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VanMurph's View: View On Vancouver

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Murphy and Vanessa Burch
In just another attempt to bring the fans closer to the team and vice versa, would like to introduce our newest fan blogger, Murphy Burch. Joining YourBlog's Cliff Peeke, Murphy will be writing about his views on the Panthers for this season.

Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.

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Vancouver has always been one of my favorite international destinations. From the beautiful skyline, to the stunning waterfront, to the breathtaking mountains. It’s a lot like Seattle, except it has NHL hockey!

One of the nicest things about working for an airline is having the flexibility to amend your travel plans based on availability of seats on whichever flight you want to take. When I left Calgary early Saturday morning, my intention was to fly to DFW and spend the afternoon with a couple of friends, then fly to Vancouver with Vanessa on Sunday morning. But on the taxi-in, Vanessa called me from home to tell me that there were seats available to and from Amarillo, where my parents live. So I changed planes and headed off to visit my Mom and Dad, whom I hadn’t seen in nearly two years. There’s not much that compares to the feeling you get when you see your parent’s smiling faces after such a long time apart… We spent a little over 12 hours together and enjoyed a nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Then early Sunday morning, I left Amarillo and met up with Vanessa in Dallas for our flight to Vancouver.

Arriving in Vancouver sporting a Panthers pullover jacket, I joked with the lady in Customs that my wife and I were there to prove to the British Columbians that despite what they may have heard from the media in Calgary, the Florida Panthers really do have a couple of fans… An hour after we landed, we cleared customs and had soup and a sandwich in the Tim Horton’s restaurant outside baggage claim while we waited for the hotel shuttle. Once at the hotel, we made sure to review the route to General Motors Place, and we took a short nap. Even though it was early in the afternoon, we knew the game that evening would end after midnight body time, so we wanted to rest and recharge before heading out to catch the bus.

We took the #17 bus from the hotel, and transferred to the #10 bus, then walked the remaining few blocks to the rink. It was cold outside, but we’d dressed appropriately, so it wasn’t a bad hike. The total time en route from the hotel to GM Place was a little over an hour, and that included waiting about 15 minutes for the second bus. Speaking of the wait for the second bus, the bus stop was right in front of a Starbucks and Vanessa was able to run inside and grab herself a delicious coffee, which helped to keep her warm on the remainder of the trip to the arena. It reminded both of us of years past when we lived in downtown Chicago. Even though we had cars, we took public transportation to a lot of places we went. Sometimes we would see a restaurant or coffee shop and just hop off the bus and give it a try. Good times.

As soon as we arrived at the arena, we made our way over to the Will Call window and picked up our tickets, and then we found the appropriate entrance for our section. Unlike the single entrance at the BankAtlantic Center, at GM Place you enter on different levels of the building from different streets, and from different sides of the arena (see the diagram in the photos at the bottom of this entry). Your ticket is checked at the door, and different groups of sections have separate entrances. I’m sure that once you know your way around the building, finding the appropriate entrance is a breeze, but for two visitors from south Florida, it was sort of confusing. The single entrance works well when your arena is located on a large piece of property and has a sizeable promenade just outside the doors. But when it’s wedged tightly into a downtown space, multiple entrances and exits serve to quickly fill or empty the building.

We entered GM Place at a little past six o’clock, and set out to locate our seats. Once we knew where we’d be sitting for the next few hours, we went to explore the arena, meet some people, and take some photos before the pre-game warm-ups. The first thing we noticed was the attractive concourses, both upstairs and downstairs, and the small alcoves along the perimeter that held concessions areas. We also noticed an inordinate amount of people selling 50/50 tickets, and asking for donations for various causes. It seemed like there was someone selling tickets every ten feet. I’ll write a little more about the 50/50 drawing in the GM Place notes below.

Notes from General Motors Place 

- GM place is one of the most aesthetically pleasing facilities in the NHL. The concourses are fairly wide with drop-down ceilings featuring chain link panels and canister lighting.

- The slope of the bowl is similar to the BankAtlantic Center giving almost everyone a terrific view of the ice. Since there are only two levels and nearly 1000 less seats, GM Place has a cozier feel.

- The sound system is fantastic. Not quite as good as the one in Anaheim, but better than just about any other I’ve encountered so far.

- The BankAtlantic Center sometimes takes a lot of guff from people who don’t really have anything better to do than rag on NHL arenas whose seat colors don’t match their team’s colors. Well, the seats in GM Place are a reddish brown, and it didn’t affect the ambiance one iota.

- The music played during the pre-game warm-ups is almost identical to the music in the BankAtlantic Center.

- Just before the player introductions, the lights dim and old Canucks radio highlights are played as spotlights featuring the Canucks logos spin on the ice. Then a video of the current Canucks team members lifting weights is shown on the center-hung scoreboard, along with game highlights of most of the players. A pretty motivational soundtrack accompanies the video.

- The arena announcer in Vancouver is probably the best I’ve ever heard in the NHL. His tone, inflection, and utter professionalism make for the absolute perfect sports voice. In fact, he has probably the second-best sports voice I’ve ever heard, behind the guy who does the NFL Film’s highlights (Harry Kalas).

- The center-hung scoreboard is very nice. The four large screens are crystal clear and have a very easy-to-read layout for the score, shots-on-goal, time remaining, etc. The four corner screens were used to show team statistics such as time-on-ice, PIM’s, and face-off win percentages. Around the top and bottom of the scoreboard, there were ringed displays that showed a variety of things including out-of-town scores, general information, and of course, advertisements.  The color combination of blue, green, and white was pleasant. There was also a lighted display that went around the entire arena between the upper and lower levels. It was used in conjunction with the center-hung rings to create a nice visual effect.

- The crowd’s temperament was almost identical in nature to any other crowd in the NHL. When Nick Boynton scored four minutes into the game, the place got pretty quiet, and when Jay Bouwmeester scored less than three minutes later, you could’ve heard a pin drop. They became impatient when the Canucks were down, and shouted for the team to shoot the puck and hit the Panthers. But once the Canucks scored their first goal, the excitement and buzz came back with a vengeance. After they scored the tying goal, the momentum and enthusiasm tilted in their favor, and from that point forward it never waned. 

- The blimp in the arena is shaped like a Killer Whale. In fact, the guy controlling it made it look like it was swimming in the ocean as he was flying it around. He would fly it in continuous arcs, and on one occasion he took it right down by center ice and then flew it up toward the glass like it was in a tank at Sea World. The blimp would drop coupons into the crowd from the bottom side.

-There were several people with Panthers jerseys in attendance. One couple, who were from originally from Delray Beach but now live in Portland, sat right down on the glass in front of us.  Another couple sat about 25 or so people to our left. I saw a few others out on the concourse.  An interesting phenomenon I noticed in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver was that there didn’t seem to be a single person wearing a jersey of a team other than the two playing.

- There was a plentiful supply of Classic Rock played throughout the game.

- The food is of nearly identical price, selection, and quality.

- No souvenir cups, and no cup holders (except in the club section).

- There are several Canucks merchandise stores located throughout GM Place. There was one large one, and the others were smaller. There were also a few merchandise counters set up around the concourses. One of the items I found interesting was a cow dressed in a Canucks jersey. With the cowbells being popular in the BAC, I’d happily pay 10 bucks for a cow with a Panthers jersey… By the way, none of the stores had anything but Canucks merchandise for sale (what a novel concept).

- The entire lower level on the penalty box side, from goal line to goal line, is club seating. This area is blocked off from the rest of the arena by handrails that were sponsored by Siemens.

- The first intermission featured a hockey game between a couple of local youth hockey teams. The mascot skated as the ref, and Schroeder’s theme from Peanuts played during the entire time the kids were on the ice.

-There are lots of championship banners hanging from the ceiling.

- During the “Kids Cam”, the mascot came down and gave all the kids in a section a box of ice cream. And later in the game, the mascot used a t-shirt canon to shoot souvenirs into the stands.

- During their “Fan Cam”, they played Cotton-Eyed Joe. I looked around expecting to see a dancing cowboy, like the BankAtlantic Center’s “Cowboy Rob”.

- Smirnoff Ice sponsored the girls that came out to clean the ice during timeouts. They were dressed in tracksuits similar to the ones the guys in Sunrise wear.

- During a TV timeout, a guy in a yellow Canucks jersey ran down from a few rows behind us and shouted to the section next to us that he wanted to start a wave. He counted to three and motioned for the people in the section to stand up. Within two tries, he had the wave going full strength around the arena. It was awesome to see that sort of thing in a place that I thought would frown on it. Again, just as in Calgary, the fans love hockey, but they also like to have a little fun!

- At one point during the game, after Craig Anderson had given up a short-handed goal, and nearly gave up another one on the very same power play, the crowd began to taunt him by shouting his name. It started in the section next to me, and before you knew it, there were thousands of people shouting “ANNNN – DERRRR – SONNNN”. I don’t know if he could hear it, but I sure hope not. I felt terrible for him, but at the same time, I envied the crowd participation they enjoyed. It’s my sincere hope that as time goes on and as Coach DeBoer keeps us heading down the winning path, the BankAtlantic Center will begin to develop an edge to it and the fans will begin to feel comfortable getting more involved in the motivational chants.

- The second intermission entertainment was a tricycle race, of sorts. There was a man and a woman on large tricycles who had to deliver newspapers to different points around the ice, while maneuvering around cones and other obstacles. The object was to complete your route and make it back to the awaiting mascot. Just like in Phoenix, I laughed at the sight of adults pedaling their hearts out in an effort to get some traction on the slippery ice. 

- During the game, the 50/50 vendors came down the aisles selling tickets, and at first it was a little annoying, because it just seemed like they’d been giving the hard-sell all night long for those tickets. But then, with 2 minutes left in the game, the announcement of the winning ticket was made. I was stunned when I heard that the winner of the 50/50 drawing that evening was going to take home, get this, OVER $20,000!!! At that point Vanessa and I committed to buying a 50/50 ticket wherever we go from now on!

- The attendance was 18,630.  It was Vancouver’s 227th consecutive sellout crowd.

The game started out on a high note, with the Panthers going up 2-0 very early on. But a couple of bad breaks allowed the Canucks to come back and tie it up, and score 5 unanswered goals. It was tough to watch, but our guys never gave up. Michael Frolik scored late in the third period, and then a puck clanged off the pipe shortly thereafter. I’m not one to dwell on what could’ve been, but had that puck found the net, we’d have been down by only one goal with a little over 2 minutes to play…

The Canucks organization and their fans were very gracious hosts during our visit. The people sitting around us treated Vanessa and me with the utmost respect and courtesy. At one point during the game, a gentleman wearing a headset came down to our seats during a TV timeout to inform us of Stephen Weiss’ status. He said he’d heard about the injury and thought we’d like to know. There were also quite a few people who came up and introduced themselves to us and asked questions about the team, and about how our trip was going so far. The crowds in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver can generally best be described as smart, courteous, involved, and emotionally charged.

 I’d also like to mention how terrific the mascot of the Canucks was to Vanessa and me. Before the game, and at various times throughout the evening, he came down to our seats for some good-natured fun, including making me stand in the aisle while he motioned to the crowd to show their displeasure for the Panthers jersey I was wearing, and he proceeded to try to eat it… He was a good sport, both when their team was down 2-0, and when they were up 5-2.

This three-game, four-night trip was simply outstanding. It was better than my west coast trip in November because of the large crowds, the winning, and the fact that my wife was able to make it to one of the games with me. If you ever find yourself up in that area of the world, do yourself a favor and get a ticket to a hockey game. You’ll really enjoy it.

Thank you for stopping by the blog.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this entry.

Take Care,

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at:

Thank you to everyone who emailed me after the last blog entry.  It was a pleasure to correspond with each of you.

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Here are some photos from Vancouver:

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