When I first saw the previews for this hockey-themed episode used as a quasi-promotional ploy for ABC's upcoming broadcast of the 1988 Winter Olympics, I anticipated a disappointingly substandard MacGyver episode that more closely resembled an afterschool special. While the afterschool special tag did sort of stick, the characters and story were nonetheless very engaging and delivered a very healthy change-of-pace episode that I continue to enjoy as a young adult. The extent to which pro hockey scouts celebrated Derek Kirby's brutal play was overblown, but the morality play that said dynamic produced was handled masterfully. The best character of all was Kirby's father, doing whatever it takes to help his son escape the dreary small town body shop existence he would otherwise be forced to endure. The sense of community spirit was also poignantly captured, particularly by coach Turk Donner, excellently played by Martin Milner. I'm a native of Minnesota, but not the part of the state where hockey is a religion. In the northern reaches of the state, where I anticipated this episode to be set, the hockey culture is every bit as intense as portrayed in this episode. The ending was emotional and perhaps a little too "happy", but it's hard to see any other outcome being as satisfying for this engaging episode.
With virtually no MacGyverisms, this episode could have been just about any other nighttime drama. The story was somewhat interesting, but it wasn't what we watch MacGyver for. No Pete Thornton, no Nikki Carpenter, Phoenix Foundation nor even a Jack Dalton in sight.
If the writers were going for a simple, by-the-numbers feel-good story, they got it.
I'm re-watching the entire seven season run (in order) and so far season three has not been as exciting as the first two. I hope this episode isn't a start of a downward spiral into mediocrity.
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