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(Vancouver Canucks)
(Vancouver Canucks)

David Ebner

Canucks urge fans to celebrate responsibly Add to ...

This is Our Home.

By which the Vancouver Canucks are saying: Don’t Riot.

This is Our Home is the Vancouver Canucks’ latest push in its year-long call to fans to “celebrate responsibly,” a campaign that employs moral suasion to encourage orderly behaviour. The commercials star famous Canucks old and new (from Trevor Linden to Henrik Sedin), as well as fans, and places them amid iconic locations in the Vancouver region, trying to evoke a sense of pride and responsibility, “our city.”

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Translation: Don’t flip that cop car and set it on fire.

What goes unspoken in the ads is the night of June 15, the conflagration that exploded with 150,000-plus fans crowded downtown, mostly on West Georgia Street, a crowd blocks-deep watching their heroes lose to the Boston Bruins, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, on home ice, shutout 4-0. One scene early in the This is Our Home commercials is set at the corner of Hamilton and West Georgia, the epicentre of the riot, one of the worst in North American sporting history.

Many mistakes were made - starting with too-few cops on the streets - inadequate planning by officials from city hall to the office of the chief of police. In a 396-page report issued in late August that reviewed what went wrong and issued recommendations, the Canucks weren’t exactly harshly called out for some specific failing but were called on to use the club’s “considerable facilities and influence to encourage year-round responsible fan celebration and sportsmanship.”

The Canucks, owned by the Aquilini family, had been criticized for saying too little, ducking their central place in the story. After the report, the team listened. (The family two years ago invoked a Christian ethos around ownership of the team. Youngest brother Paolo, a devout Christian, called it a “stewardship,” saying, “ It is the management of what really is a public asset.” )

The team started the season with a Heart of a Canuck campaign and adds oomph to the emotional intensity with This is Our Home, to be on display in public-service announcements, posters, and online. The chief aim, with a budget of close to $100,000, is to influence young people, 16- to 25-years-old, who, fuelled by booze, were largely at the centre of the riot last year. (The Crown has charged 75 people, and one person has been sentenced to jail time.)

In Boston, Vancouver’s bête noire and itself a riotous city, civic officials seemed to have quelled by strong-arm the illegal impulses of happy fans, even if it all seems somewhat draconian. The city has claimed seven sports championships since 2002. Three people died in the wild aftermaths, two in 2004, one in 2008. For the New England Patriots Super Bowl appearance in February, crowds were kept as small as possible, and 2,000 cops poured onto Boston streets at halftime. Fenway Park, a traditional locus of celebration, was fenced off by a steel barricade.

Last June, as Vancouverites rioted, Boston cops managed to maintain the peace as the city celebrated the Bruins’ first cup in almost four decades. “Last year,” wrote the Boston Globe, “Boston police received accolades for the calm way they handled the celebration that followed the Bruins victory over the Vancouver Canucks. By contrast, the losing city was embarrassed when angry hockey fans took to the streets, setting fires and overturning cars.”

On the weekend, the Canucks clinched their fourth-successive Northwest Division title and on Monday claimed, at least, the No 2 seed in the Western Conference, poised for another deep playoff run. The City of Vancouver on Tuesday unveiled its plans, should the team make the third-round of the playoffs: No big celebration, instead replaced by small events for families in neighbours outside of downtown, block parties, community centre gatherings. Those downtown will need a seat at a bar, and the drinking crackdown will surely be heavy.

Bostonians rioted when their teams won. Vancouver, in 1994 and 2011, was unusual in that they rioted when they lost, which leaves one last bit of analysis in the reading-between-the-lines of This is Our Home.

Kevin Bieksa, in a darkly lit shot at the weight room at Rogers Arena, states: “Through thick and thin.”

And then a young couple, fans cast for the commercial, on the wharf in Steveston, the woman adds: “We’re in this together.”

Follow on Twitter: @davidebner

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