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#TBT: NHL Guardian Project

With Guardians of the Galaxy 2 officially hitting theatres on Friday, takes a look back at the NHL's own 'Guardian' Project

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL /

Star-Lord. Gamora. Groot… The Montreal Canadien?

It's safe to say one of these 'Guardians' won't be back to save the Galaxy for a second time this summer.

The NHL Guardian Project, launched ahead of the 2011 All-Star Game in Carolina, was the short-lived culmination of a partnership between the National Hockey League and legendary Spider-Man creator Stan Lee to develop a cast of 30 superheroes inspired by each franchise.

The idea, in theory, was to broaden hockey's appeal among younger fans, the comic book crowd, and beyond.

"This is really a fresh, new, original approach to superheroes, based on the local NHL team," said Lee at the time, who is also the mind behind iconic characters such as the X-Men, Hulk, Iron Man, and more. "When you think about it, the names of these teams, they sound like super characters. They're inspiring."

And so, Montreal's eponymous Canadien was born:

Video: "The Canadien" revealed as 15th NHL Guardian

'The Canadien' is a ladies' man, culturally refined and quite simply the best at everything he's ever attempted. He expects to win in everything he does and the other Guardians love and respect him. He's fiercely independent and marches to the beat of his own drum.

He has jets strapped to his boots, inside the housing of the boots he has both hockey blades (for travelling across ice) and in-line skates (for everything else) that, when he fires off his rocket boots allow him to zip around town at incredible speeds. The Canadien has the ability of both Power Augmentation and Power Absorption, meaning he can copy the powers of any of the other Guardians as long as he's within a few miles of them. Through the use of Power Augmentation, the Canadien can also enhance the powers of his Guardian teammates. 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.

It's hard not to read between the lines here.

"Quite simply the best at everything he's ever attempted?" An NHL-best 24 Stanley Cups says the math checks out.

"Culturally refined?" Indeed, try Googling the cultural capital of Canada and see which city pops up first.

"His rocket boots allow him to zip around town at incredible speeds?" The Flying Frenchmen line of Didier Pitre, Jack Laviolette, and Newsy Lalonde would like to have a word.

"The other Guardians love and respect him?" Wait, even the Boston Bruin?

Well, this is fiction after all.

In the end however, not even Power Augmentation or Absorption were enough to keep the superhero squad from getting shelved in December 2011 -- although luckily not before the Canadien had time to save the day at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Today, the Guardians occupy their own unique place in NHL lore, probably somewhere alongside the League's alternate logo heyday of the late 1990s -- which has enjoyed a renaissance of its own as of late.

A dedicated fan base for the characters continues to exist online, as the still-active #NHLGuardians hashtag on social media can attest.

Will the Montreal Canadien ever return? Only time will tell, but if ever a reboot was in the works, there's at least one fuzzy superhero who would love to join forces.

Video: Darth Youppi! visits Montreal Comiccon

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