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Officials tight-lipped on possible public NHL playoff viewing parties in Vancouver

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As Vancouver plays host to Stanley Cup playoff games for the first time in nearly a decade, there is no sanctioned outdoor location for fans to gather and watch the games.

In each of the other Canadian cities involved in the National Hockey League playoffs – Winnipeg, Edmonton and Toronto – fans can attend sanctioned outdoor viewing parties.

“We need more of that. I don’t have cable. Everyone’s on the streaming platforms,” said Canucks fan Prianka Grewal “So, yeah, 1,000 per cent. Make it fun.”

The City of Vancouver sent a statement in response to CTV News questions about the possibility of sanctioned outdoor viewing parties for future games.

“We are working in collaboration with the Canucks for Round 1, including supporting their creation of the Toyota Party on the Plaza activation which has been well-attended by thousands of fans, with family-focused activities,” the statement said. “We continue to discuss with all parties what may be possible for future rounds.”

In collaboration with the Canucks, the city has closed Pat Quinn Way on the east side of Rogers Arena to vehicle traffic for expanded pregame activities.

The area includes live music, a beer garden and areas where children can play street hockey – but it does not have screens for fans without tickets to the venue to watch the games.

During the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, hockey fans were able to attend outdoor viewing parties on West Georgia Street near Rogers Arena.

During Game 7 of that series, which the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins, many in the crowd watching the game on big screens became quite agitated and large-scale public disorder erupted, leading to what would eventually become a full-scale riot.

A BC Prosecution Service report about the riot pegged damage at an estimated $3.78 million.

The report estimates as many as 55,000 people watched the game on West Georgia Street and that up to 100,000 more were in the area on adjacent streets as the riot started.

That history is top of mind for the Vancouver Police Department as it prepares to handle large crowds expected downtown for this year’s playoffs.

“We don’t want to see people walking around with open liquor,” said Sgt. Steve Addison. “We know from previous experience, not just here in Vancouver but in other major cities, especially with large sporting events, a lot of the problems that happen in terms of violence, fights and disorder occurs when people are over-consuming liquor.”

The watch parties in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto all have capacity limits and fans attending are subject to security screening for outside alcohol and weapons – which was not the case in Vancouver in 2011.

For now, the Canucks and the City of Vancouver have not announced any plans for sanctioned watch parties this year – but police have said conversations about public gatherings for fans are ongoing.

“We will continue to actively be part of those conversations from a public safety perspective,” said Addison. “So, we will work with the City of Vancouver, we will work with the team, the Vancouver Canucks, as those conversations progress, as this playoff run progresses, which we all hope it does. And we will provide our input from a public safety perspective.”

Addison declined to respond when asked to further clarify what concerns or suggestions the police input may include.

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