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The Globe and Mail

Liquor stores to close early again ahead of Game 7

Security arrest a spectator while Vancouver Canucks fans prepare to watch first period Stanley Cup final game 5 action against the Boston Bruins in downtown Vancouver, Friday, June 10, 2011.

Geoff Howe/ The Canadian Press/Geoff Howe/ The Canadian Press

What a difference one game makes - not just for a Canucks team that went from hero to zero in four minutes flat, but for a Vancouver Police Department that reported 2,500 fewer liquor pour-outs.

The police force hopes that downward trend will continue after B.C.'s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch announced six public and 13 private liquor stores would close early for the second consecutive game to try and reduce the number of people drinking on the street.

"It is expected that [Wednesday's]Game 7 will bring the largest crowd yet to the downtown area of Vancouver. Controlling the ready access to alcohol is a significant part of the strategy for making sure fans of all ages can enjoy the energy of a large crowd without compromising their safety," the Ministry of Public Safety wrote in a statement.

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The stores - as they did before Game 6 Monday - will close at 4 p.m. The ministry said there were far fewer liquor-related problems downtown after the early closures, which created a "more positive" environment.

After Game 1, played on Wednesday, June 1, Vancouver police reported 325 liquor pour-outs and eight arrests for breach of the peace or public intoxication. After Game 2, the following Saturday, those numbers jumped to 891 pour-outs and 46 arrests.

Game 3 marked the first road contest of the series and the first Canuck loss. Vancouver police reported 151 pour-outs and three arrests after that Monday night game. There were also three arrests after Wednesday's Game 4, along with 201 liquor pour-outs.

Friday's Game 5, which the Canucks won at home, was when public intoxication reached an "unacceptable level," according to Minister of Public Safety Shirley Bond. Vancouver police reported two dozen arrests, along with 2,800 liquor pour-outs. That was more than at any point during the Olympics, when police said the number of pour-outs peaked at about 1,800.

More than 100,000 fans were in the downtown core after Game 5 and police said more than 200 injuries were reported, along with a high number of fights. That helped spark the decision to close liquor stores an hour before the puck dropped on Game 6.

Despite the number of injuries, Vancouver police issued a statement after Game 5 saying there were "no significant incidents" and "the majority of fans were good natured."

Department spokeswoman Jana McGuinness denied the force - which has earned much goodwill for its handling of the Olympics and Vancouver's playoff run - played down how chaotic the Friday scene was. She said it simply took time for police to compile the requisite data. The statement was issued Saturday afternoon, about 18 hours after the end of the game.

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After Game 6, Vancouver police said about 300 liquor pour-outs and 14 arrests were reported. However, the crowd was much smaller than Friday's - about 35,000 people showed up downtown to cheer on the Canucks.

Constable McGuinness said Vancouver police support the government's decision to close the liquor stores before Game 7. The force does not release operational details, but hundreds of officers were on the street for Game 6, and hundreds again will be on duty downtown Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the BC Ambulance Service said on a normal Friday, paramedics would see about 110 calls. Last Friday, the service received more than 200 calls. The majority were for falls or people feeling ill, but 94 were for incidents such as assaults or overdoses.

On a normal Monday, BCAS would see about 90 calls in Vancouver. After Game 6, following the closure of liquor stores, the ambulance service received 130 calls. Of those, 38 were grouped as assaults or overdoses.

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