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Whose riot was it anyway?

By now, the second Vancouver hockey riot has passed into history as an everlasting symbol of the idiocy of drunken sports fans in our fair part of the world. Despite holding the Olympics last year and everyone coming together beautifully, everything fell apart this year. However, even though there was a riot in Vancouver the last time the Stanley Cup Finals rolled into town, was it a forgone conclusion that it would happen again?

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Date Posted: June 24, 2011
Print Edition: June 24, 2011

By Chris Bonshor (The Cascade) – Email

By now, the second Vancouver hockey riot has passed into history as an everlasting symbol of the idiocy of drunken sports fans in our fair part of the world. Despite holding the Olympics last year and everyone coming together beautifully, everything fell apart this year. However, even though there was a riot in Vancouver the last time the Stanley Cup Finals rolled into town, was it a forgone conclusion that it would happen again?

I think it was. After all, it happened last time. But let’s first consider the specific factors that indicate just how the Stanley Cup Finals are so different from the Olympics.

First of all, last year we won. Ever since hockey has become a part of the Olympics, Canada has consistently been a top contender and medal winner. In the 40 year history of the Canuck franchise, however, there is a long history of losing. That this was only the second time the team has even gotten to the Finals shows this trend nicely.

Secondly, the Olympics are fundamentally about bringing together people from all across the world, and from within each country, in the spirit of polite competition. I qualify competition in this way simply because those countries that are willing and able to spend more on their national teams do better; there is no level playing field at the Olympics. However, with the advent of salary caps, there is the appearance of equality in competition among the various teams in the NHL. In addition, these teams are extremely local in focus and appeal and are thus fiercely territorial. Both of these points lend to the far greater degree of competitive spirit that goes into an event like the Stanley Cup Finals.

By far the most important difference, however, is that the Winter Olympics saw the gathering of one of the largest peace time armies in Canadian history, as well as the presence of a large American force just across the border in Bellingham. There is a reason more than a billion dollars was spent on security for the Olympics, and there is a reason there were no riots; it would have been suicide.

So, with these ideas in mind, it is a little clearer why the organizers of this year’s event should not have expected it to have the spirit of camaraderie and jollity of last year’s. I mean, letting roughly 100,000 people crowd onto streets in downtown Vancouver to watch the game on the big screens was a disaster in waiting – as time has shown.

However, whose fault is the riot? Is it the fault of the fans? I don’t really think so. They were really excited because their team had an awesome year but then let them down yet again.

Was it the organizers? Maybe. Letting all of those people drink and watch the game was a really dumb idea. But whose fault is it, in the end? I contend that it is the fault of the NHL for not realizing the factors that I have enumerated and rigging the game accordingly.

For holding the game in Vancouver and allowing the Canucks to lose, the NHL should be held fully accountable for any and all damages to personal property, injuries to body and reputation, sexual assaults, deaths, and for the black eye given to the city of Vancouver for allowing its citizens to act ridiculous, again. If they had held the game in Boston or rigged the game in the Canucks’ favour, it is almost certain that the riot and the damage it caused would have been avoided. Shame on you, NHL! Take a lesson from professional wrestling and rig the games!

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