Remember that city I’m most recently from — the one that I told you was so beautiful, such a peaceful gem on Canada’s West Coast?
There you have it.
When I awoke on Thursday morning, it was still before midnight in Vancouver, and the post-Stanley-Cup-loss rioting was still in progress. I was soon glued to footage of Vancouverites burning, smashing, and looting my beloved city. And standing around those doing the smashing, burning, and looting were thousands more taking pictures and video, no doubt thinking of the facebook comments or the high number of youtube views that they might earn later.
This is utterly stupid behaviour, and it makes me depressed to see how many were engaging in it. During and in the aftermath of the riots, it was suggested that (1) those responsible were just a small group of determined troublemakers (this was the mayor’s take); or (2) those participating were not Canucks fans, but criminals who seized an opportunity to be violent. However, I find that neither of these things is borne out when you watch the footage and examine the photos…there are many expensive Canucks jerseys being sported by those trashing the city. And there were enough people involved in the mayhem that multiple cars were flipped over, the streets were littered with glass, multiple storefronts were compromised, and VPD officers as well as RCMP called in to assist had their hands completely full for the evening. I find that the rioting cannot be blamed on an elite group of criminals. Those responsible and involved were dumb Canadians — it’s that simple.
There’s something about hockey that arouses in some of my countrymen a need to riot. If you look into Stanley Cup-related riots, you’ll find that there are 3 on record: one in 1994, when Vancouver lost the Cup in Game 7, just as they did two days ago; the one that happened two days ago; and one that happened in Montreal in 1993, when the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. That’s right: all in Canada. And yes, we riot when we win and when we lose. At the moment, the Vancouver media is reporting on the fact that more than 100 individuals were arrested after Wednesday’s riots. But more than 100 people were also arrested on the evening after Canada’s gold medal hockey win during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — it’s a fact that most people either don’t know or have forgotten. It wasn’t a riot exactly on that evening, but there was a lot of similarly stupid, disorderly behaviour in the city streets.
This leads me to believe that for some people, sitting and drinking and watching as other people engage in exercise and violence is a dangerous thing. Especially when those people begin to cast their lot with that of a team who has, if we’re being honest, not much in common with them except geography. It seems that the tension and the stakes, mounting for weeks before the final game, may be what contributes to the resultant violence, since it can erupt in victory or in loss.
I’m not at all saying that hockey is evil or should be banned. Like movies, video-games, rap music or countless other things that have been blamed for acts of violence, the sport is something that is harmlessly enjoyed by most, and that provokes reprehensible behaviour in a few. I only wish that all able-bodied persons who watch sports would participate in them, or some kind of exercise, on a regular basis as well. Something tells me that could help to prevent a lot of these problems. Of course, the alcohol is also a major factor — as a city, Vancouver has a drinking problem (in addition to its hard-drug problem). Its Granville strip, on any given Friday or Saturday night, becomes a pedestrian-only zone, as well as a nightmarish freakshow, due to the large number of young people who converge there for the sole purpose of getting wasted. Walking through there sober (as I have done multiple times, on my way home) can be scarring on any night. On key hockey game nights, more testosterone and adrenaline is mixed into the alcohol-fuelled chaos and stupidity, and…well, it’s scary what can happen.
So I guess I haven’t told you the whole truth yet: Vancouver is beautiful, yes. But like many a beautiful person, the city has an ugly, troubled side — as well as an obsession with documenting it.