(Image: NHL)

Variety reports that a Santa Monica judge has ruled in favor of a company that was defrauded for $500,000 by a producer who tricked it into investing in a bizarre failed marketing scheme for the National Hockey League. Filmula Entertainment was approached by Aldo LaPietra in 2012, with promises that the NHL’s “Guardian Project”—a Stan Lee-fronted effort to give each team in the league its own Lee-derived superhero—was alive and well, with involvement from NBCUniversal and funding for a potential feature film. In truth, the project had flopped months earlier, hence the court order today that Filmula’s money be returned.

But really, we only told you that story as an excuse to tell you this one, i.e., a look back at the stalwart, puck-hustling heroes of The Guardian Project itself, 30 of the worst superbeings ever to skate the earth. (Which is saying something, even if we only limit ourselves to characters created by Stan Lee.) In Lee and his team’s defense, he was constrained by the actual names of actual hockey teams, hence characters like The Oiler—a “roughneck” who seems way too happy to spray people down with black crude—and The Canadien—a guy who looks like Cobra Commander after being inelegantly stuffed into an armored hockey jersey.

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(Image: NHL)
(Image: NHL)

That being said, there’s an amazing amount of plagiarization going on here, too, both of Lee’s own Marvel characters, and plenty of others. The Panther we can almost forgive—what are you going to do, not make him a big cat dude?—but there’s no reason for The Penguin to just be Cyclops from The X-Men with Iceman’s powers. Or there’s Denver’s The Avalanche, a clear rip-off of Batman villain Mr. Freeze with a fun “compulsive gambler” background added as a nod to the city’s gaming roots.

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(Image: NHL)
(Image: NHL)
(Image: NHL)

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The characters with original powers are even better, though. Take Chicago’s own The Blackhawk, who can control the winds of The Windy City. Or St. Louis’ saxophone-wielding The Blue, whose powers involve the creation of interdimensional Gateway Arches for him to travel through. (Needless to say, The Blue “is the coolest of the Guardians,” although “He could care less what others think.”) Our favorite, though, might be L.A.’s The King, if only because his powers are so clearly the result of someone Googling “Los Angeles” for six seconds and then calling it a day. “Comfortable on the red carpet, but far more likely to be found at a director’s house discussing his latest film,” The King’s primary weapon is a sword that causes earthquakes, a tool that presumably endears him mightily to residents living above the San Andreas Fault.

(Image: NHL)
(Image: NHL)

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(Image: NHL)

You can see the whole gallery—which, again, was the focus of a multi-million dollar marketing push from several massive corporations—right here, still alive on the NHL’s web site. Tragically, the Guardian Project section on the NHL’s store appears to now be defunct.