Following the big hockey game there was vomit and broken glass in the streets, drunken males climbing poles and bus shelters, people throwing bottles and groups of young men running around randomly punching people in the face.
And that wasn’t even the night of the riot.
Notes released by Deputy Chief Doug LePard on Thursday show Vancouver police knew early in the Stanley Cup finals that game nights were causing widespread, drunken disorder in Vancouver’s streets.
But police were so used to such gross behaviour by then, and lulled by a relatively well-behaved crowd following Game 6, that they never anticipated the riot that erupted June 15, after Boston defeated Vancouver in Game 7.
“The only time that we maintain that there were problems [pointing to a riot]was actually on the day of the [final]game,” said Deputy Chief LePard, as he took the unusual step of releasing internal police documents.
Simultaneous with the news conference, the same material was released to The Globe and Mail in response to a Freedom of Information request filed two weeks ago.
The notes concerned a teleconference police had with officials from the British Columbia liquor branch and the B.C. Ambulance Service, a few days after Game 5 in Vancouver.
That night, according to liquor branch officials, there had been “an explosion of liquor sales” after the game.
Summarizing what liquor branch officials said, Deputy Chief LePard described a frenzied scene. “There were people swarming to the licensed premises. … Door staff were being pushed around at the liquor stores. … The crowds were overwhelming.”
Out on the streets there was “obvious widespread intoxication, including young people staggering drunk as well as the presence of vomit on the streets … young, drunk males climbing poles and on top of glass bus-stop shelters. Lots of broken glass, assaults, fights and people being hit with bottles … groups of young men running around randomly punching people in the face, including girls.”
B.C. Ambulance Service personnel were “overwhelmed,” and at one point paramedics were given a “no go” for safety reasons, because the Granville entertainment district was chaotic.
Deputy Chief LePard wrote that St. Paul’s Hospital, in the downtown core, “had problems in [Emergency]with the drunken rowdiness of the patients and their friends.”
Based on those events, police asked for and got an early closure of liquor stores for Game 6, which was played in Boston.
Deputy Chief LePard’s notes show police felt that was “a huge success,” with only 320 liquor pour-outs (compared with 3,000 for Game 5) and “a very noticeable reduction in alcohol-related problems” such as fights and gross intoxication.
“It was a pleasure to police that night,” Deputy Chief LePard said at the news conference.
Heading into Game 7, he sent an e-mail to liquor control deputy minister Karen Ayers, calling again for early closures.
“If they win, I think there will be a party like we’ve never seen in Vancouver ever. If they lose, unlike last night, it’s really all over, and that’s when we can expect angry, disappointed people [the 1994 scenario]and hooligans looking for an excuse to make trouble.”
But Deputy Chief LePard said his reference to the 1994 riot, which followed Vancouver’s Stanley Cup loss to the New York Rangers, wasn’t meant as a warning of another riot.
“When we think of the ‘94 scenario … we’re not thinking about a riot, we’re thinking about the bad behaviour that one sees in a riot. And you can see that on Saturday nights down in the Granville entertainment district. … You can see it in any large gathering,” he said.
But a riot did break out after Boston beat Vancouver 4-0, and it was fuelled by people who came to the street party drunk or who brought alcohol, anticipating early liquor store closures.
On Thursday, police posted pictures on the VPD website of another “dirty dozen” suspects they are trying to identify from that night. Police have now posted a total of 101 pictures but have yet to lay any charges.