The NHL makes some strange decisions here and there, but usually those odd choices are focused on illogical suspension-related verdicts rather than limiting fans.
Every once and a while, the league chooses to play the role of fun-killers, though. It seems like it’s been a rough few days for fans who express their love of the Vancouver Canucks, in particular. First The Canadian Press reported that the NHL forced a Vancouver-area car dealership to remove a “Go Canucks Go” sign for copyright-related reasons. Local radio station Rock 101 was running a promotion in which fans could use a sledgehammer to bash a car with a Chicago Blackhawks or Nashville Predators logo until the league intervened for the similar copyright infringement-related decisions.
Now the league is taking perhaps its boldest step yet by trying to crack down on the infamous “Green Men” who ludicrously heckle opposing team players who end up in the penalty box. (You can read an interview PHT conducted with those two fans in this post from 2010.) If you’ve watched any Canucks games that took place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver in the last couple years, it’s almost inevitable that you would come across those Green Men. After all, it’s pretty hard to miss two guys in full-body neon suits who do hand stands and other attention-grabbing things to try to get under the other team’s skin.
It’s an amusing act, even if it’s not particularly original considering the fact that the tradition began in the television show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and copycats keep cropping up at all sorts of events.
Still, it’s one of those things that underscores the passion (and off-beat sense of humor) of many Canucks fans. While the NHL isn’t kicking them out of their seats altogether, the league asked the two fans (they go by Sully and Force) not to touch the glass or do handstands after a complaint was filed about their antics. Naturally, a Facebook petition quickly cropped up in their defense.
All three of these examples of the league getting borderline litigious strike me as disappointing. Asking the car dealership to take down the sign seems unfair … does this mean that any local business must worry about praising their market’s team during the playoffs? If it was clear that the partisanship was driving the car dealership’s business, that would be one thing, but local businesses rooting for teams is a time-honored tradition. Limiting the radio promotion would have made perfect sense if it weren’t for the fact that the station was reportedly raising money for the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Finally, cracking down on the “Green Men” just seems like petty fun-killing since those fans are just part of the atmosphere. Asking them not to touch the glass is almost reasonable if it weren’t for the fact that many fans pound on the glass during games, but the real ridiculous part is telling them not to do handstands.
The NHL comes off as a bit of a bully in these cases, as it seems like they’re picking on their own bread-and-butter: fans expressing their love for their team in harmless ways. It would be understandable if these measures were taken to reduce violence between fans of opposing teams (like this horrible example from a Los Angeles Dodgers game), but the “Green Men” are only questionable in their taste.
The league is allowed to police its fans and enforce its copyrights as it sees fit, but maybe they should pick their battles a bit more wisely going forward.