• Emilieann Glassie

The Mighty Ducks: 3 Reasons Gordon Bombay’s Penalty Shot Never Decided the 1973 State Championship

A Hockey Movie Breakdown

The classic Disney hockey film The Mighty Ducks centers around two men trying to relive their Pee Wee hockey dreams of winning the state championship after a heartbreaking overtime loss in 1973.

The highly contested “flying V” questioned for being offsides is not the only suspicious hockey rule oversight in the film. In the opening scene, young Gordon Bombay had the chance to win the Minnesota Pee Wee State Championship for the Hawks with a penalty shot. When he missed, the opposing Duluth East team celebrated their victory in excitement.

However, Gordon’s penalty shot never determined the championship outcome.

Here are 3 reasons why:

1. If Gordon’s penalty shot actually was the game-winning goal, in regulation or O.T., the game had to be tied.

2. If the game was tied, in regulation or overtime, Gordon’s missed shot would not automatically give Duluth East the win, as implied in the movie by the goaltender and team’s excited reaction.

3. Duluth East’s win, suggested by the “Pee Wee 2nd Place 1973” banner in the Hawks’ arena and reiteration throughout the movie, occurred because either

a. they had the lead in regulation, and Gordon’s goal would have tied the game, pushing it to overtime, warranting their celebration, or

b. the game was in overtime, and after Gordon’s missed shot, play continued and Duluth East scored to win the championship. However, neither seem entirely accurate based on Duluth East’s reaction after the missed shot, though this is most plausible.

Three scenes particularly contradict the viewed outcome.

Gordon Bombay’s Penalty Shot, Opening Scene

Young Gordon readied to take a penalty shot late in the game after he was pulled down by Duluth East’s Fox. Head coach Jack Reilly emphasized this do-or-die shot. He said:

“Now, you miss this shot, you’re not just lettin’ me down, you’re lettin’ your team down, too.” Pretty intense for a child still learning to play.

Gordon went for the shot, triple deked the goaltender, shot stick side and . . . TINK! The puck glanced off the left goalpost, missing the “game-winning goal”. Duluth East celebrated while Gordon sank to the ice in defeat.

The voiceover announcer reiterated this “game-winning goal” saying, “He hit the goalpost for a chance to win the game. What a heartbreaker.”

However, for this to be the game-winning goal, the game had to be tied. While a heartbreaker, the game was not lost.

Newspaper Headline, Hans’s Hockey Shop

A newspaper clipping from Han's shop showing Gordon Bombay missing the penalty shot from the beginning of the film the Mighty Ducks

Late one night Gordon went to Hans’s shop. The men talked about Gordon’s missed goal when he saw a newspaper on Hans’s wall titled “Hawks’ Championship String Ends. Hawks’ Gordon Bombay Misses Penalty Shot in O.T.”

To force sudden-death overtime, a game must be tied at the end of regulation. The first team to score wins, per Pee Wee rules. Gordon’s missed penalty shot kept the game tied, yet Duluth East celebrated a win though they had not scored a goal. Hans reminded Gordon he scored 198 goals in the 1973 season, which is outrageous. Guesstimating by the number of games played in the movie and Hans’s standings board, there were 17 games in a season, playoffs included, meaning Gordon averaged 11.5 goals a game. A player of that caliber at that level could singlehandedly defeat any team, making his miss unrealistic.

Gordon Recounting the Shot, the Diner

Gordon Bombay shares his story with Charlie Conway about his missed penalty shot in3,  his pee wee game for the Hawks in 1973 during the film of the Mighty Ducks.

At the diner, Charlie asked if Gordon was really a Hawk after the team saw the newspaper headline at Hans’s shop. Gordon admitted he was, then told Charlie about the fateful game. It was tied 2-2 at the end of the third period, pushing the game into overtime. During O.T. Gordon was awarded the penalty shot, a possible game-winning, championship-winning goal.

This recounting negates the possibility of Duluth East having a 1 goal lead. The game had to be tied to cause overtime, meaning Duluth East’s win came later in overtime after Gordon’s penalty shot, emphasizing again Gordon’s shot did not cause the loss.

Movie Magic at Its Finest

The Mighty Ducks would not be a great Disney hockey film without a grand, conclusive redemption at the ending. The missed goal ghost of decades past was put to rest when Charlie scored his penalty shot against the Hawks to win the 1992 Pee Wee State Championship.

The irony of the film is a hockey coach so hellbent on winning, yet never in a winning position by the implied storyline circumstances. The best Gordon could have done was tie the game and force overtime, the game and coveted title still up for grabs. “Win. Win. Win. Win. Win.” only works if the numbers are in your favor.

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