‘We have to be incredibly responsible and thoughtful’: Vancouver not ruling out playoff watch parties

Why is Vancouver not hosting any public playoff watch parties, like every other Canadian city in the post-season?

That’s been the question posed by many, as the Canucks continue to play their first-round series against the Nashville Predators.

The first two games were played at Rogers Arena, but with tickets well beyond affordable for many people, the only other options to watch the teams face off with crowds of other fans has been either at bars, restaurants, or in homes.

Fielding questions from reporters on Thursday, Mayor Ken Sim said the city needs to be careful, given the history with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“We have to be incredibly responsible and thoughtful,” he said.

“We have a whole security infrastructure, we have, I think, the best police service on the entire planet, we have Vancouver Fire and Rescue, we have paramedics as well. We have the history of, you know, 1994 and 2011. In fact, we’ve been going through the reports and what have you, and what we have to do is, we have to make sure we have a very safe event. And so, personally, I would love to throw a party right now. But we have to be responsible.”

He says in 2011, there were 155,000 people at the watch party for the Stanley Cup Final — after which thousands of people rioted in the city, causing millions of dollars in damages.

“And when you look at the report that John Furlong put together, you could double the number of police officers there and as the situation unfolded, it wouldn’t have made a difference,” Sim said.

“So we’re being a lot more thoughtful. While having a party is great, we also have local businesses, we have personal safety of all the people there. And so, in fact, we’re actually talking about it this morning, we’re doing a whole debrief. So more to come on that.”

The Canucks have put in place a road-game viewing party for Game 3, when the team will be in Nashville. Tickets for this event at Rogers Arena are being sold for $15, with proceeds going to the Canucks for Kids Fund.

Sim isn’t taking the idea of a public watch party off the table — but he says the city needs to make sure anything that’s done is done right.

“I think it would be incredibly irresponsible to discount” the comments of police leadership and the report, the mayor explained.

“This situation is different from the Olympics, it will be different from the World Cup, and I think you have to really be thoughtful. Can we pull something off? Absolutely. Are we going to do our work? Absolutely,” Sim said.

“The responsibility of the safety of the residents, not just the residents of Vancouver but people that come into the city, and the businesses and the brand of Vancouver — we’re not just going to say, ‘hey, let’s throw a party, this time will be different,’ because what we learned in the past is that’s what they thought in 2011. Vancouver had grown up, we had just gone through the Olympics, it was different. And you know what? In a hot situation where there’s alcohol involved and you have enough people there, things can go sideways.”

Following Game 1 of the Canucks-Predators series, the VPD said should any plans materialize, the force will be part of discussions.

“We have participated in discussions and will continue to participate in discussions about any potential plans,” Sgt. Steve Addison told reporters Monday.

“There are no official fan zones or viewing areas for the first round of the playoffs. If those discussions progress, we’ll certainly be part of those discussions and will provide our input in how to create those fan experiences and do it safely. Our goal here is public safety. In order for everybody to have the optimal fan experience, for everybody to enjoy what we hope is going to be a long playoff run, we really need to make sure people are being safe and responsible.”

So far, following the first two games, the VPD reported no major issues.

Some cities, like Delta and Port Coquitlam, have hosted their own watch parties, inviting fans to come and take in the games in public spaces.