VANCOUVER -- The final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs has set what could well be a record price tag in sports, with tickets fetching as much as US$8,600 in the hours before the showdown between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins.
The tickets being sold ahead of the Wednesday night match-up were averaging US$5,000 each, more expensive even than the US$4,000 average shelled out for the gold medal men's game at the 2010 Olympics and the price for the last Super Bowl.
"This is astonishing to me because I've never seen this, but... the absolute what we like to call the get-in price, which means just to get you into the game, the cheapest tickets right now are hovering just around US$1,900 -- and that's to get you in. Those are tickets in the 300-section, tickets at the very back of Rogers Arena," says Ben Kessler of seatgeek.com, a New York-based ticket search engine that aggregates online ticket sales for buyers.
"At the high end... it looks like about US$8,600 right now."
Demand has been incredible, says Kessler, driving prices well beyond seat prices for the men's gold medal game at the Vancouver Olympics and the last Super Bowl at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas -- until now the hottest ticket in North American sports.
"If you have the money, it's worth it I guess to see this happen," says Kessler, no relation to the Vancouver Canucks' forward.
"From what we've seen in recent years, this is probably, without a doubt, a record for Stanley Cup finals."
But die-hard fans were not deterred. They have been camped outside Rogers Arena for two days because during the regular season, the Canucks usually release tickets on game day.
Television ratings for the game in Canada have also been "mind-blowing," says Kessler.
Demand is being driven by the great rivalry between the Bruins and the Canucks, and Vancouver's thirst to hoist the cup for the first time in its 40 years in the NHL.
"It's not just Vancouver residents and fans but people across Canada are just really excited I think in general," Kessler says.
By noon, cheering hockey fans were already forming what will become a sea of Canucks blue in Vancouver's downtown tonight, watching the game on giant outdoor TV screens set up by the city. Last Friday's game saw about 100,000 people fill the streets, and more are expected tonight.
Some businesses in downtown Vancouver planned to close hours before the 5 p.m. PST start of the game.
Vancouver police say fans have been relatively well-behaved, given the size of the crowds, but the province has ordered downtown liquor stores closed at 4 p.m. in an effort to stem any alcohol-fuelled troubles like the riots that marred the 1994 Stanley Cup final for Vancouver.
"The excitement and support for the Canucks is off the charts," Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement encouraging hockey fans to celebrate responsibly.
"Game 7 on home ice is what we've been waiting for and the atmosphere in the city is electric."
The Canucks are looking to defeat the Bruins and bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens won in 1993.
Although Vancouver and environs become a sea of blue on game nights, there are two B.C. boys among a heavy line-up of Canadians on the Boston roster.
"Hockey continues to be an important signifier of Canadian identity, although interestingly the `Canadian' team in this playoff is Boston, which has many more Canadians on their roster than the Canucks do," says Rick Gruneau, a communications professor at Simon Fraser University who has studied hockey and Canadian culture.