VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – On June 15, 2011, rioters took over Vancouver’s Downtown core after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins.
Tens of thousands of people flooded into the streets. Cars were set on fire, businesses were looted, and storefronts were destroyed.
Keith Houg was a special constable with the VPD’s Traffic Authority and was outside the Stadium SkyTrain Station at Beatty and Dunsmuir streets when the crowd started to turn.
Police gave commands to the crowd to disperse, but they fell on deaf ears.
“[It was an] overwhelming experience because there were hundreds and hundreds of people yelling and throwing things. There was just two of us trying to control the intersection,” he explained.
“We had people running up to us, telling us that there were incidents happening within the train station, that Transit Police weren’t able to control the crowd in there.”
When the fires started, Houg escaped was redirected to stop traffic from coming into the Downtown area from the Cambie Street Bridge.
“We were having to lean on the airhorn on the car, with the sirens and lights going, moving through the crowd and inching our way through so that they could move out in time. But we needed to make it to our destination, so there was definitely some urgency on our part … to help control the inflow to the core,” he said.
His shift ended around 10 p.m., but he worked until 4:30 a.m.
“I had a lot of phone calls trying to come in from family, making sure that everything was okay. But my cell phone actually died around 11 p.m., so there were definitely some concerned family members,” he said.
Houg, who was 20 years old at the time, wasn’t physically hurt.
“[I was] young and excited about everything that was going on,” He said. “But at the same time, kind of disappointed to see people behaving like that. In the days that followed, there was some depression associated with that.”
In the end, at least 140 people were hurt — one critically. Four people were stabbed, nine officers were injured.
More than 100 people were arrested and rioters were taken to court over the next five years.
There was hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to local businesses. Prosecution costs soared into the millions.
The day after the riot, hundreds of people from all across Metro Vancouver went into Downtown Vancouver to help clean up the streets. Many scrawled messages of hope and apology on plywood boards that had been installed on storefronts where the windows had been smashed.
The 2011 Stanley Cup loss was not the first that sent Canucks fans rioting into the streets. Vancouver’s loss to the New York Rangers also saw a flood of people take over downtown Vancouver in 1994.