Why did Emilio Esteves leave ‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’ season two?

the mighty ducks game changers

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is skating into its exciting second season on Disney Plus, but some significant changes have occurred in one of the show’s main characters. 

The beloved head coach of the Mighty Ducks, Gordon Bombay, has hung up his skates for the last time as Coach Gavin Cole steps in. Actor Emilio Estevez didn’t appear in the second season, breaking the hearts of fans who had kept up with the hockey team since the 90s. Coach Bombay was an integral part of the Mighty Ducks as a team, a movie, and now a series. His insight and wisdom went hand in hand with his passion and coaching talents to build the team kids were proud to be a part of.

So why did Coach Bombay tag out and the new coach sub in? What was the reason for Estevez leaving the series, and who is playing the role of Coach Cole? Let’s take a look!

Why did Estevez sign off from Game Changers?

Estevez was a part of the Mighty Ducks family from the very beginning, so his absence from the series wasn’t something easy for him to decide. You don’t just walk away from a character you’ve spent a large chunk of your life with.

However, Estevez had to look after himself and make the right choices. In a statement to Deadline, Estevez shared that rumors were floating around about his character not returning but that you also can’t believe everything you hear. Simply put, he said that his exit largely came down to “a myriad of creative differences” and “a good old-fashioned contract dispute.”

He also shared how the filming of season one progressed during COVID-19 and health issues he’d been dealing with. All of that was explained in a longer statement he released, and we’ll share it with you below. 

Who is playing Coach Cole?

Josh Duhamel is playing the Ducks’ summer camp coach, and he’s thrilled to get to step into the role. EW describes him as a “former NHL player-turned coach” who is “inspirational, charming, and hardcore; he’s big on the hockey metaphor that applies to life.”

A big fan of the Mighty Ducks, he quickly realized the importance of his role and the incredible opportunity he had to bring a new coach into the players’ lives. He’s going to teach them how to play hockey, but he’ll also teach them a lot about life. 

He’s a summer camp coach, and the experience is a new level of playing field…er, hockey rink for everyone involved. As a franchise fan already, he knows what people are looking for when they tune into the story about the Ducks. They want to get the heartwarming story they’re used to with the spin of an exciting new addition to the team. We’re interested in what he’ll bring to the table, and we know it’ll be great. 

How did they write Coach Bombay out of the series?

Coach Bombay was written out of the series in a way that’s not totally permanent, and it makes sense for the new season. Some fans are hopeful that the grey area leaves room for a return for the beloved character and coach.

Season two of Game Changers focuses on some of the team’s players attending a summer camp with Coach Cole. That switch-up allowed for a new coach, new style, and new location to film in. 

In a chat with Collider, Josh Duhamel shared that all of it worked together in his favor, and he felt confident stepping into the role of the camp coach. 

“It would’ve been a lot harder, had I come in to try to replace somebody’s character, but this is a whole new character with a whole new setting. So, yes, I was coming into a new show that had already been established, but at the time, they were coming into my space, in a strange way, which gave me some freedom to make it my own. Because of that, I was able to have a lot of fun with this guy. I loved how intense and how serious he takes hockey because I grew up with coaches like this. It was fun to take the piss out of some of them, and it gives you a long way to go.”

We can’t wait to learn more about Coach Cole!

You can read Estevez’s full statement below: 

Estevez’s statement in full addresses several things and many of the rumors flying around about his absence. He talks about COVID-19, the struggles of acting during a pandemic, and how the virus affected him personally, including being someone who dealt with long-haul symptoms. It all plays an essential part in his story and lets us know more about why he decided to leave the series.

“I am not anti-vaxx. Full stop.I take this pandemic very seriously, and I am often teased about my continued following of the safety protocols and my abundance of caution.

I want to address what transpired and clear up some falsehoods which appeared in an article regarding my decision to depart The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. In the final analysis, this was nothing more than a good old fashioned contract dispute and not, as some would believe an anti-vaccine position.

While I can’t speak for anyone else in regards to this polarizing, sensitive issue, I have my own lived experience.In late February 2020, at the end of shooting the pilot for The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers in Vancouver, I wasn’t feeling 100%. I chalked it up to being on a cold set and on an ice rink day after day. I drove to Vancouver for the pilot, due to news of “an emerging disease,” which would eventually be known as “Covid 19.” My decision to drive there and back was to avoid mass crowds and international airports. I already started wearing face coverings, gloves, and using hand sanitizer. I also genuinely love driving across and around America, as anyone who knows me can attest.

En route from Vancouver to Los Angeles I became noticeably ill. Once back in L.A. I begged several doctors to be tested for this new variant of flu. I was assured that “I didn’t meet the criteria,” or “There’s no way you have it.” After multiple efforts, I finally received a car-side Covid 19 PCR test on March 13, 2020. I continued to become increasingly sick, suffering from fever, sweats, brain fog, and mood swings. On March 17, 2020, I got word I had indeed contracted Covid 19. Thankfully I refrained from visiting my elderly parents and others until I received my results. I had discussions with doctors and contact tracing personnel from the L.A. County Department of Health.

I suffered during the summer and fall of 2020 from what we now know as “Long Haul Syndrome.” As the show went back into production in August 2020, I reluctantly soldiered on but was uncertain about how I would be safe on set. I questioned the wisdom of returning to make a tv show in the middle of a pandemic and how actors could be considered “essential workers.”

The show producers tried their best to assuage my fears of coming back to work. “You have natural immunity!” “You’ll be the safest one on set,” I was repeatedly told. Additionally, I was warned by my former reps about possible consequences and legal jeopardy I could face for not reporting to work as ordered. So, I returned to Vancouver. I followed the Canadian quarantine mandate as well as the strict “Zone A” on set Covid protocols. I did not complain, nor did I release my diagnosis to the public. I wanted to try and preserve the show morale and be a leader, however, while still suffering from Long Haul Syndrome. The legacy of the franchise was more important to me than my own health.

In retrospect, I wrongly chose to protect the show over being transparent about having contracted Covid-19. I may have provided another public example to wit how we are all vulnerable to this deadly disease. The quoted “anonymous sources,” producers, and showrunners all know the truth. Simply put, I am anti-bully. My exit from the show was due to a myriad of creative differences – any other narrative is false. To the fans of the franchise – I am as disappointed as you are.

To my “Ducks” cast and crew – have a wonderful Season 2 on the show, and please know that I will miss you all. It was an honor and a thrill to be able to return as the iconic and beloved character, Gordon Bombay, a character which has been a celebrated benchmark in my 40-year career. And I thank the studio and the producers for creating an opportunity to allow me to visit him again.

Ducks Fly Together!”

You can watch The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers streaming now on Disney Plus, and don’t forget to check out the first season if you haven’t yet. The story of the underdog team continues to be inspirational, and we could all use a little more of that.