The last time the Vancouver Canucks competed in a Stanley Cup playoff game, it wasn’t just their play that made headlines – it was also the conduct of their fans, thousands of whom took part in a riot that left millions of dollars in damage.
On Tuesday, the city will unveil its strategy to prevent a repeat of the ugly June 15 incident. City manager Penny Ballem will update council on playoff plans, as well as the implementation of the Stanley Cup riot review recommendations.
The city’s efforts to head off violence will also get an assist from the hometown hockey team, which will soon launch a new campaign encouraging fans to behave responsibly.
The riot review – chaired by John Furlong and Douglas Keefe – found large crowds and the free flow of alcohol were the primary factors in the city’s second hockey riot since 1994. Though no one at the city would release details, multiple sources confirmed Monday that the plan will address those two issues.
The city is expected to focus on smaller-scale celebrations – as opposed to the 150,000-person street party that erupted into a riot after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins. Exactly what form those smaller-scale celebrations take remains to be seen.
In their review, Mr. Furlong and Mr. Keefe said liquor interdiction efforts were overwhelmed the night of the riot, both on the streets and on transit. Stronger enforcement of liquor regulations will be part of the playoff plan.
Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, said his organization consulted with the city but hasn’t been told what plans will be in place for the playoffs.
“What we don’t want to hear them say is they’re doing something similar to last year,” he said in an interview. “What we’ve seen in the past is bars and restaurants and other venues have been able to show the game and I think that model’s worked quite well in the sense that there’s sufficient controls in place, ensuring there’s not an overconsumption of alcohol.”
Mr. Gauthier said his association supports smaller outdoor events with multiple venues and advance planning.
The Canucks, like the mayor and chief of police, tried to distance themselves from the riot in its immediate aftermath. In a brief 193-word statement on the afternoon after the riot, the Canucks stated they had encouraged fans to “celebrate responsibly” through the season and pinned blame on a minority of people.
After the riot review was released, the Canucks took up action with more vigour. They were urged to use moral suasion with fans and to utilize the team’s famous names, current and past.
Last fall, the Canucks unveiled a campaign called “Heart of a Canuck” as an advertising theme for the season, starting on opening night at home with a ceremony that honoured “local heroes” from the night of the riot.
The team – which clinched a playoff spot last Saturday, winning its division – is now readying another significant advertising push, which drums up positive emotions and calls for respect, without explicitly saying “don’t riot.” The team plans to announce the campaign shortly, and draws closely from the review’s recommendations, such as player endorsements, and use of famous team alumni.
With a report from Frances Bula