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Vancouver blasts NHL for lacking anti-riot strategy

The city's own review of the June 15 Stanley Cup riot rips into the National Hockey League for its alleged hands-off attitude to potentially rowdy playoff celebrations.

"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," says the lengthy internal report to be debated at a special council meeting on Tuesday.

"[This]clearly … threatens the value and perception of their brand."

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The city's criticism of the NHL follows similar barbs tossed at the league by the provincially appointment independent review of the riot, headed by co-chairs Douglas Keefe and John Furlong.

In their report released last week, they said it was "unfortunate and regrettable" that the NHL has no specific programs to help teams "with the kind of challenge [Vancouver]faced that night."

Concluding that the sport of professional hockey, itself, cannot be separated from the riot, they urged the NHL to work with teams and communities to promote "peaceful, happy hockey celebrations."

Councillor Suzanne Anton, who is likely to press hard at Tuesday's council meeting for more riot accountability by Mayor Gregor Robertson, also called on the NHL to do more.

"I was pretty shocked in that report at the disengagement of the league," she said. "They need to own their own brand better."

In its riot review, the city said the NHL's do-nothing approach is in stark contrast to the National Football League, which works aggressively with all 32 teams to see that a specific fan code of contact is enforced to ensure a safe environment at league games.

The NHL rejected the criticism.

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"[The league]already has successful programs that ensure responsible fan behaviour in all our game venues," spokesman Frank Brown said in an e-mailed statement.

Mr. Brown added that the NHL is "happy to collaborate – and regularly does – with civic officials" when asked to help out with league events.

The city review, prepared by staff, also calls for the Vancouver Canucks to be more involved in planning future fan celebrations, should the team make another run for the Stanley Cup.

That should include financial assistance, Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters Friday, noting that other sports organizations and teams often toss in money for big fan events. "The Canucks are a real beneficiary of these gatherings. They make a lot of money … and there are real costs involved."

In a statement released shortly after the Keefe-Furlong report came down, the Canucks pledged a season-long campaign to promote responsible fan behaviour.

"We want to do what we can … so that if future public viewing events of our games are planned, they are done so without the recurrence of the incidents of June 15," the team said.

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Tuesday's council get-together will provide the first full public canvassing of the riot and ways to avoid trouble at further large celebrations, such as this November's Grey Cup festivities here.

Earlier in the day, the Vancouver Police Department will release its critique of the riots at a meeting of the police board.

Costs of the riot are likely to be discussed at both sessions.

The city's report disclosed that the riot caused Police Chief Jim Chu's original, council-approved budget to soar over his estimate by nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

Damages to police cars and other equipment, along with overtime on the night of June 15, put the total cost of policing during the playoffs at $893,800, according to the report, well over Chief Chu's initial budget of $648,000.

Mr. Robertson said the total cost to the city of the four playoff rounds amounted to nearly $2-million.

Another issue up for discussion is a call for more surveillance cameras to assist police during special-event gatherings.

The city's internal review said CCTV cameras are useful to monitor crowd activities, help deploy police in case of disturbances and identify participants in unruly behaviour.

"I think there's a case to be made to have these cameras available," Mr. Robertson said.

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