From 'Letterkenny' to 'Mighty Ducks': Canadian actors lace up their skates in new Disney+ show

·6 min read
Dylan Playfair and Kiefer O’Reilly star in "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers" on Disney+

Joshua Jackson may have been the Canadian who led us through three Mighty Ducks movies but now two other Vancouver actors, Dylan Playfair (Letterkenny) and Kiefer O'Reilly (DC's Legends of Tomorrow) are brining the story of the Ducks into modern times in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers on Disney+.

"There's a level of pressure I think, that I put on myself at least, to...sort of pay homage to the original, as far as what made those so special, while creating something new and fresh and exciting that people hadn't seen before," Playfair told Yahoo Canada. "I mean, I'm acting with Emilio Estevez and Lauren Graham and all these talented young kids who are going to be big stars, and it's like, this is an intimidating thing."

"I think having the respect that you're part of something that's so much bigger than just the series... It’s my childhood, I grew up with it, and I really wanted to remember why it was so important to me and what were the lessons that I got out of the Mighty Ducks that hopefully the next generation of kids will get out of it, which is what good teamwork looks like and what good teams look like, and what good coaches look like."

O'Reilly echoed Playfair's comments, revealing that there were certainly some nerves associated with bringing back such a loved and cherished story.

"I grew up watching the films," he said. "At first it was really, really nerve wracking because it’s the Mighty Ducks and I don't want to mess it up."

"Everyone felt nervous that they were going to mess it up but everyone kept helping each other and it made everyone feel way less nervous."

Playfair is known for playing hockey players, most notably in the hit show Letterkenny, but in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers he plays Coach T, the new coach of the Mighty Ducks who unceremoniously cuts Evan Morrow (Brady Noon) from the team, leaving the young player and his mother Alex (Lauren Graham) with no choice but to start their own hockey team.

The actor certainly knows a lot about hockey coaches because his father, Jim Playfair, is the associate coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

"There are a couple of moments where Coach T does things that I've seen my dad do on TV behind the bench, a couple little mannerisms that I'm sure Jimmy will pick up on," Playfair revealed.

The actor does recognize that Coach T is a different kind of coach. Playfair's dad had a career playing in the NHL before transitioning to coaching, while Coach T is the kind of coach who's using his position with the young Mighty Ducks to hopefully "climb the ladder."

"I played for some younger coaches who,...that was their route into the NHL, they were going to coach these young kids and have success with minor hockey teams, and then eventually climb that ladder as young coaches," Playfair explained. "There's this level of like, you need them to win so that you can move on."

"There's something kind of twisted about it, but there's also something really hilarious. Those were the coaches that I was really looking towards for motivation on how to play Coach T truthfully, honestly, and funny as well, which...I don't think my dad's ever really aware of, or trying to do when he's on the bench. He's certainly not trying to be funny, if anything, he's trying to be the opposite of it."

O'Reilly, on the other hand, plays Logan, who just moved to Minnesota from Toronto, an interesting experience for the Vancouver-born actor, also filming in the Vancouver.

"Got a lot of bad looks on set because everyone's from Vancouver," he revealed.

Logan may have a great head of hair, a Maple Leafs jersey and expensive skates, which leads Evan and his friend Nick (Maxwell Simkins) to ask him to be on their new hockey team, but the accessories are masking the fact that he can't really skate, let alone play hockey.

While some of O'Reilly's fellow cast mates had to brush up their skating and hockey skills, he actually had to un-learn how to skate and play hockey.

"We had a two-week training period before we actually started filming to get the non-hockey players to skate and do some simple stick work, I actually had to do the opposite," he said. "The coaches on set, they gave me tips on how to balance and how new beginners skate and stuff."

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'I understand why people would be skeptical'

Nostalgia is very powerful, it can make you extremely committed to a story and characters, but it can also make you incredibly territorial about something you've loved for years. The Mighty Ducks movies definitely fit into that category.

Things may look different, the Ducks may be more like Hawks now, but this new itineration of the Mighty Ducks story is equally as charming. Fans will certainly be excited to see Gordon Bombay back on their screens. If you're looking for references to the three movies, you'll get them, and there's even a reunion with some of the previous cast members in episode 6, but you'll still find yourself laughing at this new group of misfit hockey players, not to mention Lauren Graham's intoxicating energy.

This reboot has all the charm of the movies and while no one can be certain if it will achieve the same hype as the three films, it's worth going into the series with an open mind, but even Playfair understands the trepidations Mighty Ducks fans may have about the 10 episode series.

"I think it's good for people to protect their childhood nostalgic elements and I understand why people would be skeptical or protective of it," he said. "But at the same time, I think it's really important to recognize hasn't been redone, it's been refreshed and modernized...and it's still the Mighty Ducks, it's still the Ducks, Bombay’s still there, don't worry."

"This is an evolution of what I think has actually happened in hockey since the last movie wrapped up. There's been this emergence of these academy teams that require exorbitant amounts of money to get your kids into colleges or into pro hockey... I think rec hockey should be supported and encouraged and just because you're not going to play in the NHL doesn't mean you can't still love hockey and enjoy hockey."