Blogs & Comment

The dark side of Stanley Cup fever: violence and destruction

Hopefully Vancouver learned its lesson from '94, but it doesn't hurt to be careful.

The big worry on many, if not most, Vancouverite minds right now is losing—seeing Stanley in the hands of another, black-and-yellow-clad hockey team. But if history has anything to say about tonight, Vancouverites should also be worried about violence, destruction and getting tear-gassed. Store owners, especially those in the downtown, should be worried about smashed windows and looters. And cops should just be worried, and probably are.

The 1994 Game 7 loss cast a dark shadow over Terminal City that younger fans may not remember. Perhaps as famous as the loss itself was how the western gem dealt with it—not well at all. Cars were overturned, windows were smashed, stores were looted and roughly 200 people got injured. The worst injury was suffered by Ryan Berntt, a teenager who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet by police, leaving him in a month-long coma and with permanent brain damage. And there were financial consequences for all this destruction, too. The riot cost the city $1.1 million.

Naturally, preventative measures have been put in place for tonight. At the request of the provincial government, liquor stores will close at 4 p.m. (as they did for Monday’s game). In a statement released Tuesday, the Ministry of Safety said it was “determined there is again a real and serious threat to public safety that warrants the closure.” The statement also said police will be ready and waiting in the downtown core.

Others, meanwhile, are banking on a positive response. If the Canucks win, the downtown Bay store will stay open until 11 p.m., selling Canucks gear. Like this writer, HBC is hoping for a night of selling shirts, not of broken store windows. But win or lose, a riot could still erupt—and, in a worst-case scenario, attract black bloc hooligans. If you’re in Vancouver, I envy you, but be cautious and stay safe.

That all said, GO CANUCKS GO!