Ten years ago today, the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins 4-0. In the hours following the game at Rogers Arena, rioters caused more than $5 million in damage to buildings and vehicles in the downtown core.

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Ten years ago today, the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins 4-0.

In the hours following the game at Rogers Arena, rioters caused more than $5 million in damage to buildings and vehicles in the downtown core. After a massive investigation that pored over more than one million photos and hundreds of hours of video submitted by the public, Crown prosecutors eventually laid charges against 301 people.

Here are thoughts of two Canucks players, the general manager at the time and a photographer who was on the scene.

Police in Copenhagen, Denmark, subdue a man after the 2000 UEFA Cup final that saw riots erupt following Galatasaray’s 4-1 win on penalties over Arsenal.
Police in Copenhagen, Denmark, subdue a man after the 2000 UEFA Cup final that saw riots erupt following Galatasaray’s 4-1 win on penalties over Arsenal. Photo by Lutz Bongarts /PNG

The Battle of Copenhagen

The 2000 UEFA Cup final was in Copenhagen. It’s remembered as much for the riots that took place in the centre of the Danish capital as it was for the match won 4-1 on penalties by Turkey’s Galatasaray over England’s Arsenal.

That’s the only comparison with what Jannik Hansen could make from his own life experience to what he witnessed on TV in the hours after the Canucks lost Game 7 to the Bruins.

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“Is this really happening,” he remembered thinking to himself as he saw what was going on just a few blocks away from his Yaletown condo. “I saw the cop cars on fire and it’s something you associated with another part of the world. At least not at that time, anyway.

“It wasn’t even something you would have considered could happen before the game, regardless of outcome,” said Hansen, who retired in 2019 after a season in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. “Sitting and watching it on TV I felt disbelief. At the same time with all that had just happened, there’s so many things going through your head, not just in real life but also the sport part of it. So it was hard to comprehend and then put into perspective.”

The players and staff had been held at the arena for their own safety for some time after the game. As Hansen left the building, there were still some fans outside, but no evidence of what was going on just a few blocks away.

“I felt pretty far removed,” said Hansen. “You could maybe hear it outside, going on. But you couldn’t see it. It could have been happening in a whole other country, that was the perception of it.”

Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins collides with Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks during Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena.
Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins collides with Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks during Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena. Photo by Elsa /PROVINCE

Hansen was 25 at the time and in his life, he’d never seen anything like the Stanley Cup riot first hand.

“I’d seen it on TV, South American soccer hooligans, that kind of thing.”

Growing up in Denmark, neither hockey nor the dominant sport of soccer was connected with public violence. At least not the homegrown variety.

“It does happen in soccer in Denmark once in a while,” said Hansen. “When we would have some of the tournaments where you’d have other English teams and Turkish team meeting up, where the hooliganism is really big.”

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And then he referenced the 2000 UEFA Cup violence, which came a few weeks after fans in Turkey had killed two fans of another English club, Leeds United. With Galatasaray advancing over Leeds to the final against Arsenal, there were fears that more trouble could erupt in Copenhagen.

Those fears were realized.

“They played a final in Copenhagen and Copenhagen was a battlefield. Then you were anticipating it and the cops are in riot gear before it still happens. (The Stanley Cup riot) was, from my perspective, completely out of the blue. Nothing like I have experienced before.”

Hansen played 626 games in the NHL over 12 seasons, 11 of them with the Canucks.


Hockey fans riot after Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins in Vancouver on June 15, 2011.
Hockey fans riot after Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins in Vancouver on June 15, 2011. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

In the thick of it

Chris Higgins was just three months into his life as a Vancouver Canuck on June 15, 2011. A trade deadline pickup at the end of February, he was still living in a hotel on Seymour Street.

After a normal game he’d have walked home from Rogers Arena.

But on this night, he was put into a car and driven back to his hotel.

“We had kind of heard some things — that people were going kind of nuts afterwards — in the locker-room and then NHL security and security from the arena wouldn’t let us go outside,” he recalled.

Along with teammate Max Lapierre, he was driven to the hotel near Seymour and Nelson by a security official.

“I was preparing to walk that night, but then it seemed like there was chaos and we didn’t really know what’s going on until we got outside. Driving around, it was nuts, people were … no rules, no rules anymore.”

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Vancouver Canucks forward Chris Higgins battles for the puck with Boston Bruins Chris Kelly during the second period of Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena.
Vancouver Canucks forward Chris Higgins battles for the puck with Boston Bruins Chris Kelly during the second period of Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena. Photo by Ric Ernst /PNG

“It was kind of surreal, going through the tear gas and all that,” Higgins said of the short car trip. “I had to close my (hotel) windows because the tear gas was coming in the windows. I was watching from my window … the riot police clearing, with the flashbangs, clearing Granville St. I had a small view of Granville and they were going down it. And cars were racing down Granville and people were throwing rocks and bottles at cars as they were passing by. It was pretty nuts.”

Higgins spent 12 seasons in the NHL, his last six with the Canucks after being acquired from Florida. He retired in 2016 with 711 games under his belt.


A rioter on the remains of a charred car during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final riots between the Library and Canada Post Office building.
A rioter on the remains of a charred car during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final riots between the Library and Canada Post Office building. Vancouver Sun

The good people

Beyond the on-ice heartbreak of June 15, 2011, former Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis said he felt the worst for the many people who had been working for the team for years, building the presence of the franchise in the community.

Family of the staff and players were in an upstairs suite and it was there, 40 minutes after the game, that Gillis first became aware of what was going on outside.

Gillis wouldn’t get into details, but said he was dealing with the team’s off-ice situation and it wasn’t until he finally looked at a television showing images of the mayhem from just a few blocks away, that he began to understand the gravity of the situation.

“It was a terrible, terrible moment. We just lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, we were drained,” Gillis said. “(The families) were aware of what was starting and going on. And then I became aware of it about 40 minutes after the game I guess. I was forced to deal with some other stuff in between and then that starts to happen. It was just, it was a bad feeling all around, I mean it was embarrassing.

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“It was bad. We had fought and fought and fought for months to be in a position to get in the finals and had a lot of guys playing that were hurt, guys coming to the end of their careers, where that was their last chance. It was just draining, devastating.

“And it became quickly apparent that it was planned, no matter what. These activities were going to occur and there was a group of people that were basically there only to do that, regardless of the outcome. And that again was another layer, of watching opportunists do stuff that was only embarrassing for the city that you represented and the fan base.”

The next morning, heading back downtown, Gillis became aware of just how bad the situation had become.

“We did go down the next day to try and do some stuff and saw the level of what occurred. It makes you wonder why you invest in this kind of stuff, because if this is the consequence of losing or winning a hockey game, that’s not the consequences that should be available to anybody.

“And if that’s what it’s coming down to, that you’re going to use that as an opportunity to hurt people and destroy property, and do the things that were done, it makes you question why you want to be involved,” Gillis said.

Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis speaks to the media at Rogers Arena on  Friday, June 17, 2011.
Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis speaks to the media at Rogers Arena on  Friday, June 17, 2011. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

“There were so many good people that were totally invested in the team, you know, sacrificed and done lots and lots of great work in the community. For all that, efforts like the community services people and Canuck Place and all the charitable work and hospital work, now gets overshadowed by that.

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“And what do you say to somebody who’s invested their time, energy, emotion, intellect into the community through a hockey team, and then all that work, like all that great stuff gets overshadowed by that.

“And that’s how people are going to remember that season? It’s just appalling, absolutely appalling. It’s difficult to reconcile those things because the people that worked there with me, they were top flight people. They were excellent at what they did, they really cared. They went well beyond their job requirements to be part of something that they were really proud of, and no one, no one could be proud of that event.”

Gillis spent six years at the helm of the Canucks, getting fired at the end of the 2013-14 season.


A person walks in front of a burning vehicle on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver as the city broke out in riots after the Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
A person walks in front of a burning vehicle on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver as the city broke out in riots after the Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Photo by Rich Lam /PNG

Through a photographer’s Eye

Richard Lam had been assigned to shoot Game 7 from the catwalk high above the ice at Rogers Arena for Getty Images.

First, stuck with the painful task — at least for a Vancouverite — of shooting anybody who touched the Stanley Cup during the post-game celebrations, whether they were wives, girlfriends or family, he then had to stew in the media room waiting for the post-game press conference.

When the champagne-soaked Bruins were finally done with their comments, the news of what was happening on the streets of Vancouver was already being broadcast on TVs inside the arena.

Lam rushed outside with a friend, Achilles, to watch his back as he shot, because “I knew this wasn’t going to be a cheery march around the city,” Lam said, laughing.

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Packing light, with just two camera bodies and no flash — he didn’t want to draw attention from the mobs marauding threw the city — he went to work. Having been tear-gassed covering the 1999 WTO Protests — a.k.a., the Battle of Seattle — and the APEC protests at UBC, Lam was aware of how quickly things can develop. He also saw this coming as early as the previous game.

“I got a sense of it (during) Game Six at the Party Zone … and you could almost see that this was gonna happen. The atmosphere, the people’s reaction when that team lost … if you couldn’t see this coming, then you’re an idiot,” Lam said from Tokyo this week, where he’s preparing to work the Summer Olympics.

“A friend of mine asked me ‘Oh should I go down there for Game Seven?’ He had kids. I said ‘No, don’t go down there, because that’s going to be the worst place to be.’”

Lam captured shots of police cars in flames, looters scurrying out of stores with arms full of stolen merchandise, the smashed and gutty facade of The Bay, and aggressive rioters facing down lines of police.

And of course, The Shot.

Riot police walk in the street as Scott Jones and his girlfriend, Alex Thomas, kiss.
Riot police walk in the street as Scott Jones and his girlfriend, Alex Thomas, kiss. Photo by RICH LAM

Lam’s pictures of Scott Jones consoling his girlfriend, Alex Thomas, with a kiss on the ground amid the chaos has become the iconic image of the event. It won Lam a National Newspaper Award, and brought 15 minutes of fame for Jones and Thomas — who are married, with a daughter, and living in Australia.

“I’m still really blessed and honoured to be the only photographer to get that, that night. It was a fleeting moment … it just happened so fast,” said Lam.

Looking back, 10 years later, Lam still shakes his head at the absurdity of the night.

“The most striking thing about it all? It was that this was so unnecessary,” Lam said.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

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