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Fans desperate to keep the faith

(by Wendy Stueck and Vivian Luk)

The blue jerseys became more difficult to spot, the cacophony of car horns eased and even the skies turned grey as a city’s spirits flagged as badly as the Canucks’ defence.


In Vancouver, the Canucks’ two-game trouncing by the Boston Bruins turned what had been a jubilant, even cocky mood into something considerably More sombre.


The same “social contagion” phenomenon that propelled thousands of people into the streets and fuelled the face-painting, jersey-wearing jubilance of the cup run’s early days is evident in the subdued behaviour and potential backlash if the Canucks keep up their losing ways, says clinical psychologist Joti Samra.


“If I’m at home watching television on my own and [the Canucks] lose, that’s going to have a certain effect,” Dr. Samra said on Thursday. “Now let’s say I’m in a pub with 200 people and everyone is frustrated and upset – that’s going to amplify my emotional state.”


The rioting that followed the Canucks’ Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup finals is an extreme example of such group-think mentality, she said, characterized by the tendency of people in pumped-up, anonymous crowds to do things they typically wouldn’t do.


For the moment, Vancouver fans appear desperate to keep the faith.
At the Canucks Team store on Robson St., fans were still looking for sold-out Canucks jerseys. But, in a stark departure from a few days ago, they had lots of room to browse.


“On Saturday, 50 people were lining up outside at any given time between 11 [a.m.] and closing,” security guard Peter Lipkis said. “[Wednesday] there was no line-up, but who knows – it might be because it was mid-week, and it was an away game.”


Vincent Teo, who had been browsing for a Kesler or Burrows jersey during his lunch break, said he remains optimistic.


“Oh, I knew they were going to lose after the first goal,” said Mr. Teo, who had been at Rogers Arena with five other friends on Wednesday night. “I got up to get a hot dog right after that, and by third period, almost half of the people had already left the arena, but we’re still believing. We’ll have the home ice advantage tomorrow. We can still win this.”


In coffee shops, latte-buyers groused about Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo and the opposition’s tank-like Tim Thomas.


On the radio, former Canucks captain Trevor Linden, who headed the Canucks on their last Stanley Cup run, was asked whether and how the team could get back on track.


The upside, if there is one, for Canucks fans? Ticket prices have dropped, with Game 5 tickets dropping from a previous $1,200-$1,500 range to below $1,000.


Also, arts and theatre groups are looking forward to getting their audience back.


On Friday night, hockey fan – and Cellar Jazz club owner and musician Cory Weeds – will be playing a gig, at which he expects a smaller than usual crowd.


He books acts three months in advance and, based on recent years’ experience, had no reason to believe the Canucks would be playing in the finals, he said wryly.


Had the Canucks won Game 4 in Boston, setting the stage for a potential Stanley Cup victory in Game 5, he likely would have adjusted his plans, Mr. Weeds said. As it is, he’ll play and hope patrons show up.
On Wednesday night, he closed his club, “but you can’t close on a Friday night,” he said.

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