Riot in Vancouver|After Hockey Finals


     Minutes after the Boston Bruins shut out the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, the streets outside of Rogers Arena in Vancouver became a scene of mayhem. Booze-fueled fans, some of whom had lined up outside downtown bars hours before the puck dropped, overturned cars, set fires and looted downtown stores, where “fanzones” had been set up for thousands to congregate in front of massive television screens.
     Rioters roamed the streets for hours after the game and the city, like the hopes of the Canucks’ first Stanley Cup victory, went up in smoke.
     It was not the first such riot.
     I was 10 years old in 1994 when I watched a riot unfold on TV after game 7 of that Stanley Cup final. During the playoffs, my friends and I stood on street corners waving towels and Canucks flags at the cars passing by, drivers honking their horns in support. Like any good Canadian kid would.
     Then we lost. It was devastating. But even more devastating was the chaos that ensued after the Canucks lost to the New York Rangers that night.
     Mark Messier’s ear-to-ear smile as he raised the Stanley Cup sent this city into a violent frenzy, just as the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara’s grin did Wednesday night.
     Vancouver is touted as a world-class city, full of million-dollar views and million-dollar condos, but money can’t buy this city love. The Olympics were supposed to showcase Vancouver to the world, as Expo 86 did decades earlier, but what the world saw – other than footage of protesters marching through the streets early on in the Olympic games – was a glossed-over version of Vancouver.
     I describe Vancouver to visitors as a beautiful woman with a terrible personality: fun to look at for a moment, but probably just as satisfying in a magazine spread.
     This is the third riot in recent memory. There was the riot after the 1994 Stanley Cup final, then another in 2002 after a Guns ‘n Roses concert fell through when Axl Rose failed to show up at the building where the Canucks lost last night.
     Hockey and rock and roll apparently are First World reasons to riot.
     Our recent riot came amid upheaval in the Middle East over dictatorships and a massive debt crisis in Greece, where citizens rioted to protest their government’s austerity measures to stave off economic collapse.
     It was predictable.
     During the Olympics, 18 months ago, violent and sexual crimes in Vancouver’s Granville entertainment district, where many Stanley Cup revelers congregated Wednesday night, increased at a disturbing rate.
     On Wednesday, people had lined up at downtown bars before noon to watch the game, which began after 5 p.m. The city closed inner-city liquor stores early in the day, but it was like bringing a match to a monsoon. Every local news report blamed the melee on a “small group” of revelers who were drunk before the first puck dropped.
     It did not take a psychic to predict what happened last night. It took a skeptic, or a cynic, to predict that if the Canucks lost, the skies above Vancouver would be clear with a good chance of showers of tear gas and rubber bullets.
     And it would take a naïve ignoramus to say that the sports and alcoholic mania that’s so prevalent here and elsewhere doesn’t deserve a large part of the blame.
     Vancouver has much to learn about sportsmanship, etiquette, and moral behavior, but it’s like school in summertime: no class.

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