When the history of bad sports marketing ideas is written, the NHL's Guardian Project will cover more than a few pages. It's just really lame. It's one of those rare bad ideas that actually sounds worse the more you try and explain it --- in this interview with Yahoo Sports, I'm surprised the marketing exec didn't just break down in tears and admit the whole thing was fueled by an opium addiction.
The generalities: each NHL team has its own "guardian," or basically a superhero that "represents the spirit of the team." The idea is that these characters will attract the attention of comic book-loving kids who aren't interested in hockey, but will get hooked on the sport through their favourite guardian. Uh huh. It's sort of like how Captain Planet influenced an entire generation of kids to be more eco-friendly, which is why today, our planet has an absolutely perfect environment. Thanks, Captain Planet! You sure showed us the way!
Needless to say, this entire project will be forgotten minutes after it's officially unveiled at the NHL All-Star Game (itself a pointless enterprise), but the Guardian Project's lasting legacy will be the number of jokes created at the expense of the goofy superhero bios. The link at the top of the page provides a list of every Guardian revealed thus far, and the results are solid comic gold. My favourites....
* The Flyer. First of all, everyone knows Green Man is Philly's greatest hero. Secondly, even the good-natured Guardian Project can't resist taking a shot at Philadelphia sports fans: "Of course, like his fellow Philadelphians, [the Flyer] has the propensity to let his intensity get the better of him." His powers include mind control, which I presume was gleaned from Bobby Clarke convincing people to let him stay employed as a GM for so many years.
* The Blue Jacket. "A great military mind, the Blue Jacket lives to fight and he has the power of mediumship to communicate with the Union Civil War Generals that he idolizes." That's great. So in a tight spot against a dastardly supervillain, the Blue Jacket will have a seance with Ulysses S. Grant to get some tips. Of course, it'll take the BJ an hour to explain to General Grant exactly what a supervillain is, and what a superhero is, and what exactly the fuck is going on, etc. Time is not of the essence for the BJ. (Pun intended.) But hey, who needs advice from 150-year-old military men when "at his side hangs the state flag of Ohio made of astral plasma." So yeah, he's got that going for him.
* The Lightning. Don't mention Jack Sparrow, don't mention Jack Sparrow, don't mention Jack Sparrow..."The Lightning is a man of action, he is brazen and cocky. Like the pirates who inhabited the Tampa area 200 years ago, he is impetuous and unpredictable. He's feisty and fun and he is a natural ladies man with an in-your-face bravado. He is determined to save the world from harm, and wants to look good doing it." Whew, that was close, almost mentioned Jack Sparrow!
* The Penguin. The boasting about the 'Penguin-like wings' on his costume is pretty great, but what really makes this guy stand out is his name. Truly, he will go down as the most famous comic book hero character called the Penguin of all ti...er, wait....
* The Avalanche. "The Avalanche has a problem with authority and hates being told what to do...He's willing to take chances that most of the other Guardians wouldn't dare, not because he actually believes that he can accomplish the act in question, but simply because he wants to see if it's possible." And now, your first edition of, Avalanche Comics!
Cop: Avalanche, come quickly! There's a school bus about to fall into a ravine, and you're the only one who can save those kids!"
Avalanche: Don't tell me what to do!
Cop: Uh, what?
Avalanche: Typical authority figure, trying to boss me around.
Cop: But what about saving those kids?
Avalanche: Forget it! I'm going to see if I can drink this litre of chocolate milk in ten minutes and see if I can keep from vomiting.
The Coyote: No way can you do that!
Avalanche: Oh don't worry, I'm pretty sure I can't. But I want to see if it's possible!
Cop: Wait, but if you can do it, then that means it is possible.
* The Hurricane. He's a "barometric nightmare!" The Hurricane's bio makes him sound like Frasier Crane: "At the same time, the Hurricane carries with him the calculating mind of an intellectual. As such, he fancies himself an inventor and entrepreneur. In short, the Hurricane is a thought-provoking intellectual who can be every bit as devastating as the force of nature from which he takes his name." Lord knows the "thought-provoking intellectuals" are far and away the most popular superheroes.
* The Bruin. "Although the Bruin gives off a blue collar vibe, he is one of the well-educated Guardians. This fact is attributable to the Boston area being home to over 100 institutions of higher learning including the oldest University in the United States." Oh good lord. I love how it's not "one of the MOST well-educated Guardians," just "well-educated." Meaning that some of the Guardians are apparently illiterate numbskulls.
* The Wild. "He is an intellectual and avid reader, taken from the fact that the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is one of the most highly literate in the Country." Double good lord. Hey NHL, I read a ton of books when I was a kid, and also really into superheroes and comics. At no goddamn point did I ever think, "Man, if only there was a superhero that was as into reading as I was!"
* The Blue. YOU'RE MY BOY, BLUE! Now, I've gotta say, the Blue seems like the most visually impressive of these Guardians. I mean, look at that picture. That's pretty bad-ass, admittedly. Maybe there's one actual interesting hero in this bunch. Let's see his bio -- "At his side is his trusty sax, and the music he plays has telepathic qualities, which allow him to control the minds of his weak-minded foes." Um...
Oh. Oh dear. That's...unfortunate.
* The Senator. It guess it makes sense that the superhero representative of one of the NHL's dumbest teams voluntarily "sold himself into slavery in order to join the ranks of the gladiators." Also, like Canadian senators, The Senator is irrelevant.
* The Star. Much like with the Flyer, this hero's description seems like an insult to his city's fanbase. "Like Texas itself, The Star's personality is BIG. Everything about him oozes with confidence. He's the horse everybody came to see and he relishes the opportunity to prove his greatness. You could say there is another side to him but there just isn't. His confidence is so severe that it could almost be considered a superpower all by itself." So yeah, he's an asshole, got it. He's not the most original asshole either, given his "There's a new Sheriff in town" catchphrase. In the NHL's eyes, Texas = boastful cliches.
* The Canadien. Easily the most fanboyishly-written of any entry. "The Canadien is a ladies' man, culturally refined and quite simply the best at everything he's ever attempted....Just as in the NHL, all the teams are excellent in their own unique way, but all of them are made a little more valuable by the presence of the Montreal Canadien." Groan. Habs fans are still upset by the entry because it isn't written in French.
* The Oiler. "He spends a majority of his time roaming the Northwest Territories. He's most happy when he's exploring the vast northern wilderness." Well, there's a big fuck-you to the people of Edmonton. Hey Edmontonians, your city is apparently so lousy that even your own hero would rather spend his time chilling in Yellowknife.
* The Predator. Presumably his arch-enemy is The Blackberry, who possesses magnetic powers and tries to drag people to Hamilton. This entry is even funnier if you pretend it's being written about not a Nashville Predator, but rather a sexual predator. For instance, he is forced to sit in the rafters of the Grand Ole Opry due to restraining orders. (Also, why would a beloved town hero be shunted up to the rafters? Shouldn't he get a front-row seat?) Another great passage..."In the face of insurmountable odds, many a Guardian has uttered the phrase 'What would Pred do?' " Yeah, no question, in the real NHL, most teams look to the Predators as a model franchise of the hockey world. Hopefully nothing ever happens to the Predator during a mission, otherwise many a Guardian will be uttering the phrase 'Pred's dead, baby. Pred's dead.'
* The Canuck. You knew at least one of these clowns would have a 'talk to the animals' power, and sure enough, the Canuck "has the power of summoning which he uses to call his whale friends to his aid when necessary." SAVE ME, BURLY AVENGERS! Hopefully the Canuck doesn't summon a whale to help him stop, like, a jewelry store robbery. I fail to see how the skillset applies. Also, apparently the Canuck is "the most contrarian of the Guardians." At first I thought this was an odd thing to highlight (Vancouverians are contrarian?) but it actually fits a team that claims to have a rich, proud history despite not winning anything in 40 years. This is the same fanbase that thinks Trevor Linden is a Hall-of-Famer...talk about contrarian.
* The Islander. "The Islander is the toughest man to ever set foot on the earth." Well, I guess that settles that.
* The Duck. I haven't talked a whole lot about the varying powers and strengths of these heroes but I think we can safely slot the Duck near the bottom of the pile. "He wears a futuristic bio suit and helmet that allow him to breathe underwater for short periods of time. He also has surf boots on his feet that give him the ability to glide on the surface of water at incredible speeds. He has wings, but they allow him to fly in short bursts and at low altitudes only. He's constantly developing new technology that allows him to take advantage of his aquatic abilities. He also has several surfboards for different conditions and adventures, including his ever-present 'Fish' board; a retro surfboard that allows him to cut through waves and at an incredible speed and make amazing maneuvers." So basically, if you're not near the water, the Duck won't be much of a threat to you. Even better, the Duck is described as being a "rebel with a trust fund." Oh shit, I know the Duck's secret identity! It's Adam Banks! CAKE-EATER, CAKE-EATER!
* The Ranger. Speaking of powers, the Ranger's bio doesn't even mention his actual abilities. It's all just a bunch of hooey about how the Ranger has "a multi-cultural feel to him" or some other focus group nonsense. It's not until you click on his picture that you discover the Ranger is "an innovative machinist, he controls a variety of destructive weapons." So let me get this straight...the bio goes out of its way to make the Ranger sound as culture-friendly as possible, and then his powerset is basically the same as, like, a terrorist? Smooth move, NHL.
* The Devil. Arguably the funniest one of the bunch. "He's aware that his appearance doesn't exactly scream 'one of the good guys' so he goes out of his way to make sure people, especially kids, understand he is one." Oh good, that's comforting, because when a guy called THE DEVIL tells you he's one of the good guys, you can surely trust him.
* The Maple Leaf. And finally, we have the Maple Leaf. He's a big fuckin' living tree. Between the fact that he's made of wood and is the largest of all the Guardians, I feel compelled to make a Kyle Wellwood joke here. Of note, the Maple Leaf "is one of the funniest of the Guardians" and has a secondary nickname of 'Trunk.' If I actually knew someone known as 'Trunk,' I would make so many Ralph Wiggum/Look in the tunk jokes that it literally wouldn't be funny. It's not comforting to know that my favourite NHL team has been reduced to the comic relief role of the Guardians, but on the other hand, living/growing wood. Hey ladies.