SURREY, B.C. – Last year’s Stanley Cup riot has convinced city officials the Vancouver Canucks, gigantic public television screens, playoffs and drunken fans don’t mix and the city won’t be putting the screens up this year. But neighbouring Surrey plans to put one up.
Dianne Watts, who is mayor in the suburb that is British Columbia’s second-largest city, said Monday that thousands of people celebrated peacefully while watching playoff games on a giant screen in her community last year and there’s no reason not to repeat the outdoor event if the Canucks advance to the final.
The comments come just weeks after officials in Vancouver announced they will hold block parties and community-centre events and work with police to stop fans from bringing alcohol downtown to avoid a repeat of last year’s riot.
Last month, Deputy Chief Doug LePard of the Vancouver police said he’ll be working with his counterparts in neighbouring cities to ensure they are all doing the same thing.
“One of the things that we realize now more than ever is that we can’t allow the toxic soup that we saw last year occurring in Vancouver,” LePard said then.
But Watts said Surrey does not have the same concerns.
“We really cater to making sure it’s a family event and putting all those measures in place,” she said.
“We’ve got a police presence, and we’ve got a lot of activities that are programmed for kids. We’ve got the screen set up, and making sure that everybody knows it’s a family event for you to bring your kids down.”
Watts said the cost to set up a screen at several locations is minimal, and while policing costs will be a little higher, RCMP officers would be on duty anyway.
A spokesman for the Vancouver police force was unavailable for comment Monday.
RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen, senior media relations officer, said he will be commenting on the issue later this week.
Millions of dollars in damage were inflicted on downtown Vancouver businesses June 15, 2011, after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
About 100,000 people were packed in the downtown core for the game, and the subsequent melee saw rampaging fans smash windows, light cars on fire and loot stores.
Reviews of the riot found too many people were downtown, and they were drinking too much.
Of the 78 people charged with riot-related offences by March 29, 2012, 25 were from Surrey.
The announcement by Watts drew ridicule and support from Canucks fans on an official team web forum.
“I’m sure they’ll have an abundance of officers to keep the peace,” wrote one person called Blömqvist. “I mean, it IS Surrey. There’s bound to be a tonne of cops there anyways.”
“Good,” added somebody named canucks.ftw. “Now they can go ahead and burn down their own city instead of ours.”
“I watched two games at Central City plaza last year,” said a person called WZRD. “Definitely much more of a family friendly atmosphere compared to downtown.”
Meantime, the Vancouver Canucks announced several playoff initiatives Monday.
The team and Aramark Sports&Entertainment said they will continue a designated driver program.
Under the program, those who sign up to be designated drivers will receive a coupon for a non-alcoholic drink and will be eligible for a prize.
The Vancouver Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday to launch the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. (CKNW)