It's actually a fantastic idea. Athletes are already venerated as heroes and legends - their exploits become tales fondly told and retold, their careers weaving a narrative from which lessons are learned and dreams are made. Their prowess can seem supernatural, beyond the abilities of anything you've ever encountered. At the same time, superhero comics are fun, entertaining, and popular. Why not put the two together?
That's what the NHL is trying, with their introduction of "The Guardian 30". They model a superhero after each team, print some comics, get some actors to portray these heroes, and they've got instant publicity. (Also, the Guardians won't squander their goodwill by moving to a different city for more money when their contract ends.)
For a few NHL teams, this didn't turn out too badly.
Avalanche and The Senator both look pretty heroic. The Senator might not be a very original interpretation, but it works. Red Wing looks a bit like a Robotech character, but it's fitting for the Motor City. I also like the "6" on Red Wing's shoulder, denoting him as one of the Original Six. Nice touch.
But sadly enough, it's impossible to design thirty characters simultaneously and have them all succeed. For example:
His superpower is he can extract oil from the ground? Congratulations, Aquaman; you're not in the division basement anymore. Equally hilarious is the notion that he's actually the most environmentally conscious of the NHL Guardians. In other words, the marketing department was worried about the central focus of the character, but they still couldn't be bothered to think of something better, so they just added a footnote saying, "It's not what you think."
On one hand, I see their point - what else are you going to do with a character called "The Oiler"? But the answer to that is simple: Don't call him The Oiler. But this is a consistent naming scheme throughout the whole roster - no exceptions. Once again, it works better for some teams (The Shark, The Hurricane, and The Islander) than it does for others (The Canuck, The Penguin, and The Blue).
The "Blue"? They could have called him Dr. Blue, or Saint Blue, or even Blue Louis, and it wouldn't have been as bad, but it wasn't going to happen. The same rigid scheme was enforced on every last hero. But why? Whatever the reason, it just further illustrates the committee-driven approach to the creation of these characters. This is top-down design at its worst, completely inflexible to the problems that the executive decisions create on the individual level.
I guess what depresses me the most, though, is that there was so much potential in this idea. Just look at that "6" on Red Wing for an example -- there are so many legends behind every team and every city that are ignored here. The Canadien could have been Rocket-powered, or worked "Hab" into his name. The Maple Leaf could have had time-distorting powers, allowing him to go back to 1967. The Flame could have had a fiery moustache like Lanny McDonald!
I suppose I shouldn't complain too much, though. If it succeeds, the characters will slowly change as the writers get used to them, and perhaps they'll improve. If it fails, we can just laugh it off as another misguided attempt to bring hockey to the audiences that want it least.
And above all... at least I wasn't a fan of the Minnesota Wild before this.
It almost makes me want to start cheering for them, just out of sympathy.