My Thoughts on the Vancouver Riots

photo credit: Mark Donovan

photo credit: Mark Donovan

Last night the inevitable happened. My Vancouver Canucks (of whom I’ve been a fan for over 15 years) lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. I say inevitable because a storybook ending to a storybook season would have been too good to be true. When the Canucks finally win a Cup, it will be in a year that they finish seventh or eighth in the Western Conference.

Something else inevitable happened last night. Riots. I’ll get to why the rioting was inevitable in a second, but first I want to address the reporting. The headlines seem to universally use some variation of “Canuck fans riot in downtown Vancouver.” I must say that I object to the use of the term fan here. I have a hard time believing that most of those folks in the streets last night could have named more than four Vancouver players before the second round of the playoffs.

It was not the hockey fans who were rioting last night. The true hockey fans recognized that the Sedins, et al, were quite simply out-played last night and, really, throughout the series. The true hockey fans, in the Rogers Arena and elsewhere, gave Tim Thomas, the brilliant Boston Bruins goalie, a standing ovation as he accepted the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. The true hockey fans also quite appropriately drowned out NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman with boos as he tried to sound like a hockey person.

I said earlier that the riots were inevitable and they were. Anytime a large group of people are gathered in city streets with alcohol and you give them three hours of bad news, things will go poorly. It happened in Vancouver in 1994 and Montreal in 1993. More recently it happened in Edmonton in 2006 and again in Montreal in 2008 and 2010. What happened last night should have come as no surprise to anyone.

Is it just “part of hockey”? No, and it shouldn’t be. In my opinion, these things happen when hockey hysteria crosses from the actual fans to the crowd “looking for an excuse to be stupid.” The City of Vancouver takes some responsibility for not being better prepared – especially after 1994.

Beyond the actual hooligans, I lay most of the blame at whoever had the brilliant idea to setup the big screens downtown. We invented sports bars for a reason – they keep people nicely contained in relatively small groups and they keep suburbanites watching the game from the suburbs. Encouraging 100,000 people (most of whom probably hadn’t even watched an entire hockey game before May) to descend on the downtown to receive what had a 50/50 chance of being bad news is just stupid.

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