VANCOUVER — The plywood sheets filling in for shattered windows on the Hudson's Bay Co. department store Thursday were turned into a canvas for expressing a city's embarrassment.
On a spectacularly sunny day after a dreary, disturbing night, hundreds inscribed messages and drew pictures on the wood. It was group therapy for a city recovering from extensive rioting after the Canucks' 4-0 loss to the Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday night.
Some messages were hockey-centric: "So Proud of Our Boys." "Real Fans Don't Riot." "We'll Get 'Em Next Year." Others were pure apology: "On behalf of my team and my city, I'm sorry."
Almost 150 people were hospitalized, at least one critically, and close to 100 were arrested after rioters swept through downtown after the game. The mayhem caused millions of dollars in damage and looting in a roughly 10-block radius of the city's main shopping district, and left a black eye on a city that became an international star when it hosted the Winter Olympics last year.
The chaos was not the work of fans but of "criminals and anarchists" who were prepared for trouble, Police Chief Jim Chu said. Mayor Gregor Robertson called them "organized hoodlums." Officers identified some in the crowd as the same people who smashed windows and caused trouble the day after the Winter Olympics opened.
Chu said the police force had planned for the worst-case scenario — riots also happened after the Canucks lost the 1994 Stanley Cup to the Rangers in Game 7 — and when that scenario became a reality, officers in riot gear and on horseback responded, sometimes with tear gas. He credited officers for bringing the riot under control in three hours.
But faced with tens of thousands of people in the downtown core, Chu said, hundreds of officers were quickly overwhelmed and unable to wade into the fray.
"Those criminals and anarchists hide behind the large numbers of people who wanted to watch the game," Chu said. "These were people who came equipped with masks, goggles and gasoline, even fire extinguishers that they would use as weapons."
The riot appeared to begin in a city-organized celebration site overflowing with fans watching the game on giant outdoor TV screens. In the game's final minutes, some in the crowd tipped over a car and set it on fire.
The violence quickly spread. Over the next several hours, 15 cars, including two police cruisers, were set on fire. People had to be rescued from rooftops and bathrooms where they had hidden for safety, assistant Fire Chief Wade Pierlot said.
"There is so much the city of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia should be proud of," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "(But) this is sad."
Chu said nine officers were injured, none seriously.
Police were asking people who took photos of the rioters and posted them on the Web and social networking sites to send the photos to them to help them track down more rioters. Blogs and Facebook groups are encouraging users to submit photos that could be used as evidence.
Thursday, dozens of volunteers, some wearing Canucks jerseys, patrolled the riot area picking up debris and garbage.
Boston arrests: Seven people were arrested in Boston during celebrations. Police said most revelers behaved responsibly. … The Cup parade is Saturday.
Lightning: Back from a Mexican vacation, Steven Stamkos said there were no updates in his contract talks but he remains optimistic something will get done. He can be a restricted free agent July 1. "It's going to take care of itself. It's not something I'm losing sleep over," said Stamkos, at Tropicana Field to take batting practice with the Rays and teammates Mike Smith, Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson. … Rob Kitamura, 39, was hired as an amateur scout. He spent the past seven years as director of central scouting for the junior Ontario league.
Times staff writers Joe Smith and Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.