The Success of the First Canuck Viewing Party Could Pave the Way for More

On Sunday, May 12, the first official public watch party for a Vancouver Canucks game was held at Oak Meadows Park in Oakridge. Around 600 people traveled to the open greenspace to watch the Canucks beat the Edmonton Oilers 4 – 3. The game was projected on a big screen and Canuck fans watched it from the comfort of their camping chairs.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

The atmosphere was lively but civilized. The only difference between this outdoor viewing party and the sports bars found at certain ice hockey stadiums was the lack of sports betting options. Luckily, there are plenty of sports betting sites that NHL fans can use to place bets while spectating at a public watch party. 

Looking for a premium sports wagering platform for the next NHL game? To help you compare the top ones, Neil Roarty has reviewed each major betting platform based on customer support, payment options, bonuses, and other factors. 

Following the success of this initial public viewing event, the Playoffs in the Park series continued with another successful event on Tuesday, May 14. Further viewings are scheduled for the remainder of the playoffs – which will go ahead regardless of the weather. 

The Stanley Cup is more popular than ever and the first round of the competition achieved a record rating of 9 million viewers, with a year-on-year increase of 11%. This growth in popularity would suggest there is a demand for premium viewing parties. 

Vancouver mayor, Ken Sim, stated that “this is just the start”, suggesting that outdoor public viewing parties are here to stay – should things remain civil. Sim was more apprehensive about the prospect of organized viewing parties just last month.

Vancouver, after all, doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to large-scale playoff events – especially concerning Stanley Cup games. The Canucks reached the finals both in 1994 and 2011. They lost on both occasions, which resulted in two major riots. 

In 1994, as soon as the Canucks lost to the New York Rangers, 70,000 disgruntled fans headed for downtown Vancouver. The riot broke out on Robson and Thurlow Street and continued right through the night into early morning. The damage caused was worth 1.1 million Canadian dollars. 

This event was mirrored in 2011. In an attempt to avoid another riot, a fan zone was set up by city organizers. The police controlled entrances to this zone and alcohol was strictly prohibited. Unfortunately, as soon as the Boston Bruins beat the Canucks, a large-scale brawl broke out. 150 people were injured and 4 million Canadian dollars worth of damage was caused. 

As a result of these two significant riots, both Sim and the Vancouver Police Department are understandably against the idea of hosting major, city-centre spectator events. This is why Sim chose Oak Meadows Park as the venue for viewing parties this year, as it’s nearly seven kilometres outside downtown Vancouver. 

Still, a heavy police presence has been noted at each of the Playoffs in the Park events so far. This is to prevent the crowd from getting rowdy and also to assure the local residents that their neighbourhoods will remain riot-free. 

Oak Meadows Park has a capacity of 2,000, so could be used for more important games in the future. Should the Canucks advance to the third round during this tournament, Sim has suggested that an additional outdoor viewing experience can take place at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) fairgrounds. 

With a capacity of 7,000, not only will the PNE amphitheater allow more fans to spectate the game in a family-friendly way, but it will also spread out the fans across the city. The idea is to prevent tens of thousands of fans from gathering in the same place at the same time. Not only are smaller viewing parties easier for the police to control, but they also provide more intimate experiences for sports fans. 

Hopefully, 2024 will be remembered as the year that Vancouver proved that it can responsibly host outdoor spectating events for ice hockey.