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Melancholy Canucks fans find no thrill in life on the edge

A fan takes a photo on her cellphone with San Jose Sharks Scott Hannan while the Sharks played the Vancouver Canucks during the third period of game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Vancouver May 3, 2013.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The extraordinary mid-spring weather belies a foul mood among Vancouver Canucks hockey fans.

Their team, so achingly close to a championship two years ago, today faces the humiliation of a possible first-round sweep. Not even a blue sky and temperatures of 23 C can console those who placed an emotional stake in the Sedins, Luongo and the rest, and now ache with a depressed resignation. In downtown Vancouver on Monday afternoon, one could walk blocks and blocks and not spot the distinctive blue jersey on anyone who might still have a little faith that the team could rally, down three games to none against the San Jose Sharks. Not one passing car flew the formerly ubiquitous - circa 2011 - Canucks flags from their windows.

"Everyone thinks it's over," said bartender Tyler Burnett at the Winking Judge Pub on Burrard Street. The scene Sunday night was morose, already later-stage grieving. The Canucks were clobbered 5-2. "There was no anger. It wasn't a vibe of 'They suck!' It was just" - Mr. Burnett adopts a sad timbre, almost a whimper - " 'They suck.' It's just disappointment, frustration. It feels like fans have moved on."

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Up Robson Street, the sidewalk was crowded. The Canucks Team Store, near Bute Street, was almost empty, four people inside. Three of those were the Adolph family, father Ivan and his wife visiting from Lillooet to see their 25-year-old daughter Ayla, who lives in town. Ivan, a hockey fan, had purchased two white Canucks playoff towels for $5 each. He's a Canucks backer but not wildly fervent and the current situation distresses him.

"Not really right now, just the way they're playing," said Ivan outside the store. He pinned blame on coach Alain Vigneault, and defended goaltender Roberto Luongo. "It's not Lui's fault."

Ayla said the mood of the city is the opposite of June, 2011, when the team nearly won the Cup. "That was a really good time," she said. "Now, nobody cares."

Certainly, fans are not fighting to buy tickets. Demand for Canucks tickets was already weak this spring. While the team claimed a sellout at the 18,910-capacity Rogers Arena for Game 1 last week, there were tickets available on Ticketmaster an hour before the puck dropped. For Game 5 on Thursday this week - if there is a Game 5, should the Sharks not complete the sweep - there were tickets available on Monday, good ones, too, if $411 for a seat in the fifth row seemed like an alluring purchase.

"The interest is nonexistent," said Mario Livich, CEO of ticket broker ShowTimeTickets.com.

For Games 1 and 2, at home, the hundreds of tickets he brokered were all sold for below face value. On Monday, the only business he had for Game 5 was fans looking to sell tickets.

"Fans are hurt," Mr. Livich said. "They don't want to invest emotionally, or financially. They've allowed themselves to be vulnerable. Now they're hurt, angry, upset - all the ways people express hurt."

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The malaise was palpable in the voice of long-time season-ticket holder Earl Gordon. With a friend, the 33-year-old has had two season tickets in the upper bowl, section 309, for a decade, and grew up in Vancouver, a life-long fan. Reached by phone in Edmonton, where he was working on a project in his job as a management consultant, and asked how he was doing, he said, "Uh ... you know." Asked if was the Canucks to blame for his grey mood, he said, "Yeah."

Mr. Gordon was at Game 2, which was lost in overtime. He is unlikely to attend Game 5, if there is one. And he doesn't see how team management can overhaul the situation - after what will be the second consecutive first-round exit, both times in hasty fashion.

"There's a lot of blame to go around," Mr. Gordon said. "They just can't score. And I don't know how to fix it."

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About the Author
National correspondent, Vancouver bureau

David Ebner is a national correspondent based in Vancouver. He joined The Globe and Mail in 2000 and worked in Toronto and Calgary before moving to Vancouver in 2008. He has reported on a wide range of stories – business, politics, arts, crime – and has covered sports since 2012. More

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