I don’t have to explain Game 7 for you; most of you know Boston won 4-0 and took the Stanley Cup with it. I don’t even have to explain the aftermath that happened immediately after. It’s worldwide news now. However I would like to tell what I experienced, why I’m not surprised and what has happened since.
I saw the event over around Robson and Beatty. It was in a building with 70 others. It was a fun time, even though we weren’t happy with the final score. We sat through watching the Stanley Cup being given out, despite our obvious disappointment. Afterwards many of us stuck around to help set the place up for tomorrow’s work day. As we were looking out the window, all we saw were people walking down the street. Within a matter of minutes, I heard someone say that two cars were being burned. Another short while later, I heard another say that a police car was set ablaze on Granville. Once we had the room completed, I talked with four others I would be leaving the building with that I felt it was best to go to the Yaletown SkyTrain. Just as we were leaving, we went outside and saw rising smoke from above a skyscraper. The skyscraper was blocking the view of where the smoke was coming from. Then we heard two explosions that sounded like gunshots only to see more smoke. It was after ten minutes of looking out to the rising smoke that we decided to walk the long route to Yaletown SkyTrain. While walking, we saw one cafe had a TV screen on and live coverage of a car burning outside the Post Office building; that area where we saw smoke rise. We were all shocked. Soon we boarded the Canada Line Skytrain, got off at the Langara station and took a bus to a Metrotown Restaurant to toast the Canucks.
At home hours later, I didn’t know if I would be going to work the next morning. The next morning I was able to go to work but not without seeing some of the damage, destruction or repairs happening. It was all over the news. Reactions not just in Vancouver’s news but all across Canada and around the world poured in. The riot led to 150 injuries, 15 burned cars and millions in damages and stolen goods. Even a story of a Boston Bruins fan stabbed in the neck. Vancouver was officially defamed.
The craziest thing about these riots is that they were not completely unexpected. Some may remember that seventeen years ago, in 1994 when the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers in Game 7, there was rioting happening then too. Businesses were damaged, there were at least 100 injuries. Police had to rush in to stop the action. Remembering that, I was originally planning to title my article Vancouver Riots: The Next Generation. Recently I heard a story from my uncle that there was a riot in Vancouver back in the 60’s when they won the Grey Cup. Whatever the situation, it was the riot of 1994 that would make Vancouver the unofficial ‘riot capital of North America’. There would be further riots: 1997 at the time of the G8 summit, a multitude of pre-Olympic protests and clashes, and Olympic raids during 2010. Vancouver has also been known as a central meeting spot for anarchists from all over BC and even the Northwestern United States. Even many people knew that there would be a riot after Game 7, win or lose. Some made mention that there were people in the crowd of Georgia street dressed as fans but carrying pepper spray and goggles for the sake of wreaking havoc at the end. Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Chief Of Police even made mention in a news story that they learned from 1994 and would be prepared for a possible riot this time around. They couldn’t have been wronger.
Despite all the nasty things that happened, there was a ray of hope. As workers started cleaning up the glass from smashed-in windows, volunteers came in and helped with the clean-up. I saw many along the streets and even around the Post Office building cleaning where cars burned the night before. Groups on Facebook started support groups like: ‘Vancouver Spirit Rally,’ ‘Real Canucks Fans Don’t Riot!’ and ‘Canucks Fans Against the 2011 Riots.’ One Facebook page even encouraged volunteers to clean up from the night before. That may have to do with why there were volunteers cleaning the next day. There were even pages devoted to posting photos of people causing criminal activity like ‘Vancouver Riot Pics: Let’s Get These People Locked Up,’ and ‘Report Canucks Riot Morons.’ Pages like those has led to many arrests since. On the plywood held in place of the various business’ broken windows, people wrote messages of apology or messages condemning the rioting or support to Canucks and the city of Vancouver. It’s a given that when cowardice like the riot arises, humanity responds.
It has been eleven days since the riots. A lot of rebuilding and replacing have happened since. A lot of support has happened since too. The reputation of Vancouver since the riots still has yet to be determined. Will new laws be passed to prevent further riots from happening? If Vancouver qualifies for another Stanley Cup finals, will there be another telecast on a big screen on Georgia Street? Win or lose, will things be better this next time? Or will we have another riot? And will the authorities be prepared this time around? Only time will tell.