Atlantic Cities

Vancouver's Plan to Avoid Another Hockey Riot

Vancouver's Plan to Avoid Another Hockey Riot
rommy ghaly

This year, Vancouver intends to hire an events planner to manage its Stanley Cup finals crowds.

A reminder of how last year's hockey finals wound up makes this not super surprising. For the 2011 finals, the city decided to try to create a central, safe place for people to congregate during the Canucks' match against the Boston Bruins. So it set up a two-block long "fan zone" on a six-lane street near the hockey arena and outfitted it with gigantic TVs. An estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people squeezed into the space, a crush that neutralized both police efforts to control alcohol consumption and access for emergency vehicles. It was, in effect, an incubator for mass violence.

So it's no wonder that when the Canucks lost without a single point on the board, this happened:

The final toll of mayhem included at least 140 civilians and nine cops injured, 101 arrested, and millions of dollars worth of property damage from overturned cars, busted-out windows and street fires. Vancouver really wants to avoid a similar scene from occurring after the playoffs begin in April. So to stave off a riot, officials want to draw and quarter the foaming-at-the-mouth corpus of hockey nuts who call the city home.

There will be no single "fan zone" in 2012. Instead, the city will spread out its public-viewing stations at 23 community centers in various neighborhoods. Each center will put on little community celebrations for the games that are aimed at families and kids. Keeping the fans decentralized, goes the thinking, will keep them from building up a critical mass of puck insanity. "Having fun doesn’t mean coming down and trashing our downtown," said Mayor Gregor Robertson, according to this account in the National Post. "You better not come downtown and do that."

In addition to the compartmentalizing of fans, the city's new events planner will be tasked with trying to create a "festive" mood throughout the duration of the games. With the plan in its early stages, how this will happen is unclear, especially as the police intend to crack down extra hard on boozers this year. How festive can you be when cops are handing out pre-printed tickets for public intoxication like they're so many restaurant leaflets?

The authorities also will carry more cameras to gather evidence of scofflaw behavior and intend to shut down public transit stations when crowds swell too much. Will all these measures work? Let's just hope the Canucks either get knocked out of the playoffs early or win the whole thing this year so we don't have to find out.

Image of an overturned car after the 2011 riot by rommy ghaly.

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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