Gordon is a successful Minneapolis defense attorney, whose courtroom antics have earned him no respect among his peers. After being arrested for drunk driving, Bombay is sentenced to 500 hours of community service by coaching the local District 5 peewee hockey team. He has a history with the sport, although his memories are far from pleasant: he blew a penalty shot, costing his team the title and disappointing his hyper-competitive coach, Jack Reilly.
When Bombay meets the team, he realizes the kids have no practice facility, equipment or ability to go with it. The team's first game with Bombay at the helm is against Bombay's old team: the Hawks, the team from the snooty suburb of Edina. Reilly is still head coach and remains bitter about Gordon's shortcoming in that fateful game. District 5 gets pummeled and after Bombay berates the team for not listening to him, the players challenge his authority. Meanwhile, Bombay discovers his old mentor and family friend Hans, who owns a nearby sporting goods store, was in attendance. While visiting him, Bombay recalls that he quit playing hockey after losing his father four months before the championship game. Hans encourages him to rekindle his childhood passion.
Bombay approaches his boss, Gerald Ducksworth to sponsor the team, which Ducksworth reluctantly agrees. The result is a complete makeover for the team, both in look (as they can now buy professional equipment) and in skill (as Bombay has more time to teach the kids hockey fundamentals). Now playing as the "Ducks", they fight to a tie in the next game and recruit three new players: figure-skating siblings Tommy and Tammy Duncan and slap shot specialist and enforcer Fulton Reed. The potential of Ducks player Charlie Conway catches Bombay's eye and he takes him under his wing.
Bombay learns that star player for the Hawks, Adam Banks, actually resides in the Ducks' district boundaries and threatens Reilly into transferring Banks to the Ducks. After hearing an out-of-context quote about them, the Ducks lose faith in Bombay and revert to their old habits.
Ducksworth makes a deal with Reilly about the Hawks keeping Banks, however Bombay refuses since it would be against fair-play, which Ducksworth berated him about when he started his community service. Left with either the choice of letting his team down or get fired from his job, Bombay takes the latter.
Bombay manages to win back the Ducks' trust and Adam Banks proves to be a valuable asset. The Ducks manage to make it to the championship against the Hawks. Despite the Hawks' heavy attacks taking Banks out of the game, the Ducks manage to score a tie and earn a penalty shot in the final seconds of the game. Bombay encourages Charlie to take the shot, reassuring him that even if he fails it will be alright. Charlie manages to score a goal using a technique Gordon taught him.
After the championship, Bombay boards a bus headed to a minor-league tryout. Although he seems daunted at the prospect of going up against younger players, he receives the same words of encouragement and advice from the Ducks he had given them, promising he will return next season to defend their title.
Gordon Bombay becomes a star in the minor leagues and is expected to make it to the NHL soon. However, after a career-ending knee injury, he returns to Minneapolis. Bombay is then offered a chance to coach a team representing the United States in the Junior Goodwill Games. Team USA consists of many of the old Ducks, in addition to five new players with special talents.
The lure of celebrity becomes a distraction to Bombay, who begins to neglect the team in exchange for a luxurious lifestyle. Fortunately, easy victories come over Trinidad, Tobago, and Italy in the double-elimination tournament. During this time, Fulton Reed and Dean Portman gain recognition for their enforcer skills, becoming known as the "Bash Brothers". Backup goaltender Julie asks Bombay for a chance to play, but he tells her to wait, as current goalie Greg Goldberg is on a hot streak.
Reality sets in when the team suffers an embarrassing 12-1 defeat at the hands of Team Iceland, coached by ex-NHL player Wolf "The Dentist" Stansson, who is known for his tough reputation. Team USA plays badly, but Adam Banks manages to score a goal but gets slashed in the wrist moments later. Frustrated, Bombay drives his players even harder, but they begin to suffer, completely exhausted. Eventually, the team's tutor, Michelle McKay, cancels their practice and confronts Bombay.
However, Bombay continues to suffer until one of his mentors, Hans, personally visits him, and reminds him of how he used to love the game. During a match against Team Germany, Bombay fails to arrive on time, forcing Charlie to tell the referee that Michelle is actually "Coach McKay". They play poorly, entering the third period tied, until Bombay shows up and apologizes for his behavior. Inspired by their coach's "return", the players come back to win the game and advance to the next round. The renewed Bombay finally realizes Adam's wrist injury, benching him despite his complaints. To fill the open roster spot, Charlie recruits street hockey player, Russ Tyler, whose unique "knucklepuck" secures USA's victory over Russia (who defeated Iceland earlier), advancing USA to the championship game for a rematch against Iceland. Before the game, Adam's injury is healed and returns to Team USA's locker room, only to find they already have a full roster. Charlie gives up his spot on the roster so Adam can play, cementing his position as the true team captain.
At first, Iceland appears to be out to dominate Team USA again, but they manage to score one goal. Bombay is annoyed because "this isn't a hockey game, it's a circus."
After a motivational locker room speech from Bombay and new Duck jerseys from Jan, the team emerges rejuvenated. The Ducks manage to tie the game when Russ outsmarts Team Iceland by disguising himself as Goldberg, so as to prevent himself from being covered and pulling off a successful "knucklepuck". The game is forced to go to a five-shot shootout. With a 4-3 score in favor of the Ducks, Gunner Stahl (the tournament's leading scorer) is Team Iceland's final shooter. Bombay knows Gunner favors shooting the glove side after a triple deke, and replaces Goldberg with Julie, who has a faster glove. Gunner advances on Julie and fires a hard slapshot. Although Julie falls to the ice, she slowly turns to look at her glove while the entire stadium waits in breathless anticipation. She then opens her glove and drops the puck, signifying the game-winning save. With this, the Ducks triumph over Iceland to win the tournament.
Sometime after the tournament, Bombay intends to take a job with the Junior Goodwill Games, which would leave him unable to coach the Ducks at Eden Hall Academy.
The Ducks' struggles appear to continue as their mentor, Hans, passes away. Meanwhile Charlie lashes out and quits the team. Bombay comes to his house the day following the funeral and takes Charlie back to Eden Hall. He tells Charlie that Orion's career with the Minnesota North Stars ended when the team moved to Dallas and he stayed to care for his paraplegic daughter. Bombay says he told Orion that Charlie was the heart and soul of the team, and it was his hope that both Orion and Charlie would learn something from each other. Touched by his words, Charlie agrees to rejoin the team.
Dean Buckley , the school's headmaster, informs the team that its board of trustees wants revoke the Ducks' scholarships and offers Orion a chance to start anew with a team of his choice. Satisfied with the team, Coach Orion balks at the news, threatening resignation. He gets Bombay to fight for their case, which he does successfully.
Prior to the JV-Varsity game, Orion brings back the Duck jerseys. Throughout the game, the Varsity dominates on offense. However, the Ducks keep the game scoreless after two periods. During the second intermission, Dean Portman returns to the team, adding a needed spark. Late in the game, the Ducks get two penalties and must play 5 vs 3. During the time-out, Orion renames Charlie captain and tells him to go for the win if the opportunity presents itself. With seconds left in the game, Charlie passes the puck back to Goldberg, now a defenseman, who scores into an wide-open net as time expires, securing a 1-0 victory for the Ducks.
Following the victory, Charlie embraces Orion and spots Bombay who has attended the game, and they both look across to a banner with the Ducks' logo. Bombay was able to get Eden Hall to change their mascot from the Warriors to the Ducks. Bombay, then departs the game, amid a sea of cheering fans, with a smile.