After having changed the channel from the Stanley Cup final to an old episode of Seinfeld once the score became a dismal 3-0 for Boston, I gave little thought to Vancouver and its fans. The reasons for this are twofold. First, the Seinfeld episode was the infamous dinner party episode, which sent me to bed content, ruminating over race relations and the power of the black and white cookie. Second, Vancouver isn't Montreal.
Sure, Vancouver rioted back in 1994, but for the entire duration of the series, the citizens of Vancouver had remained classy and controlled. Vancouver's mayor even stated that the city had "matured" since then, and it truly seemed like it had.
After all, West Georgia Street saw tens of thousands of fans gathered during the game with no prior incidents as of last night. Also, let's not forget how well behaved the city was during the Olympics, as Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail put it,"The Olympics lulled us all into a false sense of security about mass gatherings."
I'm not blaming the police, per se. Once the rioting had started there wasn't much that could be done other than try their best to contain the situation, and tell people to go home. Nevertheless, I assumed that Vancouver would have taken the appropriate measures for the possibility of some sort of riot. Except, they didn't.
Which begs the question: why didn't Vancouver have the riot police deployed in anticipation? After all, isn't it better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it? But hey, that's just me, speaking as a Montrealer, where rioting is almost as ubiquitous in this city as seedy strip clubs, poutine, and potholes. Hockey playoffs don't have to be synonymous with riots in Canada. After all, there were no riots in Calgary, Ottawa or Edmonton.
Nevertheless, the police and the city of Vancouver should have been prepared for the worst. Sure, you and I might have been duped into thinking that Vancouver was above the whole rioting thing, but we're not public officials responsible for the safety of citizens and protection of property.
The clear culpability lies with the thousands of people who took active part in the rioting and the "innocent" bystanders who on looked like a bunch of slack-jawed yokels trying to get into pictures of burning, overturned cars.
I cannot help but note the rather paradoxical notion that an overwhelming number of people would partake in illegal activity during the age of social media, camera phones, and 3G uploading speeds. The only logical conclusion as to why these depraved individuals acted the way they did is because they had no fear of repercussions.
Which is precisely why the justice system must come into play. The city managed to arrest nearly 100 people. At the risk of sounding law and order-esque, I think the only way for Vancouver to redeem itself as being one of the best cities in the world, is to prosecute the rioters to the full extent of the law. They should set a precedent in order to deter future rioters from doing the same.
I woke up yesterday morning with an initial heartbreaking sense of how much in common hockey fans can have in this country, regardless of their allegiance or where they are from; whether you're a Canadian who happens to be Canucks fan or a Canadien who happens to be a Canadiens fan.
Yet as the day progressed, stories of heroic ordinary citizens started to make headlines. People valiantly standing in the way of thugs trying to protect their neighbourhood. Tens of thousands of people volunteering to clean up the city. Only when the riot dust settles can true Canadians be really seen.