Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson.
Among others in the feature:
Gary Bettman – NHL Commissioner
Marguerite Moreau — “Connie” in the Mighty Ducks films
Shaun Weiss — “Goldberg” in the Mighty Ducks films
Pete Berg – Hollywood director/filmmaker, former roommate of Steve Brill
Jordan Kerner – producer, The Mighty Ducks
Robyn Norwood – former Mighty Ducks beat writer for the Los Angeles Times
Steve Levy – called five-OT Anaheim vs. Dallas 2003 Western Conference Semifinal on ESPN
Mike Modano – Hockey Hall of Fame player, played himself in The Mighty Ducks
Chris Chelios – Hockey Hall of Fame player and ESPN analyst
Brian Hayward – Mighty Ducks broadcaster
Once Upon a Time in Anaheim was produced and directed by Scott Cikowski and Russell Dinallo.
Once Upon a Time in Anaheim Debuts Saturday June 17, at 2.30pm AEST on ESPN2.