On June 15, 2011, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each scored a pair of goals to give the Boston Bruins a 4–0 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Not long after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed the Stanley Cup to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, the attention of the city shifted from what happened inside Rogers Arena to what was happening in the streets, where large crowds had gathered to watch the game on a big screen.
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“This was a different animal that night,” Vancouver police Deputy Chief Howard Chow recalls. “A lot of young people, a lot of booze.
“There was a large enough group that were there just wanting to start something.”
Following the game, a five-hour riot erupted in downtown Vancouver. Rioters flipped over cars, smashed windows and looted stores.
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“Our intelligence actually at the time was that it was going to be a busy game, lots of people, everybody would be excited, but we didn’t think we were going to have a riot that night,” VPD Chief Const. Adam Palmer recalls.
“In hindsight, obviously we didn’t have enough people to control it. We had to bring in almost triple what our original deployment was to bring it under control. But we actually had two riots break out simultaneously at Georgia and Hamilton, but we had a second one at Granville and Nelson.”
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That night rioters targeted police cars, flipping them over or setting them on fire.
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The first police vehicle set on fire was Chow’s.
“I thought my career was pretty much going down the toilet at that point, but as it turns out, it was OK,” Chow said.
“I lost a lot of stuff. I think I lost my lunch. I lost all my gear. Yeah, I lost a bit of pride.”
Amid the chaos were plenty of onlookers.
“That, to me, was surreal,” Chow said. “I’m saying, ‘Leave, get out of the area, take your kids out of the area.’ Many were sticking around like it was a show.”
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Many of those gawkers had cellphones in hand, chronicling what took place.
“We had over a million still photos and thousands and thousands of hours of video,” Palmer said. “And we ended up charging 300 people with about a thousand criminal offences.”
Of the 300 people charged, 284 people pleaded guilty. Another six had the charges against them stayed, while 10 went to trial, resulting in nine convictions and one acquittal.
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Palmer, who became police chief in 2015, says lessons were learned about crowd control and if the Canucks ever get that far again, having a big crowd in a small area will not happen.
“When I look back on that now, that was something that in my current role as chief, I wouldn’t support that now,” Palmer said.
“Look, we know that is a problem. The idea of having a live site is a good idea. It’s a fun idea: big screens, everybody can have a good time and everything. But in hindsight, looking back on it, it’s not the best way to manage a crowd.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
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