It may seem presumptuous for the city of Vancouver to be announcing the crowd management plans for the third and fourth rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs already, but considering the events of last June, the municipality simply can't screw this up two years in a row.
After the riot, which took place after the Vancouver Canucks' lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at home to the Boston Bruins, the city drew criticism for being underprepared and naive about what might happen when you cram 150,000 people into three blocks, ignore the fact that they're all drinking, and then disappoint them. (When it's put that way, the criticism seems deserved, doesn't it?)
This time around, the fun police -- i.e., the regular police -- will be wisely cracking down on both factors. If the team goes deep in the postseason, there will be no municipality-sanctioned super-parties or live sites downtown, but rather, smaller "neighborhood-oriented events." And outdoor drinking will be discouraged. From the Globe & Mail:
The neighbourhood-oriented events will be in neighbourhoods outside the downtown core, such as community centre activities and small block parties.
The city will also work with police and transit officials to crack down on the amount of liquor on transit and on the streets.
Ooh, community centres! I hope you like multi-colored folding chairs and murals.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu ruffled some feathers last week when he indicated that fans would be discouraged from coming downtown during the games. "I think this time around 'don't come downtown' is going to be the philosophy," he said.
But Chu clarified his position two days later. From the Winnipeg Free Press:
"At all times and during the hockey playoffs, the Vancouver police are encouraging people to come downtown to enjoy our bars, restaurants, arenas, theatres, shopping and street ambience," Chu said.
"Our focus is to make it safe for you to enjoy our city. You are not welcome in Vancouver if you intend to engage in public drinking, hooliganism and criminal behaviour."
In effect, hockey fans won't be shooed away from the downtown core, but they will be if they don't have a destination in mind beyond that.
Now, discouraged hardly means prevented, because that's impossible. The fact is, no matter what the city tries, it won't be able to prevent large groups of people from congregating on Robson, Georgia and Granville, and if the plan is to attempt to fight this inevitability, there will undoubtedly be minor scuffles on those blocks between drunk hockey fans and officers trying to adhere to the plan.
But a handful of minor scuffles are definitely preferable to one massive scuffle. It's certainly a more proactive policing strategy than what the city has tried leading up to the last two Vancouver riots. It's nowhere near as free-wheeling and fun, but if it means the next day isn't all sweeping up glass and apologizing, I don't think anyone will mind.
Will it work? Well, the mayor and the police chief have both said they don't "expect" another riot to take place, but that may just be because they think Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis ruined the team's chances of going deep when he traded Cody Hodgson.
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