A city starved for a hockey title has rallied around its beloved Canucks

Jun 4 2011 - 6:39pm

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- My ears were ringing.

This struck me as odd, but only in retrospect.

After all, I wasn't at Rogers Arena, where more than 18,000 fans screamed themselves hoarse during Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins.

I was eight blocks away on Granville Street, which is normally a thoroughfare downtown. It was closed to traffic Wednesday night, though, as it became a de-facto living room for me and about 3,500 others. We crowded the street to watch the game on a television screen 16 feet wide, 12 feet tall and mounted atop a semitruck. Some fans sat on asphalt during the two 15-minute intermissions. Others stood throughout.

And when Vancouver's Raffi Torres scored with 18 seconds to go to win the opener of the best-of-seven series, the city became Bedlam, B.C., though in a totally polite, Canadian kind of way.

People high-fived friends. They hugged strangers. They posed for pictures, sometimes even gathering around police officers because that seemed like a fun thing to do. A woman who wore a Canucks flag as a cape climbed a streetlight pole at one corner of Granville, perching herself atop the crosswalk signal while cars honked.

This type of abject delirium is simple: This hockey-mad city has never won the Stanley Cup in the Canucks' 41 years of existence and now stands three wins away from Shangri-La on ice. Game 1 was just the beginning, an opening act so to speak. Our neighbors to the north are only going to be more fired up to host Game 2 on Saturday, and even when the series shifts back to Boston, the city will be gathering to watch on the street, at Rogers Arena and in pubs across British Columbia.

The Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup. They've come close. They reached the finals in 1982 despite having a losing record in the regular season. They went back to the finals in 1994, the Canucks losing a seventh and deciding game to the New York Rangers. That still hangs over the heads of Canuck fans.

"I cried like a baby," said James Forgie.

Of course he did. He was 12 at the time. This week he returned to Vancouver after hitchhiking from Winnipeg, Manitoba. That took him two days and seven rides. Well, maybe it was eight, Forgie said. He lost count.

"It's like a 27-hour drive," he said. "Definitely more than 2,000 kilometers."

That's more than 1,200 miles for those who no sprechen the metric.

Forgie didn't have a ticket for Game 1 nor any hope of landing one, with ticket brokers starting prices north of $500. But Forgie wasn't going to miss being in Vancouver to witness it.

"I had to come out here," Forgie said. "I'm a die-hard fan. I have been since I was little."

Melanie Sinnott can relate. She woke up on the wrong side of 6 a.m. Wednesday morning in Terrace, B.C., which is tucked up against the Alaskan Panhandle. She and Aaron Fisher flew to Vancouver for the game, a trip they decided to splurge on less than a week ago.

It was a last hurrah of sorts. They're expecting a child. Sinnott's due date is in six weeks. And while she doesn't know if it's a boy or a girl, she is certainly expecting a Canucks fan. There's no choice about that. The kid already has a jersey, and their living room in Terrace includes a siren that wails to celebrates Canucks goals.

And it turns out that playoff fever can be prenatal.

"There's times when I'm watching the games and I start cheering that I get booted quite vigorously afterward," Melanie said.

Sinnott and Fisher paid $1,200 for two tickets to Wednesday's game, and afterward Sinnott gave an idea of just how exciting Torres' game-winning goal was.

"I thought I was having the baby," she said.

She was kidding. I think. I hope.

Game 1 was more than just the start of this series for Vancouver, it was a showcase for the city's dedication to its team. Loraine Scott is a silver-haired lady who spent an hour at the hairdresser Wednesday, where she not only had a Canucks logo shaved into the back of her hair, but had it dyed blue.

And in the carnival atmosphere that unfolded outside Rogers Arena, it took a whole lot to stand out. Something like pastel plaid suits like the ones worn by Peter Verge, who was in blue, and Peter Henderson wearing a purple-and-pink affair.

They even had a nickname.

"The plaid Peters," said Henderson.

There were Stanley Cups, everywhere. Some were inflatable blowup props, others cardboard cutouts. Some were even covered in aluminum foil to provide the proper shine.

But the real cup will be won on the ice, not in a parking-lot pageant, and Vancouver's Game 1 victory was more a first step to becoming the first Canadian team since 1993 to win the Stanley Cup.

Now, Vancouver just needs to straighten out its chant. Some fans went for "Win the Cup." Others went, "We want the Cup."

And some fans struggled for the right words.

"Speechless," said Rishi Sharma, of Vancouver.

Well, not quite. For one glorious night, Vancouver roared so loud my ears rang. And it's only going to get louder.

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