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Vancouver Canucks video urges fans to be responsible - but excludes the R-word

Screengrab of player Ryan Kesler in the Vancouver Canucks' video campaign "Celebrate Responsibly."


A Vancouver Canucks fan stands at Georgia and Hamilton, mere steps from the post-office parking lot where the first vehicle was set ablaze. Hockey stars past and present, from Trevor Linden to the Sedin twins, pose at various locales and urge fans to show respect.

No one mentions what happened June 15. In fact, the only thing missing from the Canucks' new anti-riot campaign appears to be the word "riot" itself.

The Canucks – who lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last year, sparking a riot that left millions of dollars in damage – unveiled their "This is Our Home" campaign on Wednesday. The six-figure television, radio and poster blitz emphasizes responsible fan behaviour.

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There are three videos in all. Each opens with the retired Mr. Linden, one of the most popular athletes in franchise history, saying, "This is my city." The videos feature several fans with similar messages, from those on downtown streets and at the rink to those in the wilderness.

Several Canucks make appearances. Manny Malhotra runs the seawall. Ryan Kesler walks to the arena. The Sedins visit a children's hospital. The ads close with the message: "This is our home. Please celebrate responsibly."

But the ads say nothing about the riot. Ditto for the news release announcing the campaign. The word describing the hours-long spate of violence is the elephant in the room, raising questions about what impact the ads will have.

Victor de Bonis, chief operating officer for Canucks Sports and Entertainment, told reporters the reason for the exclusion is clear: The team didn't want to get hung up on what's already happened.

"It's really about trying to move forward and think about it as an opportunity, as opposed to reflecting on the past," he said.

Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at Simon Fraser University, said it's wise of the team to take that stand.

"Whenever you're trying to push a product, the last thing you're ever going to do is attach it with anything that has a connotation that's, shall we say, less than desirable," he said in an interview.

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"Clearly, there is a linkage here that the Canucks appreciate. That's if it hadn't been for them, there would not have been a riot."

Dr. Meredith said the ads are effective because they feature high-profile faces. He said the campaign appears aimed at protecting the Canucks brand.

"Hockey is close to apple pie and God in this town. When you've got that status, you don't want to lose it," he said.

Tom Mayenknecht, principal of Emblematica Brand Builders and a sports business commentator, agreed it was wise for the team to avoid mentioning the riot. He, too, called it effective.

"I think the campaign is very well positioned because, by definition, it deals with rioting as the most extreme form of irresponsible behaviour or celebration. But it also covers areas in-between and lesser forms of poor fan conduct," he said in an interview.

Mr. Mayenknecht said given the discussion around the riot as the playoffs approach, it would have been a mistake if the team did nothing.

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On Tuesday, the city announced it would decentralize playoff celebrations and sprinkle them throughout the city, instead of having large groups downtown. The plan would take effect only if the Canucks reached the third round of the playoffs.

The city budgeted $100,000 for the events. Mr. de Bonis said the team would share in that cost.

One of the recommendations in the riot review by John Furlong and Douglas Keefe was that the Canucks embark on programs encouraging responsible celebrations and sportsmanship. The team has made a season-long effort to recognize local heroes from that night.

The team was criticized for its somewhat muted response to the riot. When asked Wednesday whether he would do anything differently, Mr. de Bonis said no.

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Based in Vancouver, Sunny has been with The Globe and Mail since November, 2010. More

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