Understanding Vancouver’s ‘Hockey Riot’

Source: The Nation

How do we understand the riots that exploded in Vancouver after the beloved Canucks lost the Stanley Cup Finals? How do we understand the burning cars, broken glass and injuries that stand as an enduring coda of their game seven defeat at the hands of the visiting Boston Bruins? Having communicated with several dozen people in “the most livable city in the world” I think I have a modest perspective on why the Canucks 4-0 loss was followed by fire.

One thing was made abundantly clear to me, Please disregard the “analysis” of TSN’s Bob Mackenzie aka “The Hockey Insider” who blamed “Left wing loons” for the rubble. Mackenzie tweeted that he was sure responsibility lay with “anarchists and some organized extremists…many of the same people and groups who orchestrated riots in Toronto last summer at the G8”. This is unsupported and profoundly irresponsible garbage with no basis in fact. Vancouver activist Harsha Walia said to me “It’s ridiculous that even a hockey riot needs a scapegoat. A deliberately created media circus of sports fervor, millions of alcohol advertising dollars, and City-sanctioned street party zones all over downtown will unsurprisingly lead to a massive street brawl.

Let’s also dispense with the fiction that this was the fault of all “Canuck fans.” The fans on the whole were actually in fine form after the game. They gave Conn Smythe winner, Bruin goalie Tim Thomas, a standing ovation and also rose and cheered for every Bruin from Vancouver British Columbia. Of the millions of Canuck supporters, this was a miniscule mob. As Shiema Ali of Vancouver wrote to me, “I live in Vancouver and left the downtown core just before the game started. There were tons of people coming into the city who were already drunk and rowdy (in a bad way) – win or lose those people were ready to riot.”

What happened after the game was neither in the spirit of people at the arena not the spirit of those who bravely protested the G8. As activist and hockey fan Derrick O’Keefe said to me, “Sometimes a riot is the ‘language of the unheard’, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. But sometimes a riot is just an expression of young male stupidity and violence —this was the case last night in Vancouver.”

Another person said to me, “There were lots of [LGBTQ people] down there, some got roughed up, some dental care needed. There are also attempts to pin this on ‘black bloc’ and references to ‘protesters.’ There are lots of  frustrated young men for sure lashing out at authority but no analysis of what might be spurring this.”

I did receive this incisive bit of analysis from  Dru Oja Day, an editor at the Media Co-op. “If you ask people to pour all of their emotions and anger into a game, then a major event (Montrealers have rioted after first round game 7 wins!) is going to occasion some outbursts. Hockey commentators like Hockey Nights’ Don Cherry are constantly associating hockey with the troops overseas (he went to Afghanistan and fired a live shell, for chrissakes) and promote fighting and big open ice hits. We shouldn’t be surprised.”

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