Stanley Cup Final 2011: I Predict A Riot
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you’ll have seen Vancouver and the biggest hockey game of the year hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Wednesday night was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, with the Vancouver Canucks hosting the Boston Bruins in an all-or-nothing battle for the Cup. Game 7’s are always going to be tense, but when the Stanley Cup is the prize the stakes are most definitely raised. Add the constant reminders of the riots that took over the city last time the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup final in 1994, and you can pretty much guarantee that Wednesday night was never going to end well.
I watched the game with a group of friends on the outdoor screens in the gated area of the CBC Plaza. It started at 5pm, and the seating area was full of fans soaking up the sunshine from lunchtime. At 5pm capacity had been reached, the gates were closed and queues of people were turned away. At 5:20pm the puck dropped, and thousands of fans followed tradition and sat down on their blankets and lawn chairs to watch the action. Except hundreds more people remained standing at the front, angering those who could no longer see the screens. There was shouting, there was throwing things, there was more people standing up to get a better view. And then the gates re-opened and yet more people spilled into the plaza, taking up every available space. Every available space included roofs of buildings, billboards, trees and the tops of porta-potties. The walkways running through the seating area were quickly blocked with people, and the CBC security guards soon gave up trying to shift them and started taking photos instead.
The game ended at around 8pm and fights started breaking out at CBC plaza straight away. Half an hour later I saw a car thrown through a window of the pizza place, and then set fire to, opposite the hostel that we stayed at when we first arrived. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires were started and arrests were made. My phone was constantly buzzing from people watching the news at home checking to make sure I wasn’t still in Downtown, and when a friend told me that the smoke I was looking at was in fact tear gas it was definitely time to leave. We walked across the Granville Bridge to the safety of Kitsilano, looking back at the thick black smoke rising from the city. Eerie.
The main topic of conversation in Vancouver this week is why the riots happened, who was involved and what was to blame. Although I have my personal opinions about police presence and overcrowding, that’s not what this post is about. The point is, what you’ve seen on the news this week is not Vancouver. It’s not hockey fans either. The pre-determined actions of a small, idiotic minority led to a large amount of people being sucked into an intense situation, but it’s just not who we are. The volunteers who came into the city at the crack of dawn to clear up the rubbish are the true Vancouverites, as are those who have written messages on the boards covering store windows. If you want to see the real Vancouver, go to http://www.thisisourvancouver.com for the truth.
The Stanley Cup is over for another year, and the biggest disappointment is that no-one is talking about the game. We live, and although some of us may not learn, we all move on.