Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stanley Cup survival tips for Vancouver visitors

If you happen to be in Vancouver for #TBEX11, the travel bloggers conference, or you're embarking on your Disney cruise to Alaska, here are a few tips to survive hockey night in Canada.

Hockey is our game. Get used to it.

The Vancouver Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup but came close in 1994 resulting in the now legendary 1994 riots. Vancouver is up against the Boston Bruins, one of the original six teams, who last won the Cup in 1972. The series has a maximum of seven games but ends with the first team to win four.

And in case you're a real newbie, the game is hockey and its grand prize is the Stanley Cup. That's the same Stanley who's Park is on your top ten list of Vancouver attractions. 

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, televised in Canada by CBC, broke its NHL playoff record with a peak audience of 7.8 million. This series is a really big deal.

If you're going to a bar or restaurant or any place that has a television, get there early (by noon, if it's a deciding game). Or go someplace that doesn't have a TV if you're simply looking for a snack and a drink.

Besides the bars and restaurants there are designated free "fan zones" in the downtown core. The crowd sizes have increased and the plan for game three is to close Georgia Street and the Viaduct at 2:00pm. If you're travelling through town, check the local news or Twitter for updates (use the hashtag #canucks). Or join the excitement and watch the game outside on a really big screen.

You'll have a hard time finding a taxi unless you're looking for one as the puck drops at 5:00pm. Or try the TaxiNow app and let us know how it works (thanks to @chickievan for the tip). Public transit will be crowded but a good option. Follow Translink on Twitter for timely updates on bus schedules and road closures.

Don't try to leave downtown immediately following the game unless you're walking. Wait it out, enjoy the crowds. As with all crowds, use your traveller's sense. Watch for pick-pockets, angry or aggressive people, drunk or otherwise altered fans. If Vancouver loses, be careful. While many have said we've matured since 1994, anything can happen. 

Vancouver experienced huge crowds on the downtown streets during the 2010 Winter Olympics without major incidents. It's a great experience, just use your common sense and trust your instincts about fun and danger. Talk to the locals -- we love sharing our city with visitors.

If you're stocking up on bottles of alcohol, get to a liquor store the day before a game, otherwise you're likely to spend a lot of time in a long line waiting to pay. If the street crowds get too large the police could force liquor stores to close early. In BC you can't buy alcohol at a grocery store. And no, you can't legally drink on the street.

Dear Bruins fans, please don't taunt the wild Canucks or you may get yourself arrested. Police don't like taunters. Most Canadians of a certain age fondly remember the Bobby Orr days so a respectful conversation will be warmly welcomed.

Make sure you watch the start of the game to witness a phenomena that has most visitors scratching their heads. Canadians actual sing our national anthem -- with passion. It hasn't always been this way, we were mumblers for a long time. The crazy anthem singing grew up during the Olympics, as seen on this bus

All games start at 5:00pm PT. Check Wikipedia for the updated schedule and scores.

Have fun! It's a once in a lifetime experience. 

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