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Canuckmania a boon to Island bars and pubs as NHL playoff buzz builds

A rare Vancouver Canucks run in the NHL playoffs has ignited interest across the province

Joel Chudleigh has seen how sports can affect the pub and bar business, from the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl in 2013 to the Toronto Raptors NBA championship run in 2019, and special licences to open in the wee hours for bleary-eyed World Cup soccer and rugby fans.

Now a rare Vancouver Canucks run in the NHL playoffs has ignited interest across the province, from Sooke to Salmo and Duncan to Dawson Creek.

Chudleigh, sales and catering manager of the Sticky Wicket Bar in the Strathcona Hotel, said there has been a “definite uptick” in people coming in on Canucks game nights during the playoffs.

“We have had to open up our Clubhouse section on game nights to accommodate the crowds,” said Chudleigh, who has been in the business for 52 years.

“These moments are always special because they show what sports means to a community. I mean, sports is in our very name.”

The term “community” is flexible. For Island sports fans, it stretches from the provincial — the Canucks and B.C. Lions — to the regional, with the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners, to the national, with the Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays.

The Canucks flag was raised this week outside the legislature by Premier David Eby and Canucks goaltending legend Kirk McLean.

At Christie’s Carriage House Pub, meanwhile, there are Canucks flags and banners.

“The Canucks run has been great for us,” said owner Brock Carbery, who is the uncle of Washington Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery of Victoria, whose Caps were eliminated in the first round.

“I don’t even have conflicted emotions anymore,” he quipped. “There were no Capitals fans around here, anyways, other than us.”

The stakes are high as the Canucks look to end a 99-year drought — the 1925 Victoria Cougars were the last B.C. team to win the Stanley Cup.

During a recent game in the first round against Nashville, almost all eyes at The Lakes Restaurant and Bar in the Holiday Inn on Elk Lake Drive were trained intently on the Canucks.

It’s a scene repeated this spring in pubs and bars across the ­province, many of which have Canucks jersey and other merchandise prizes. Most fans watch from their living-room sofas, of course, but sometimes big games just call out for being watched in a crowd of people.

“The Canucks playoff hype has been big for us and is still building,” said Brandon Petraroia, general manager of the Waddling Dog Pub in Saanichton.

“The diehard fans have always been there, but we’ve noticed it’s the fringe fans that have come out of hiding and are coming out to watch games,” said Petraroia, whose family have been Canucks, Lions and Seahawks season-ticket holders since the 1980s.

While the Canucks made it far into the playoffs in 2021, pubs were closed then due to the pandemic.

Prior to that, Vancouver went out in the first round in 2015, so this swirl of excitement hasn’t happened since 2011, when the team went to the NHL final, where it lost to the Boston Bruins, resulting in riots.

Canucks fans are hoping for better this time.

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