Watching last night’s riots unfold in downtown Vancouver, thankfully from the comfort of my armchair, was not like anything I think I’ve experienced before.
This was my city being torn apart, but outside my house it was another quiet, starlit night, albeit one with a distinct smell of burning in the air.
As disbelief turned to anger and a thirst for justice, you realised that the sporting landscape of the city had now changed forever and this will affect Whitecaps fans down the line in various little ways.
All thanks to a small group of assholes and many brainless hangers-on.
As much as this being referred to as the “Canucks Riot”, it’s pretty certain that a number of the key troublemakers were not hockey fans. More the usual suspects that turn up at these events looking to cause mayhem. The rebels without a cause.
This time though they got some willing accomplices.
Whereas a number of these hooligans acted as instigators, don’t be naive here. There were many hockey fans and general members of the public being caught up in the mob mentality and going crazy. There were also many trying to stop things happening but by that stage, you were taking your life in your hands if you tried to stop the baying mob.
You can say “these weren’t Canucks fans” all you want but some of them clearly were. Sure some of the troublemakers will have used Canucks gear as costumes to help them blend in but there were a lot of drunken bonafide Canucks branded fans caught up into causing trouble.
The mentality of the media and others to quickly say that this wasn’t hockey fans is incredibly small minded. If this had been Whitecaps related, the hand wringing and the hanging of football supporters out to dry would have been a constant flow. The phrase “football hooligans” would have been everywhere and the lack of branding some of these people “hockey hooligans” is very hypocritical.
Anyone can behave like a complete cretin under any sporting banner. Hockey fans are no different. Some need to accept that and not make excuses for regular drunken unacceptable behaviour. I’m sure most of us have seen fights at both Canucks and Lions games – all of which go widely unreported.
Accept there is a problem, mostly alcohol fuelled, and address it. That’s the only way things will change.
Some will point to the fact that there was no trouble at the Olympic Gold Medal game last year. Apart from the fact that Canada won, the crowd was of a much different make-up. More families and not just angry young men. Had Canada lost, I’m pretty sure that something would have kicked off.
We went down to Yaletown for that game but left the Live site after the American goal as the atmosphere certainly took a turn for the worse.
Another key point in all this is that it’s pretty certain that this would have happened no matter what the result of the game. If the Canucks had won, there would also have been a riot, too many people were clearly prepared for one. If you’re armed with masks, hammers and who knows what, you’re there for one reason.
You could even argue that it would have been worse as the numbers downtown would have been higher. On the other hand, you would have hoped that there would have been more people with sensible heads on in those numbers trying to stop things happening. Well, you’d like to think so anyway.
So how does this affect us as Whitecaps fans?
Well you can be certain a much closer eye will be kept on the Southsiders antics going forward. As with any large group, we’ll attract the odd fringe nutter, so we need to be on our guard and self police more than ever.
I wasn’t here in 1979. I never got to see the NASL Soccer Bowl parade. Over 100,000 people lined the streets, much like last night numberswise. Unlike last night, they behaved impeccably as the Whitecaps delivered a major North American Championship to the city. Not like last night.
Yesterday’s actions will no doubt lead to a clampdown of large public gatherings.
If the Whitecaps were to reach the MLS Championship, or let’s aim for the stars and say the Concacaf Champions League final, I’d like the game to be shown on screens downtown to the gathered masses.
Maybe I’m naively overestimating the interest there would be in this, but you can be sure that the appetite from the authorities to have a mass gathering of football supporters isn’t going to be overly high after last night.
The reputation of Vancouver sports fans across Canada and US has been tarnished. Oh how we’ll chuckle at the “please don’t riot” taunts we’ll get from opposing fans who will just tar everyone with the same stick.
Those CFL fans attending the Grey Cup will be closely monitored too and if the Lions, who had a great pre-season win over Calgary last night, were to be in that final, then there’s going to be a lot of twitchy people out there worried about what might happen.
Will Vancouver get high profile sporting events in the future after our image has been tarnished everywhere by these images?
Vancouver has long had the “no fun city” tag. I really thought that last year’s Olympics and the success of the Whitecaps atmospheres were helping to shake that. Two steps forward, five steps back.
Whitecaps fans shouldn’t take a holier than thou attitude over Canucks fans either. That could very easily have been a Caps game that this kicked off at, as it only takes a few instigators and a crowd of drunken buffoons and off it kicks.
Let’s show Vancouver and Canada how we can proudly support our sports teams here at Empire on Saturday.
Whitecaps fans. Let’s make this city proud again.