That night a sellout crowd of 18,630 witnessed a two-goal performance from Markus Naslund as Vancouver beat LA 3-2; looking back that game didn’t mean much then, but it does now.
That packed house started a streak of 250 straight sellouts at The Garage, which the Canucks will reach on March 15 versus the Colorado Avalanche.
Spanning six consecutive seasons, that streak sounds impressive and it truly is when you consider that only four of the 24 players on Vancouver’s roster have ever played a home game in front of a less than capacity crowd.
“I still can’t believe that,” said Alex Burrows, a fan favourite in Vancouver.
“The fans are really passionate about this team, they really want the Canucks to do well, they want the team to succeed and it’s fun as a player to know that every time you go out onto the ice that people are going to cheer you on and are going to wish you all the best.”
That has certainly made a difference to the Canucks as playing on home ice has been a treat during this streak and the team has a record of 138-81-30, including playoffs, to show for it.
There’s something a sellout crowd adds to the atmosphere that the players just can’t put their fingers on, it’s simply an overwhelming feeling of excitement they experience when stepping onto the ice for pre-game and it’s doubled when coming out for game time.
“The music is going and the fans are loud and standing on their feet and cheering you on,” smiled Burrows.
“Obviously it gets your legs going and you know that they’re going to be excited so it’s easy for you to focus on the game and make sure that you’re going to give 100 percent to them.”
Coming into GM Place has been a painful headache for opponents over the past few seasons and Ryan Johnson said that regardless of what the scoreboard reads at the end of the game, it’s always intense playing in Vancouver because of the aura the fans create.
Johnson spent time with the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues before joining the Canucks, so he has experience playing at The Garage as an enemy.
“As a visiting team coming in here it was always a great place to play, there was always a buzz in the city the day of the game,” said Johnson, who witnessed the effect Vancouver’s roaring home crowd has when his Blues lost to the Canucks in the first round of the 2002-03 playoffs.
“Being part of the team now, even as we’re getting ready in here you can feel the buzz in the air and it really gets the guys going, it really gets the nerves going because you know what you’re walking into.
“That’s such a different energy than anything I’ve experienced. It’s not just even at the rink, I even find in the morning when I go grab a coffee or going out for lunch in the afternoon, everybody is talking about the game that night, everybody is excited about just a regular season game, which is unreal.”
When a nine-game home winless skid had the team in disarray in January, Vancouver’s loyal fans voiced their displeasure to the team, but never waivered on pouring through the doors to try and help the Canucks bump the slump.
That says a lot about the character of fans on the West Coast and the love they have for their Canucks.
“I’ve seen similar things in Europe, it doesn’t really matter what the team is going through and if you are a hardcore fan or not, people keep coming back to try and help the team win,” said Sami Salo
“It’s amazing how the fans have been supporting us for so long.”
“I’ve played in buildings that they weren’t able to sellout and weren’t able to draw fans,” added Steve Bernier, “but here people are almost fighting to get tickets, it’s like gold here, it’s incredible.”
To thank the loyal fans for their steadfast support and to celebrate this momentous accomplishment, GM Place will be offering some deals inspired by the 250th sellout for the March 15th game against Colorado.
During the game ticket holders will have the opportunity to win one of three fantasic prizes: an opportunity to visit the Canucks dressing room and meet a player during the 2009-10 season, a pair of tickets to each home game in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs or a trip for two to see the Canucks on the road in the 2009-10 season, while the 250th person to make a purchase at the Canucks Team Store on the 15th automatically wins a gift basket valued at $250.
Vancouver’s historic 250th game will be broadcast live in its entirety on Canucks.com
starting at 6:45.
The Canucks For Kids Fund Telethon also takes place on Saturday; click here for information on how to donate.