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Vancouver celebrates 'Canucks Day' before team takes on Chicago Blackhawks

Fin, the Vancouver Canucks mascot, left, bites Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on the head after the mayor declared Tuesday, April 27, 2010 Canucks Day following the teams advancement to the second round of the NHL playoffs. The Canucks will play the Chicago Blackhawks in game one of the second round in Chicago on Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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Fin, the Vancouver Canucks mascot, left, bites Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on the head after the mayor declared Tuesday, April 27, 2010 Canucks Day following the teams advancement to the second round of the NHL playoffs. The Canucks will play the Chicago Blackhawks in game one of the second round in Chicago on Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER - One year after losing a bet to his Chicago counterpart, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says he's going double or nothing on the outcome of the Blackhawks-Canucks Stanley Cup playoff series.

During a ceremony at Vancouver city hall Tuesday proclaiming Canucks Day, Robertson said he's still finalizing what he'll bet. Last year he had to ship several items to Illinois, including B.C. salmon, chocolates and 2010 Olympic gear.

"I'm working on a wager. We're in touch with the mayor's office in Chicago, sort of double or nothing from last year," Robertson said while sporting a blue Canucks jersey.

Noticeably absent was the scraggly hockey beard Robertson grew in 2009.

The Canucks and Blackhawks will square off in the second round starting Saturday. Chicago eliminated Vancouver in six games last season.

Robertson helped raise the Canucks flag at city hall Tuesday, where he was cheered on by about 100 boisterous fans. The mayor was joined at the ceremony by Canucks Sports and Entertainment owner Francesco Aquilini, team general manager Mike Gillis, and mascot Fin.

"Some people say it's a little too early to declare Canucks Day. It's never too early to have the Canucks flag flying here at city hall," he said to loud cheers.

The mayor is certainly not alone in his enthusiasm.

The number of Canucks jerseys on the streets seems to be multiplying by the day, along with the number of playoff beards.

And at the Vancouver entrance to the Lions Gate bridge, which connects the city with West Vancouver and North Vancouver, two stone lions have been outfitted with team jerseys of their own.

Fans have posted messages online trying to arrange trips to Chicago to watch the opening two games of the series.

Many are hopeful this will be the year Vancouver, which entered the National Hockey League in 1970, wins its first Stanley Cup. Others aren't yet convinced.

"I'm so used to them losing that I try not to get myself too excited because it's always like you're worried about getting disappointed," Arv Khera, a season-ticket holder, said in an interview.

"It's like going out on a date with a hot chick."

Earlier this month, before the playoffs began, Vancouver police said they were considering early closures of liquor stores to stamp out any booze-fuelled public disorder in the city where fans rioted in 1994 after the team lost in the final.

The measure was used for a few nights during February's Winter Olympics, when Canada's men's hockey team played.

But police spokesman Const. Lindsey Houghton said the public was very well behaved in the first round.

He said as the Canucks move on through the playoffs, police anticipate the crowds will grow, at which point more officers can be brought in.

"We're certainly not necessarily anticipating Olympic gold medal levels, unless we do get to the Stanley Cup, Game 7 kind of scenario," he said.

At the ceremony, Aquilini thanked fans for the passion with which they cheer on his team but not everyone in the organization was aware of Canucks Day.

Head coach Alain Vigneault looked puzzled when asked after practice what he thought about the event. When it was explained to him, the coach shrugged.

"I don't care," he said.

One of the team's public relations staffers quickly jumped in and said, "I think he thinks it's a great honour."

"I didn't know about it," said Vigneault, bringing laughs from reporters. "It's a great honour."

?with a file from Jim Morris

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