VANCOUVER - Zaak Ghelani was in the stands 17 years ago when Vancouver defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs to advance to the Stanley Cup final, but back then he couldn't afford the pricey tickets to watch the Canucks in the final round of the 1994 playoffs.
This time, as the Canucks prepare for their first game against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, Ghelani has taken to Craigslist, offering to pay hundreds of dollars for seats in the stands for him and his mother.
"It's a lot of money to pay for some hockey tickets, but I'll be going with my mother who's a massive hockey fan, and she might not get to see them again in the Stanley Cup finals," said Ghelani, 32, who is a sales manager at a car dealership in the Vancouver area.
Ghelani posted an ad on Craigslist offering $500 each for tickets in the lower bowl of Rogers Arena, or $400 apiece for seats higher up.
If he finds someone willing to sell for those prices, he may be getting a bargain. Online ticket resellers say this year's Stanley Cup final, particularly the games in Vancouver, are already fetching some of the highest prices they've ever seen, with some fans paying $2,000 or more for a chance to watch the Canucks and Bruins compete for the cup.
Ghelani is optimistic he'll be able to find someone looking to get rid of a few tickets, particularly as Wednesday's Game 1 draws near.
"To me, that's not only excessive, but it's beyond what I'm able to pay," said Ghelani, referring to some of the sky-high prices for tickets.
"I think near the start of the game, there's going to be people who were holding out to get $700 or $800 who weren't able to, and I'll prey on those people."
Tickets haven't gone on sale to the general public yet. Single tickets go on sale in each city on Tuesday, with seats in Vancouver starting at $197.
But season's ticket holders are already putting their seats for sale online with steep markups.
FanSnap, a U.S.-based website that allows users to search several reselling websites at the same time, says the average ticket price for the Vancouver games is currently about $1,900 and for Boston games it's roughly $1,100.
Online reseller StubHub, which allows ticketholders to list their seats and set their own prices, says tickets in Vancouver are selling for an average of $970 on the site, and Boston games are going for an average of about $690.
"These are the priciest tickets we've seen for the Stanley Cup final in our company's history," said Joellen Ferrer of StubHub, which launched in 2000 and was bought by eBay in 2007.
Ferrer said last year, in the days leading up to the Chicago Blackhawks-Philadelphia Flyers series, tickets were selling for about $150 less than they are now.
Christian Anderson of StubHub said the ballooning ticket prices came as a surprise, but he offered several reasons why they're so high, particularly for the games in Vancouver.
"Vancouver is obviously a hot-bed of NHL fans and it's drawing from a large area," said Anderson. "It's also pulling in fans from the Seattle area and across Canada, so we're seeing huge ticket demand."
Anderson said users visiting his site to buy tickets for the Vancouver games are mostly in B.C., with some buyers coming from Alberta, Washington, California and Massachusetts.
Online resellers such as StubHub and FanSnap say they offer a fast, safe way for people to buy and sell tickets to events, with refunds and replacement tickets for buyers if a sale doesn't go through, and penalties for sellers who don't deliver what they promise.
Anderson also defended such websites from criticism that they allow unfair price markups. He argued the public will buy and sell tickets at elevated prices anyway, but websites like his allow them to do it knowing they'll get what they pay for.
"It's become a pretty efficient market, much like the stock market, and we think of the box office price kind of like an IPO (initial public offering) for a ticket, and sometimes that will go below the box office price and sometimes it will go above," said Anderson.
"What we do is try to provide as much transparency as possible."