Hero recognized after Stanley Cup riots
A man who was caught on tape braving his life trying to keep rioters and looters back from The Bay department store during the Stanley Cup riot received a hero's honour Thursday morning.
Representatives from the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department and the store, among others, came out to thank Robert MacKay for his selfless acts and courage that night, and many called him a true hero.
Vancouver Police Insp. Rob Rothwell said MacKay gave police the feeling that although they were outnumbered, they were not alone that night.
"When you are facing thousands of people that are totally out of control and there's just one individual in that huge sea of violent faces that you know is on your side, it's one hell of a good feeling," he said.
The River Rock Casino chef was presented with the Chairman's Award of Merit by the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation in Thursday's ceremony, only the fourth time the award has been presented in 29 years.
MacKay said he was shocked by how many times the video of his actions played on the news and online, saying he honestly thought the story would die down in a few days. A friend eventually contacted the media, and compelled him to tell his story.
"It became clear people had wanted to hear positive stories from what had happened that night," MacKay said.
Hudson's Bay Company CEO, Richard Baker, made MacKay a VIP member and also took the moment to announce a $40-million reinvestment into the downtown store, to make it "the greatest department store in the world," and bring it back to its original grandeur.
"We didn't know your name but all of us at the Hudson's Bay Company knew of you at about 9:45 p.m. local time, on that day…and we began the great search for this great fellow who was risking his life," Baker said.
The rioters McKay was trying to hold back sprayed him with bear mace and lunged at him with a pole, but two other good Samaritans helped get Mackay off the ground and away from the crowd after the mob had resorted to beating him.
"There must have been 10 people at once just pounding, luckily, the crowd didn't turn on me," Dean Seskin said, one of the men who helped Mackay.
"I consider Rob a hero," Seskin said. "He tried his best -- he's the real hero. We were just in the right place at the right time to help out. He's what people want to see Vancouver as."