VANCOUVER – As Vancouver gets ready for the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday night, it does so under the shadow of the events that unfolded the last time the Canucks were in the final.
It’s been 17 years but images of the Stanley Cup riot of 1994 still haunt the city, where thousands of people went on a rampage following the Canucks’ loss to the New York Rangers. Drunken and disappointed fans smashed windows, threw bricks and looted downtown stores.
Cars were overturned and police made 150 arrests in a matter of hours. Another 200 people were injured and what was largely known as the laid-back cultural capital of the West was left with a legacy of restrictive rules aimed at preventing any embarrassing repeats.
But Vancouver police say much has changed since then and, while they’re certainly prepared, they’re not anticipating any violence when the Canucks host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
“By and large… things have gone quite well,” Const. Lindsey Houghton said Tuesday.
Vancouver has tried hard to shed its post-riot reputation for being a “No-Fun City,” starting with the 2010 Olympic Games that saw hundreds of thousands of people converge on the downtown.
The Games really reinforced that the best policing tactics are engaging the crowd, interacting and allowing a celebratory environment, Houghton said.
“People really respond well to it.”
That approach continues for the playoffs in Vancouver, where the city has set up several live sites where streets have been closed to traffic so fans can watch the game on huge outdoor screens. Crowds ranged from about 100,000 last Friday to as many as 45,000 on Monday night, and they’ve been well-behaved, Houghton said.
“There haven’t been any major incidents and we’re looking forward to tomorrow night,” he said.
“It’s going to be exciting. People are on the edge of their seats and our officers are having a lot of fun. Going back to the Olympics, we gave out a lot of high-fives and posed in a lot of photos and this is no different for us.”
The department doesn’t release details of the number of officers on the street but Houghton said other police agencies in Metro Vancouver have been helping out with additional officers, as well as transit police, and there will be a visible presence on Wednesday.
The B.C. government ordered downtown liquor stores shut down at 4 p.m. for Game 6, and will do so again for Game 7—a tactic first used during the Winter Games.
Most of the fans downtown for the games don’t even remember 1994, Houghton said.
A Canucks spokesperson said the team won’t be commenting on any celebrations until after the final game.
“It’s the past. It was 17 years ago and people are focused on this year, 2011, and everyone’s hoping for a great result tomorrow night.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version suggested the final game of the 1994 series was held in Vancouver.