COLUMN: Team and fans seek redemption

With the Canucks once again entering the NHL playoffs as a Stanley Cup favourite, Vancouver has revealed new plans for the riot-in-waiting.

With the Canucks once again entering the NHL playoffs as a Stanley Cup favourite, the City of Vancouver has revealed new and improved plans for the riot-in-waiting.

I was there in 1994, when the first Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver shocked Canadians. I lived just off Robson Street and only became aware of the carnage after tear gas flowed through my third-storey apartment. Heading down to street level, I remember seeing my neighbours angry about choking on pepper spray and seeing cops in riot gear outside our homes.

The police themselves were noticeably confused and fearful, Clearly it wasn’t a good mix. Fortunately the mood quickly dissipated along with the last of the tear gas. Soon, the residents and officers were enjoying free coffee together, courtesy of the corner Blenz store.

It was a surreal time, for sure. The rumour accompanying the rounds of cappuccinos was that small groups of thugs were to blame. Apparently they co-ordinated their looting with cellphones – still something of a novelty in 1994 – and cases of empty wine bottles, which were smashed to manipulate the police response and, in turn, disorient the crowd.  I should be clear that official reviews I’ve read of the riot don’t mention these specific tactics. For all I know, these conspirators only existed as a way for people to make sense of what we had just experienced.

After the anger and fear, it’s reassuring to have someone to blame.

The same thing happened last year, but, in keeping with the times, the new bad guys resembled characters from reality TV.

A young, water polo protegé was one of the first to face the lynch mob, followed shortly by a former Miss Congeniality.

The city’s new plan tries to balance a crackdown on booze in the downtown with concerns about coming off as a place that doesn’t know how to have fun. A thoughtful report, co-authored by Winter Olympic boss John Furlong, was released a few months after last year’s riot. Reading between the lines, there’s a sense that a lot of people made mistakes – from excitable kids caught in the moment to a city hall that thought it had seen everything after hosting Gold Medal hockey. But the Olympics are not pro sports.

Riots after club teams win championships are relatively common in North America, whether it’s for the NBA Lakers in Los Angeles, MLB Tigers in Detroit or the NHL Canadiens in Montreal.

The difference with Vancouver is that riots happen after the team loses. To be a Vancouver fan requires you to suppress a certain level of denial. Unlike the sad-sack Leafs or even the re-born Senators, fans of the Canucks can’t point to a time long ago when the team earned the right to hoist The Cup. You can tease an Oilers fan all you like, but you can’t take away the smugness that comes with cheering for a former dynasty. When Boston fans goaded Vancouver fans, it struck a chord with a primal immaturity with which many young men struggle.

When the Canucks crapped out in Game 7 4-0, fans lost their right to the swagger that comes with backing a winner. The sense of humiliation was palpable and, unfortunately, it seems too many fans tried to save face by lashing out where they could. It was a sign of a general immaturity among Canucks’ fandom that manifested itself in the worst possible way. Seeing images of a burning cop car makes it tough to think of a riot as a growing pain but hopefully last year was cathartic enough that such extremes don’t have to happen again.

Of course, something even more important has been lost in the debate over whether young morons or inadequate policing is more to blame. The riot itself, with damages estimated around $4 million, was a relatively minor event. It happened suddenly and was cleaned up quickly. It became bigger than life because of the comprehensive television coverage and unforgettable photos – I’d bet that infamous shot of the kissing couple is worth almost $4 million to Vancouver’s international reputation.

Here’s hoping the Canucks have a long and ultimately successful run once the playoffs get underway on Wednesday. Like many fans, I’m cheering for both a Stanley Cup championship and a chance to show the world we can celebrate without the mayhem.

Jim Zeeben is an Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks fan and an editor with Black Press in Greater Victoria.

jzeeben@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

Victoria police will be working to arrest as many people with active warrants as possible during #VicPDWarrantWednesday May 12. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police aim to make sweeping arrests during #VicPDWarrantWednesday

Officers working to locate people with active arrest warrants

Patrick OLeary won $1 million in the March 24 draw of the Lotto 6/49. (BCLC image)
Sooke man cashes $1-million lottery ticket

The excavator operator had to look twice to confirm the win

According to Statistics Canada, Greater Victoria’s unemployment rose half a per cent to 6.2 per cent in April 2021 compared to the previous month. (Black Press Media File)
Unemployment in Greater Victoria continues to rise

April figures peg local unemployment at 6.2%

Rendering of a possible amphitheatre on the bluffs at the south end of the Royal Beach development. (Seacliff Properties image)
Colwood signs development agreement for Royal Beach at old quarry

Plan includes 18 hectares of park, 2,850 homes and lots of retail

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

RCMP. (Black Press File)
Major Crimes called in after two bodies discovered on remote road near Penticton

A manhunt involving a police helicopter took place on May 10

Vancouver court on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Defence lawyers call foul as Crown counsel granted access to COVID-19 vaccines

Defence attorneys are pushing the province to extend inoculation access to workers in courtrooms across B.C.

A Nanaimo RCMP officer is recovering after his patrol car was hit by another vehicle at an intersection on Monday, May 10. (Photo courtesy Julia Rose)
RCMP vehicle broad-sided in Nanaimo intersection crash

Police officer recovering at home following collision Monday

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. Indigenous leaders are calling for an investigation into the conduct of Mounties on Vancouver Island after two police shootings of members of a small First Nations community in three months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Indigenous leaders call for clarity, investigation into RCMP after B.C. shooting

The RCMP declined to comment on the requests by Indigenous leaders

Colleen Price, Vancouver Island University’s bachelor of science in nursing program chairperson, says she is impressed with how students have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Next generation of B.C. nurses already showing resilience

University program head says learning had to be adjusted amidst pandemic

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old B.C. bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Most Read