They wore tangerine T-shirts and handed out lemonade-colored fliers, begging the same simple request: Let Hemsky Run.
Arizona Wildcats hockey superfan James "Hemsky" Reese didn't attend last weekend's hockey games at Tucson Convention Center.
Reese - given his nickname because of the ever-present Edmonton Oilers Ales Hemsky jersey he wears to games - won't go this weekend, either, despite being one of the team's most vocal fans for almost a decade.
The Minnesota-born Sam Levitz Furniture employee has been banned from doing the "Rocky Run," a tradition he inherited from another fan in 2004.
During the second intermission, while the public address announcer blared "Eye of the Tiger," Hemsky would run up and down the stairs of the Madhouse on Main Street, like Rocky before the Apollo Creed fight, high-fiving fans along the way.
Hemsky was banned from Tucson Convention Center earlier this month, he said, and was told later he could return only if he promised to stop running.
He was dubious.
"I already know that I'm a marked man," he said.
With the 28-year-old gone, his friends and acquaintances protested last weekend.
They held signs and wore shirts. Some even walked his route in solidarity.
The run was a goofy, fun tradition.
Hemsky did the run maybe 150 times over the past seven years or so, with few problems.
Which is why Hemsky was stunned Jan. 6, when he was told by TCC officials the run violated arena rules and posed an insurance liability problem.
The next day, Hemsky was denied entry to TCC.
His ban was later rescinded, but Hemsky asked for, and received, money back for his season tickets.
"For liability reasons, the run is off the table," said Cody Nicholls, the Wildcats' director of hockey operations.
Hemsky offered to sign an additional waiver, but TCC said that wouldn't cover its concern.
You don't need me to tell you about the hobgoblins of insurance.
It's a sad fact of life for arena operators. The UA's athletic department, which is separate from the campus recreation department that runs the hockey team, has forced fans to stop doing less risky things than running.
But I wonder why they can't compromise on this somehow.
I mean, really?
Hemsky was offered the chance to lead a "U of A!" chant, but refused.
"I don't think I should have to compromise," Hemsky said.
Facebook pages have popped up defending him. Fans argue about him online.
Here's what's great: That's the last thing Hemsky wants.
Hemsky rails against TCC - whose director, Tommy Obermaier, didn't return my calls the past two days - but loves the Wildcats.
He encourages fans to not pay for TCC concessions, but to still cheer the team.
After taking road trips to Las Vegas and Colorado and Tempe over the years, Hemsky now plans to track the team from his computer.
"I'll probably be in the background now," he said. "It's not like I can shut myself off."
Season ticket-holder Kevin Fisher, who printed pro-Hemsky fliers, had never gotten to know the superfan until the controversy.
It just doesn't feel right without Hemsky, he said.
"What makes the experience unique is what makes it special," Fisher said. "It's not the same if you check the score online."
Both sides should bend a bit.
Here's a great occasion: Friday and Saturday, the No. 18 Wildcats face defending national champion Davenport University.
Let Hemsky run. Or walk. Or cheer.
Make it happen.