Bloomberg News

Vancouver Passion for Canucks Tops Olympics as Drought Nears End

June 03, 2011

June 3 (Bloomberg) -- Vancouver chiropractor Richard Cleland says nothing in the city’s sports history -- not even the 2010 Winter Olympics -- compares to the excitement of the Vancouver Canucks’ bid to win the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup for the first time.

“It supersedes the Olympic experience,” said Cleland, 38, who attended Canada’s gold-medal victory over the U.S. in men’s hockey last year. “This is the best opportunity we’ve had to win the cup in the 40-year history of the franchise.”

A poll released this week by Ipsos Reid found more than 80 percent of British Columbians are “excited” about the Canucks’ playoff run, compared with 53 percent who were enthused about the Olympics before they began in February last year. The poll surveyed 459 people.

“It’s kind of like the passion the ‘Original Six’ team cities have,” said Jeff McCord, managing director of Vertex One Asset Management in Vancouver, referring to the league’s first teams in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York and Toronto, before the addition of new franchises beginning in 1967. “It’s all consuming.”

McCord, whose firm manages C$1.5 billion ($1.53 billion), said he expects the level of fan interest in the city of 2.5 million people to rise as the series resumes tomorrow night in Vancouver before moving to Boston’s TD Garden next week.

Vancouver began the series June 1 with a 1-0 win over the Bruins at sold-out Rogers Arena, as Raffi Torres scored with 19 seconds left in regulation time. The Canucks’ victory was on the same rink where Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal on the last day of the Winter Games lifted Canada to a 3-2 victory over the U.S.

Fans Gather

Not far from Rogers Arena, more than 5,000 fans, many wearing blue-and-white colored Canucks jerseys, watched the game on big screens as a light rain and thunder failed to dampen the atmosphere.

“It really brings the town together -- even people who aren’t fans are jumping on the bandwagon and supporting our team,” fan Brianna Ashleigh said during the festivities.

The top-seeded Canucks are listed as the 1-2 favorite to win the cup by Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which advises that city’s casinos on betting lines. Vancouver lost in the championship series in 1982 and 1994. The Canucks, who joined the NHL for the 1970-71 season, are also trying to become the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

Bruins Drought

The Bruins seek to end a drought of their own. They’ve lost five times in the Stanley Cup Final, most recently in 1990, since collecting the last of five NHL titles in 1972.

With Olympic memories fresh, Canucks fans are hoping their team will prevail in step with the 1977 Canadiens and the 1989 Calgary Flames, both Stanley Cup champions the year after the cities hosted the Olympics. Canada won 14 gold medals at Vancouver, the most by any country in the 86-year history of the Winter Games.

“What we’re seeing here is people getting way more engaged with their team than ever before,” Ian Telfer, chairman of Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., the world’s second-largest gold miner, said in a telephone interview. “Thousands of fans are on the streets, literally wearing their support for the team.”

The excitement has translated into lofty asking prices for game tickets in Vancouver, said Ben Kessler, director of communications at New York-based SeatGeek.com, a search-engine for concerts and sports events. Prime seats are offered for as much as $4,369, on average, or about 60 percent more than comparable tickets to the National Basketball Association finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks.

Real Estate Prices

“When you see tickets this highly demanded and prices this high you can definitely believe that there’s excitement in Vancouver,” Kessler said in a telephone interview.

Goldcorp’s Telfer, who plans to attend games in Vancouver and Boston, said the ticket prices aren’t surprising given Vancouver’s real-estate market.

In 2010, Vancouver had the third-highest housing costs among English-speaking cities worldwide, according to Canada’s Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

“For Vancouverites, who have among the highest home prices on the planet, I don’t expect $5,000 will stop them from having a once-in-a-life-time experience,” Telfer said.

--Editors: David Scanlan, Larry Siddons.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Donville in Vancouver at cjdonville@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net; Jay Beberman at jbeberman@bloomberg.net.


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