Vancouver Riots: Stanley Cup Final Brings Gloom, Outrage And Carnage
THE HUFFINGTON POST CANADA -- Within minutes of a 4-0 loss to the visiting Boston Bruins, angry, drunken crowds poured into the streets -- and an unassuming car became one of the earliest victims of the Vancouver riots that would follow.
By the time someone got their video camera out, the car looked like it had already suffered the death of a thousand tiny dents.
Flipped onto its back and surrounded by a howling mob, it would suffer many more before the night was through.
A young man, wearing a giant foam puck on his head, stepped up to the plate, booted the door and disappeared. Another in a white hoodie, delivered three quick stomps to the hapless compact, before rejoining the fray. A young man draped in a Vancouver Canucks cape jumps on top of the wreck to salute the crowd, as if claiming victory over the fallen vehicle.
What did the car do to deserve this? More importantly, what did the city of Vancouver do to take such as drastic turn from Canada's vibrant new hockey heartland to a city of smouldering fires and tear gas?
A couple of hours after the game ended, Mayor Gregor Robertson called the riots "extremely disappointing."
The Huffington Post crowd was a bit more colourful.
"Absolutely disgusting," writes Canuck Lefty in a forum. "In other countries, people take to the streets in riots to protest oppressive regimes and fight for freedom. In Canada, where not even enough people could drag their butts as far as polling station to vote, the people take to the streets in violent rioting over a fricking hockey game. Bread and circuses."
Another user, Christopher Koulouris, wonders, "Can a game of hockey really set off so much animosity, or is there some other underlying feeling that isn’t getting played out in the Canadian psyche?"
Good point. And a question, that will resonate over the days ahead, as Canada wakes up to one painful Stanley Cup hangover.
On Wednesday night, for a stretch of about four fours, one of the country's most prosperous cities could have been mistaken for war-torn Kosovo in the late-1990s.
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Burning cars. Shattered windows. And businesses still tallying the damages.
The worst hit, CBC reports, were Hudson's Bay, London Drugs, Bank of Montreal, a car rental shop on West Georgia Street and the Sears and Chapters stores on Robson Street.
And the human toll?
At least 140 people injured, The Globe and Mail reports -- and one of them is in critical condition.
Not to forget the sad story of a man swarmed while trying to save a store from looting marauders.
And there's the spectacle we've made of ourselves on the international scene, as media outlets from the Houston Chronicle to the New Zealand Herald published images of a thug-addled city -- a cauldron of looting, rampaging mayhem.
The U.K. Daily Mail bundled the Vancouver story alongside the newspaper's coverage of mass protests in Greece over a proposed $40.5-billion budget shave in Greece.
Beneath that story, the Mail inserted this headline: "...meanwhile in Canada - somebody lost an ice hockey match to the Americans."
CNN didn't beat around the bush, dubbing Vancouver "loser city".
As for how newspapers in our own backyard covered the riots, have a look for yourself:
All this, of course, within days of Vancouver police promising safe streets no matter how Game 7 ended, while officials proclaimed the city had 'matured' since hockey riots last visited.
Wednesday night's rampage turned out significantly worse than the 1994 debacle.
Huffington Post user Excaliber made the call early, writing, "The Canucks have never won the cup. This is a huuuuuuge deal. I fully expect some form of rioting win or lose."
But, of course, there was plenty of precedent to make that prediction.
This isn't the first time a Canadian city has turned from hockey beacon to black eye overnight.
Last year, a similar scene played out on Montreal's Ste-Catherine St. -- after their team, the Canadiens actually triumphed over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Police arrested some 25 'fans' who had allegedly smashed windows and rumbled with officers.
In 2006, Edmonton no sooner celebrated their team's Western Conference championship, when hooligans poured into the streets, setting fires and looting along Whyte Ave.
And, of course, there are the Vancouver riots of 1994... but let's not go back there. Not today.
While it may appear that hockey fans are a short-tempered lot, the Huffington Post community, by and large, made the distinction between hockey hooligans and just plain hooligans.
"IMO, these people that were involved in these despicable actions were not hockey fans," writes GoLeafsGo. "These were trouble makers who would have behaved in this manner even if the Canucks had won the cup."
SidewaysDesign adds, "I remember the 1986 riot in Montreal, and the G20 ruckus in Toronto -- it's really just kids taking advantage of the critical mass of a crowd with a common sentiment. It's become a tradition, I guess."
There are, of course, bright spots in these from the embers. Twitter covered the events as they unfolded at the warp speed we've come to expect from social media.
First, came the anticipation.
"Have the riots started in Vancouver yet?" asked Brian Slagel (brianslagel) just after 10pm EST.
Then a misplaced trickle of optimism.
"I don't really think there will be much in the way of #Vancouver riots, but I am glad I live a half hour from downtown," mused John Sobey (johnsobey)
"I sense the city will react with sadness, not anger tonight and we won't see the riots of 1994. Vancouver's character has matured," added Megan Stewart (MHStewart)
Minutes later, came an ominous tweet from Snak The Ripper (SnakTheRipper): "Black smoke floating above Vancouver skyline.. Fire? Riots? I wouldn't doubt it!"
And it was on.
"Report: Riots have started in Vancouver already," tweeted Greg Hughes (ghughesca)
Cue the flurry of outrage, as the Twiiterverse exploded.
"Riots? Seriously Vancouver? Grow up," sounded Ben Chimes (BenChimes)
And on and on.
"Really Vancouver?!?! Come on! We are better than this....riots are so 1994!" -- TRICKSTER (trickster29)
"Riots in #Vancouver as I had predicted! Losers who call themselves fans should be pepper sprayed & locked away!" -- Bahaneh Grewal (Bahaneh_Grewal)
"This is embarrassing, Vancouver. Riots? Grow up. You should be better than this." -- Ryan Classic (RyanClassic)
"Watching Vancouver riots is nauseating," tweeted Andrea Wall (LadyProducer_SN). "Maybe throw a remote like the rest of us when you're mad instead of setting your own city ablaze.
And there was even an occasional bouts of riot fatigue." I can't stop watching the stream of the riots in Vancouver. This is insane. People are odd."Grant Paulsen (granthpaulsen)
Then social media stepped up large. With unprecedented speed, Vancouverites banded together, forming clean-up squads through Facebook. As for the culprits, Facebook is chipping in there as well, with members publishing photos of the looters, hoping to help identify them.
For another thing, most of us realize that true hockey fans don't riot --- and, as our Facebook poll overwhelmingly demonstrates, we're pretty much unanimous in condemning the whole mess.
At HF Boards, hockey's most populous forum, the commentary ran for thousands of posts -- most expressing the same anger and indignation at rioting 'thugs'.
"Hopefully the Vancouver police force calls the Toronto force for advice in apprehending these criminals," noted one user. "While the Toronto Police were heavily criticized for their actions in the G20, one thing that they did fairly well IMO was collecting and releasing photographs of the perpetrators to the public and bringing them to justice."
And what then? Punish the guilty. Brace ourselves for the next time Canadians get overexcited about their favourite sport?
Huffington Post user Colette SullivanLedoux may have a better idea:
"Shameful these young Canadians feel so patriotic, because I for one would love to strip them of citizenship, banishing them forever with a one way ticket.
"These half-baked dimwits certainly wouldn't cause a 'brain drain', and I'm sure they'd find some dusty old country still under archaic rule, who would put their "pack mentality" and combined I.Q. of a drunken gnat to good use.
"True Canadians they are not, and no amount of maturing or repentance will change this."
Got a better idea?