How will San Jose fans address the Green Man, Vancouver-vs-celebrity fan arms race?

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Friday, May 20, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Vancouver Canucks Green Men vs Douglas Murray penalty box

Vancouver Canucks Green Men vs Dany Heatley penalty box

Vancouver Canucks Green Men replacement vs Ben Eager penalty box

In addition to the players on the ice, fans inside HP Pavilion and the city of San Jose itself will be on display tonight for the third game of the Western Conference Finals. The question that almost certainly is not on the mind of head coach Todd McLellan, or any of the players, how will the loudest fans in the NHL respond to the Green Man/celebrity-rivalrly atmosphere that is building steam with each playoff game Vancouver participates in? Hockey mad Vancouver-ites have already mowed over Chicago celebutantes Vince Vaughn and Kevin James in the first round, ahem, make his head bleed. They also took several runs at wholesome country singer Carrie Underwood in the second round as well as a feelgood Nashville Predators team making their first ever appearance in the second round. San Jose had to endure a celebrity flood in the WCQF against Los Angeles. Taunts by late night talkshow host Craig Ferguson, as well as appearances by David and Victoria Beckham, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Will Ferrell in so-Cal. Kid Rock may or may not have helped propel Detroit to a seventh game in the WCSF, but in the end it was much ado about nothing.

What San Jose brings to the table are sport and music icons impervious to Canadian hockey cynicism. Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Neil Young were both present and accounted for during an emotional game 7 win against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. Kristi Yamaguchi is the Bay Area’s version of Wayne Gretzky, capable of immobilizing a hockey rink with a flood of young fans. A successful broadcaster and Dancing With the Stars champion in 2008, Yamaguchi recently completed a children’s park in her hometown of Fremont as part of her Always Dream Foundation. Yamaguchi is married to current CSN analyst and former Stanley Cup Champion Bret Hedican. Neil Young is a prominent musician and activist whose music continues to inspire generations young and old. In addition to his song being used as intro music, Metallica frontman James Hetfield has also been a regular visitor over the years. Not a lot of easy targets for the Green Men

Vancouver’s Green Man penalty box duo of Sully and Force escaped any major restrictions after a run-in with the NHL, they are no longer allowed to make contact with the glass or do handstands, but in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against San Jose they did not have an overwhelming impact on the Sharks player roster. In fact, most of the Sharks appeared slightly bemused. “I think they’re great. We’re in the entertainment industry, and I think they’re hilarious. I get a kick out of them.” San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray told the Mercury News. They taunted one of the heaviest hitters in the league, and also the founder of the uber-tap, with a Don Cherry cardboard cutout along with a plaid sportcoat and striped tie. The duo were rebuked by Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada for combining plaid and stripes.

In Vancouver for game 2 the Green Men were replaced by a somewhat oversharing female fan. “I know we couldn’t be there but I hope we sent a suitable replacement (or is it replacements?),” they said via twitter. It remains to be seen if Sully and Force will make the trip to SJ, but they could be met by a Sharks devouring a Canuck, or the wig-wearing bail bondsman duo behind the bench. San Jose has also had a few replacement Green Men show up during the regular season.

The focus on HP Pavilion for game 3 will center around the enormous crowd noise generated inside the Tank. NHL Network analyst and former player Kelly Chase recently said the noise is so loud, sometimes the players can’t hear themselves think. If it gets rolling, it could make communication between Canucks defenseman, and the defenseman and the goaltender difficult. San Jose vs Detroit Game 7 featured the loudest decibel reading of the playoffs to date inside HP Pavilion, 116.8 after Logan Couture‚Äôs first period goal. That is the near equivalent of a jet engine running inside a closed building.

There is also a downside to being the loudest building in the NHL. Celebrating San Jose’s 20th anniversary season, and with close to 10 years in Oakland, the Bay Area has cultivated a sophisicated hockey fan base both in the stands, and with the largest ice hockey (4 rink) and roller hockey (3 rink) facilities on the West Coast of the U.S. That being said, the doors are open to hardcore fans, casual fans, and non-sports fans alike. Everyone is welcome. At times the tension inside the Tank can add pressure, but the building employed a great strategy against LA they should adopt again for Vancouver. Every time fans were unsettled with an unsuccessful power play, the mascot SJ Sharkie would use a Beat-LA chant to focus the energy against the opposing team. It had such a positive effect focusing fans on opponents, it should be used in each playoff game moving forward.

Given the fact that neither Van-cou-ver or Can-uck-s lend themselves to readily accessible chants, San Jose may have to get creative for Round 3.

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