Standing at the intersection of Granville and Robson at midnight a full four hours after the Canucks’ game two win, it was easy to get swallowed up by the collective good vibrations from the epicentre of it all.  So moved by this experience, we were motivated to prepare a blog entry to celebrate this uniquely Vancouver happening.

But we couldn’t finish it.  Just as our faith in our hockey team became tested after each defensive miscue and goaltending meltdown, we had the lingering feeling of a nasty undercurrent flowing just beneath the surface of the celebrating in those city streets.

Some of those random high five’s from complete strangers sometimes felt like they were more intentioned to sprain wrists (or worse) than share in some collective spirit.  The baiting and taunting of Bruins’ fans who had been foolish enough to sport their colours seemed to extend beyond good natured ribbing but much more towards provocation.  The streets, indeed, were simmering.

Vancouver has always been crazy for its hockey team.  We suppose this manic obsession really took full flight for the first time back in 1982 (in our early teens then, we can remember it well) when the lovable losers, who returned to Vancouver down two games to nothing to the New York Islanders, were met at the airport by a mob of spontaneous support.

Of course, this obsession mutated badly into the rioting that became headline news across North America when the Canucks lost in seven to the New York Rangers twelve years later. Though the capacity crowd awaiting the fallen heroes at BC Place days later should have been the real measuring stick of the fanbase’s devotion.

Vancouver prides itself on being nothing like the rest of the country from its seasonable weather to its typically progressive social policies.  Indeed, Vancouverites are often in love with themselves and their city, celebrating every survey that celebrates it as the most livable place on the planet.

But in the wake of the 1994 riots, Vancouver quickly became a no-fun-zone.  If the people can’t have fun without going bonkers, they shall have no fun.  And so it was for quite some time.  Though by the 2010 Olympics, something very intriguing was happening.  Mass civilized celebrating was everywhere with policing not simply allowing it to happen, but often becoming part of the happening itself.

Only in Vancouver - another social experiment – this time with only the best outcome.

Vancouver’s obsession with its hockey team has its irony.  Unlike the rest of the country (due to a combination of climate and culture), your typical Vancouverite will never actually play ice hockey – having to settle for pick-up road hockey instead.

And to the rest of the country, Vancouver has never had a real hockey team.  From the lovable losers of the franchise’s first 20 years to the mostly talented but typically underachieving (and most notably Eurocentric) teams of the last 20 years, the Canucks, as a franchise, have never been Hockey Night in Canada poster boys.

And so it continued this time around with a team led now by a finger biting francophone, a grumpy American and two stoic Swedes.  They would play the entire season without an enforcer.  This team was not going to win games in the gutter.  They were going to turn the other cheek and make you pay with a lethal power play.

To gain this competitive advantage, they would sometimes engage in tactics that had the rest of the country calling them whiners and malingerers.  Though for their fans, it was hard to see how this was any less sporting than the face washing, face punching and back breaking offered up by their opponents that was either celebrated or ignored.

And just as the Canucks’ on-ice experiment fell just short, so did the experiment in the cluttered city streets.

And while it will be easy to blame this on the professional instigators and the passive policing, it is clear that they provided only the ignition and not the fuel.  A simple reviewing of the endless reams of video coverage reveals that there were a handful of malicious malcontents leading the charge though among the hundreds and sometimes thousands of onlookers, few indeed were doing anything to combat the madness with most more likely cheering the marauders on.  What could have been an isolated incident or two instead became another black eye for the city and its people.  And the blame for that stretches far and wide.

We can only hope that the leaders (and their unwitting followers) will get what they deserve.  But it is just as likely that the rest of us will suffer.  Spontaneous public gatherings can expect to now be met by riot gear.  Alcohol sales at public venues could be restricted further.  Publicly sanctioned street parties could become a thing of the past.  None of these things sound like the hallmarks of a supposedly civil and progressive city.

And while most will again point to the bad apple ruining the bunch or an underfunded or disorganized police force, that is the easy way out.  A certain responsibility rests with our citizens.  Each and every one.

If you knowingly took to the burning streets after the game (instead of heading to the safety of your own home) making the streets harder to police, you are to blame.  If you then proceeded to stand idly by while property was destroyed or people were beaten, consider yourself guilty.  If you chanted for more burning or looting, you are part of that mob.  If you allowed your teenager to loiter in the streets post game only to return home with a new shirt from the Nike store, you ought to take a look in the mirror.  If you’ve spent time in the last two days searching the Internet for more riot footage to upload to your Facebook news feed, you should feel ashamed of yourself.

Really, if there was no appetite for destruction, would there be any?

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1 Comment

  1. Cricket
    June 28, 2011

    Of course there’s an Appetite For Destruction, it’s all Guns ‘n Roses’ fault.

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