“If she can see it, she can be it” is the mantra of women’s sports right now. In order for that mantra to truly take root in our society, we should also see “it” in media and in pop culture. With that in mind, I set out to find feature films or made-for-TV movies that featured girls’ and/or women’s hockey.
After consulting Twitter, I came up with a list of eight movies that basically fit that criteria. I then watched seven of the eight — you’ll have to wait to find out which one I didn’t watch — and graded them. Today, we’re looking at the “bottom four.”
Oh yes a DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie)!! With a voiceover by the main character! To be honest, Katelin is kind of annoying, or maybe it’s because the actress isn’t great at all.
The basic plot is easy: Katelin is a high school-aged figure skater, or “twirl girl” as they call them in the movie. She dreams of being a champion figure skater, and the coach who can get her there is at an expensive boarding school. In order to afford the school, the Russian coach gets her a scholarship — on the girls’ hockey team.
It’s mostly a coming of age movie, like most DCOMs are. Katelin struggles to adjust to her new life of balancing hockey and figure skating and school before the big turning point where everything comes together leading up to a big decision. She also has trouble picking up hockey, and is unable to skate or handle the puck well, though her skills quickly improve and soon enough she’s scoring goals. The equipment manager is really mean to Katelin too, which of course means he’s obviously her love interest by the end of the movie.
As for the actual hockey, the team sucks, a lot, at least at the beginning. At one point they say they haven’t won in three years. The hockey scenes aren’t bad, using tight generic shots or extremely wide shots. Most of it actually looks like real hockey, as long as they aren’t trying to show one of the actors. It falls apart there. There’s also checking — which doesn’t make sense, honestly.
There’s probably two high points to the movie. One is when Katelin asks the hockey team why they hate figure skaters. The team says it’s because people think only boys can play hockey and that’s why they don’t respect the girls’ teams. The other is when Katelin becomes friends with the team, after spending her whole life playing an individual sport where your friends are also your competition (a point driven home in the movie).
At about 90 minutes, it’s a fun, light movie — probably best for families with young kids. Sorry to any parent that has to listen to Katelin more than once. It definitely focuses more on the figure skating part, but the hockey scenes — and lessons that come along with — aren’t bad. I was a huge fan of the Eagle mascot, which had many hilarious random scenes.
How to watch: Disney+ or a variety of other places online.
The Mighty Ducks, D2, and D3
These were probably the biggest stretch for the criteria. The female players in all three are basically relegated to minor, supporting roles. These films also tend to have the worst hockey scenes, relying on comedy and gimmicks instead of things that you’d actually see in games. See: the “Knuckle Puck” and the almost-always-guaranteed-to-be-offsides “Flying V.”
But Julie “The Cat” Gaffney (in the second and third movie) is the most recognizable female player in any hockey film, so I had to include the Disney franchise in my list.
Admittedly, I also have a strong sense of nostalgia for this series. I grew up in a hockey family and watched these films growing up — I can quote entire scenes. As a matter of fact, my family had a box DVD set of all three films that I borrowed for this viewing.
Who among us hasn’t seen the classic youth hockey movie? (Oh wait, Hannah Bevis hadn’t, at least not until I made her drive to my house to watch it.)
The movie follows the story of the District Five youth team, led by former youth player Gordon Bombay doing community service (for drinking and driving — nice touch, Disney), which goes from being a disaster to becoming the Mighty Ducks. There are two girls on the team: Connie, who has been on the team for a while, and Tammy, a figure skater recruited by the team with her brother.
The movie absolutely screams 1990s, from the music, to the clothes, to the way the kids run away from someone after pulling a prank at the beginning of the film. The actual development of the team happens pretty quickly. Suddenly these kids who can’t skate or handle the puck are able to fly around the ice after passing eggs to each other.
But in terms of a women’s hockey movie, it’s the lowest of the three. The girls are in the background the whole time. But at least they aren’t the butt of the jokes (because they aren’t ever really talked about) ... ?
The Mighty Ducks 2 (or D2: The Mighty Ducks)
We find our lovable band of misfits on skates joining with a group of elite players from around the country to play in the Junior Goodwill Games as Team USA in the second installment of the franchise. Think junior Olympics, but, for whatever reason, the vast majority of the team are a bunch of kids from Minnesota who could barely play a few years ago.
Connie is back, apparently dating one of her teammates, and we get our first introduction to Julie “The Cat” Gaffney. Once again, neither girl gets a huge role (at least not until the very very very very end; no spoilers, though, as to how).
Connie does get some screen time playing and scores at least two goals in the various games. Once after Connie is shown, there’s a cut to a young girl in the crowd cheering her too. So that’s pretty nifty.
Julie is a newcomer to the team, recruited from Maine to play for Team USA. However, she’s relegated as a backup to Goldberg. She’s not thrilled about it. The one time she gets into a game, the Iceland players make some pretty sexist remarks to her so she shoves them down and gets kicked out of the game. That’s probably the one time in the series being a girl is really brought up.
The Mighty Ducks 3 (or D3: The Mighty Ducks)
The final installment in the Disney series finds the Ducks become Warriors, as they receive full ride scholarships to Eden Hall as freshman to play on the junior varsity team. In addition to losing their “Duck” name, Gordon Bombay also leaves them. Their new coach is a former NHL player who doesn’t quite gel with the team, especially with (now former captain) Charlie Conway. They also butt heads with the varsity team, who see them as a threat to their legacy.
Like in the other two movies, the hockey playing is a bit of a joke. The sound effects really drive that home.
Also like in the previous movies, Julie “The Cat” Gaffney and Connie are given backseats to the rest of the team. Julie does earn the starting job out of the gate, and then at some point Goldberg is moved to defense even though at the beginning of the movie he can’t skate on roller skates (???). The only other part she plays is (and sorry, this is the only spoiler) when the varsity goalie kisses her after their game.
Connie plays an even smaller role than in the previous movies in that we don’t really ever see her. But again, and I can’t stress this enough, the girls are never the butts of any jokes, even when Goldberg loses the starting job to her, so at least there’s that.
Overall, these are still classic hockey movies any hockey fan should watch. Kids will find them funny. They just suck at representing girls’ hockey.
How to watch: DVD or Disney+