A 17-year-old farmhand from rural New York, Dean Youngblood has dreams of playing in the National Hockey League. Dean voices these dreams to his father, but receives negative feedback, and it is not until his brother, Kelly convinces their father Blane to let him try that he is granted the chance to travel to Canada to try out for the Hamilton Mustangs. At the try-outs, Youngblood demonstrates the abilities which garnered him "92 goals in the New York League" but also displays a lack of physical toughness that is so prized in Canadian junior hockey. This perceived weakness is pounced upon by a brutish player, Carl Racki, who is also trying out for the team and engages him in a fight. Youngblood quickly learns that flashiness and pure athletic ability will not be enough to be successful in this league. Despite being one-punched by Racki, Mustangs head coach Murray Chadwick, a former NHL All-Star with the New York Rangers, opts to select Youngblood for a spot on the team. He ingratiates himself to the other players through a hazing ritual in which members of the Mustangs pin Youngblood down, and Captain Derek Sutton shaves his testicles. Youngblood meets the coach's daughter Jessie after this incident, and despite his embarrassment, an early attraction is felt.
After his mentor and friend on the team, Derek Sutton, is brutally injured by Racki (now with a rival team), Youngblood returns home to the farm. After a pep-talk by Kelly about the nature of never quitting, Youngblood is inspired to learn how to survive on the ice. Dean's father Blane, who initially disapproved of his son playing, especially after Kelly had been injured ending a promising career, also teaches his son some fighting tricks, stating "Its ok to hit a bag in the barn, but you've got to learn to survive on the ice". Youngblood returns to the team, ready to confront Racki in the final game of the Memorial Cup playoffs.
The game ends with a dramatic, game-winning goal by Youngblood with 3 seconds left. Youngblood demands to be left in the game as time expires to confront Racki. Youngblood emerges victorious, landing several blows to the face and body of his nemesis Racki, and is carried off the ice on the shoulders of his teammates.Rob Lowe as Dean YoungbloodPatrick Swayze as Derek SuttonCynthia Gibb as Jessie ChadwickEric Nesterenko as Blane Youngblood. A 20 year NHL veteran, Nesterenko was also the film's hockey consultant.Jim Youngs as Kelly YoungbloodEd Lauter as Murray Chadwick, the Mustangs CoachKeanu Reeves as Heaver, the Mustangs goalie. Reeves had played goalie while in high school, earning the nickname "The Wall".George Finn as Carl Racki (billed as George J. Finn). Finn was a former junior player in the Ontario Hockey LeaguePeter Faussett as Huey HewittSimon Herring as GuardFionnula Flanagan as Miss McGill
Many of the other team members in the film were actual junior or NCAA hockey players, including Steve Thomas, Peter Zezel (both of whom had lengthy NHL careers), Don Biggs, and James Richmond.
The movie gained a mediocre reception, with critics finding the plot derivative. However, it became a popular VHS video rental and cable TV showing.
The filming of Youngblood took place in the east end of Toronto in the summer of 1984. Ted Reeve Arena was used as the setting for the interior of the Hamilton Mustangs home rink while Scarborough Gardens Arena was used for the setting of the arena's exterior; a third city arena was also used for filming.
Several of the cast and crew had actual hockey experience and skills, though star Rob Lowe had to learn to skate, and both he and Patrick Swayze, a better skater, used doubles for many of their on-ice skating scenes. Director and writer Peter Markle was a former minor-pro and international player for the USA. Cinematographer Mark Irwin, a Canadian, wore skates and a helmet and devised a special rig for shooting hockey scenes on the ice. The film's hockey consultant Eric Nesterenko was a two decade NHL veteran who also appeared as the father of the film's lead character. Keanu Reeves played goalie growing up and in high school. George Finn, who played villain Carl Racki, was a former OHL enforcer. Many of the other team members were actual NCAA or junior hockey players, some of whom went on to significant NHL careers.
Lowe later said he "hated" learning how to skate. "I don’t like any sport where you’re already exhausted when you’re done putting on the equipment. But that said, once I got the equipment on and was out on the ice, I loved that. I loved hitting people, being hit, skating. I love the exertion and competition, so that was all great. But it’s a lot of work putting all of that shit on! Give me a surfboard and let me just paddle into the ocean."