• Why not hold NHL responsible for playoff riots?

    by  • September 6, 2011 • Uncategorized • 51 Comments

    While it’s fun to make cheap jokes about Vancouver blaming the NHL for failing to control the rioters, Greg Wyshynski is way off the mark in his Puck Daddy post about the issue. Wyshynski made a bunch of statements that I believe are intended to make the reader say “Of course! These people are insane!” I just read them and said “Yeah, that doesn’t sound unreasonable.”

    What the city is arguing here is that any entity that encourages masses of people to gather in the city — not directly, but by simply holding an event — should be responsible for that crowd’s action.

    This seems sensible to me. The NHL and the Canucks are profiting off the operation of an event that creates the potential for massive crowds to gather as a result of the interest in the events that the NHL produces. The NHL benefits from the mass hysteria that the playoffs create in Canada – why should Canadian cities (or the insurance premium paying public) have to subsidize these events through the payment of increased police costs and insurance premiums?

    Riot control is not the League’s problem, and the issue here is that Vancouver seeks to make it the League’s problem so the blame can be shared if this crap happens for a third time in the city during a Cup Final. “Hey, thanks for pumping millions of extra dollars into our local economy for three months … can you handle crowd control, too?”

    The league creates the riot by holding the event. If I’m running a factory that dumps poisonous effluent into the river, do I get to say “Not my problem. I run the factory; government’s responsible for the rivers.” Maybe forty years ago. In most places, I don’t get to do it now – this is the polluter pays principle. What are riots but a different form of pollution?

    Leaving aside that Wyshynski should know better – millions of extra dollars aren’t being pumped into the local economy but spending is simply being transferred from some business to another business (and, although it might feel that way, the playoffs don’t last for three months) – it seems to me that, in Canadian cities, riots have become a bit of an externality of playoff hockey. In what world do you get to run a business that routinely causes millions of dollars of damage and/or additional policing costs and not be faced with an expectation that you’ll pay for it? (Or, before the deluge of bitching about the oil industry starts, at least not without an angry group of people demanding that you bear the cost instead of the taxpayer?)

    Actually, based on the city’s findings, there’s really only one sure way to prevent rioting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Not allowing Canadian teams to participate in them.

    The report reads “four Stanley Cup riots in the last five years”; what it meant to say was Edmonton (2006), Montreal (2008), Montreal (2010) and Vancouver (2011). So yes, the NHL can take a very active role in preventing Stanley Cup rioting by not allowing Canadian cities to have nice things.

    Glib. But the NHL sure likes that Canadian TV money (they use it to fund the municipal extortion schemes franchises that they put in American cities that can’t support themselves) and Canadian TV rights would be worth a lot less if Canadian teams never made the playoffs. The Canucks played 14 home playoff games this season and probably generated at least $40MM in additional revenue as a result.

    Most businesses don’t impose riots on the cities that host them. If they did, they likely wouldn’t be around for long. If the British Columbia legislature passed a law imposing civil liability on the Canucks and National Hockey League for any increased police costs or damage to property during Stanley Cup riots, the NHL might ask itself what it and its teams could do to prevent this sort of stuff and reduce the need for increased police.

    One solution might be punishing teams in cities that have problems with a points deduction the following season. English football does something similar for teams that go into administration during the course of the season. UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, holds teams accountable for the conduct of their fans – Serbia was recently punished for out of control fans within a stadium. I’m not aware, off the top of my head, of teams being punished for the conduct of supporters outside of the stadium but if the conduct is related to the game – and Stanley Cup riots obviously are – I’m not sure why you wouldn’t hold the people profiting responsible for them.


    51 Responses to Why not hold NHL responsible for playoff riots?

    1. September 6, 2011 at

      I’m curious as to what principle you’d propose for determining which actions in response to games should be pinned (at least in part) on the league or teams, and which shouldn’t.

      If (completely hypothetically, and not about something that actually happened at all, of course) a drunk, disgruntled Flames fan watches his team ruin its shot at the playoffs on a TV in his living room in Toronto, then decides to take his anger outside, jumps up on a neighbour’s car, and urinates on it, I don’t expect you’d support any liability for the Flames or the NHL. Is there a difference apart from the number of people likely to be involved as the stakes of a particular game go up? Is that a good enough difference to justify a law? I’m not persuaded that it is.

    2. Saj
      September 6, 2011 at

      Isnt it actually the rioters that should be held responsible for their own actions? Unlike poisonous chemicals, rioters are sentient beings that control their own destinies. If an individual customer of a company did something illegal after transacting with the company, he is held responsible, not the company. Why should it be any different when the customers are a group instead of an individual? The only problem is you cant identify the rioters in advance to figure out who should pay for the added security

      • May 7, 2014 at

        T Dome and Key Arena are both crap holes. The new Husky Stadium, Qwest Field, and The Clink get my money. If I’m gonna pay the BIG BUCKS to see a Professional Team then I want to feel like the KING I AM!However, if your not a sports fan your a lost soul aaynwy probably meandering around museums, blowing your dough on wine, or quite possibly sailing Go Dawgs! Go Hawks! Go Sonics! Rate this comment: 1 5

    3. September 6, 2011 at

      I understand what you are saying, but can the NHL in any way be responsible for what happens outside of its buildings and area of influence? If some drunken college students leave a bar and then in their drunken state vandalize a store, is the bar in any way responsible for that?

      One pertinent question might be: Was it the city that set up the big screen to show the game and invite thousands of people downtown or was it the Canucks/NHL or some partnership between the city and the Canucks/NHL?

    4. Clark
      September 6, 2011 at

      Tyler, you’re a lawyer.

      If you were trying to argue this in court, how could you possibly prove that the CITY hosting outdoor viewing parties for a third-party event, and the ATTENDEES choosing to engage in destructive and criminal behaviour, was the third party’s fault?

      That’s where the pollution analogy falls apart for me; the NHL doesn’t profit off of the viewing parties; the City does. The NHL isn’t responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations at the viewing party; the City is.

      I just fail to see how the NHL can be held responsible for a second group organizing an event where over 100,000 people are invited into a common area, and then independently made the decision to riot. Unless Hockey Night in Canada was sending subliminal messages to destroy the city.

    5. dawgbone
      September 6, 2011 at

      Did the city of Vancouver not fully endorse the concept of gathering in the streets (i.e. didn’t they pay for the big screen TV’s that were outside)?

      I don’t think it’s the NHL’s (or it’s teams) responsibility to foot the bill for crowd control outside of the arena. Much like I don’t think it’s McDonald’s responsibility if the public riots because they are discontinuing the Big Mac.

      The city of Vancouver encouraged and allowed the fans to take the streets. They are the ones who should be responsible for taking care of the aftermath.

    6. pete
      September 6, 2011 at

      “Most businesses don’t impose riots on the cities that host them”

      The NHL no more imposed a riot on Vancouver than the NBA imposed one on Miami for having the audacity of holding a championship game there.

      It a bit of a deductive leap to suggest there’s a straight line of causality between having having a very important game and a riot.

      What happened in Vancouver could completely happen in any other large Canadian city with the critical mass of fans and alcohol. But it’s not preordained. Steps could have been taken to guard against it or mitigate the damage. There’s no direct causal relationship.

      That being said, your suggestion of punishing teams themselves (fines, standings points) seems like the most intriguing way I’ve seen of disincentivizing this type of activity.

      Bottom line is the riot COULD have been avoided or stopped. There just wasn’t enough of a will to do so since everyone assumed the best.

    7. Tyler Dellow
      September 6, 2011 at

      Pete -

      You think that there might have been a riot in the absence of a hockey game? In my life (32 years this month) there have been two riots that I can recall in the city of my birth. Both occurred after game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. I don’t think I’m suggesting the CIA invented AIDS here or anything.

      • September 6, 2011 at

        There was a Canada Day riot in 2001 on Whyte Ave.

        • Randall
          September 7, 2011 at

          And after that happened, the most common comment I heard was “Jeez, you’d think the Oilers won the Stanley Cup or something!” Canadians don’t riot about a lot of things, but if you were to bring up a list of riots in Canada over the past, say, 30 years, I’d bet you’d find a disproportionate number related to hockey.

        • slipper
          September 11, 2011 at

          Wasn’t it the Doug Weight Trade riot of 2001?

    8. Aniz Alani
      September 6, 2011 at

      A far less draconian, and likely more efficient approach would be to impose a very significant tax on alcohol purchased during the days/weeks/months of the riot-inducing playoff games. These rioters don’t strike me as the sort of bunch who’d plan far enough ahead by stockpiling on booze early to avoid the levy. And one might argue that the lack of riotous behavior inside Rogers Arena was at least in part helped by the high cost of alcohol inside the stadium.

      Or, if you’re truly wed to beating up on business, impose civil liability on the booze industry for any damage caused during a riot.

    9. September 6, 2011 at

      I’m still trying to figure out this whole mess of “riots” in Canada to begin with from a more sociological perspective, since that is what I do, and I am still at a loss. There’s lots of talk about the playoff riots in Van, Montreal and even Edmonton, which I can assure you (and I am certain many other readers can too) were actually not really riots, but rather joyous celebrations in the streets that actually didn’t turn ugly until the Police showed up in riot gear. Hell, one night during the SJ series, I was on the avenue as the designated driver and I got clubbed down by riot police after being separated from my friends I was trying to get out of there…What I am trying to suggest is that there are a lot of different forces at play here and attempting to place blame on either “the city” for setting up the public viewings creating the conditions for the riot, the league for knowing that shit will hit the fan and doing nothing about it, or the people themselves for being “out of control>” Ultimately its a combination of all three and a host of other factors that we are probably missing here. There is definitely a re-awakening of mass protest culture happening in North America, but I am not convinced that the Hockey Riots have anything to do with it. Tyler, your European example is interesting and may in fact be a really good idea, but I wonder if we did an investigation into social conditions in many of the European nations that have soccer hooligan culture and look at the relationship between the fans and social class in those countries-something that I am hesitant to do in the Canadian context due to a lack of historical precedent. It’s why when people tried to tie the Vancouver riots into the G20 incident, blaming the “anarchists” I just laughed. There isn’t the same sort of class consciousness when it comes to sports teams on this side of the Atlantic.

      Either way, the notion of a punishment to the franchise, not the league, like what UEFA has instituted may be a good one, but perhaps so is also not allowing giant open civic spaces and the public consumption of alcohol in those spaces. Perhaps the answer is actually fewer police, not more police, to reduce the foreboding sense of dread at the scene and keep the level of antagonism down. It’s almost like deploying riot police in advance of a potential riot is simply bait for the crowd of drunks to justify violence whether the team wins or loses…

      • dawgbone
        September 6, 2011 at

        I don’t recall seeing police in riot gear until the first car went up in Flames.

        • September 6, 2011 at

          Perhaps you’re right, but was that before or after the nights that they had riot police lined up on either side of Whyte and 104th St dividing the crowd in half in full riot gear? It seemed more like the impending zombie apocalypse and less like a victory party that night. I firmly believe that too much police presence creates conditions for too much police brutality and only serves to antagonize an already tense situation…but by no means can I possibly equate what happened at any point in Edmonton in 06 to the madness in Vancouver after the SCF loss.

          • September 7, 2011 at

            Game 3 against San Jose was notable for having the large police presence, and that was before any of the “car burnings” (replace car with shopping cart) or wild melee that resulted in Telus phone booths that hadn’t worked in years having some broken glass.

            All in all, the “Edmonton riots” were a bust, as Vancouver or any European/S.American soccer city could attest to. A woman broke her ankle and a few more windows than usual were damaged. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s ineffectual police force bilked taxpayers for almost $2 million in overtime expenses. $2 million fixes a lot of broken windows and puts on a lot of plaster casts.

    10. pete
      September 6, 2011 at

      There would not have been a riot in Vancouver were it not for that hockey game, absolutely.

      I’m just saying not all riots are caused by sports events (G20 and most of the London suburbs last month spring to mind) nor do large sports events — even where the home team loses — always lead to riots.

      I just don’t buy the premise that there’s direct culpability to the NHL for what happened.

    11. chris
      September 6, 2011 at

      I just don’t see how the league can be at fault on most of this (and I’m no Bettman lover either) closing streets and inviting tens of thousands of people into a densly packed area to watch the games on screens is on the city in my mind. they should be the ones to say no to that kind of security nightmare. and OF COURSE the city should say no to it if alochol is going to be ok there. the city of VAN just came off like they were on a scapegoat hunt.

    12. DT
      September 6, 2011 at

      European soccer teams do get punished for fan problems that occur outside the stadium. I remember a couple of years ago that a police officer was killed during a riot outside the stadium after a game in Catania, Sicily. Afterwards, the Italian league decided that Catania was not allowed to play any home games for the rest of the season, and were not allowed to have any of their supporters at the games. This meant that their “home” games were played in empty stadiums on the Italian mainland. I remember watching one of those games on tv, and it was pretty strange to see and hear the game being played in a completely empty and silent stadium.

      I would suspect that an NHL team would try a little harder to prevent a riot of they were faced with losing gate revenue for several games, along with the expense of holding games at a neutral site and the loss of whatever advantage one gets from playing in front of the home crowd.

    13. Tach
      September 6, 2011 at

      I just see a really tough argument on causation here. It’s one thing to say “Company poured toxic sludge into river, toxic sludge got into my water, I got sick from toxic sludge”. It’s totally another to suggest that the NHL or its teams by saying “Please pay money to come and watch this game and drink beer/Please watch this game on TV” leads to “Please congregate in public, drink beer and then when the game is over commit massive vandalism and assault.” If anything, I would think the NHL’s TV ratings would go up and they would be better off if all those people stayed home and watched the game from the comfort of their living rooms.

      Ultimately, the problem with rioting is that the attribution of legal remedies to a particular individual from a particular event is very tiny owing to the numerous people involved in each incident, but the collective cost of doing so is very high.

    14. KhtaD
      September 6, 2011 at

      So if the Vancouver riots only happen after losing in game seven of the finals, how do the players of the Canucks escape liability? Negligent of them to lose to the Bruins knowing how much it meant to the city, I think.

    15. Tach
      September 6, 2011 at

      Also, would you consider extending this to any group that organizes any event leading to public riots? For example, look at something like G20 in Toronto. Is the government responsible for all those riots because they organized the summit. I am quite certain they would have been happy to have all the protest groups stay home. Wouldn’t the protest groups all be responsible for any riot damage caused, whether peaceful or otherwise, because they encouraged groups to come out that ended in rioting? Oughtn’t the protest groups have properly suppplied security to prevent their own event from turning into riot? Wouldn’t this be a major imposition on the right to assemble in public (as a facet of the right to free expresssion under the Charter)?

    16. Matt
      September 6, 2011 at

      I think it’s fair to say that in this circumstance where the City of Vancouver actively encouraged people to come out to these public venues to watch the game. The Vancouver Canucks were responsible for the security of the fans in and around the arena. I think that you are right Tyler in calling out the NHL though and in the comparisons you made to how soccer authorities handle similar situations. The NHL has a responsibility to the places that host it to do it’s best to ensure that there aren’t any negative externalities that result from the operation of it’s business. The method that they can use is removing the fan’s access to the product by not broadcasting games or some of the other things discussed above. Would there still playoff riots in some of the more serious hockey markets? possibly, but you can’t say that the european model hasn’t been effective at taking the hooliganism out of the mainstream and reducing the frequency and the severity of these sorts of incidents.

      And yeah, before someone brings it up we don’t exactly have Vancouver fans and Calgary fans lining up on opposite sides of the parking lot and going at it with knifes and clubs – the situation over here is not anywhere near what necessitated these measures in England and Europe. I think everyone will agree that we shouldn’t have to put up with any of that garbage though, and anything the league can do to help with the problem is alright with me.

      • Matt
        September 6, 2011 at

        That first sentence should read “I think it’s fair to say that in this circumstance where the City of Vancouver actively encouraged people to come out to these public venues to watch the game that they should be responsible for the security of that event”

    17. Anna S.
      September 6, 2011 at

      I have a feeling that I don’t understand the entire point of this article.

      What the city is arguing here is that any entity that encourages masses of people to gather in the city — not directly, but by simply holding an event — should be responsible for that crowd’s action.

      Why yes, you’ve recognized a crucial principle. The NHL, by holding playoff games in Vancouver, do encourage large crowds to gather to watch hockey. Unfortunately for your argument, the NHL encourages said crowds to gather inside the arena so that said crowds will benefit the actual NHL team, as opposed to at viewing parties organized by third parties and held at alternate venues that were supposedly monitored by the Vancouver PD. The city itself fails on this first argument, especially with their post-incident statements attributing the violence to anarchists instead of hockey fans. When the NHL has no control over third-party viewings or pre-existing anarchist problems, I’d really love for you to attempt an actual explanation of how the riots fell within the NHL’s purview at all. Way to disclaim responsibility, Vancouver.

      The league creates the riot by holding the event. If I’m running a factory that dumps poisonous effluent into the river, do I get to say “Not my problem. I run the factory; government’s responsible for the rivers.”

      Holy misapplied metaphor, Batman! The League did not create a riot by holding an event. By all accounts, the crowd within the stadium (you know, the crowd that the NHL was actually hosting; you know, the crowd that actualfax attended the actualfax NHL event) was pretty peaceful. It was the hooligans outside the stadium and at viewing parties that created the riots. Which means that… wait for it… it wasn’t the actual NHL-watching crowd that did terrible things! Really, your whole metaphor here is so laughably full of holes that it starts to smack of authorial bias for you to pose such a ridiculous comparison. I mean, I’m a Blackhawks fan. I don’t even like the Nucks, I wish all righteous hellfire on their hypocritical city, but even I can see you’re in the wrong on this one. You can’t both claim to lay this on the NHL (if there’s anyone not at fault for the craziness of fans, it’s the actual NHL teams) and also claim to lay this on anarchists that are totally unaffiliated with actual hockey (since that was the initial story out of VanPD).

      If the British Columbia legislature passed a law imposing civil liability on the Canucks and National Hockey League for any increased police costs or damage to property during Stanley Cup riots, the NHL might ask itself what it and its teams could do to prevent this sort of stuff and reduce the need for increased police.

      WHAT? I’m going to take it as a given that you have no clue how the legal system actually works, otherwise you would not have suggested such an idiotic response. Restraining myself from a real diatribe about how the actualfax legal system actualfax works, I will simply say that your vision for peace and harmony is so ridiculous as to be laughable and that perhaps you should hop down into reality: no city ‘imposes’ riots. No city even remotely wants riots. But if or when they come, it is the responsibility of local police forces, local community agencies, and a wider-spread heavy guard contingent to contain the mess. Riots are not the responsibility of a sports team or sports league for containment, they are the responsibility of the police. It is the responsibility of the Sedins to score goals, not to police the Vancouver populace. Hence the word, ‘police’. It is the responsibility of local law enforcement to keep charge.

      If they fail to do so, that is a reflection on Vancouver Police forces, and on Vancouver elected politicians. Not on the NHL. Not the League’s fault if Vancouver can’t police itself.

      Way to deflect responsibility, though. I’m sure the officials were after the team, just like the League was after the whole city. Gosh, with so many people out to get them, maybe Vancouver would be better off without an NHL team at all.

    18. Tyler Dellow
      September 6, 2011 at

      I’m going to take it as a given that you have no clue how the legal system actually works, otherwise you would not have suggested such an idiotic response. Restraining myself from a real diatribe about how the actualfax legal system actualfax works…

      Well I did make the dean’s list one year in law school, win some course prizes, get a law degree, get called to the bar and have a job as a lawyer, but other than that, no.

      • Anna S.
        September 6, 2011 at

        So as someone with a law degree, you genuinely want the BCleg to pass laws imposing civil liability on the Canucks and NHL for increased police costs during playoff games, or damage during Cup riots? Interesting. Riots for which the NHL had no probative responsibility? Rioters which they absolutely did not incite to action? Police costs which might have been anticipated but for VanPD’s antiquated methods of estimating crowd control necessities on a gathering of 150K+? Okay. Way to discourage any other major events from ever happening in Vancouver. Do you think the Olympics could have happened if anyone thought that the IOC would be legally responsible for the behaviour of crowds at events totally unsanctioned by the IOC? Hint: no. Such laws would kill not only major sporting events, but would be a damper on major concert tours, etc. Anything with a hint of drawing a huge crowd. Who wants to be civilly responsible for a populace given to rioting, even if they have no control over the actual riots, and the VanPD later blames anarchists instead of people associated with the event? Economic suicide, but if you want to go there with civil laws, more power to you. I’ll still find it really mysterious if you actually have a law degree and understand the implications here, but good luck on getting those laws passed. I won’t be holding my breath.

        I’m actually sort of surprised that Vancouver didn’t have protocols in place for this size of gathering prior to the Olympics. I mean, what if the mens’ hockey program hadn’t won gold? Surely they had contingency plans for rioters then. Why not for the Cup games?

        You’ve correctly noted that most cities that host Cup Finals don’t riot, though again, I argue with your ‘impose riots’ language, which implies that the NHL had any hand in the riots themselves (‘Most businesses don’t impose riots on the cities that host them.’). Unfortunately, you asked the wrong question afterwards. The question of responsibility for civil misbehaviour shouldn’t put the onus on the NHL (after all, most NHL cities don’t riot, indicating that it’s not the League in and of itself that stirs trouble) to detect or prevent riots. The onus for protection of a civil populace should be where it belongs: on the police or civil defense force. If the police can’t keep riots in check and the city can’t anticipate riots when they encourage mass gatherings for sports events, then it’s a matter for civil servants’ self examination. As I said before, this reflects ultimately back on Vancouver’s political and police forces, and their inadequate response. Perhaps they should pluck out the mote from their own eye before accusing others.

        • Tyler Dellow
          September 6, 2011 at

          I’m going out on a limb here Anna – are you a law student?

          • Anna S.
            September 6, 2011 at

            No limb, also no student.

            • Tyler Dellow
              September 6, 2011 at

              I’m trying to figure out what “probative responsibility” means and it sounds like a classic law student phrase.

            • Anna S.
              September 6, 2011 at

              No reply, no argument? Classy.

        • DSF
          September 6, 2011 at


          The City of Vancouver actually had a strategy for preventing riots based on a report done after the 1994 riot.

          Both the Chief of Police and Mayor Gregor Robertson admitted after the most current troubles that they had neglected to read the report, nevermind follow its recommendations.

          The culpability here lies very much in the Mayor’s office since the Mayor initiated the on-street gathering and had met with the Chief of Police to discuss crowd control.

          The handling of the riot has become a huge political issue in Vancouver and will undoubtedly have a large impact on this falls civic election.

    19. al bueno
      September 6, 2011 at

      all i’m gonna say is boston shut down their streets and pretty sure they enforced a curfew. ya know to prevent something bad from happening. the city of boston hoped for the best and prepared for the worst.

    20. M
      September 6, 2011 at

      I had the same reaction when I read the Puck Daddy article.

      The quote from the Globe & Mail article:

      “In spite of four Stanley Cup riots in the last five years, [the NHL] has no approach, no policy and no apparent strategy to work with host franchises and municipalities on this issue”

      I don’t read that as “Vancouver blames NHL for riots.” I read that is as a reasonable request to the NHL. Given the fact that these things keep happening (particularly in Canadian cities), it’s probably in the league’s best interest to put some work into this area, minimally lessons learned about what NOT to do. Vancouver now has plenty of information that they could contribute to prevent future riots in Edmonton or Montreal.

      I’m sure in the complete riot report this “lack of NHL policy” is just a single item among many, but of course it’s the item the Globe picked to make a great headline (“Vancouver blasts NHL for lacking anti-riot strategy”).

    21. Tyler (Not Dellow)
      September 6, 2011 at

      This is ridiculously laughable.

      Was it NHL players (NHL property) that were rioting in the streets? Since when are hockey fans, on city streets, the league’s responsibility?

      What? Maybe I missed it, but I doubt Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell were out there lighting cars on fire. Or maybe all those rioters were on the NHL payroll…..

      Seriously, stop trying to pass the blame on to anybody other than the idiots who were destroying their own city.

    22. Colin Curry
      September 6, 2011 at

      I think it’s a bit off-base to suggest the NHL and the Canucks in no way encouraged the gathering that occurred outside – that it was all the city’s doing. From an advertising sales perspective, the more people watching, the better. Admittedly I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure the NHL and the Canucks made reference to the FanFest and implicitly or explicitly encouraged people to attend in the lead up to Game 7. The bonus for the NHL was that they didn’t foot the bill. That said, I think the City and police are mostly trying to deflect blame, and there was little the NHL could have done to prevent a riot.

      The idea that the NHL shared responsibility was also a MINOR part of a larger report that blamed booze, numbers, and inadequate transit for the riot.

      What’s lost in all of this is that it’s probably a good idea for the NHL and SCF host cities to collaborate on “FanFests” in the future. They could share costs and do a much better job of organizing – it would benefit both sides economically.

      PS – Although Wyshinski’s last comment was meant as hyperbole, it came off as painting Canadians as whiny pricks with a sense of entitlement.

      • September 6, 2011 at

        PS – Although Wyshinski’s last comment was meant as hyperbole, it came off as painting Canadians as whiny pricks with a sense of entitlement.

        To be fair, when it comes to “their” game, Canadians in general do frequently have that sense of entitlement. Maybe they have the same thing about other Canadian institutions as well (Tim Horton’s, Maple Syrup, etc.), I don’t know, but it is a pretty common attitude north of the border with regards to the NHL.

    23. darkknight9
      September 6, 2011 at

      Sad. I suppose the next time any two people gather for a drink on Boxing Day and they cause a ruckus you’ll have to sue the Canadian Government for failing to provide adequate protection and/or security for a planned event.

    24. Andrew
      September 6, 2011 at

      The analogy to pollution doesn’t fly. There’s a big difference between dumping pollutants which inherently lead to harm and putting on a game that might attract others (with city encouragement) that the home town might lose which then might make people riot. Throw in the fact that riots at fan festivals are pretty rare and the analogy is even weaker.

      I saw my team lose the Stanley Cup on home ice. Despite the NHL’s apparent lack of responsibility, we didn’t riot.

      And Canadian lawmakers should be careful about imposing liability on the NHL. A lot of work goes into cherry-picking under-performing franchises and adding a “we can’t handle losing the Cup” tax won’t help things.

    25. Kevin
      September 6, 2011 at

      I dont think you can say that the NHL should bear the responsibility of the riots simply because they held a sporting event that they hold every single year. The city of Vancouver created, promoted, and publicised the viewing party, NOT the NHL. The city created the powder keg by inviting 150,000 people to one area, they should be responsible when that powder keg eventually blows up.

    26. Leon
      September 6, 2011 at

      Tyler, I see your point but I do believe your arguments are quite off base.

      First, your analogy to a company dumping pollution is rather silly and a bit of a straw man. A company dumping pollutants is willingly and knowingly committing this act which they know will cause harm. Here, the NHL did nothing of the sort. They simply offered entertainment, the same type of entertainment which they have offered tens of thousands of times without any ill effects. There is nothing inherent in the product itself which can be deemed harmful to the public or whose natural consequence is rioting (it is clearly a rare occurrence, though I agree that a pattern is starting to emerge).

      Second, I think the comparison to soccer is difficult as violence in European soccer leagues was so common and widespread as to be nearly institutionalized. The incident mentioned in Catania was perpetrated by fans often called “ultras,” whose fanatical support COMMONLY spills over into hooliganism. The reason teams are held liable for the actions of their fans is due to the fact that there are known hooligans/hooligan groups which support these teams. These groups not only perpetrate violence on a regular basis at games but are also distinct groups which can be identified and hence banned (it goes without saying that it would be the teams themselves that would have an easier time identifying these groups). What occurs in hockey is obviously different.

      Though I do think the NHL could do certain things to help prevent such future occurrences (penalize points for a team, have home games held in an empty arena, etc.), I really do not see how the NHL should take any more than a sliver of blame (you’re a Canadian attorney so I’m sure you know the common law distinction between actual and proximate causation). Furthermore, considering how rarely these types of disturbances occurs, I do not see any government organization forcing the NHL’s hand for the simple fact that, despite your disagreement, these teams DO pump money into the local economy and cities want professional franchises in their cities for multiple reasons (then again, since as you said the NHL certainly like that Canadian TV money, a concerted effort by a number of Canadian NHL cities might force the league’s hand).

      Also, despite my disagreeing with you, I am a big fan of the site. Keep up the good work!

    27. James F
      September 6, 2011 at

      “The league creates the riot by holding the event. If I’m running a factory that dumps poisonous effluent into the river, do I get to say “Not my problem. I run the factory; government’s responsible for the rivers.” Maybe forty years ago. In most places, I don’t get to do it now – this is the polluter pays principle. What are riots but a different form of pollution?”

      Your logic is flawed. The NHL provides a hockey game and riots are not a direct byproduct of that. The poisonous effluent that your factory dumps is a direct byproduct of whatever that factory produces. The riots are a direct byproduct of the people doing them, namely, Vancouver citizens and other people within the city. It is not a byproduct of hockey or any sport. The rioting is not a part of the sport and to say that it is is frankly false and also in many ways justifies rioting. By your logic I should be able to riot during or after any hockey game because it’s the NHL’s fault for having a hockey game.

      “Most businesses don’t impose riots on the cities that host them. If they did, they likely wouldn’t be around for long. If the British Columbia legislature passed a law imposing civil liability on the Canucks and National Hockey League for any increased police costs or damage to property during Stanley Cup riots, the NHL might ask itself what it and its teams could do to prevent this sort of stuff and reduce the need for increased police.”

      How does the NHL impose riots on any city? Does the NHL send out people to start these riots? No, the people watching the sport impose the riots. The NHL is responsible for the actions within their sphere of control, namely the arena. Outside of that, the people doing the actions are to blame. Rioting and sports should not go hand and hand and having a sport does not mean having a riot. Perhaps Vancouver and other NHL cities should take a cue from other cities that haven’t had riots after hockey games. Boston, as a city, made very specific rules for both the arena and the bars in the city to prevent riots. Why is the onus on the NHL to control Vancouverites? Shouldn’t that be on the city that those people are citizens of?

    28. Alex
      September 6, 2011 at

      That pollution metaphor has to be one of the worst, most irrelevant metaphors that I’ve ever seen someone seriously try to make. A better one would be to compare it to, say, if someone were to sue a major alcohol company because their family member was killed by a drunk driver. For which, I don’t believe, anywhere has even come close to setting a precedent like that. Hell, alcohol probably had more to do with the rioters losing their judgement than hockey did. So why aren’t you and the city of Vancouver placing blame on Budweiser for producing and distributing a beverage that alters peoples’ states of mind in such a way? But it still sounds equally absurd to me.

      Bottom line is, the rioters themselves are responsible for their own actions. The city of Vancouver and it’s emergency response plan is responsible for things being out of control for so long. And the NHL is most certainly not responsible the actions people who were at an unsanctioned CITY hosted event that showed the game.

    29. September 6, 2011 at

      It’s not often that I really disagree with you, and I understand a little bit of Devil’s Advocate, but I pretty vehemently disagree with you on this one, Tyler. Everything Leon and Anna S and Alex have said (and several others) strikes me as pretty true. This line of reasoning (and particularly the analogy) seems extraordinarily wrong. Most particularly, I think you can’t get past the fact that

      1) NHL games (and even playoff or Cup Finals games) go off without a hitch quite commonly, so the NHL can’t expect a riot everywhere they go
      2) the NHL is partially responsible for what goes on in the arena (which coincidentally is, to my limited understanding at least, where a lot of the soccer violence happens as well) and not for what happens outdoors
      3) the NHL would probably prefer 150,000 people stay home and watch the game, pumping their ratings, as opposed to having them outside the arena (remember, NBC broke up similar parties in Pittsburgh a few years ago)
      4) The City of Vancouver and other groups organized the event outside the arena, the NHL just gave them something to celebrate. What if game 7 had been in Boston, and the VAN gathering (and riots) still happened? Is the NHL still responsible for a viewing party that happened on the direct opposite side of the continent, in a whole other country? If they’re responsible for that viewing party, what about if I get into a fistfight at a viewing party of a smaller scale, like my local bar? Where do you draw a line?

      But most importantly, and in the true MC79HOCKEY fashion, consider this (because any other time something like this comes up, you point it out): If riots lead to penalties for a team… would it not be advantageous for say, Flames fans, to go to Vancouver and start riots, to cost Vancouver points or gate revenue or whatever? You frequently like to point out when bad/dishonest behavior or meta-game behavior is incentivized, and that actually makes for one hell of an example.

    30. MattM
      September 6, 2011 at

      If the riots are simply the result of the pre-existing culture and the event coinciding, plus additional direct factors outside the Canucks’ control (like the city-sponsored viewing parties), then I don’t think you could reasonably hold the team or league liable. So I guess we’re left asking to what degree does the NHL or the Canucks, via public relations, player behaviour, officially sanctioned media outlets, etc, create an environment within its fanbase that tolerates the sorts of attitudes and behaviours that lead to rioting. The idea is basically that the cultural environment is to blame for the riots, and the Canucks would be liable only to the degree which they shape that culture in a way that contributes to rioting.

      I do not think trying to measure that would be a tractable problem, so I think we should just agree to blame John Garrett. Does that sound fair to everyone else? Excellent.

    31. DSF
      September 6, 2011 at

      Given the ubiquity of Hell’s Angels clubs out here in BC, I would suggest hiring them to handle crowd control and announcing it publicly.

      Many of the pubs on Vancouver Island are owned by the Angels and they are the most serene places you can imagine.

      Tongue only half in cheek.

      • September 6, 2011 at

        Tongue firmly in cheek…one word to your plan: Altamont

    32. CarlyM
      September 6, 2011 at

      It’s stretching logic like this that makes all of us Canadian fans look like whiners. How about the cities involved recognizing that they contribute to the circumstances that create riots by being completely unprepared for things they know might happen? From what’s been published, there were folks who flew in to Vancouver for the riot, not the game; of all things to go after Air Canada for, allowing riot-hunters from other cities/countries to sit in their seats is not one of them.

      Why not hold actual people responsible for their actions instead of shifting blame to organizations? Really easy to complain about corporations doing/not doing things and hold them accountable for your friend who threw rocks at Sears. “It wasn’t my fault I rioted… The NHL didn’t ask me to have a brain in my head on game day.” Better yet, cancel the Cup. That should do the trick. Hold rioters accountable. Hold poor sportsmanship accountable. Grow up.

    33. Jacob
      September 7, 2011 at

      OP quit trying to play above the rim with edgy ideas that go against sound logic and reasoning. Your whole opinion makes too many leaps of faith that will now lead me too physically assault someone. Please reply within a timely manner with contact details so I can inform my soon to be victim how he can reach you and place majority blame on yourself, due to your idiotic article causing my rage and the bloody end result.

    34. Jerry B
      September 7, 2011 at

      You lost me right here, and realized you are just an appologetic fool!


      The league creates the riot by holding the event. If I’m running a factory that dumps poisonous effluent into the river, do I get to say “Not my problem. I run the factory; government’s responsible for the rivers

      To equate the peaceful assembly of people who in themselves who by their assembly have no direct imapct on another persons being or property to an entity directly damaging property of some nature (the river in this case and which will damage personel property) is ludacris!

      When people assemble or gather for any reason, including sports as well as protest or rallies, because they are all assemblies the same and regardless of the organizer or sponsor, those people and entities should NEVER be responsible for the indiscretion of rouge individuals in the Public Square. To place a cost on any assembly would inevitably abridge assembly or speech, and ability to pay should never be a question at all, as all assembly should be equally protected regardless of its nature.

      The fact is, inside the stadium it WAS peaceful, the area of responsibility of the Canucks and NHL out of the Public Square and in a Private venue where they CAN control the conduct . It was the public square where it was violent and destructive, and it is not only the responsibility of Government to protect peoples rights (in saftey and their property) in this area, IT IS THEIR PRIMARY PUROPSE OF GOVERNMENT and nobody elses.

    35. THOWE
      September 7, 2011 at

      I think it’s fair to say that the TEAM should have coordinated better with the City and vice versa. But to blame the league itself is misguided.

      COULD the league have been more proactive? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean they had a duty to do so, which is what the original story and this article seem to be suggesting.

      Going forward, however, it might be a good idea for the league to start working now with teams to help them formulate plans for dealing with local authorities — which bear the ultimate responsibility for keeping the peace — to help avoid situations like this. Because in the end, it is the game itself that also suffers a black eye in these scenarios and not just the city, the team and its fans.

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