Stan Lee teams up with NHL for superpower promo

Zap! Whoosh! Bam! Goal?

Comic-book legend Stan Lee has an unlikely partner for his new

team of superheroes: the National Hockey League.

The Spider-Man co-creator and the NHL are collaborating on The

Guardian Project, creating a superhero to represent each of the

league’s 30 teams.

“It’s thrilling to me because they have such great teams, and

every team has a name that lends itself to a superhero we’ve

created, and nobody, I think, has done anything like this before,”

Lee says in an interview. “We’re taking the whole hockey league and

we’re playing up every one of the teams, and we have a whole story

behind it. It’s going to be an epic story.”

Each Guardian will have five powers, including one tied to his

team. The Calgary Flames representative will have control over

fire, for example, and the Philadelphia Flyer can go airborne. They

are not being developed from existing mascots.

“We worked really closely with all 30 teams over the last 10

months to really get the look and feel and personality of their

team and incorporate it into the physical superhero,” says Adam

Baratta of Guardian Media Entertainment (GME), the partnership set

up by the NHL and Lee’s POW! Entertainment to launch and operate

the franchise.

The superheroes are designed to appeal to the NHL’s fan base,

but also to the younger set, perhaps cultivating new fans. Plans

call for comic books, a novel, mobile applications, TV and

film.

“We were looking at how do we cultivate a relationship with the

next generation of fans,” NHL marketing chief Brian Jennings says.

“And watching the explosion of superheroes that was going on in the

entertainment world, we immediately saw an amazing

opportunity.”

Organizers are keeping a lid for now on the powers and

likenesses of The Guardians, with plans to reveal them individually

over time on the enterprise’s website (guardianproject30.com)

before presenting them together at January’s NHL All-Star game.

The teams had a role in designing heroes to reflect themselves.

The Flyers are characterized by toughness, the Montreal Canadiens

by speed and the Toronto Maple Leafs by size and strength.

The superheroes will work together and separately, although

there will be friction between those representing traditional

rivalries, such as that between the Flyers and the New York

Rangers.

They spring from the mind of another character, a hockey fan

named Mike Mason. They will be fans of their respective teams, but

their stories will take place in a world outside of hockey. Of

course, there will be villains.

Mason will have something in common with Spider-Man’s Peter

Parker “in the sense that (as) we tried to make Peter Parker as

realistic as possible, we are trying to make Mike Mason as real as

possible. (But) it’s a whole different story,” Lee says. The

Guardians will have “their own personal problems and hang-ups.”

GME’s Tony Chargin, who worked with Lee and Jake Shapiro to

create and develop the characters, came up with the idea of merging

superheroes and professional sports. In the late 1990s, he noticed

kids becoming less interested in team sports and more engaged with

wrestling and the X-Games.

“How do you get kids in today’s world, who have so many options,

interested in team sports?” he says. “Kids love superheroes. Kids

love sports. Sports figures are very similar to superheroes. It

seemed natural.”

He and his partners also talked to other professional leagues,

but the NHL pairing made for a partnership rather than a licensing

deal, GME COO Mark Terry says.

Hockey is a fine fit, Lee says. “It’s fast-moving, it’s

thrilling, it’s exciting as a game can be.”