For three hours Wednesday night after the Vancouver Canucks lost 4-0 to the Boston Bruins, police used tear gas, stun and flash grenades, batons, dogs and horses to dispel mobs that overturned and burned at least 15 vehicles, smashed windows, looted stores, overturned portable toilets and torched them and hurled bottles at officers.
As many as 100,000 people filled the downtown core during the afternoon to watch the game on giant television screens. With the finals tied at three games apiece, the crowd was seen as upbeat and happy before the game began, but as the Canucks' defeat became apparent before the game ended, violence broke out.
Two days later, a damage estimate hadn't been finalized although it was clearly in the millions of dollars. However, CTV News said the damage to the city's reputation and marketability would likely raise the damages into the billions of dollars.
Public reaction across the country was critical in postings to news stories. The terms "national embarrassment," "national disgrace" and "disgusting" figured prominently in the criticisms.
It wasn't just the fans' behavior in the final game that angered some British Columbia residents, including Gordon P., who asked his last name not be published for fear of retaliation. He told UPI he was appalled at local reports of how U.S. fans in Vancouver for games June 1, 4 and 10 were treated.
"They were roughed up and shoved around at every game and one family was nearly dragged out of their car before managing to get away from a mob of Canucks fans," he said. "I'm just amazed at how the Americans have kept their cool and not made much of a stink about the absolutely shameful and disgusting way that they were all treated here."
A remark posted to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. riot story by reader "Fidgefodge" said it was a "sad day for Canada" and criticized public response.
"To all the 'innocent bystanders' standing around ..., watching and maybe taking a few photos, you too are culpable for making your city look classless," the posting said. "You could have all easily walked away, leaving the vandals behind and making the job for the police much easier."
Various editorials and reader comments in recent days have also noted how people around the world are demonstrating and rioting for freedom, democracy and human rights while the Vancouver violence was over a hockey game.
As for the night of rioting, police arrested more than 100 people, mostly on minor charges. The Vancouver Police Department would not reveal how many officers it deployed for the crowd of 100,000, but various local reports said it was as many as 500 officers. When the rioting broke out, 100 officers from neighboring suburbs and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called in as reinforcements.
Police said they were analyzing videos on social media sites such as YouTube in hopes of identifying those behind the violence and more arrests are expected in coming weeks.
Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters after the riots he and police suspect there was some degree of organization behind the mayhem.
"There were purposeful vandals who instigated this and very cleverly whipped many others into a frenzy by attacking cars and storefronts and moving throughout the downtown to create more hot spots," the mayor said.
That angered British Columbia native Terry McColgan, an IT specialist in Toronto who plans eventually to retire back to Victoria. He told UPI any organizers should face the stiffest charges.
"If there was collusion, they should be tried under the terrorism act," he said.
The last time the Vancouver Canucks were in the NHL finals and lost in June 1994, the city also erupted into rioting although on a smaller scale than last week's.
Montreal also underwent rioting in June 1993 when the Canadiens beat the Los Angeles Kings for the Stanley Cup.
In other sports, riots also broke out in Chicago in each of the six years the Bulls took the NBA championship between 1991 and 1998. Since 2000, two basketball-related riots took place in Los Angeles, while in 1990, Detroit Pistons fans went on a rampage to celebrate an NBA championship. Detroit was also the scene of a baseball-related riot that killed one person when the Tigers won the World series in October 1984.