Vancouver riots have Canadians blushing

Vancouver riots after the city's Canucks ice hockey team lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals have embarrassed a nation that doesn't see much sports-related violence.

By , Correspondent

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    A Vancouver Canucks fan waves a Canadian and British Columbia flag in front of an overturned burning pickup truck during riots in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Boston Bruins on June 15. The crowd of more than 100,000 Canadian hockey fans turned violent after the game.
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Canadians are perplexed, embarrassed, and angry today after the Vancouver CanucksStanley Cup loss to the Boston Bruins last night led to post-game riots in one of the country’s most beautiful cities.

Although Canadians are stalwart sports fans, violence related to sports is rare in this country and when it does happen, post-riot finger-pointing generally becomes even more popular than hockey.

Even as Vancouver tried to assess the damage, two post-riot Facebook pages were set up, one asking people to tag photos of the rioters to help police track them down and another organizing a city-wide clean-up effort. Media outlets condemned the rioters as “dolts” and “goons.”

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Matt Gurney, a member of the editorial board for the Postmedia chain of newspapers, says the entire nation was embarrassed by the riots and the international attention it has attracted. [Editor's note: The original version of this story misidentified the newspaper chain where Gurney works.]

“There’s nothing cultural about Vancouver that could explain this. It’s not a rough industrial city,” he says. “It takes a lot to provoke a Canadian so when the rest of us are looking at them and saying, 'You people are idiots,' they have to concede the point.”

The fact that the Vancouver Canucks had made it into the Stanley Cup finals was a point of national pride across Canada. The 41-year-old team has never won the Stanley Cup and this was only the third time it had made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Riots in Vancouver also followed the team’s previous Stanley Cup loss, in 1994. [Editor's note: The original version of this story misstated the number of times the Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup finals.]

Last night, at least 70,000 fans gathered in downtown Vancouver to watch the game on video screens. Trouble started as soon as the game ended.

Fans inside the area booed and threw bottles and cups of beer onto the ice as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presented the cup to Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara. Outside, fans overturned cars and set them on fire, smashed store windows and got into knife fights. More than 100 people were injured.

Some reports said police were slow to respond to the first signs of trouble and that riot police struggled to handle the crowd. Mr. Gurney says it appeared the police were unprepared, despite the fact there had been post-game riots in 1994.

“I was not surprised to see what happened. Every time there was a goal, people on Facebook would post, ‘Oh, oh, imminent riot,' " he says.

One columnist blamed the Canucks hockey team for its fans’ viciousness. Damien Cox wrote in The Toronto Star that the team’s coach believes the NHL is out to get the Canucks.

“There are many here who also fervently believe Toronto, and the rest of Canada, hates Vancouver and wants the Canucks to lose, which again fuels this bizarre sense of paranoia that permeates the hockey atmosphere in this town,” he wrote.

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