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Globe Editorial

Bruins fans are winners on ice, and in partying without violence

June 17, 2011

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THE BRUINS’ Stanley Cup victory over the Vancouver Canucks isn’t just a triumph for a team that too often lives in the shadow of other Boston sports franchises; it’s also proof that Boston fans can celebrate with style. Well into the wee hours of yesterday morning, revelers crowded into bars and paraded around street corners with no major disturbances. If Vancouver didn’t have enough to be depressed about, the senseless violence and looting that followed the Canucks’ loss surely made their defeat more painful — and vindicated Boston’s preparations.

“Killjoy’’ was one of the kinder accusations lodged at Mayor Menino after he decided that the TD Banknorth Garden would not host a viewing party. Nor did he allow big-screen viewing in public spaces or other areas that would appeal to big crowds. In hindsight, Menino’s decision seems sound.

Ensuring that there are limited opportunities for people to idly congregate is the first principle of crowd control. It is a lesson learned painfully by Boston police after Emerson College student Victoria Snelgrove was mortally wounded by a non-lethal bullet meant to disperse crowds after the Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

With smaller crowds, public safety agencies had more resources to concentrate on the minor instances of aggressive partying in the region. Boston police also ramped up their visible presence Wednesday night. Their tactics — to keep the crowds moving, and to let celebrations occur but not for too long or on too large a scale — were evident throughout the area.

To be sure, several factors combined to make this celebration more manageable than some in the past. College students have graduated and gone. The victory was in a faraway city. Victorious host cities often must confront vandalism and looting; Vancouver is the rare host city to lose a championship and then watch its fans get unhinged.

But there is much that Menino and his administration did to make sure that Boston’s explosion was joyous and not riotous. The immediate announcement of a Saturday morning parade helped steer the focus to a weekend morning, in the summer, when the streets will be relatively clear of all but the revelers. And deciding to make it a rolling rally, as compared to a City Hall event, will help to spread out the crowd and let eager fans actually see the Stanley Cup.

It might have been nice to join friends and family at the Garden Wednesday night to watch the big game. But surely bringing home the Cup, with the city’s reputation intact, is a lot nicer.

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