UPDATE: Updates and photos from game 7 here.
CBC — More than 100,000 nervous Vancouver Canucks fans are expected to pack the streets of downtown Vancouver when the team takes on the Boston Bruins in the deciding game the Stanley Cup final Wednesday night.
And if the team wins, it's expected those fans will kick off the biggest party in the city's history — even bigger than the massive street party that took over the city last year after the Canadian team won the Olympic hockey gold medal.
But if the Canucks lose, police say they are prepared to head off any unruly mobs hoping to spark a repeat of the infamous riot that followed the team's loss to the New York Rangers in the final game of the 1994 Stanley Cup final.
Police said much has changed since those days, including the closure of downtown liquor stores hours before the game begins, better targeted crowd control, bag checks at transit stations for liquor — and perhaps most importantly — a family-friendly mood in the massive fan zones set up on the streets.
It's been two months since the team's gruelling playoff run began and when the puck drops shortly after 5 p.m. PT at Rogers Arena the team will have one last chance to defeat the Boston Bruins and seal the deal.
The Vancouver Canucks have never won the Cup in the team's 40-year history, and after decades of praying and cheering, fans are hoping tonight is the night their dreams will come true.
The series is tied at three games apiece, with each team winning all their games on home ice, giving many Vancouver fans faith that tonight's home ice advantage will give the Canucks the edge.
But much has been made about the streaky goaltending of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who was pulled twice in the Boston games, and about the unflappable goaltending of Bruins netminder Tim Thomas, who the Canucks have struggled to beat.
One of the major successes of the playoffs has already been the massive fan zones created by the city, shutting down several blocks of the downtown core to traffic and broadcasting the game on four massive outdoor screens, including one outside the CBC building.
All six lanes of West Georgia Street between Richards and Cambie will once again be closed at noon, along with Hamilton Street outside the CBC building and Homer Street outside the public library.
On Friday night after the Canucks' win in Game 5, about 100,000 fans were on hand to celebrate well into the evening and police reported they seized about 3,000 bottles and cans of liquor.
But apart from one incident involving people who were arrested attempting to smash the windows of the public library, police have reported the fans have generally been well behaved during the celebrations.
For Game 6 on Monday, police did order 18 downtown liquor stores to close at 4 p.m., and that order remains in place for Game 7 on Wednesday.
City officials have estimated the total cost for hosting the celebrations and for policing will run about $1.2 million.
Other municipalities across Metro Vancouver have also hosted their own fan zones with giant screens, with about 5,000 turning up to watch games at the City Centre Plaza in Surrey.
Similar events are being held at:
- The Chilliwack Exhibition grounds.
- Nanaimo's Diana Krall Plaza.
- The West Vancouver Community Centre.
- Burnaby Public Library's Bob Prittie branch at Metrotown Mall.
- Coquitlam recreation centres.