The 2011 Western Final in San Jose!

The San Jose Sharks battled the Detroit Red Wings in an epic 7 game series for the opportunity to face the Canucks in the Western Conference Finals!  Canucks fans waited for 3 days following their elimination of the Nashville Predators to see who was next! As soon as the schedule was released, Canucks fans clamored to buy tickets for games 3 and 4 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. The dates conveniently fell on Victoria Day long weekend which allowed even more fans to make the trip down for the Sunday game. Having monday off would allow those fans who had driven the 1,550 km each way to get back in time for work on Tuesday.

I asked a good friend, Sandeep to recommend a bar with an open layout so I could gather as many fans as possible. He is from Vancouver originally and had been on a few previous road trips with my groups. He recommended the “Old Wagon Saloon”. It is a great sports bar with a large patio as well that would be perfect for travelling Canucks fans. It is in San Pedro Square, which is a series of bars and restaurants just a short walk from the HP Pavillion.

During the Pre Game party we were also visited by Derek Jory, Canucks.com writer, Perry Skolkowski of CTV, and the Kurtenbloggers. We took a group photo and then walked together to the HP Pavillion about 10 minutes away.

The “walk” turned into a mass Canuck Fan march right down Santa Clara, under the highway overpass , through Guadalupe River Park to the arena. I will never forget the reactions of the Canuck fans and the locals! The locals were in complete shock! I knew what they were experiencing however because I feel the same way when the Leafs or Canadiens visit Rogers Arena and their fans take over our building pretty much.

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The Canucks lost game #3 but that didn’t temper our enthusiasm. I gathered a large group of fans postgame and tried to get back into the Old Wagon Saloon. When we got there it was clear that there was a lot of tension from the Sharks fans that were already there. The management told us that they are not worried about us, it’s the locals that could get out of control. They invited us back for a party after the next game, but for now they wouldn’t let us enter a preverbal “shark tank” of drunk and belligerent Sharks fans. We eventually found another bar with a live band to close out a great day in San Jose.

The next day, several groups of Canucks fans made their way to AT&T Park in San  Francisco for a Saturday afternoon game. The Giants were playing the Oakland A’s and the stadium was completely packed. I told Canuck fans which area to sit as there wasn’t any group tickets available. We were scattered across 2 sections and were mercilessly booed every time we got up from our seats. When we would walk back to our seats it seemed as though we were being booed by thousands of people. It felt great! We loved being the villains.

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Prior to game 4, many fans gathered for a Canuck Fan breakfast at a diner not too far from the arena. I personally couldn’t wake up early enough for that, but my friend from Los Angeles Joshua Lassman took the lead on that and put the word out to Canucks Fans.

At 11:00 that morning I gathered Fans for a group Photo in the park beside the arena.  CTV was there as well and used a few of the shots for their news broadcast. We then marched to the arena for what would become the ultimate experience for Canucks fans.

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There were literally a few thousand Canucks fans waiting near the bench area for the Canucks to come out for the warm up! CBC opened their broadcast with a shot of the fans singing “Oh Canada”. I was in shock, as I had never dreamed of anything like this! I was so overwhelmed by the initiative and passion of so many Canucks fans to make the trip for this game! The Sharks fans were stunned that so many more people from a different city had literally taken over their arena!

The Canucks won an exciting game and the concourses were full of chanting Canucks Fans in the intermissions. I was circulating throughout the arena informing people of the post game group photo in section 224. Joshua Lassman, Andrea Connacher and Cam Watson also helped me get the word out.

The entire section was overtaken by Canucks fans with a series of cheers and “O Canada”. Other fans who saw what we were doing scrambled over to join our mass group photo. On the NBC broadcast you could see our fans gathering upstairs as they were doing the post game interviews.

Once we finished the post game group photo, the fans took over the concourse for another 15 mins of cheering. The HP Pavillion event staff were very patient and accommodating. Our fans were loud and silly, but it was all in good fun. The fact that the Canucks needed only one more win for a shot at the Stanley Cup created sense of euphoria. The fans couldn’t help themselves. They were in another city, their team had won, and there were thousands of them.

I asked the event staff if the side doors exited out toward Santa Clara because I wanted to “herd” everyone to San Pedro Square. The event staff held the doors open and we all exited the arena. I wasn’t expecting such an ideal group photo opportunity on the exit stairwell on the way out. There were a lot of Canucks fans  below on the street gathered around the CSN postgame broadcast position.  When they looked up and saw the mass of Canucks fans on the stairwell, they went crazy.  The fans from the postgame group photo exiting the arena saw this and they went crazy, it was complete madness!

The fans made their way back down Santa Clara to San Pedro Square for yet another post game fan party at “The Old Wagon Saloon”. There were so many Canucks fans that I had to turn away many disappointed fans. I told them to go to the neighboring bars for about 40 minutes then come back. That seemed to work as the Sharks fans left and more space opened up. Eventually the whole place was completely taken over by Canucks fans. It was a lot of work for me as I had to make sure people weren’t getting too intoxicated, and if they were I had to make sure they were escorted out. The fans were pretty well behaved considering the circumstances. We were having a great time, but it was all in good fun. The local businesses appreciated us being there while thinking they were in the “Twilight Zone” given the sheer numbers of Canucks fans.

Francesco Aquilini and some friends showed up and were given a hero’s welcome. He goes on many road trips and has visited a few events that I have organized. The first one was in January in NYC when I brought my group to a party hosted by The Canadian Association of New York. Then he bought some drinks for many of the fans and took some time to chat and take photos with as many fans as possible.

This was the greatest experience ever for travelling Canuck fans. Given that this was the playoffs and that fans had made the trip basically last minute. Tickets to the games we not cheap in addition to the costs of the trip itself.  What passion and dedication! They have to be the best fans in the NHL. Never had there been such an incredible showing of travelling hockey fans! I was here just riding the wave!

Here are 2 articles by Derek Jory of Canucks.com that weekend!

http://fortnucks.blogspot.com/2011/05/earthquake-button.html

http://canucks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=563428

Watch the video of the entire weekend!

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