VANCOUVER – Weather in Vancouver lately has been cold, wet and miserable, but you wouldn’t know it by the “infectious happiness” on the streets.
The city’s beloved Vancouver Canucks are in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and for many, it’s a much better celebration than hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Kerry Jang, a Vancouver city councillor and a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, said there is a different feel to the city now compared to when thousands converged on Vancouver for the Games.
“I think the big difference is the fact this is really our team. The Canadian team is ours in a broader sense, but here we have a personal connection with each one of the players of the Canucks,” Jang said.
And you can feel it in the streets. He called that feeling an “infectious happiness” that isn’t fuelled by alcohol—something that caused problems during some Olympic celebrations.
“In the Olympics, some people were smiling, some people were drunk,” he laughed.
Vancouver lawyer and Canuck superfan Jennifer Chow said she too can see the contrast between Olympic celebrations and those hoping for a Vancouver victory over the Boston Bruins.
“There’s a huge difference because on game day, and even on non-game days, you can walk around the City of Vancouver and people are wearing their Canucks jerseys and their Canucks T-shirts and we all high-five each other, we all shout at each other and say ‘Go Canucks.'”
Chow, whose Vancouver office is cluttered with all kinds of Canuck geegaws, complete with a plastic imitation of the Stanley Cup, said the Olympics had an international flavour, but this is about the city.
“This is almost more personal, because it’s our Vancouver Canucks,” she said smiling.
Andrew Nicholson, 41, is such a fan that he has worn his Crazy Canuck costume almost every day of the playoffs.
He carries a hockey stick with a Canucks flag attached. That combined with his baby-blue, spiky hair, his blue and green painted face and Canucks jersey gets him plenty of requests for pictures with fans.
Nicholson, who’s from nearby New Westminster, believes the difference between the 2010 Games and the Canucks cup run is the fan base.
“There are a lot of die-hard Canuck fans,” he said.
And while the Olympics were “huge,” Nicholson said the Stanley Cup is something Vancouver fans have waited for for 40 years.
“I would probably say that there’s a lot more going for the Canucks than there was for the Olympics for Vancouver.”
About 40,000 people packed Vancouver streets during Game 1, some of the biggest crowds police have counted since the Olympics.
Vancouver Police Const. Lindsay Houghton said he has noticed a change in the colours of the crowd. Where once everyone was wearing red and white, now they’re wearing green, blue and white.
“That was great, but this is something a little bit more personal,” he said. “It’s no secret now, especially nationally, that people here are very, very passionate about the Vancouver Canucks.”
Police have said they don’t intend to ask for early closures of liquor stores like they did during the Olympics, and so far, fans have celebrated peacefully, with few incidents.
Long-time season ticket holder Randall Negrin said he feels a more anxious atmosphere in the city than during the Olympics because Vancouver is expected to win the cup.
“This year, there’s a lot of pressure on the team.”
Several giant screens have been set up around Vancouver and streets have been closed so fans can watch the games. Jang said he’s had lots of feedback from people telling him it’s the best thing city hall has done.
Jang said he can’t see anything marring the celebrations like the riot after the Canucks 1994 Stanley Cup loss.
“If there’s a riot and something bad happens, we’ll go back to being No-Fun City, but right now we are Fun City,” he chuckled.