Skip to main content
the stanley cup finals

Boston Bruins fans cheer as the teams skate out onto the ice before Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins, Monday, June 6, 2011, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)Elise Amendola/Getty Images

The home team has won every game of the Stanley Cup final heading into Game 6 Monday at Boston's TD Garden, and the players and coaches have been unable to explain the phenomenon.

Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault pointed to a symptom - second periods in which his team was outscored 6-0 - but couldn't muster a reason why his team looked so ghastly in Beantown, and so airtight on the West Coast. On the other bench, Bruins head coach Claude Julien went as far as saying that last change isn't even the advantage that some would make it out to be, further muddying a not-so-clear debate.

So, barring any definitive answers from the participants, let's take a stab and say that the respective fan bases are driving success on home ice. That some of the NHL's most ardent fans are refusing to let their clubs bring less than their best, because there is just too much excitement, and too much anticipation in both cities.

Canucks and Bruins supporters are some of the longest-suffering in the NHL, and having reached the Cup final, they aren't going to let their teams lose in their midst.

In Vancouver, tens of thousands are taking to downtown streets to watch games on oversized screens and be with like-minded people. They've been waiting 40 years for a championship, and never before has their team been this good, or this close (with a margin for error).

In Boston, Game 1 of the Cup final drew a larger television audience than Game 1 of the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals one year ago. That means the Bruins are attracting more eyeballs than the best rivalry in basketball did last spring.

The Bruins haven't lifted the Cup since the glory days of Bobby Orr in 1972, and they've pushed the beloved Red Sox to the inside pages in the local press. Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan has argued that two sports - baseball and hockey - are in the DNA of New Englanders, and strolling around downtown last week, you saw more spoked Bs in black and yellow than you did red Bs in the familiar Red Sox font. That's saying something.

Plus, there's inner-city bragging rights at stake. Bruins fans are hopeful that their team can match the rest of their Boston counterparts by winning a championship in this new century. If so, the NFL's New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl XXXIX in 2004, would have the longest title drought among the city's four major professional sports franchises.

The Bruins trail the series 3-2, and face elimination Monday at the Garden. The Canucks, meanwhile, are one win away from the Cup and have two chances at glory.

"We're going to have to use our fans to our advantage tomorrow and then go from there," Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said Sunday. "They've been great all year and all playoffs, they've given us that extra jump and energy that we've needed."

The Canucks were sent off across the North American continent Saturday by hundreds of fans at the airport. If they come home with a certain chalice Tuesday, you can bet the greeters will total in the thousands.

The Canucks are to Vancouver what the Red Sox were to Boston prior to winning the 2004 World Series. They are the beloved franchise that more often than not disappoints. The team that shows promise only to be derailed by a Nicklas Lidstrom goal from centre-ice, or a Todd Bertuzzi act of savagery.

But after the best regular season in franchise history, after "slaying the dragon" in Round 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and after not trailing in a series since then, optimism reigns across B.C. So much so that defenceman Kevin Bieksa was asked what it's like to be rock star.

"This is pretty cool," he said. "It gets bigger and bigger every time we come on the road. A lot of support in the city, as you can see. [Friday]night was a lot of fun, driving home, seeing everybody out on the streets."