VANCOUVER - There wasn't enough grace inside Rogers Arena to save the Vancouver Canucks from defeat, but there was enough Amazing Grace outside to soothe the tortured souls of their fans.
Following the Canucks' 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings last night and their early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Mike "the Piper" MacDonald, 34, played the traditional spiritual to thousands of passing fans.
Hanging like ghosts in the twilight sky, the pipe's haunting notes greeted the hockey faithful, some of whom smiled, while others cast their eyes down to the cold, grey sidewalks with looks of dejection in their eyes.
"Well, everybody knows it as a funeral tune, you know, end of an era, end of a life, end of the Canucks' life," said MacDonald, of Amazing Grace. "So that's very appropriate for tonight."
"I usually try to keep it up beat, but not tonight. You've got to toy with the emotions of the crowd. You know, it helps them overcome their sorrows."
The home team managed to rack up the most points in the league during the regular season, winning the Presidents Cup. But they lost the first three games in their first playoff run against Los Angeles, including two at home. A win in Los Angeles last week breathed new hope into optimistic fans, and the flames of that hope were fanned when the Canucks scored in the first period. But the Kings tied it up in the third, sending the teams into a short and for Vancouver, disappointing, overtime period
Among the crowd was Rick Yuck of Calgary who said he was disappointed just like everybody else.
"Everybody was stunned silence. Nobody can believe that they are out," he said, as some passersby chanted "Next year, next year."
Keegan Grant was inside the arena when the Kings scored early in overtime and said other fans just got up from their seats and began to swear under their breaths.
"My heart stopped," he said. "I was so sad. Words can't express my feelings right now."
Ben Basran, 13, of West Vancouver, said he was really mad and disappointed with the loss but was quick to put the Canucks' defeat into perspective.
Basran said he will now cheer on the Ottawa Senators and begin to watch the city's other professional sports teams.
"You've got to get over it soon," he said. "You can't dwell on the past."
Unlike the chaos that erupted last June when the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, downtown streets cleared quickly and there was little sign of trouble.