VANCOUVER - What started as a joke has turned the Green Men into celebrities.
The Green Men have made a second career out of dressing in lime green bodysuits and taunting opposing hockey players in the penalty box during Vancouver Canuck games at Rogers Arena.
The pair—who go by Force and Sully—have become local heroes. They have been interviewed by CBC, TSN and ESPN and have fans following them on Facebook and Twitter.
Even the Green Men acknowledge that their 15 minutes have lasted longer than they ever expected.
"This was supposed to be a one-night goof sort of thing,'' said Sully. "We were going to throw on some suits, make idiots of ourselves, get the crowd into the game.
"Nobody thought it would get this big. To be honest, we're just a couple of idiots in green suits.''
They have expanded their repertoire of friendly abuse, adding props to their act and dipping into their arsenal when the Canucks advised that they had to tone things down. Plastering their body in a handstand against the glass was verboten.
Still it's not always easy being green.
The pair struggle into their outfits at a parking lot across the street from the arena. It's hard to see out of the suits, and forget using the bathroom.
"It's kind of a shuffle,'' said Force. "It's one zipper up the back. You have to be nimble.
"You can't drink before the game because if you have to go to the washroom it's a complicated process. By the time the game is over I am so dehydrated and so hungry.''
It can also be expensive—Canucks tickets don't come cheap. And there are plenty of critics.
Force and Sully prefer to go by their Green Men personas when interviewed. Both have just finished journalism school and are trying to break into the media business.
"The less our names are out there, the less we are butchering'' our careers, said Force. "We're well on our way to butchering it. We're just delaying it.''
When an opposition player takes a penalty during a Canucks' game, the Green Men are ready to pounce.
Most players try to ignore them. A few have cast them dirty glances. Some smile.
During the playoffs they waved a picture of country music star Carrie Underwood wearing a Canuck jersey. Her husband is Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators.
When Predator Shane O'Brien—a former Canuck—stepped into their lair, the Green Men made fun of his reputation as a partier by pretending to shake a martini.
"Some of our best ideas come 30 minutes before the game,'' said Force. "We talk to each other about ideas until we agree on something.''
Like any act, the Green Men haven't always received favourable reviews.
Glenn Healy and Don Cherry of "Hockey Night in Canada" both berated the pair. The NHL told them to dial down their act and cut out Sully's handstands.
"The Canucks were really nice about it,'' said Force. "They contacted us and told us the NHL had received a complaint from a team. We were no longer allowed to agitate the players by talking to them, touching the glass or going upside down.
"We have never done anything wrong to anger any of the players. The handstands may have been a safety issue. Other than that, it's harmless fun.''
The Green Men responded to Cherry's criticism during Sunday's Western Conference final game between the Canucks and San Jose Sharks. They slipped on plaid jackets and waved a cutout of Cherry dressed in a green suit.
"He was a little upset we poked fun at Shane O'Brien's partying ways,'' said Force.
"These guys get paid millions of dollars and we are two idiots in green suits. If we are getting under their skins, they're not doing their jobs very well."
Fisher got a chuckle when he saw the picture of his wife.
"I was going to give her a kiss, but I thought it was too serious a game,'' Fisher told reporters later. "If it was a regular-season game, I would have.''
Finances might be the final factor in the Green Men's future. During the season the pair use season tickets that belong to a roofing company they once worked for. In the playoffs, they must dig into their own pockets.
The Green Men attended four regular season games this year and four home playoff games. They are not sure how many more they can afford.
"The Visa is getting maxed out,'' said Force.
"We don't want to show up to every single game. It gets old and people get bored with it. When we show up spontaneously it keeps people guessing.''
The pair spent their own green to take the act on the road, paying their way to Nashville for two games. The flight from Seattle cost $500 each. The hotel was $90 a night. Tickets for each game were $80.
Money well spent considering the Green Men got to meet Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman and her husband, country music star Keith Urban, at one game.
"We spotted Nicole and Keith,'' said Force. "We popped up. We scared Nicole. She didn't know what we were. Keith had to explain it to her.
"They were awesome. We spoke for about two minutes. It was kind of cool to make these mega-millionaires laugh.''
With the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning playing in the East final, the Green Men may hit the road again if the Canucks face the Lightning in the Stanley Cup final.
"I did an interview with ESPN Boston the other day,'' said Force. "They said do not come to Boston in those green suits. You will be killed. We're not going to Boston.''
The idea for the Green Men started when the two friends decided to attend an NFL game in Seattle. They ordered a pair of green suits to wear to the game after watching an episode of the television program "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
"A guy drops acid, gets drunk and goes to a football game,'' said Force. "We don't do the acid, we don't get drunk but we wanted to go to a football game.''
Sully's suit arrived too late for the football game, so the Green Men went to a Canucks' game instead.
The Green Men's first appearance was at a game in December 2009. They attended 13 games that year.
"We felt maybe we went a little too much the first year,'' said Force.
"We want to keep it fresh. You can only do handstands so many times before people start booing.''
In keeping to that belief, the Green Men say they may call it quits if the Canucks go all the way.
"We have said from Day 1 we will hang with them until the Canucks win the Cup,'' said Force.
"The Canucks win the Cup this year, I am hanging up the suit. I will encourage it to be hung from the rafters at Rogers Arena. It won't happen, but I encourage it. If the Canucks lose, we will see what happens.''
Like a Brett Favre retirement, the Green Men's future is fluid.
"Nothing is official,'' said Sully. "We haven't made a joint decision just yet.''
One thing is for certain, the Green Men will always be plural.
"If one guy goes down, then the ship goes down with him,'' said Sully. "We're seeing how this season goes. I can't give you a for sure answer.''