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Canucks campaign aims to thwart future riots

Independent riot review exonerated franchise from wrongdoing

The Vancouver Canucks are not sharing in the blame for the June 15 riot following the clubs Game 7 Stanley Cup Final shutout loss against the Boston Bruins but the NHL franchise is taking steps to deter trouble in the future by encouraging responsible fan behaviour.

The 2011-12 NHL season will bring a new Canucks marketing campaign that urges fans to balance their passion and devotion with considerate, responsible celebrations.

We intend to provide that support by speaking to our fans directly through targeted messaging, the Canucks announced in a prepared statement Sept. 1.

Throughout the upcoming season, we are committed to strengthening that message and further raising the expectations that Canucks fans enjoy our games while conducting themselves in a respectful way.

Public service announcements will air during home games at Rogers Arena, online at Canucks.com and as commercials on network television stations. A billboard and poster campaign will target audiences at locations throughout Vancouver.

Images of the riot aftermath, specifically clean-up efforts, will be broadcast to a national audience prior to the regular season home opener Oct. 6.

The announcement came one day after the release of the independent review of the riot, a provincial government-funded examination led by former VANOC CEO John Furlong and Nova Scotia deputy minister Douglas Keefe.

The review acknowledged the link between professional hockey and the spontaneous violence and destruction following one of the biggest games in Canucks NHL franchise history in its title: The Night the City Became a Stadium.

In the aftermath of June 15, there have been questions about what role the Canucks organization played or could have played that might have altered the outcome and what role they might play in the future, the report states in a four-page chapter labelled We are all Canucks, after the clubs emblematic advertising campaign.

The truth is the Canucks were busy managing their internal affairs as the hottest ticket in town. There is no compelling evidence of attempts to meaningfully draw the organization into the delivery of downtown activities.

The report sets out two recommendations, including the launch of a program relying on the organizations considerable facilities and influence to encourage year-round responsible fan celebrations and sportsmanship.

The second recommendation urges the NHL to partner with host cities and franchises during the playoffs to help ensure safe public celebrations.

The report states, Vancouver loves hockey. And it loves its Canucks. It also affirms, So, it was not a huge surprise to see the desire for success manifest itself in the form of large crowds coming to downtown Vancouver to openly celebrate.

In the immediate aftermath of the riot, the Canucks organization sought to distance itself from the mayhem downtown and tried to differentiate their real or true fans from those guilty of setting fires, looting, smashing windows, brawling and revelling in the chaos, many while wearing Canucks team jerseys.

Those aren't our fans doing that, general manager Mike Gillis told reporters June 17.

"We have encouraged people throughout the season and the playoffs to respect one another, respect each other's property. To see a group of people that refuse to do that is not reflective of us, not reflective of the city, it is not reflective of our fans.

But the advertising campaign is targeting fans anyway.

mstewart@vancourier.com

Twitter: @MHStewart