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Canucks discuss how they’ll help Vancouver deal with big events, learn from riots

Sep 3, 2011, 10:20 PM EDT

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Considering how tragic this summer has been for individuals in the hockey worldparticularly enforcers – some might forget that the season ended with an entire city getting a black eye. That ugly night of rioting in Vancouver was especially unfortunate considering the fact that the city dealt with similar issues 17 years earlier, when the Canucks also lost a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

The hope is that even though history repeated itself in a way, the city, team (and even to some extent the NHL) will learn from those awful times. Winnipeg’s CTV took a look at two reviews of the June 15 riots – one was an independent review by retired law enforcement representatives, the other was an internal review by the city of Vancouver – to see how responsible the NHL and its teams should be for managing large crowds that gather for games in places that aren’t considered their designated buildings.

Various sides argued the cases for and against the league and its team taking a larger role in policing large crowds that aren’t at their buildings. Some (including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson) believe that teams should work along side cities during major events while others believed that the Canucks and other teams would be out of their element.

“I’m very hopeful we see a positive response from the NHL and the Canucks in the event we are in this situation maybe next year,” Robertson said. “I’m hopeful we have a real pro-active role coming from the league and the Canucks so that we don’t see this kind of situation again.”

But business professor Richard Powers questioned why the league or Canucks have any responsibility for what happens outside the arena.

“The club and league, they provide a source of entertainment,” Powers, a professor of business law and ethics at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said Friday.

“It’s sports. It’s not policing, it’s not crowd control. It’s not their expertise.”

The Canucks responded to the reviews by saying that they will encourage “responsible, fun celebrations” and that they hope to work with the city and province to help them out if they plan on arranging similar events in the future. Here are few excerpts from  Canucks COO Victor de Bonis, via the Vancouver Sun.

“Obviously, the first thing is that we’re committed to working with the city and province in the future to try to help and support them if they plan to do public-viewing parties of our games.”

De Bonis said he was uncertain what the level of support might be, whether it would involve funding for security and police, as well as education and awareness programs.

The latter initiatives, he noted, are a certainty.

“We’re really looking forward to trying to support the recommendations in the report and build programs that would drive success for these kinds of events in the future,” de Bonis said.

When asked about the possibility of shutting down those big, public events altogether – an extreme but understandable notion considering how hard it is to control crowds of “too many people” who get “too drunk” – de Bonis acknowledged that possibility but said that he hopes “it never gets to that.”

It’s great to hear that the Canucks are pledging heightened responsibility when it comes to helping the city deal with big events, although the details seem a bit vague right now. It would be a shame if the sports world needs to cringe every time the Canucks reach such a high level because of worries about riots, especially since Vancouver as a whole responded admirably to that ugly situation.

Click here for a gallery of the riot and some information about the arrests. Hopefully those sights will remain rare for Vancouver and other NHL markets.

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