May 18th, 2024

Mother’s Day and the playoffs face off in a quiet Vancouver suburb


By Nono Shen, The Canadian Press on May 11, 2024.

Fans wave towels before the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators play Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – In the quiet and leafy Vancouver neighbourhood of South Cambie, best known for its botanical garden, playoff fever is about to set in.

The neighbourhood is expecting thousands of Vancouver Canucks fans for a viewing party on Sunday evening at Oak Meadows Park, as the team faces the Edmonton Oilers for Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoffs series.

The location, across the road from the VanDusen Botanical Garden and far from the city’s downtown core, is not exactly a nightlife hot spot.

That’s the idea – before announcing the location, Mayor Ken Sim had said he was aware of the city’s “history” with the playoffs that included downtown riots in 1994 and 2011.

The goal at Oak Meadows Park is not a drunken eruption of fandom – Sim said on Wednesday he want to show that Vancouver fans can celebrate in a way that is “family-friendly, fun and safe.”

Not everyone is happy about the event, at least, not with its timing, that coincides with what is one of the busiest days on the South Cambie calendar – Mother’s Day.

Shaughnessy Restaurant on the VanDusen grounds is one of the neighbourhood’s few restaurants.

Owner Chris Chatten said a viewing party was a great idea, but it was “poor timing” to have it on Mother’s Day. The restaurant is expecting 800 people on its biggest day of the year.

“It’s probably the worst day they could have picked to have a viewing party starting and that’s frustrating,” said Chatten, who has run the restaurant for more than 40 years.

“Mother’s Day is the single busiest day of the year for the restaurant “¦ 600 or 700 people for lunch, and (then) a couple more hundred people for dinner time.”

He said VanDusen is also plenty busy on Mother’s Day, attracting thousands of admirers for its spring floral displays. Its rhododendrons and magnolias are also coming into bloom.

“It’s very busy, and it just creates a huge traffic jam,” said Chatten, adding that the city didn’t think of the implications for the neighbourhood.

“It’s unfortunate that they picked that location on Mother’s Day. Had they done a little research “¦ of course, that didn’t happen and I’m not surprised.”

Others aren’t worried. Johnny Tsoukalas also is expecting a busy Mother’s Day at his Greek restaurant, Johnny’s On Oak, but he’s excited about the game, too.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit overworked, but everybody will be having a great time. hopefully they win,” said Tsoukalas, a Canucks fan and lifelong hockey player.

The restaurant has been a fixture on Oak Street for 40 years. It was packed for Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Canucks-Oilers series. “Everybody was going crazy,” he said, recalling the Canucks’ thrilling come-from-behind 5-4 win.

He said he was expecting another fun night on Sunday with his clients and friends.

Vancouver police spokeswoman Const. Tania Visintin said the department “definitely” supported the idea of neighbourhood viewing areas.

She said Wednesday that “family-focused gatherings” were “more conducive to maintaining public safety.”

Robert Vestwick works in the office of the Oakridge Seventh-day Adventist Church, two blocks from the park.

He’s not worried about disruptions from the viewing party, since Seventh-day Adventist services are on Saturday, not Sunday.

The immigrant from Chile was wearing a Canucks jersey on Friday – “sort of my new Canadian experience” – and plans to go to the viewing party on Sunday.

After Wednesday’s game, in which the Canucks came back from 4-1 down, he has faith in the team. Vestwick watched it in a Denny’s restaurant, where he endured the mockery of some Oilers fans before the final period turnaround.

“If you believe in God, everything is possible,” Vestwick said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2024.

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