Tuesday, September 06, 2011

It's always best to go to offence when pleading your defence

It's an interesting headline that appears in the Globe and Mail today, dateline of Vancouver:

Vancouver blasts NHL for lacking anti-riot strategy

Now, over the years we've found many things to hold the NHL accountable for, poor financial acumen, misguided franchise location and re-location, questionable managerial decisions,  and of course the perception that there is a lack of understanding that its players are perhaps the leagues most valuable asset and maybe should be protected a little bit better.

But, we can't' say as we can point our finger of shame at the league for the behaviour of any of its member towns miscreants, nor the particularly ineffective plan of response by a city, which seemed to put its police department behind the eight ball well before the crowds gather to wreak havoc in the city's downtown are.

John Furlong and Douglas Keefe opined in their lengthy tome (at a cost of $313,022) last week, that "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".  Suggesting that the leagues very brand could be at risk due to league inaction on this issue

Now perhaps the NHL could offer up some advice thanks to those previous five riots something along the lines of crowds may gather, best be prepared, but really, we can't have it both ways.

On one hand after each and every one of these unsavoury events, the officials make a point of suggesting it wasn't true "Canuck, Canadien, (pick you team) fans, but unsavoury elements who took advantage of events.

So, to assess some portion of blame to the NHL while a handy deflection, isn't a particularly correct placement.

It's particularly cynical in the Vancouver incident, which is still very fresh in our minds.

The Mayor of Vancouver, not Gary Bettman, set up the fan zones downtown, eager to return some of the 2010 Olympic spirit to the city.

They did that with significantly less police resources than available to the Olympics however, the thousands of RCMP and municipal officers culled from across Canada, not to mention the support of the Canadian Armed Forces not available this time.

Instead, it would appear that the usual rotation contingent of Vancouver Police augmented by a few extra, but clearly not enough members were left to handle a crowd that had reached those Olympic proportions, the idea of calling in reinforcements not seriously considered it seems until the riots had raged out of control.

The Mayor, Gregor Robinson seems to have been give a pass on all of the events, not so much as a slap on the wrist for poor party planning, let alone misjudging the proper allocation of police resources for protection of life and property in the face of a swelling and out of control mob

Nope, instead the blame it is suggested by this provincially funded and  sanctioned report, should be shared with the NHL for offering up a hockey game that lit the tinderbox. As always, when in a corner, point the other way.

Perhaps the CBC should be singled out as well, they too hosted a Live site, part of the great mass of humanity along Georgia Street, a crowd that degenerated into a raving mob that one point seemed to put the Post Office in peril, surely the City will wish to tsk, tsk towards the national broadcaster as they seek out convenient accomplices to the madness.

We have nothing but admiration for that clearly very, very thin blue line in place on the night of the riot, those officers on duty and the eventual reinforcements that arrived, held as best they could the lines in an attempt to reign in a mob.

Despite the planning of their employer, both the management of the police department and the city itself, they eventually gained control of the streets, no thanks to the weasels who now look to deflect any sense of responsibility for what led to those events.

The much trumpeted policy of meet and greet seemingly was abandoned on the night of the riot, owing to the volume of visitors to the downtown live sites. The sheer numbers overwhelming any ability to react to liquor violations, or evict troublemakers before things reached the levels of violence we were witness to.

That's not a failing of the vastly undermanned officers on the scene, that's a management failing, a civic failing, really folks, its hard to understand how that one is on Gary Bettman. 

It's enough to make you shake your head at what seems to be the focus of accountability from this incident.

Beyond the clear lack of preparation by the City of Vancouver and its police management for the infamous day, the wheels of justice are spinning equally slow.  To this date, few of the participants in the mayhem in Canada's third largest city have faced charges, compare that to the recent incidents in England and you have to ask why British Columbia justice can't work quite as fast as that of the British in the UK.

Maybe they are using some kind of NHL scale of suspension and punishment policy in BC, thus making it easier to blame the NHL for that particular problem as well.

We'll agree with one component of the report, that which suggests that the league should review its handling of fans inside the arena, reports during the playoffs offered up some comment that Vancouver's fans weren't particularly accommodating to anyone wearing an opposing uniform, let alone the Commissioner.

The Canucks should have been more proactive in enforcing their own code of conduct in the rink, casting those that didn't want to behave out of the rink (where it seems they would find a welcoming group mere metres away from Rogers Arena). But to suggest the NHL failed where the NFL soars, is a bit much, for reference perhaps the review committee and civic officials can Google up Raiders/Forty Niners and violence, that might bring that concept into a bit of perspective.

We imagine some mistakes were made at the rink through the playoffs, though at one point in the night on question the Canucks security were holding fans int the rink and advising that they stay out of the downtown area, tis' a wee bit of a stretch that somehow the NHL contributed to the events of May.

One imagines that if the league is to be held accountable for the behaviour of people outside of the rink, they could always recommend to move Stanley Cup games to neutral site cities for that those teams that host playoff games in cities where violence has a history.  We wonder how the City of Vancouver might react to that idea.

More to the point  the review it seems  is a rather handy piece of political deflection, leaving the placement of  real accountability undelivered.

The Furlong/Keefe report can be accessed here.

The full Globe story on the riot report can be found here.

To refresh your memory on the night in question, we invite you to peruse our archive of the night of madness in Vancouver.

With the release of the report, there are now other resources to catch up on how they're thinking it all out in Vancouver, some of which can be found below.

in addition, the topic was discussed on the Bill Good show on CKNW, (Tuesday 10 - 10:30) the comments and observations might prove helpful to the debate.

Perhaps the city officials who currently feel no share or ownership of the events of that night, could review them and see what really happened that night and where the opinion rests on who or who is not responsible.

Globe and Mail-- Mayor's political aspirations intact as "Robertson Riot" tags fails to stick
Globe and Mail-- Police miscues fuelled smouldering Vancouver riot
Globe and Mail-- Key findings and conclusions of the independent review of the 2011 Stanley Cup riots
Globe and Mail-- We blogged the Vancouver riot review release
Vancouver Province-- Riot response plan marred by 'glitches,' says Vancouver police chief
Vancouver Province-- No surprises no officials to blame for riot
Vancouver Province-- Police lacked early-warning trigger to adequately read riot crowd
Vancouver Province-- 'Drunken rioters' to blame, not police, says premier
Vancouver Province-- Report fails spit test
Vancouver Province-- Editorial: Riot report offers more blah, blah, blah
Vancouver Province-- Legal system ignoring louts who caused riots
Vancouver Province-- Only 446 officers on the streets
Vancouver Province-- "Get Ready for a Riot, Vancouver"
Vancouver Province-- Too few cops and communications breakdown played role in Vancouver riot
Vancouver Province-- Riot report pretty obvious: Willes
Vancouver Province-- Stanley Cup riot timeline: The night the city became a stadium
Vancouver Sun-- Bigger liquor fines, better SkyTrain screening would help avoid another riot
Vancouver Sun-- The likelihood of a Stanley Cup Riot was obvious to everyone - except those in charge
Vancouver Sun-- Council report considers limit on access to downtown core
Vancouver Sun-- Full list of Stanley Cup riot review's recommendations
Vancouver Sun-- Business leaders push for CCTV cameras
Vancouver Sun-- Riot review, by the numbers
Vancouver Sun-- Canucks vow team will encourage 'responsible fun"
Vancouver Sun-- TransLink is on board with report's recommendations
Vancouver Sun-- Cup riot 'was not beyond imagining'
Vancouver Sun-- Sorry, Mr. Furlong and Mr. Keefe, but mayor should own up
Vancouver Sun-- Opinion: Riot review lacks accountability
National Post-- Vancouver riot report suggests more questions than answers
CBC-- Vancouver police defend riot response
CBC-- Stanley Cup riot report says police late to react
CBC-- Chief says Vancouver riot review backs police

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