Hootie Johnston tries to hold back the rioters on June 15, 2010. (Photo by Danny Lee)
Hootie Johnston tries to hold back the rioters on June 15, 2010. (Photo by Danny Lee)

By Cheryl Rhodes

 When sales rep Hootie Johnston walked from his Strathcona home to the downtown section of Vancouver on June 15, 2011, he had no idea the events of that night would earn him the Certificate of Merit, the Vancouver Police Department’s highest civilian award for bravery.

It was the last night of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, series tied 3-3. The City of Vancouver had closed off several streets surrounding Rogers Arena and set up two Jumbotron TV screens for fans to watch the hockey game. The large screen TVs had been set up for the previous playoff games and tens of thousands of fans came downtown to watch.

“I just went down to celebrate,” says Johnston, who was not anticipating any trouble with the crowds because there’d been no problems on the other nights. “There were more people down there during the Olympics and it was a fun party zone.” Vancouver has earned the nickname “no fun zone”, but during the 2010 Winter Olympics the city set up screens and the downtown area was turned into a big party with activities and singers keeping the tourists entertained. Johnston was hoping for the same fun atmosphere during the last game of the Stanley Cup finals. He hoped the evening would end with the Canucks winning and the fans holding a huge celebratory street party.

Johnston remembered the riot that took place in Vancouver on June 14, 1994 after the Canucks lost the last game in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He wrote it off to a certain group of people who felt they had to be idiots. It couldn’t happen again.

With each goal the Bruins scored, the mood in the crowd changed. When the Canucks were defeated and the Bruins claimed the Stanley Cup, the celebratory mood in the street turned sour. A group of rioters lit cars on fire and began throwing barricade fencing at the police. Johnston estimates about 20 to 30 rioters were in front of the CBC building with thousands more watching and taking pictures. He was outraged that the crowd stood around watching two dozen rioters attack the police with metal barricades and no one tried to stop them.

Johnston moved in alone and braced himself against the metal fencing, acting as a one-man barrier between the rioters and the police. However, outnumbered 20 to one, he was quickly overwhelmed and couldn’t hold back the fences any longer. The rioters broke through and he got into a scuffle when he tried to stop them from using the barricades as shields and weapons against the police. He was swarmed by the rioters and no one in the watching crowd stepped in to help. The police threw in a smoke grenade and pulled him out. Johnston was not hurt but he did get hit by the smoke grenade.

“I have a scar on my butt for life,” he says with a laugh.

Hootie Johnston
Hootie Johnston

Johnston did not require medical attention and returned home without giving his contact information to the police, who were too busy dispersing the crowd to take down names of Good Samaritans. Afterwards, the Vancouver Police Department set up a web page and posted photos of the rioters. Citizens were encouraged to take a look and report anyone they recognized who was involved in the riot. The police tracked Johnston down in the summer of 2012 after a video was posted on Facebook where he was confronting the rioters and someone recognized him. “That’s Hootie Johnston!”

With a name like that he was easy to track down. His website is www.hootie.ca. He has worked as a Realtor with Royal LePage Westside in Vancouver since 2005.

Chris Simmons, owner/manager of Royal LePage Westside, says it was a difficult evening and everyone in the office is proud of Johnston for what he did that night. “He’s a great guy who can always put a smile on your face,” says Simmons.

Everyone was smiling on Jan. 8 when Johnston was awarded the Vancouver Police Department’s Certificate of Merit for his bravery.

  • Kay

    Hootie:

    Hats off to you, God Bless!!

    Kay

  • ED KATCHUR

    I am impressed Hootie is awesome !!
    It is great to have someone who takes pride in their city and is willing to help the police in these situations. These fans have to learn it is just a game and the outcome will always have a winning team and a losing team.
    I am a realtor also and have a daughter who lives and works in Vancouver , I don’t want innocent bystanders being hurt and I am glad Hootie was there to help.

  • Michael Gouchie

    Once again Way to Go Hootie. What a great example and story.

  • Chris Christensen

    Well done Hootie. You should be very proud of your actions, don’t think most people would have had the courage to challenge that horde of morons.

  • Trish Reid

    Well done!

  • Peter Heng

    Hootie my hero, Imagine, you are the one and only guy among a huge crowd that would try to stop these people from destroying their own World Class Beautiful City !!! You are a great Canadian Hero !! Congratulations for being awarded the VPD Highest Civilian Award For Bravery !!

  • Brent Roberts

    Hootie, you’ve always been my hero.
    Glad to see you properly acknowledged.
    Who knew hiding behind that fence trying to keep
    Away from the crazies makes you look like you’re trying to prevent more
    Mayhem.haha
    Great job, say hi toyour wonderful wife
    Cheers
    Brent

  • Dave Schroder

    Very well done Hootie! It is disturbing that even though so many people saw you act, no one had the courage to assist you or stand beside you. Especially given that the crowd of onlookers vastly outnumbered the hooligans. This quote by Sir Edmond Burke really sums up what is wrong with society at times….”All that is required for the triumph of evil is that good people remain silent and do nothing”. For the night in question perhaps “stupidity” may be more suitable than “evil”, but the quote is still relevant.

    I am very happy to hear that a fellow REALTOR® had the courage to do the right thing that night. I am also glad that the only injury you sustained was the one you mentioned.

    It would be a pleasure to do business with you one day.

    Dave Schroder
    Associate, Realty Executives Polaris
    Edmonton, Alberta

  • Rebecca Benedict

    What a guy!

    True bravory is willingness to instinctly put yourself on the line, even in a dangerous situation. Your award is well deserved, Hootie!

    (Brian Martindale: shame on you for using Hootie’s spotlight to deflect it to a reality you don’t like. Not all idiots hang out in violent crowds).

    My son is a Lower Mainland RCMP member. It’s heartening to know there are people like Hootie Johnston willing to stand up to bullies and help the police.

    Hats off to you Hootie! You’re my new hero!

    From your new fan (and realtor) in Red Deer, Alberta

    • Martin Brainfail

      Hootie, you exemplify real courage.

      Anyone can say they would do the same in that circumstance but you have actually done it. In a world of hot air (read: Brian Martinfail), you truly walked the walk.

      We need to ignore comments from cowards (read: Brian Failmartin) and highlight more guys like Hootie.

      • Brian Martindale

        Rebecca:

        I take your crticism of my remarks seriously, because you put your name to them. I can’t say the same for the person known as ‘Martin whatsisname’, so I shall ignore his/her criticism.

        To your point Rebecca:

        I did not use Hootie’s impressive actions to “deflect” anything away from ‘his’ character at all. Please read my comment again, this time without bias. I simply lamented that it was a shame (to my mind) that the ‘CREAcrats’ did not share the same courage displayed by Hootie, to do the right thing, to stand up to the Competition Bureau in defense of their paying members’ interests. However, I am pleased that I have inadvertently provided an opening for some to further vent their displeasure with my ongoing remarks herein, no matter the cause for same.

        Having clarified my position, I can nevertheless understand why some would want to twist what actully resides within my reality (admiration for Hootie’s actions, thus admiration for his character) into something different to suit ‘their’ own purposes.

        Dufus ‘Martin Whatsisname’ simply followed your lead and jumped onto the let’s-trash-Martindale bandwagon.

        Ignore away my Brainfail friend: ignore away.

        Question Rebecca:

        Why did Trish, Peter, Brent, Ravi, Jerry, Ed and PED not react online to my words the way you and your minion did?

        Answer: Because they took the high road.

        Regards,

        Brian

  • Ravi Bhindi Sutton West Coast Realty

    Great job Hootie.

  • Jerry Aulenbach

    You rock, Hootie!

    -Jerry

  • Ed Pereira

    Great job Hootie. I admire your courage to stand up for your convictions.

  • Brian Martindale

    I think Hootie is a great example of an individual who does the right thing, for the public interest, no matter the pending consequences to himself.

    Now, if only REM could erase the drunken clowns from behind the fence in the picture, and replace them with some different clowns, like FSBO outfit guys beating on the fence with their cheap, misrepresenting, SOLD-stickered, bending-in-the-wind “For Sale By Owner” signs.

    Hootie would then be seen doing exactly what CREA should have done.

    A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

    The mental picture that I have just left you with has saved you the bother of having to read 877 of my usually employed additional words to prove the above adage.

    • Blair Smith @agentblair

      Brian, please step away from the spotlight, it is NOT yours today.

      • Brian Martindale

        Blair:

        Agreed.

  • PED

    Great story!