Josh Duhamel to Replace Emilio Estevez in Mighty Ducks : Game Changers as New Head Coach

·3 min read

Mike Marsland/WireImage; ABC/Liane Hentscher Josh Duhamel (left) and Emilio Estevez

There's a new head coach headed to the Mighty Ducks universe!

Josh Duhamel has joined the cast of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers and will be replacing Emilio Estevez's character of Coach Gordon Bombay on the Disney+ series, PEOPLE confirms.

Duhamel, 49, will take on the role of Gavin Cole, a former NHL player-turned-coach who runs the intense summer hockey institute where The Mighty Ducks will play in season 2.

Duhamel's character — who is described as "inspirational, charming, hardcore [and] big on the hockey metaphor that applies to life" — will star alongside Lauren Graham, who portrays Alex Morrow.

News of Duhamel's casting comes two months after Deadline and Variety reported that Estevez, 59, would not be returning to the show for season 2 due to a disagreement about ABC Signature's COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Estevez later spoke out about the reports, telling Deadline last November that his departure was due to "nothing more than a good old-fashioned contract dispute."

A rep for Estevez did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment at the time. When reached by PEOPLE, a spokesperson for Disney had no comment.

Emilio Estevez
Emilio Estevez

Disney + Emilio Estevez (center) on the set of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

RELATED: Emilio Estevez Addresses His Exit from The Mighty Ducks amid Reports of Dispute Over Vaccine Mandate

"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," Estevez said in a statement to Deadline, stopping short of directly saying whether he was or was not vaccinated.

Estevez maintained that he had not left the show because of "an anti-vaccine position," and revealed that he contracted COVID in March 2020 and spent much of the year battling prolonged symptoms.

The actor explained that he had concerns about his safety when he returned to set in August 2020 but that the producers assured him he would be safe. He also claimed his former reps warned him "about possible consequences and legal jeopardy" of not returning to work so he went back to set "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," he wrote, in part. "Simply put, I am anti-bully. My exit from the show was due to a myriad of creative differences – any other narrative is false."

Emilio Estevez
Emilio Estevez

Disney + Emilio Estevez

RELATED: The Cast of The Mighty Ducks: Where Are They Now?

Centered around a ragtag hockey team, the first The Mighty Ducks movie was released in 1992 and starred Estevez as Coach Gordon Bombay, along with Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Josef Sommer, Joshua Jackson and Elden Henson.

The hockey flick spawned two sequels — D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994) and D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996) — and an animated series.

In March 2021, the first season of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers premiered on Disney+, nearly 30 years after the original film franchise. Estevez reprised his role as Gordon Bombay for the 10-episode series alongside Graham, Brady Noon, Swayam Bhatia, Taegen Burns, Julee Cerda, Bella Higginbotham, Luke Islam, Kiefer O'Reilly, Maxwell Simkins and De'Jon Watts.

No premiere date has been set yet for season 2.

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