The National Hockey League has long struggled with image problems. The nature of the sport is partly to blame, I suppose, but the bland, mind-numbingly traditionalist stance of its leaders can’t help. Case in point: the NHL has asked Vancouver’s “Green Men” to tone down their act.

The “Green Men,” for those who may still be uninitiated, are two fans who attend Canucks games clad in green spandex bodysuits. They’ve been doing this since late 2009. The problem is that the two, Sully and Force apparently, sit by the penalty box. When a player from the opposing team winds up in the penalty box, the “Green Men” get into it by trying to distract and taunt the unfortunate soul sitting in the  booth. This has included hammering on the glass and doing rather creative handstands. In a recent playoff game, it’s also included hoisting up a cardboard cut-out of Carrie Underwood in a Canucks jersey.

Their antics have produced some rather comical results, of course. But that’s apparently a big no-no in today’s NHL and Gary Bettman’s cronies have asked the pair to settle down. A complaint was registered with the league, but nobody seems to know who produced it.

In response to the bitterness, the NHL has asked the “Green Men” to stop touching the glass. Also, they must put the kibosh on the handstands.

The “Green Men” are a pair of paying fans, remember, and they have as much a right as any to enjoy the game. If the opposition is rattled or distracted by their antics, so much the better. They don’t touch the players and fans in Rogers Arena universally seem to love Sully and Force, so what gives?

Now sure, perhaps the whole handstands thing is to be expected. Rogers Arena may object to fans doing them on seats or boards or whatever. That’s understandable, if not a bit bizarre.

But touching the glass? Since when are fans, especially those in the front rows, forbidden from touching the glass? Go to any hockey game and you’ll hear and see a veritable chorus of glass-pounding peeps making their feelings known.

“Someone through the NHL told us that we were no longer allowed to touch the glass,” said one of the “Green Men.” “This is the first complaint we’ve ever heard of. The Canucks love us. We haven’t done anything wrong. We pay full price, and we have a little fun while supporting our team.”

Thank goodness the NHL is cracking down on what’s important.

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