In disgrace

If you’ve as much as peeked at this blog, you’ll know I’m a Canucks fan. Along with most every other Vancouverite, I’ve basically lived and breathed the play-offs for the last two months. John and I watched every game with glee and I believe I’ve never screamed more than when the Canucks scored.

Last night was the deciding game for the most prized trophy in hockey, the Stanley Cup. I spent the day in nervous excitement. Practically every second person I saw in the city was wearing a Canucks jersey, t-shirt, hat or maybe all of the above. We had really high hopes.

I’m not sure I can really communicate what the Cup means to a hockey city like ours, in a hockey country like ours. We don’t share a religion, a background, a political belief, or even a language. But we share hockey. Oh yes, we can all get behind hockey.

Well, we lost. Badly. And the loss was crushing.

But it paled in comparison to seeing my city tear itself apart as a result: cars on fire, stores looted, fights, tear-gas, the riot squad.

It’s like déjà vu. We’ve been exactly here before, in 1994, when the Canucks lost the very same game. It wasn’t huge as far as riots go, but it affected this city for more than a decade. Public events were severely limited, as the police couldn’t trust that people could behave. But I was too young then to understand, the city wasn’t a part of me then. It is now.

Gradually, as successful public events started to build up behind us, we gained confidence. The Olympics were our test and not only did we pass, but we excelled; we were the very picture of good sportsmanship and spirit. And the city showed off its new maturity throughout this play-off run, through glorious wins and crushing disappointments, all with dignity and grace. Only ten days ago I was in that crowd, feeling like I was part of something amazing. I thought we could handle any disappointment together, in dignity. I was wrong.

I’m ashamed. I’m so very disappointed.

Last night I sat in disbelief in our living room, looking across the inlet at downtown Vancouver. It looked so peaceful, with an amazing sunset reflecting off the buildings. If it wasn’t for the plumes of black smoke wafting above the glass and concrete, I could have been peaceful too. Helicopters buzzed above. Later, I lay in bed for a long time listening to them, unable to sleep, wondering what atrocities were happening across the water.

I got off the train one stop early on my way to work today, right at the heart of the destruction. When I stepped out onto the street, I cried. The city I know and love was battered and beaten. Broken glass, looted store-fronts, an acrid smell of burning in the air.

This is not the truth of our city. It is not the truth for the vast, vast majority of fans. It is the truth for a handful of drunk, testosterone-charged idiots who look for any excuse to blow off some steam. You don’t define us, in fact you will unite us in our contempt for you.

I am finding spots of light amongst the darkness. The hooligans apparently can’t be expected to grow up, but the city – the city that matters – has grown up. The police were calm and restrained in breaking up the crowds. Stories keep emerging of people trying to do good in the madness, trying to right the wrongs they saw. The full impact won’t be known for a while, but despite the physical damage, I am hopeful we’ll emerge just scratched, instead of beaten to our very core as we were in 1994.

All images from photo galleries


Posted on June 16, 2011, in Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I was so sorry to hear this story when I woke up this morning. I will never in my life understand violent reaction to sports competitions (and I live in Ohio so we definitely get a lot of this with OSU). It’s shameful and terribly embarassing and is essentially stealing hardworking taxpayer’s money and puts police in danger for. no. reason. Even more astounding is when it happens after a win.

    And hey, are those people making out in that last picture?

    • Yeah, they are… creative engagement shoot perhaps?

      Ugh…. I’m so torn up about this. It feels like being let down by a really good friend you thought you knew. And I have to keep reminding myself that it really is a tiny minority of people who just need a crowd as an excuse to smash something. They think they are anonymous. Hah! Just wait till they hear about these things called smartphones… boy, will they be unpleasantly surprised!

  2. I know, I know. I feel stung. And I hate hearing the flip reactions on Twitter about ha ha, Canadians are supposed to be nonviolent, ha ha, sports people are stupid. Or the indignant reactions, like, “In Egypt people riot to overthrow oppressive police states! In Canada they riot because some sports team lost a thing!”

    STFU, jerks.

    ANYWAY. I’m upset for this destruction in the city I visited on honeymoon. I’m so, so sorry for all of this. And I’m so mad that people with already violent personalities were able to use the loss as a convenient excuse to act out.

  3. aww yeah I thought of you last night during/after the game, had no idea about the riots till the news this morning, but when I saw it I was a bit worried you might have got caught up in it (not that you were smashing windows but you know, trampled in the stampede or something – I’m a worrier haha).. glad you were well out of the way for the insanity. definitely shocking, I’m so sorry this happened to your city (both the loss and the riots), it’s such a shame after how far you’d come after 1994 (had no idea that happened either, till they mentioned it in the story on these riots). I’m sure it’ll just be a scratch! After the Olympics hopefully you’ve got enough built up good will energy you can all recover from this.

    I saw that make-out picture on this morning, hilarious! someone said they thought it might be performance art.. who knows. pretty amazing picture either way.

    • Honestly, the only reason we weren’t downtown was because we knew it would just be too busy and packed for us to actually enjoy the game. I had no thoughts about safety. I really didn’t think this would happen. I thought we were united in wins and losses alike. I feel naive and silly for thinking that now.

  4. Damn. That really, really sucks. I’ve never understood reactions like this – none of these people rioting even LOST a game, they aren’t playing hockey for the Canucks, what reason do they have to be so passionately angry about the loss? And why take your anger out on cars/storefronts/random people? I’m really sorry this is happening. Hopefully it blows over soon xoxo

    • In reality, the worst of them weren’t even hockey fans. They came downtown with black masks and batons. Who comes to watch hockey with black masks? They were there to break things, no matter what happened on the ice.

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