Booze, overcrowding caused hockey riot -- report

A looter runs out of a store after riots broke out in Vancouver following Game 7 of the Stanley Cup...

A looter runs out of a store after riots broke out in Vancouver following Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final on June 15, 2011. (QMI Agency/Carmine Marinelli)

RICHARD ZUSSMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:53 PM ET

VANCOUVER - Venues filled way past capacity, an overabundance of alcohol and a confused and overwhelmed police force were at the heart of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, a report released Thursday says.

A major report, entitled “The Night the City Became a Stadium,” makes 53 recommendations to ensure safe celebrations in Vancouver in the future.

Authors John Furlong and Doug Keefe placed some blame on “the people who started the riot,” but also pointed fingers at the city for not keeping venues at capacity and cops and the local transit system for letting people flock downtown with booze in hand.

The city set up public viewing areas throughout the playoffs to accommodate a place for fans to watch the games in huge numbers. The main viewing area on West Georgia Street could hold safely about 34,000 people — not the 155,000 people that eventually showed up.

“Officials tried to do a good thing and acted with great courage, but their plans were overwhelmed and their mistakes amplified by the impact of an immense crowd far beyond what was expected,” said Furlong.

The report blames alcohol for inciting the crowd, and calls on transit company TransLink and regional police authorities to adapt a better process for stopping people from boarding public transit with booze.

The report mostly clears the Vancouver Police Department, which had come under fire after the riots, of wrongdoing.

For the first time, the public knows how many police officers were on the street to combat rioters.

The night started with 446 officers and eventually reached 928 at full deployment.

“There were too many people, not too few police,” reads the introductory letter from Keefe and Furlong in the report. “No plausible number of police could have prevented trouble igniting in the kind of congestion we saw on Vancouver streets that night.”

Immediately following the riot, Mayor Gregor Robertson blamed the bedlam on a “small number of hooligans on the streets of Vancouver causing problems.”

More than 260 people have now been identified by police as being involved in the riot and 42 people have turned themselves in for their role in the destruction.

The VPD also launched a website this week with photos posted of people yet to be identified but suspected as participating in the mayhem.

Charges have not been laid against any of the looters and two charges were laid the day after the riot against people involved in a fight.

Damage estimates in the downtown core have been pegged at more than $7 million, including more than $1 million of merchandise stolen and displays smashed at both the downtown Bay and Sears.

Robertson acknowledged during the riot aftermath that he had not read the recommendations stemming from a similar report written after the Stanley Cup riots in 1994.

The 2011 report concluded most of the recommendations put forth in 1994 were addressed.


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