Vancouver Canucks left wing Raffi Torres scores the winning goal against Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas during the third period of game one Stanley Cup final playoff hockey action in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, June 1, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
VANCOUVER - Three more to go.
Canucks fans celebrating the team's last-minute victory against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday were already counting down the number of wins left to capture the Stanley Cup, a testament to how close the cup feels in a city that has never won the NHL's top prize.
The Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins 1-0 Wednesday night after Raffi Torres scored with 18.5 seconds left in the third period.
Thousands of jersey-clad fans who were watching the game at Rogers Arena, sports bars and large open-air viewing sites erupted in cheers before quickly filling downtown Vancouver streets in the latest of the post-game street parties that have marked the Canucks' playoff run.
Some were wearing Canucks flags as capes, others had their faces painted in the team's blues and greens. Most were ready with a high five when presented with another open-palmed hand, which happened often, usually with a scream.
Dale West watched the game at a nearby pub and immediately ventured outside to join the party along the popular Granville Street entertainment district.
"Oh my god, it's a dream right now," said West, 30, who was sporting a white Canucks jersey.
"We won Game 1. We just have three more to go, that's all we've got to do, three more."
There were several options for fans looking for a spot to watch the game, and pretty much all of them were full. The city set up giant screens in two areas, one on Granville Street, the other outside the local CBC studio, where traffic was rerouted to make room for thousands of spectators. Both were full.
Vancouver police said the crowds were mostly well-behaved. By 10:30 p.m., officers had poured out liquor about three dozen times, issue five tickets, taken one person to the drunk tank and dealt with a couple of fights.
Jordon Wiseman had been watching the previous playoff games at home, but on Wednesday he decided to watch it outside at the CBC.
Wiseman repeated what has become a common comparison in recent weeks, likening the nightly playoff parties to last year's Winter Olympics, when Vancouver's downtown was jammed with people celebrating the Games every night.
"The atmosphere was just incredible. I've watched the other games at home, and there's nothing like this—it's the best feeling I've ever experienced," said Wiseman, 17.
"It's better than the Olympics. The Olympics were more focused on the world and Canada, but this is Vancouver, and it's great to have that much focus on us right now."
At 17 years old, Wiseman has literally been waiting his entire life to see the Canucks in the Stanley Cup final—the last time the team made it this far was in 1994, when they lost to the New York Rangers.
"I've been watching hockey since I could understand the game," said Wiseman. "I've watched so many bad seasons, missed playoffs, and disappointments, especially in the last few years. It's great to finally get some wins at the playoffs, and to be here now with three wins away, it's huge."
For some of the people celebrating the Game 1 victory in Vancouver, the win was only further proof the Canucks are destined to take the Stanley Cup. To them, it's the only possible option.
But others were more realistic.
"It was a close game. It could go either way, it's still too early to tell," said Mike DelPellaro, 43, who was at the game.
"The game was won with 18 seconds left. Anyone who's saying the Canucks are definitely going to win and Boston's not a good team, maybe they want to rethink their reality. Boston's a good team. The Canucks are a better team, I expect them to win, but it was a close game."
DelPellaro is a season ticket holder, so he didn't have to pay the steep markups some fans have been shelling out for tickets. Some seats have been selling for thousands of dollars.
DelPellaro said he never thought for a second about selling his.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be here, and it's just not worth $700," he said.
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.