The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers Season 2 Replaces Emilio Estevez With Josh Duhamel

The Mighty Ducks have found their new hockey coach. Late last year, we heard that Emilio Estevez was not returning for the second season of "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers," the Disney+ series led by Lauren Graham that serves as a streaming revival of the popular '90s sports-movie franchise. Wishful thinking had some fans hoping that, in Estevez's absence, Joshua Jackson might return to reprise his role as a grown version of Charlie Conway from the original 1992 "Mighty Ducks" film. However, Deadline reports that a different Josh — Josh Duhamel — will take over from Estevez, as a former NHL player who now runs a "super-intense hockey institute" where the Ducks will be training in season 2. 

Duhamel's character, Gavin Cole, is described as "inspirational, charming, and hardcore," and someone who "is big on the hockey metaphor that applies to life." For him as an actor, scoring this role is especially good news in light of the untimely cancelation of "Jupiter's Legacy," his Netflix superhero series, after just one season last year.

There have been some conflicting reports about why Estevez is departing "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers." The phrase "creative differences" has come up more than once, but initial reports indicated that Estevez declined to follow COVID-19 vaccination polices and that is why the powers that be removed him from the show.

This latest report, however, mentions that Estevez is "departing the show due to a contract dispute and creative differences after a bout with long-haul Covid." Apparently, he was already sick with Covid at the outset of the pandemic in early 2020 and was experiencing recurring symptoms in the summer and fall of that year while production on the first season of "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers" was underway.

Why Estevez Isn't Returning

Days after the news broke that Estevez is not returning for the show's second season, he released a lengthy statement clarifying what led to his departure from "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers." Here is that statement in full:

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 "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 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 show runners 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!