People pack Granville Street in celebration after the Vancouver Canucks advanced to the NHL\'s Stanley Cup Final after defeating the San Jose Sharks 4 games to 1 in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday May 24, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
VANCOUVER - For the countless jersey-clad Canucks fans who poured onto the streets of downtown Vancouver Tuesday night, celebrating the team's upcoming trip to the Stanley Cup final was as much about looking back as it was about looking forward.
The Canucks took the Western Conference with a double overtime Game 5 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Many remember the last time the Canucks made it to the final—17 years ago in 1994, when the West Coast team lost to the New York Rangers.
Ross Archibald, one of several thousand people watching Tuesday's game on a giant screen outside a local TV studio, was just 10 years old the last time his team made it this far.
"It's the best thing that's happened since 1994," recalled Archibald, a 27-year-old lifetime Canucks fan from Surrey, B.C.
"I remember crying myself to sleep that night they lost against New York. That's almost two-thirds of my life."
The Canucks' 3-2 victory over the Sharks takes them to the final round for the third time in the team's history.
After Kevin Bieksa scored the game-winning goal, thousands of fans poured out of Rogers arena and sports bars throughout downtown as a massive street party erupted over several blocks along the popular Granville Street entertainment district.
Fans revelling in the victory on bar patios where they watched the game unfold invited high fives from passersby, some draping themselves in Canadian flags or Canucks flags, cheering and breaking out into chants of, "We want the cup!"
It was a moment Albert Cohen travelled from Detroit to experience first-hand.
The 35-year-old mathematics professor is originally from Vancouver but currently teaches at Michigan State University. With the school year over, he couldn't miss a chance to visit his hometown as the Canucks advanced.
"It's one of the most beautiful nights of my life—this is my hometown, and it'll never change," said Cohen, wearing a vintage black-and-orange Canucks jersey.
"To me, to be a Vancouver Canuck fan, it's kind of hard to follow them (in Detroit). There's no better time to be here."
Cohen, too, has vivid memories of the last time the Canucks were in the final—and the heartbreak that followed.
"I was here in 1994, I remember going to the theatre to watch the games on the big screen as a kid," recalled Cohen. "Godwilling, this is the year."
For other fans, those memories are a little hazier.
Parmvir Thind, who hoisted a makeshift Stanley Cup replica as he celebrated Tuesday's win, was just a baby when the Canucks were last playing for the Stanley Cup.
"Last time they went to the cup final, I was zero years old," said Thind, now 17.
"And to know that they're going to finals after 17 years, it's just awesome. It's the best I've ever felt in my life."
The nightly street parties that have followed every playoff win have brought back more recent memories, as well, with some likening the celebrations to the constant crowds that filled the city's downtown during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
James Neil, the general manager at G Sports Bar, which has been full to capacity for every Canucks playoff game, said the Olympic comparison is bang-on.
"It's very Olympic-esque, the energy on Granville Street, they're driving up and down, they're honking, they're cheering," he said earlier Tuesday, as he prepared to welcome patrons for the game.
"Everybody's your friend because everybody's cheering for the same thing. You've got people who don't know each other high-fiving each other. It's all positive energy."
The Canucks will play either the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins lead that series 3-2 with Game 5 Wednesday night.