Published April 11, 2012
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Vancouver's business community will be watching the Canucks set off on their Stanley Cup run with the same enthusiasm as most fans, while ensuring they're ready in case those fans ignore the team's marketing campaign aimed at averting a riot like the one that befell the city following a Game 7 loss to Boston in last year's Stanley Cup finals.
The first round of the Western Conference playoffs begins Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, with the Canucks hosting the Los Angeles Kings.
With memories of last year's violence etched into the city's collective consciousness, local business representatives are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
"I think we're going into this year's playoffs with a sense of confidence that hopefully what occurred last year will not occur again," said Wynne Powell, president and CEO of London Drugs.
Hit hard by hooligans, the company's Granville Street store lost $400,000 in products because of thefts and suffered $250,000 in damage, Powell said.
Staff members were forced to hide from looters in a secure room, he said, and two employees required professional help because they were so traumatized.
Powell said the company is not taking any chances, supplementing shatterproof glass and burglar bars with a metal grill and a full contingent of security to make the store a "very unfriendly place to attack."
In the city, too, much has changed since the riot on June 15, 2011, which cost businesses millions of dollars in damage, led to nearly 80 criminal charges and sparked some serious soul searching by members of the public, elected officials and police.
Three reports were written about the debacle, concluding, in part, that too many people were downtown and they were drinking too much alcohol.
At the end of March, the Vancouver Canucks kicked off an ad campaign that boasted "this is our home," and asked fans to celebrate responsibly.
At about the same time, the City of Vancouver released plans for this year's playoff run. There will be no giant TV screens or mass gatherings downtown, with city officials opting instead for smaller block parties and community-center events.
"I think everybody's worked very hard to put their heads together and come up with a plan that hopefully will achieve the outcome we need," Powell said.
"Now it's up to us in the public and up to us business people to make sure that we encourage appropriate behavior. And if appropriate behavior doesn't happen, we believe the police will respond in an appropriate way to deal with it."
Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, said there's no anxiety among members who feel positive and relieved about this year's celebrations, especially after the city announced there will be no large public gatherings.
"I think we're feeling optimistic about our chances, and I think certainly we're feeling optimistic about how fans will behave, as well, and celebrate more responsibly," said Gauthier.
In fact, many bars and restaurants with television screens are preparing to be full and are asking fans to make reservations, said Gauthier.
But Gauthier said their efforts would get a boost if the court process against those charged in the damage of last year moved faster.
"We have to see more of the sentences being meted out by the courts as a result of last year's riot, and we've only had one," he said. "We need to see more of those just to send a very clear message that that kind of behavior won't be tolerated."