We thought you were better than this, Vancouver. We thought you'd learned your lessons after the riots following the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Your fans showed up to support their team this year -- both in the arena and on the streets of Vancouver -- throughout the playoffs, and did so in a civil manner. It was an amazing sight to see, but all that goodwill went out the window on Wednesday night.
As Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals neared, it felt as though a riot in Vancouver was inevitable, and the likely outcome whether the Canucks won or lost. It happened in 1994 and, predictably, it happened again in 2011 under similar circumstances. The Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and violence immediately erupted as the gathered crowd quickly spiraled out of control, burning cars, fighting with each other and battling with police sent to control the situation.
Vancouver took measures to prevent rioting this year, learning from the lessons of the past. Liquor stores closed at 4 p.m., downtown shutdown as crowds descended on the area to watch Game 7 and police prepared for the worst, though law enforcement agencies tried to strike a balance after the 1994 riots ignited as crowds turned on police they felt were using too much force. In the end, the police went on the light side, tried to stay back and only use force when it became absolutely necessary.
It didn't matter. Thanks to the actions of a few, Vancouver is waking up with the sting of a Stanley Cup Finals loss and the embarrassment of another riot. History repeated itself; it was ugly, deplorable and senseless. And it's even more sad that we all knew this was coming, despite hopes Vancouver would behave itself whether the Canucks won or lost.
It began on Georgia Street with a flipped car and a fire before spreading throughout sections of downtown. Looters hit stores, rioters damaged cars and buildings, and police struggled to control the crowds for hours. It was a deplorable situation, and thanks to live television and the Internet, viewers from around the world were able to watch it unfold in real-time. A spotlight shined bright on Vancouver, and the world watched its citizens make fools of themselves and their city throughout the night.
Rioting in itself is absolutely senseless, and doing so after a sporting event, meant to serve our entertainment needs, is all the more worse. Sports are an escape from reality, not life itself. A sporting event should never cause wide-spread violence, looting and property damage.
It's just a game, nothing more, nothing less. There's more to life than sports, but when the line between reality and games is blurred, incidents like what happened in Vancouver occur. We've seen passion for sports blend into reality far too many times and it never turns out well. Opposing fans are beaten, fans fight with athletes and innocent bystanders are left injured or worse. It just doesn't make sense.
Win or lose, life goes on. Sure it stings more after coming so close, but falling short. For bandwagon and die-hard fans alike, the sinking feeling following a championship loss festers and is painful. But life goes on. And that feeling should never translate to violence, public outbursts or riots. There's no need for it, ever.
The story should've been about the Stanley Cup Finals, Boston's win and Vancouver coming up short again. Look at the NBA Finals as an example; no riots, no looting, but coverage centered around the performance on the court instead. The game, not senseless damage done by the crowds acting out for no good reason, should always be the story.
We expected better of you, Vancouver, and you disappointed everyone watching the riots unfold in the aftermath of the Stanley Cup Finals
While the ugly events of Wednesday night left a black mark on Vancouver, the city has a chance to fight back now. As the situation calmed, citizens took to social media to organize a downtown cleanup. Parts of downtown looked like they were hit with a tornado as rioters broke windows, flipped cars and set fire to anything bolted down. But at least restoring order and returning the city to how it looked before Wednesday night's riots will serve as a symbolic band-aid.
The actions of a few embarrassed the city and it's time to do something about it. If you have photos from the riots, send them to police. If you recognize looters and rioters in the photos, turn them in. Hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Vancouver PD has a Twitter account and will be dispensing information about the investigation. There's a Facebook page setup to gather pictures and identify those responsible. There's even a Tumblr with pictures and pleas for help identifying the rioters. Police have asked for video, pictures and witness accounts to be emailed to email@example.com or for those with information to call 604-717-2541.
Doing nothing is tacit approval, and will do nothing to deter future riots whenever the Canucks make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. If you're in Vancouver, lend a hand, help with the cleanup and take back your city. It's sad it's come to this again, but turn it into a positive. Take back your city and show the rest of the world that the actions of those responsible were not representative of Vancouver and Canucks fans.
Stay with this StoryStream for the latest on the Vancouver riots as it becomes available. For more on the game itself, head over to our Stanley Cup Finals StoryStream. We'll be following the events on Twitter, as well, and can be found @sbnseattle.