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'Double Loss' - Francesco Aquillini on 2011


Spotted Zebra

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It's not really news, or anything recent, but Frank does his best to avoid the public's eye and rarely talks about matters such as these. He gets his name dragged through the mud a lot, maybe rightfully so, but this just shows how much of a fan of the product he is, and I found it interesting. 

http://vancouversun.com/sports/hockey/nhl/vancouver-canucks/the-double-loss-canucks-owner-on-the-night-his-team-and-his-city-came-up-short

 

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There is something tomb-like about the concrete guts of an arena. Interior passageways are closed, windowless and grey. Before the game, and when the contest is over, this is where players’ private moments are shared — and buried — far from public view. 

This is also where, on the afternoon of June 15, 2011, the Vancouver Canucks prepared to battle for the Stanley Cup, and narrowed their sights on victory in the seventh and deciding game of the championship final. As they tightened their skate laces, a hundred thousand beating hearts massed in the streets outside and thronged into a fan zone set up by the city that would, hours later, become another kind of battleground. 

“Leading up to the finals, I could feel the pulse of the city,” recalls Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini. Five years after his team’s 4-0 loss in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins, he is speaking publicly for the first time about the trajectory of that night, what happened behind the scenes, what was lost and what was won. 

“I remember driving down Georgia, crossing Granville on the way to the game. Everybody was engaged, stores were shut down, there was a festive mood. People were waiting to see what was going to happen. With Game 7 at home it was an exciting time. We had just gone through the Olympics, won a gold medal, we had a great result. We were expecting another great result.”

From the owner’s suite, Aquilini watched the game with family and friends. “There was an energy in the arena I’d never felt or seen before. The tension in the air, the expectation. The Stanley Cup was in the building. Somebody was going to lift that trophy.

“When there were two or three minutes left in the game, I knew we had lost. My heart sank. I was so disappointed. We had come so far, worked so hard for so many years and to lose at home in Game 7 was devastating.”

Aquilini quietly slipped out of the suite and went down to his team’s dressing room. “I wanted to congratulate the team for having such a great season. They were warriors. They were champions to me. I was really proud of them, very proud of that team.”

The first few minutes in the dressing room were very quiet. “All the players were in the room. It was over.”

Then, through the long, grey tunnel, sound began to echo. “We could hear the Boston Bruins cheering with the Stanley Cup in their hands.”

Aquilini didn’t watch the Stanley Cup going out on the ice, where it was presented to the victors. “I couldn’t bring myself to,” he says. Instead, he walked up to the office.

“(Then-general manager) Mike Gillis was there and (assistant GM) Laurence Gilman. I was numb, in shock — after two-and-a-half months of playoff hockey there was so much emotion built up. It had been a rollercoaster and now it was over. We sat there in silence, staring at each other.

“With sports, once the game’s over, it’s over. There’s a turning point where you go OK, I’ve got to move on.”

Aquilini left the building shortly afterward. “At that point I didn’t know what was happening outside the arena,” he says. “A few people had texted me that some stuff was going on, but I didn’t see anything on my way home.”

Indeed, an independent government report on the Stanley Cup riots said that inside the arena events “appeared to unfold normally.” 

 “I had turned off my phone,” says Aquilini, who exited the arena quietly and went home to absorb the loss alone. “I didn’t want to talk to anybody.”

Early the next morning, he was up, watching the images of rioters on the news: Torched vehicles, looting, broken and boarded windows. “I was shocked. I was disappointed. I was angry.”

The rioters “gave the loyal Canucks fans a bad name,” says Aquilini in retrospect. 

“They came into town with the intention to do this whether we win or lose. It was an excuse for these guys to be very violent. Why did it happen? It was unnecessary, uncalled for. And for what purpose? It felt like a double loss.

 “We gave $200,000 to help clean up, and for the store owners we donated a bunch of money, and to help the city. About a week later (team captain) Henrik Sedin and I went to the Vancouver Police Department, went down to the building and talked to the officers, telling them what a great job they did handling it. They were quite down at the time. They got a lot of criticism for not handling it right, but in our eyes they really did a great job.”

If there was a silver lining, says Aquilini, it was in the lessons learned.

“If this ever happens again, we know how to deal with it. We will much better prepared and we will manage it better,” he says. “The other positive thing is how it was dealt with afterward. The rioters were all on tape. They were caught. They were sentenced. It was handled expeditiously. If something like this happens again, people will know they won’t get away with it. It sent a message.”

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Francesco has been a fan and season ticket holder of the Canucks since he was a kid.  The whole family.  They lived only a few blocks away from Pacific Coliseum as did I growing up.  He is very passionate about the Canucks.  A very sharp businessman as well.  You can say all you want about him in terms of his meddling with the team and getting involved in hiring, firing coaches, etc. But at the end of the day he is a fan just like all of us.  I think he is a great owner, we could have done alot worse.  To have a local guy buy the team was fantastic.  Alot better than that McCaw fraud.  Look what happened to the Grizzlies.  They got an American owner after the local guy sold and were gone the next year.  Same thing could have happened to the Canucks.  At the time of the sale we could have easily been bought by an American with no guarantee of staying in Vancouver.  You think Bettman would have cared if we lost our team?

 

The Canucks are here to stay as Francesco has invested millions into Rogers Arena and the surrounding area with commercial office space and now rental buildings going up.  We have an owner that wants to win.  Let's hope JB and TL can turn this ship around and get this team back to being competitive.

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I've said it before... the Canucks missed a big opportunity to connect with the fan base and re-invigorate the message of what it means to be a supporter but they instead remained virtually silent and refused to get out in front of it.

 

Had they approached the riots with both barrels loaded then I think we wouldn't have seen the same burnout factor in the building or empty seats.

 

Just my opinion.

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I know no one wants to remember what happened that moment but I chose to remember it by all the good that came out of it. A bunch of hooligans tried to give this city and the fans a bad name but they were caught and punished for their actions. Meanwhile the true fans came out the next day and showed their class by helping clean up the damage. 

 

I am no longer provoked by opposition fans and dumb reporters like the one from Pittsburgh a few days ago who try to paint Canucks fans by a single brush. They can go suck a turd.

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The riot thing, an idiot could have predicedt that outcome regardless of win or loss. A win, it would have been less, but it still would have happened the way it was uncontrolled on the street. But a loss, how could the powers that were in charge couldn't see an uncontrolled reaction.

 

If there is a next time there has to be a bigger presence, not belligerent, but decisive and infiltrating, get to the problem people quicker and get them out quicker. I know there is a lot of controversy regarding taser's, but a taser to the ass might not be as effective, but it will get the attention, maybe not a taser, maybe something like a cattle prod, low powered. The idea being to move the trouble makers, move around in groups of 6, plain clothed with backup within a block. Bring back the horses, people like horses, break the groups into smaller numbers, create more check/choke points.

 

Especially if a loss could be the outcome.

 

I doubt any ordeal would be as bad now with all the camera's around, but there will always be those drunk fans that just had their heart's broken and want to vent.

 

No excuses for what happened, embarrassing, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Should have learned from 94.

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Although it hurts looking back to 2011, It brings back such great memories and brings shivers down my spine. I live and went to school in the okanagan and there was so much energy walking through halls and wearing team colours it was awesome, it'll be a memory i'll cherish for a long time and it will make it all that much better when we finally get to see our boys hoist lord stanley!

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1 hour ago, theminister said:

I've said it before... the Canucks missed a big opportunity to connect with the fan base and re-invigorate the message of what it means to be a supporter but they instead remained virtually silent and refused to get out in front of it.

 

Had they approached the riots with both barrels loaded then I think we wouldn't have seen the same burnout factor in the building or empty seats.

 

Just my opinion.

Actually, I think we would have seen the same burnout factor. I've been a Canucks fan for many years and that Cup run of 2011 brought out something in the fan base I'd never seen before. And in myself.

 

It may sound silly now....years down the road.... but the excitement level was at a peak not seen since '94 and it felt like maybe it was hyped even higher than that '94 trip to the final. As much as I lived, breathed, talked, ate and was completely immersed in hockey, so too were hundreds of thousands of other people....and it was electric. Even hundreds of miles from Vancouver itself, you could feel it. So when it ended the way it did........the crash back to earth and reality was almost devastating in it's effect. It has taken me almost 6 years to feel any excitement about our team and for hockey in general, for that matter. I wanted someone to blame and I couldn't seem to shake this miasma that followed the sport around for those years. It seemed no matter how many times my brain ruled my heart, I couldn't get rid of it. Had I been a season ticket holder, and had I even lived within reasonable traveling distance of Rogers Arena...... my tickets would have been surrendered. I LOVE hockey.....but that loss.....5 years ago now,  affected me no matter how hard I tried to deny it. Just as it did thousands and thousands and thousands of others.

 

Thankfully, there is light at the end of this tunnel and I find myself feeling more positive about this team again. Perhaps it takes a crushing blow to rebuild one's appreciation. But it sure as hell is no fun while you're living it.....I think any true, blue, dyed in the wool, hard-core Canucks fan knows this feeling. It may be 'just a game' but it's OUR game......hopefully this mourning period is coming to an end and the season ticket holders come back......that people are ready to embrace this team once more....

 

GO CANUCKS!

 

EDIT: As far as the rioting goes, it is truly heartening to know that our team owner and our team captain were down at the police station to speak to police officers and offering their thanks and kudos as to their dealing with the mess. The financial contributions to help with the clean up showed the team's commitment to doing their part. The fact that players were not out en masse facing the public should not ever be seen as a lack of concern or ignoring the fan base. Just as we fans were deeply affected by the loss, the effect on the guys who were actually on the ice playing their hearts out for US must have been devastating as well. They were not responsible for the rioting and it should never have been expected that they be held accountable or expected to face the public for it.

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1 hour ago, Spotted Zebra said:

“If this ever happens again, we know how to deal with it. We will much better prepared and we will manage it better,” he says. “The other positive thing is how it was dealt with afterward. The rioters were all on tape. They were caught. They were sentenced. It was handled expeditiously. If something like this happens again, people will know they won’t get away with it. It sent a message.”

The atmosphere on the streets was great at the start, but very apparent that some people were gonna cause trouble. We were on Georgia and Homer, and it was clear some people were trying to stir up trouble.

 

A few police were stationed on top of the post office and 1 even had a standing telescope. One police group walked by through the crowd just before the game started, no response to the jackoffs and the relatively few drinkers who were hiding their drinks. I still feel to this day, that it wasn't about drunk people losing control out of anger, it was douchebags who already planned to riot, inciting angry fans to join the riot. And this could have been stopped. Some of these douchebags were clearly causing trouble and could have been arrested or at least warned and the police to stand nearby.
 

By the time the 3rd period was halfway done, my friends were already pulling me to start heading out. I wanted to watch the finish, but they knew better. I ended up watching bits of the final few minutes looking through the windows, watching the tv's in the bars and restaurants we passed by.

I still think the police thought this was going to be a repeat of the peaceful 2010 Olympics, where people may be sad from the loss, but would just enjoy themselves and keep things calm. It did not, and the criminal element who clearly did not come from Vancouver/Downtown had ridden down to cause trouble. They did not execute on keeping the peace down right as the game ended. Even if they stood around the major street intersections, I bet the riot response would have been just a lot of swearing and no action. Plenty of people were not angry and with the police directly on the ground, I think they would have stifled the riot.

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It wasn't Canucks fans that rioted.

There were professionals in that crowd set up for looting, etc.

 

There were also misfits like that med student from Calgary who went downtown with Molotov cocktails in his backpack!

Had nothing to do with the Canucks, wasn't a Canuck fan, just some over-entitled puke mad at his dad or teacher or some such slight.

 

Sure Canucks fans were not happy, especially with the refereeing, the league, and the media, but we don't take it out on our own city.

We put on our tin-foil hats, web-shields, and rant on CDC, at least that's what I did.

 

People who showed up the next day for the cleanup and people that helped affected businesses et cetera were the true Canuck fans.

People that showed their love for the city and the team and condemnation for the "rioters".

 

I did not riot.

Canuck fans did not riot.

Vancouverites did not riot.

I did not, and nobody else should either, take responsibility for the riot, or feel any personal or civic shame unless they did actually participate.

 

Organized criminals took advantage of a very hot situation.

The media played it up as Vancouver fans rioting because we lost.

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1 hour ago, Harvey Spector said:

Francesco has been a fan and season ticket holder of the Canucks since he was a kid.  The whole family.  They lived only a few blocks away from Pacific Coliseum as did I growing up.  He is very passionate about the Canucks.  A very sharp businessman as well.  You can say all you want about him in terms of his meddling with the team and getting involved in hiring, firing coaches, etc. But at the end of the day he is a fan just like all of us.  I think he is a great owner, we could have done alot worse.  To have a local guy buy the team was fantastic.  Alot better than that McCaw fraud.  Look what happened to the Grizzlies.  They got an American owner after the local guy sold and were gone the next year.  Same thing could have happened to the Canucks.  At the time of the sale we could have easily been bought by an American with no guarantee of staying in Vancouver.  You think Bettman would have cared if we lost our team?

 

The Canucks are here to stay as Francesco has invested millions into Rogers Arena and the surrounding area with commercial office space and now rental buildings going up.  We have an owner that wants to win.  Let's hope JB and TL can turn this ship around and get this team back to being competitive.

Yes I do. Bettman doesn't hate Vancouver. It's a HUGE market here. He does not like relocation. Does pretty much everything he can to avoid it 

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20 minutes ago, Goal:thecup said:

It wasn't Canucks fans that rioted.

There were professionals in that crowd set up for looting, etc.

 

There were also misfits like that med student from Calgary who went downtown with Molotov cocktails in his backpack!

Had nothing to do with the Canucks, wasn't a Canuck fan, just some over-entitled puke mad at his dad or teacher or some such slight.

 

Sure Canucks fans were not happy, especially with the refereeing, the league, and the media, but we don't take it out on our own city.

We put on our tin-foil hats, web-shields, and rant on CDC, at least that's what I did.

 

People who showed up the next day for the cleanup and people that helped effected businesses et cetera were the true Canuck fans.

People that showed their love for the city and the team and condemnation for the "rioters".

 

I did not riot.

Canuck fans did not riot.

Vancouverites did not riot.

I did not, and nobody else should either, take responsibility for the riot, or feel any personal or civic shame unless they did actually participate.

 

Organized criminals took advantage of a very hot situation.

The media played it up as Vancouver fans rioting because we lost.

Well I agree with parts of this , but it wasn't all organized criminals rioting. To believe that is naive. I didn't riot either , and feel no shame because I didn't , but there were lots that did riot because we lost. It's the same as what happens in any riot like that. Emotions and alcohol , and plain idiocy are just as much to blame as the few guys that planned to do it in advance. 

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something that bothered me more at the time was the anger of some fans and some on cdc that put down the canucks for not winning...some called them bums and said the whole season was a waste...a lot like people put down san jose for losing to pittsburgh..

aquillini said he went down to canuck's dressing room to thank them for their efforts...we should all have been thanking them for their efforts....

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9 minutes ago, cuporbust said:

Well I agree with parts of this , but it wasn't all organized criminals rioting. To believe that is naive. I didn't riot either , and feel no shame because I didn't , but there were lots that did riot because we lost. It's the same as what happens in any riot like that. Emotions and alcohol , and plain idiocy are just as much to blame as the few guys that planned to do it in advance. 

Sorry if you felt that I was saying all rioters were organized criminals.

I believe it was started by professionals, part of their program is inciting others to act inappropriately.

Some were Canucks fans, of course, but I do not accept the media generalization that it was caused by disgruntled Canucks fans.

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20 minutes ago, cuporbust said:

Yes I do. Bettman doesn't hate Vancouver. It's a HUGE market here. He does not like relocation. Does pretty much everything he can to avoid it 

True. But back then it was different.  Remember Burke's famous quote "twenty-five cents and a pay phone to move this team"?  It was a very real possibility back then. The dollar was at 65 cents or so and we were bleeding red. Just like the Grizzlies. If an American owner had stepped in you never know what would have happened. 

 

I agree we are a huge market and Bettman would have done what he could to keep the Canucks in Vancouver. But at the very least with the Aquilini family buying the club we assured ourselves of not having to deal with all the uncertainty that would have happened with foreign ownership. 

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