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 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
“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
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
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
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.”