Last night witnessed rioting in downtown Vancouver — admittedly, a city far away from where I write — following that city’s hockey team’s loss to Boston in the final game of the Stanley Cup final. The last time that Vancouver lost the final game of the Stanley Cup series was in 1994, whereupon the city centre was also ravaged with rioting. In the interim, the city has successfully hosted a winter Olympic games in peace. So, a few questions:
The Mayor and Police force have blamed “hooligans and hoodlums” for the events. Why?
The predictable answer might well be that this is because hooligans and hoodlums — whatever, whoever and whoever they may be — are to blame. The advantage of this for the municipal administration is that it absolves them of almost all blame, and the hidden premise is that it was not hockey fans who engaged in rioting, but rather people masquerading (where would these people have been for 17 years then?). Thus, the city and its team cannot be to blame in any way. Today’s powerful and bold Globe and Mail editorial, however, smashes that myth to pieces. It is extremely obvious that there were more than a handful of people rioting, looting and committing arson, and many of those who were not were glad to goad them on. Would “hooligans and hoodlums” break into a verse of O Canada while rioting? Many if not most of those responsible seem to have been Vancouver Canucks fans — real ones, with an emotional connection to the team. If municipal authorities want to pretend this is not the case, they become part of the problem, not part of the solution.
If the event was a “disgrace”, then whose disgrace was it?
Describing an event as a “disgrace”, as, for example, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has done, gives it a certain human root. One cannot describe an earthquake or tsunami, for example, as a disgrace because they don’t have a human root. So, if it was a disgrace, then who was disgraceful? The rioters? The city of Vancouver? The people of Vancouver? The police? The Mayor? The sport of hockey? The great nation of Canada? All of the above? None of the above?
Conditions were created, or were allowed to create themselves, for this event to happen. The fact that Vancouver lost 4-0 on the night did not help. The deployment of a police force in the three figures to manage a group of people in the six figures may not have helped. So, who is the disgrace? It is too easy for people like Rae to assign blame in a monolithic, linear fashion solely upon those who committed the acts of violence. The reality is surely more nuanced than that.
Why are media outlets tripping over themselves to compare this with soccer?
Most Canadian newspapers have mentioned soccer at least once in their editorial coverage today, the underlying theme of which is that the beautiful game is a malign influence upon hockey and Canada. However, taking into consideration the amount of professional soccer played throughout the globe — which dwarfs the amount played of any other field sport — is attending a soccer game really than dangerous? Is this comparison not a bit cheap and beside the point?
Lastly, is this not a wonderful photograph?
This photo (story here) has gone viral today, and well it should.