Stan's bike is impounded for unpaid parking tickets, and the only way he can get it back is by performing community service. He's enlisted to coach the Park County Pee Wee hockey team, which turns out to be quite a bummer for him. The kids can barely skate, let alone play. And even worse, one of the little players (Nelson) has terminal cancer.
At home, Randy is equally horrified to find out about his son's coaching gig. Apparently, when Stan was four years old, he missed a crucial shot during a Pee Wee hockey game that forced his team to settle for a tie. The painful memory is still fresh for his father -- even though Stan can't seem to remember the traumatic event (although he does recall going to Shakey's Pizza afterwards).
Meanwhile, Nelson's condition worsens. He's now bedridden and far too sick to play. As a dying wish, he asks Stan to win their next game against Adams County. Try as they might, however, their next match results in a 0-0 tie. And Nelson is left in what Dr. Doctor refers to as "cancer limbo."
The South Park team is then slated to face a much better team from Denver County in the Pepsi Center. Hoping that a win will give Nelson the strength to carry on, Stan adds a "ringer" to the roster -- Kyle's brother Ike, recruited solely because he's Canadian.
Stan's father confronts his son about his return to the Pepsi Center, the sight of his failure years earlier. The incident (which Stan still can't remember) is so vivid to his father that he almost doesn't attend the game.
Thus the stage is set for a classic "sports movie" finish, in which the underdog defeats the better team. Only it doesn't work out that way. They arrive for the match-up (to be played during the intermission of an NHL Colorado Avalanche/Detroit Red Wings game) only to discover that the opposing team didn't show.
Not wanting the kids -- who have been through way too much "emotional crap" -- to leave the arena empty-handed, the Avalanche let Stan's team take on the Red Wings during the third period. Twenty minutes of savage body checking later, the Pee Wee's lose 32-2. The Red Wings hoist a huge trophy while "We Are the Champions" plays.
Stan is humiliated. His father is furious with him for failing. A player tells Stan that he hates him. And shortly thereafter, as a sort of traumatic cherry on top of a sadness sundae, the bedridden Nelson succumbs to cancer.
What I Learned Today
"Haven't you guys ever seen these movies? We're just supposed to rally together, believe in ourselves, and we win in the end!"
- "The game tonight, I'm gonna be watching, so could you . . . make it so I don't have cancer?" Nelson Brown
- "Oh and it appears the goalie has pooped his pants." (Announcer)
- "Coach, please don't let us lose to Adams County. My daddy will beat me again." (Park County Player)
- "Stan, your mother's been worried sick, and I've been watching TV!" Randy
- "Stan Marsh is a bright young man. He's got a great family. A promising paper route. Only problem is His bike's been impounded!" (County Official)
- "I'm just his father. But you're his coach! You're like a father to him!" (Nelson's dad)
- "He isn't worse, but he isn't getting better. It's almost as if his cancer were TIED." Dr. Doctor
- "Just remember, Stan, WIN OR LOSE. Those are your two options. WIN OR LOSE." Randy
Nelson (the kid with cancer) and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Brown. There's also the rest of Stan's Pee Wee hockey team: Morgan, Sammy, Billy, Nelson, Tad, and Chris.
Lastly, we meet the County Official, who seems to have an endless assortment of movie plots at his disposal, as well as Gavin Throttle, coach of the Adams County hockey squad.
Little Nelson loses his battle to cancer. The rest of South Park's Pee Wee team also receives a solid ass whooping courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings.
Behind The Scenes
This episode was partially written and animated before the run began, so that the crew could take off a couple days at some point. But instead of being used in the middle of the run as planned, it kept getting held because no one knew what to do with it. Finally, with only one episode left and no other ideas in sight, it was time to knuckle down and make it work.
Where Did The Idea Come From
The story turns clichd sports movies, from Bad News Bears to The Mighty Ducks, upside down. Stan even says to his players, "Haven't you guys ever seen these movies?! We're just supposed to rally together, believe in ourselves, and we win in the end!" Matt's favorite part is the last bit, where there's a huge, clich happy ending -- only it's for the opposing team. It's their happy ending that we witness.
Pop Culture References
The hockey arena carries an ad for Lizard Ade, an obvious reference to Gatorade. There's also an ad for an arching "W" with the phrase "Gotta Love It!" (a joke on McDonald's slogan "I'm Loving It"). During the action-packed game montage between South Park and Adams County, "Song 2" by Blur blasts.
This whole episode is an extended parody of the classic Disney flick The Mighty Ducks -- a movie about an attorney who is forced to coach a hockey team after a drunk driving arrest. The flashback of Stan missing the goal is set up exactly like the opening to the film, except instead of Stan being emotionally scarred, Randy takes the burden. And as the icing on the Ducks-parody cake, "We Are the Champions" by Queen blasts over the Red Wings celebration.
The Crocodile Hunter, lampooned a few episodes earlier in "Hell On Earth 2006," gets it again -- twice. When Stan tries to reassure a player that the opposing team isn't going to literally "kill" them, the boy says, "That's what Steve Irwin said about the stingrays." Before that, Dr. Doctor states that if Stan loses the big game, Nelson "is gonna die faster than Steve Irwin in a tank full of stingrays."
The South Park Gazette, according to its sign, was established in 1997 -- the same year South Park debuted. In the office for the Gazette, there are three framed articles behind Mr. Jarvis -- all referencing past episodes: What Is Scuzzlebutt?? with a picture of the notorious monster from Season 1's "Volcano"; Local Inventor Hits Big!! with a snapshot of Garrison and his breakthrough IT from Season 5's "The Entity"; and Smug Alert!!! from this season's disaster epic "Smug Alert" .
In the hockey flashback, we get a nice view of Stan's parents with longer, 70s-style hair. The only other time we've seem them rock this fashion was during a brief Woodstock flashback in "Die, Hippie Die" .