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Canucks fans ready to party for Game 1 of Stanley Cup final against Bruins

VANCOUVER -- When Elizabeth Calderon's family left their home in San Diego last year and moved to Vancouver, she didn't know the first thing about hockey, much less the Canucks.

But the Calderons were now living in Canada, so she did the natural thing and enrolled their son in ice skating and then hockey. Before long, young Sebastian, now 5, had become a rabid Canucks fan, and it quickly wore off on his parents.

"I didn't know very much about the Canucks, but it's exciting, we're all as a family getting into it,'' Calderon said Tuesday, a day before the Canucks headed to Game 1 in the Stanley Cup final.

"Of course, the winning is great, but I think for him (Sebastian) the more exciting thing is to feel the energy of the city, to know these people who have been fans for years and years are finally getting some satisfaction from their loyalty,'' she said.

The Canucks will play their first game against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, and fans, city officials and sports bars were all getting ready for the party.

Several blocks of downtown will be closed to traffic as the city erects giant outdoor screens, and tens of thousands of people are expected to pour into the streets after the game for nightly street parties that are sure to increase in size with every game -- especially if the Canucks win.

For the Boston games, large viewing parties are planned for Rogers Arena, with tickets costing $10.

Transit service has been rerouted to get around the crowds and the police are bringing in extra officers -- and spending half a million dollars -- to keep the party under control. Some fans say they've adjusted their work schedules to watch the games, which all inconveniently start at 5 p.m. Vancouver time.

Calderon lives just two blocks from the city's popular Granville Street entertainment district, making it easy to hear the cheering that marks every goal and the hooting and hollering that follows each playoff game.

"When they won Game 7 against the Blackhawks, the entire city went nuts, that never happens in San Diego,'' she said. "It's almost like you can feel the city holding its breath, and then this eruption of pure bliss and excitement.''

Paul Clark will be tempting fate Wednesday as he watches the game at a local bar wearing a Boston Bruins jersey, with Bobby Orr's name and number emblazoned on the back.

Clark, 50, has lived in the Vancouver area for two decades, but he's never lost a love for the Bruins that began when he was a child.

"You can't give up on your team. When you're 12 years old, you choose your team,'' said Clark. "That's 1972, the Bruins are in the cup and Bobby Orr is at the height of his game.''

Clark picked up his black and gold jersey Tuesday afternoon and immediately tried it on. He hadn't walked more than a couple of blocks and he'd already been stopped 10 times, he said, mostly with some good-natured teasing.

"Everyone's been really, really nice,'' said Clark, just before someone yelled "Boston sucks!'' from a passing car.

"There's been a couple of thumbs down, but it's been in good humour, I think everyone's up for a good time.''

Ron Massar, a 43-year-old property manager, will be making sure he's finished work by the time the puck drops.

"I plan my life around the Canucks,'' said Massar.

"I'm a bandwagon jumper on all Canadian teams, but when it's the Canucks, it's shivers down my spine. It's all we're talking about, all the bars are full, and we just can't wait.''

Most fans who want to take in the game will have little choice but to resort to bars, outdoor screens and their own couches.

A limited number of tickets went on sale Tuesday, starting at $197 apiece, but they were sold out in just a few minutes. Season ticket holders have already been selling their seats online, with some fetching thousands of dollars each.

T.C. Carling, the Canucks vice-president of communications, hinted there may be more small batches of tickets available before the playoff games.

"One thing that's important for people to do is to continue to check for released holds from the NHL 24 to 48 hours before each game.''

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