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Vancouver city council rips NHL over Stanley Cup riots; Do they have a point?

Sep 5, 2011, 11:01 PM EDT

Riot Breaks Out After Game In Vancouver Getty Images

The riots that erupted in Vancouver after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins were one of the most embarrassing things to happen in recent memory. After seeing all the crime and vandalism break out in one of North America’s most beautiful cities all thanks to losing a championship game made everyone feel disgusted that such a thing could happen.

While the Vancouver Police Department report said that their police force was overrun by the sheer number of people, intoxicated and otherwise, another Vancouver government group feels that there’s another group to blame for what happened.

The Vancouver city council filed their report on what happened and pointed the finger squarely not at their own citizens for acting like hooligans but at the NHL for allowing it to happen.


Rod Mickelburgh of The Globe And Mail has the baffling story out of a city that finds a new way to make an ugly situation look worse.

“In spite of four Stanley Cup riots in the last five years, [the NHL] has no approach, no policy and no apparent strategy to work with host franchises and municipalities on this issue,” says the lengthy internal report to be debated at a special council meeting on Tuesday.

“[This] clearly … threatens the value and perception of their brand.”

The city’s criticism of the NHL follows similar barbs tossed at the league by the provincially appointment independent review of the riot, headed by co-chairs Douglas Keefe and John Furlong.

In their report released last week, they said it was “unfortunate and regrettable” that the NHL has no specific programs to help teams “with the kind of challenge [Vancouver] faced that night.”

Concluding that the sport of professional hockey, itself, cannot be separated from the riot, they urged the NHL to work with teams and communities to promote “peaceful, happy hockey celebrations.”

Pardon us but… What?

Let’s get this straight, the NHL is supposed to help the city with how to protect themselves and deal with a massive crowd that at another time in their history showed that they weren’t able to handle losing in the Stanley Cup finals well at all? Shenanigans have been declared.

This the City of Vancouver’s way of passing the buck and shuffling the blame for the insane and foolish violence that broke out to help make themselves look good and the NHL like the big, bad corporate entity that’s forcing hockey and excitement upon them. The NHL is in the business of playing and hosting hockey events. Protecting the people and maintaining civil peace is the sort of job we’re pretty sure the police department would be insulted at being told what to do by the league.

As it is, the Canucks are already going to start working with the city closer to help better manage these events in the future, but the city coming out and ripping the NHL for this comes off as petty and gutless.

Given that the city erupted in violence in 1994 when the Canucks lost to the Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals, this was something the current police department and those involved had to at least be prepared on how to handle. After all, they were going to have a civil disturbance (albeit a joyous one) if the Canucks had won the Stanley Cup this year. With the team being humbled at home in Game 7 after a raucous and mutually agitating Cup finals series, the possibility that there’d be troublemakers looking to use losing as an excuse to raise hell had to be in the back of their minds and there had to be a contingency plan in case things got out of hand.

In other words, the city and the police force not being properly prepared isn’t the NHL’s problem. The NHL doesn’t control the fans and they certainly don’t run the City of Vancouver or any other cities around North America where hockey is played. If the NHL gets in the business of hiring their own private security firms to handle event security then that’s fine, put it on them. For this, however, Vancouver had to know what they were getting into and they had to know based on their own recent history what might happen.

  1. stakex - Sep 5, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    Wow, stay classy Vancouver.

    Just admit it… a bunch of your citizens got drunk and ran around like violent, destructive hooligans for a day. On top of that, you ignored the possibility it could happen and didn’t even come close to taking the steps needed to prevent it. Its your fault Vancouver, and don’t even try to say otherwise. So stop trying to pretend its not your job to handle your own security….

    • peterred1980 - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:52 AM

      I live in Vancouver…..I saw the smoke from the riots from where I lived. This was utterly disgraceful and there is no excuse for what happened. But please do NOT blame the misguided opinion of a newspaper writer (trying to sell papers) on the rest of Vancouver. Yes you got to see the worst of our city during the riots. It’s just a shame you didn’t see how others who truly care about this city rally behind in the aftermath. There were hundreds of volunteers on the streets the next day cleaning up. It doesn’t make up for the actions of the mob………but at least it is a start and a reminder to those of us that live in this city that we are not all that bad. Too bad you didn’t see that.

      • mornelithe - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:01 AM

        No offense, but re-read the article, it states that “The Vancouver city council filed their report on what happened and pointed the finger squarely not at their own citizens for acting like hooligans but at the NHL for allowing it to happen.”

        I would certainly _expect_ that the greater majority of inhabitants of Vancouver weren’t complicit in this, however, the fact remains some were, and your City Council is attempting to pass the buck onto the NHL for the failings of the Vancouver Government and Police Force. That is simply ridiculous.

      • stakex - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM

        I did in fact see that, and I never said it was the entire population of Vancouver that was responsible. Hence where I said “A bunch of your citizens”, and not “all of your citizens”.

        As for this being just a reporter trying to sell papers… hes quoting the city councils own report. This is not the opinion of some obscure newspaper writer as your saying, its the opinion of the city of Vancouver…. which is very sad.

        I don’t think anyone would ever say that everyone in Vancouver was bad or anything like that. A small group of trouble makers used the situation to rally a bunch of pissed off drunks to their cause. It happens…. but Vancouver needs to take responsiblity for it, and not try blaming everyone else.

  2. caine115 - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:00 AM

    How dare the NHL not hire Blackwater to guard Vancouver from their own people. One of dumbest things I ever heard. NHL isnt the police. Its a business. The NHL should apologize and promise not to play any more games in Vancouver so make sure their actions don’t mess up the city. Yes I am being sarcastic. But it makes as much sense as blaming the NHL for Riots in a city that cried because they lost the Stanley Cup and threw a tantrum. Or does the NHL have some authority to arrest people and make laws for the city one of their teams play it


    • hystoracle - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:35 PM

      There is some truth in your sarcasm. There doesn’t HAVE to be an NHL team in Vancouver. Then Vancouver won’t have to worry about any more riots. Move them to Seattle then see what Vancouver thinks about the situation.

      There was going to be a riot after game 7 win or lose – period. Those Vancouver citizens responsible for the riots and mayhem were taking advantage of the situation to do what they did. The City of Vancouver is solely responsible for not being prepared. And the people that elect the leaders – who (1) weren’t prepared when they knew it was coming and (2) are trying to not take responsibility by pointing fingers at the NHL – should remember this on election day. If they get re-elected then all of Vancouver is complicit in this. Whether you picked up a torch that night or not.

  3. nothanksimdriving123 - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:07 AM

    I can’t help thinking that the whole mess could have been prevented if the Vancouver police had made their presence strongly obvious during the course of the evening, with lots of groups of them, perhaps 5 or 6 officers each, spread throughout the crowds at the outdoor viewing sites. If everyone there had known there were several officers nearby ready to pounce and many others ready to assist, I think fewer would have been tempted to behave like jerks. The mayhem that doesn’t start is the easiest to quell. Bettman’s fault? Not this time.

  4. kickingiant - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    Hopefully, what Vancouver meant to say was that the NHL, due to their experience with Stanley Cups every year, had the logistical expertise to assist in the city’s preparations. It would make sense for the NHL to share that experience with the host cities, like the NFL does with the Super Bowl.
    However, if they are saying the NHL is responsible for not providing a strong enough police presence, that’s just a joke.

  5. atwatercrushesokoye - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:52 AM

    When Calgary lost in game 7 in 2004 there was absolutely no rioting. When Edmonton lost in game 7 in 2006 there was a little bit of trouble but nothing big. When Ottawa lost in the finals in 2007 (can’t remember how many games) I believe there was absolutely no rioting.

    Meanwhile take a look at Vancouver, the city has a history of mass protests that turn into trouble, not usually to this extent but mass gatherings and tension are not unusual to that city. So with that in mind would it not seem odd that the city set up enomrous screens downtown and invited anyone and everyone to come view (150,000 or so showed up) and not expect some kind of trouble?

    I guess if the NHL were to “advise” cities on how to deal with these sorts of things, the first thing they would tell them is “don’t invite 150,000 people into a very small area allowing them to drink freely.”

    Oh one other note, Vancouver just hosted the Olympics in 2010, during that 2 weeks downtown Vancouver had way more people jammed into it and everything was kept fairly safe and orderly….wouldn’t that provide a much better blue print for how to deal with things in Vancouver than some generic report the NHL could have given them?

    • hystoracle - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:40 PM

      Calgary lost on the Road. I remember I was in Tampa watching the Lightning win! There were thousands of people outside the forum in Tampa that night and there was never any inclination of a riot. Maybe the rioting citizens in Vancouver need more to do. Idle hands are the devil’s play things.

    • chobes68 - Sep 6, 2011 at 2:36 PM

      Rather pathetic of the council pointing the finger elsewhere. No wonder no one has been prosecuted in this. Didn’t Vancouver riot the last time they lost in the finals? I haven’t seen this brought up before, but it certainly seems that many of the rioters were prepared to riot either way, and in fact I read that many of them seemed to quote the previous riot as their very reason for rioting. That they felt that they missed out, perhaps too young, or not even born yet. Unbelievable that the city would point the blame elsewhere, not drawing on their previous experience to learn and prepare, and to fail to address the situation, even with overwhelming video evidence.

  6. mornelithe - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    This is quite possibly the most farcical, and inappropriate claims ever made by man. Firstly, no Town, Village, City, State or Country would tolerate another force coming onto their turf and dictating how to maintain law and order, it’s simply beyond absurd that anyone would even allude to such a thing. Secondly, what in the hell is Vancouver’s police force FOR, if it’s not to enforce their laws, protect the citizens and the cities interests?

    This isn’t even a matter of defending the NHL’s honor or how it runs it’s business, and it goes WAY beyond someone passing the blame onto someone else. If I were a Canadian citizen, I’d be suing the Government for funding this ludicrous study, and then ousting every single member of the council that took part in it. What a complete and utter WASTE of their taxes. And seriously, coming from America, that’s saying ALLOT.

    As a penalty, the NHL should refuse to hold any Stanley Cup Finals games, for any Canadian team, in Canada, until they publicly retract this….’piece’ and apologize for wasting everyone’s time AND failing miserably at learning from recent history. Old proverbs are there for a reason, it’s because they’re typically true.

    “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana


  7. bsputnik - Sep 6, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    Considering that there was similar situation ’94, the city should have known that this may have been a problem. Why is public safety suddenly the responsibility of the NHL?

  8. razedeyebrow - Sep 6, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    The NHL are not the police and shouldn’t even respond to idiot pieces like Rod Mickelburgh’s. His credentials as a journalist should be revoked and he shouldn’t be allowed access to anything more substantial than a box of crayons and the back of a cereal box for future columns.

  9. bcjim - Sep 6, 2011 at 6:42 AM

    New nhl policy…All teams will send their top two goons to the scf to provide security.

  10. akismet-2d1718ce6c549dc522497d89e6e96214 - Sep 6, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits” – Einstein

  11. jpelle82 - Sep 6, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    vancouver just recently lost the title of “most liveable city” which they have held for years. wonder why?

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Sep 6, 2011 at 6:48 PM

      Actually, the official reason for that was quite strange: Traffic problems on Vancouver Island, which your map will tell you is many miles away, across a body of water, from the city itself. I don’t recall the riots being mentioned as a reason. As I said, strange.

  12. 8man - Sep 6, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Might not have happened if they hadn’t begun planning the parade route and weren’t sure of a sweep after winning game 2.

  13. kmacle - Sep 6, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    Vancouver has to own this. I was in Boston for the last game. The garden wasn’t allowed to open for viewing because the city couldn’t plan adequate security. Where Vancouver had outside public viewings, Boston had the bars block windows specifically to prevent public gatherings beyond a reasonable size. The two examples pose a stark contrast on how the cities involved prepared, the NHL is in no way responsible for the results in Vancouver.

  14. polegojim - Sep 6, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    You have an entire City Council and police department protecting their jobs with this ridiculous attempt at a political spin.

    They should all be replaced for the sheer stupidity of the attempt.

    Let’s just hope that none of them actually BELIEVE it. That would be very scarey.

  15. dcent87 - Sep 6, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Lol….come on Vancouver that’s low

  16. jbniner - Sep 6, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    Montreal police “investigate” Chara for an on-ice hit, and Vancouver blames the NHL for their own failures in controlling a throng of thugs and hooligans, whose presence was largely created by the city’s desire to have viewing parties and other public gatherings. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Canada. It’s scary to think that these City Council members might have children, teaching them the same principles of responsibility they so aptly display here.

    As has been mentioned previously, I suppose the NHL could just remove the team from Vancouver as a means of controlling the hooliganism that will undoubtedly break out in the future. Clearly, the city is just so fanatical about hockey that it is incapable of hosting an NHL franchise.

  17. emperor83 - Sep 6, 2011 at 10:52 PM

    It’s not the NHLs fault Vancouver’s full of savages who can’t handle a Stanley Cup loss to a better, more Cup worthy team. I think the NHL should move the Canucks to Seattle for a few years to make them pay. These city council idiots need to learn the lesson American students, as well as Canadians outside the Vancouver area learned in Kindergarten/early years/whatever: “He did it!” doesn’t get you out of trouble…

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