Young and old fans garbed in Canucks jerseys hit Vancouver street to watch game

VANCOUVER -- One of Vancouver's main streets is awash in Canuck blues and greens as an eclectic mix of fans gather to watch the team face off against the Boston Bruins in the first game of the Stanley Cup final.

In the hour before the puck dropped, hundreds of people, many garbed in the Canucks jerseys and with their faces painted, jammed the street to watch Game 1 on a giant outdoor screen. Another is set up a few blocks away.

Robert Flaherty, 37, is there with his four-year-old son, who shared his stroller with a homemade Stanley Cup he and his dad made out of tinfoil.

"It brings back the Olympic experience,'' Flaherty said amid the throng of fans, some wearing Canucks flags as capes, on Granville Street.

"You walk out with 10,000 of your favourite friends. As long as the people party well, whether we get wins or losses, it'll be awesome.''

Flaherty said he moved to Vancouver from Toronto in 1999 and it took him a few years to warm to the Canucks, but he has now caught the fever.

"They're fun, they're exciting. I read about them every single day in the paper, and they were starting to get good, so that helped.''

Alvaro Lamontagne headed to the giant outdoor screen at the downtown CBC building with a large, blow-up orca hanging off his back and a bear taped to its mouth. The Canucks logo features an orca. The Bruins' mascot is a bear.

"It's exciting,'' said the 25-year-old, noting the last time the Canucks were in the final was in 1994.

"We're going to win, regardless, but I'm happy where we are in the Stanley Cup final.''

The crowd on Granville Street reached back almost an entire city block, with people jammed together the width of the street.

There was a mix of fans, some older, others in their teens, families with young children, all seemingly impervious to the threatening black rain clouds overhead.

Melanie Hay wore an oversized white Canucks jersey as she looked for a spot in a bar.

She said she's a recent fan, pushed toward a love of the game because her husband is a hockey nut.

But her husband is a Bruins fan, she said, and while he is out of town for this game, she predicts life at home will be "interesting.''

"It's the best of both worlds, but one of us has to be sad,'' she said, laughing.

A live DJ entertained players in impromptu street hockey games closer to the arena, and fans milled around a statue of former Canucks coach Roger Neilson waving his infamous white towel from the team's 1982 run to the Stanley Cup finals.

Jim Potter waved money around instead, pulling out a wad of bills and happily shelling out $750 -- double face value -- on the street corner for a pair of upper-deck tickets.

"I've been waiting for this my whole life,'' the 29-year-old fan said. "It's our team, a team we've cheered forever, so in some ways it is bigger than the Olympics.''

Earlier in the day, B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced she and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had placed a friendly wager on the game.

If the Canucks win, a B.C. charity will receive a shipment of clam chowder.

If the Bruins prevail, a Massachusetts charity will get a shipment of B.C. smoked salmon and Nanaimo bars.

The mayors of Vancouver and Boston have made similar bets.

The managers of landmark parks in the two cities have also joined the wagering fun.

Both regions are home to Stanley Parks.

Robert McKean, who manages the park in Westfield, near Boston, said he will donate a park bench to Vancouver if the Canucks capture the cup.

Vancouver's Malcolm Bromley promised to match that offer.

The two parks may share a name, but Vancouver's downtown jewel is more than three times the size of its Massachusetts counterpart, which is located about 160 kilometres west of Boston.

The U.S. park is named for Frank Stanley Beveridge who donated the land in 1949, while Vancouver's Stanley Park was created in 1888 and bears the name of Governor General Lord Stanley -- the man who also donated the coveted Stanley Cup.

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