Posted by: cedarsurf | February 20, 2010

Olympic Hockey Riot?

As Team Canada stumbles out of the starting gate I am beginning to wonder how long it will take Vancouver fans to lose their cool?

According to Vancouver City Hall, the Vancouver Police Department had contingency plans in effect in case Canada lost to the Swiss.. “Certainly it is a concern with liquor consumption,” a spokesperson told The Globe and Mail.

I am reminded of 1972 when Vancouver fans booed Team Canada off the ice after losing to the Russians in the Summit Series.

In the final game played in Canada, Vancouver fans loudly booed Team Canada off of the ice. That would be Team Canada’s lingering reminder of their lack of success as they headed to Russia.

But  team captain Phil Esposito would have none of that. He went on tv following the game and, with his heart and the Maple Leaf on his sleeve, he spoke his mind.

“To the people across Canada, we tried. We gave it our best. To the people who booed us, geez, all of us guys are really disheartened. We’re disillusioned and disappointed. We cannot believe the bad press we’ve got, the booing we’ve got in our own building.

“I’m completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Every one of us guys – 35 guys – we came out because we love our country. Not for any other reason. We came because we love Canada,” he ranted off the top of his head.

Team Canada rallied around perhaps the most famous speech in Canadian history (yes, perhaps even more important than any political speech ever offered) and went on to win the series. As he left the post game interview a heckler in the crowd continued to shout insults at him.

“I was so mad I felt like ramming my stick right down his throat,” said Espo. “That’s when I realized we were in a war, man. This isn’t a game. This is a war and we’d better get ourselves together.”

A few years later in 1984 I was privy to a rant from Canada Cup organizer Alan Eagleson (now a disgraced hockey agent accused of ripping off numerous players including Bobby Orr ). Both the Eagle and I were amazed to see Canada playing Sweden in Vancouver at a Canada Cup game and the stands half empty. The team included Paul Coffey,Gretzky,Mike Bossy,Guy Lafleur and many other greats.

I spotted Eagleson alone in the stands and had a talk with him . He was cursing the Vancouver fans and swore to me that they “would never get another Canada Cup Game.” Well in 1987 at the next Canada Cup no games would be played in Vancouver with Hamilton replacing it and selling out all of their games.

The same  year Canucks fans could look forward to watching Doug Lidster, Gary Lupul, Rick Lanz and Doug Halward. The team distnguished itself for not having one player in the positive for their plus/minus record. Doug Halward had a sterling -42. And yet the team would average 13,600 fans at the Pacific Coliseum. About 5,000 more fans than at the Canada-Sweden match.

Flash forward to 1994 and the Cancuks versus New York Rangers Stanley Cup final (see Booze Up & Riot entry February 13 in Sport Crap). As the run-up to the 1994 Stanley Cup final began, there was a palpable mood in the city. The mainstream media folk took it as Canucks Fever.

Others took it more ominously.The writers at Terminal City where I  worked at the time- could see that this was going to end badly. Passersby screaming “Canucks!” at all hours of the day, the lack of any other topic on radio, TV, and newspaper, and the gleam in everyone’s eye that said some payback was about to come. (if this sounds like the Olympics to you -yell Go Canada!)

The 1994 Stanley Cup Riot occurred in Downtown Vancouver,  on the evening of June 14, 1994 and continued into the following morning. The riot arose after Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals in which the Cancuks  lost to the New York Rangers.

After the NHL contest was concluded, 50,000 to 70,000 individuals reportedly converged upon Downtown Vancouver. What initially was a gathering developed into a riot at Robson and Thurlow Street. This happened after an accident involving a man who fell from a lamp standard into the crowd below. The Police, who were on bicycles, attempted to escort paramedics into the crowd. However, when the crowd attempted to take a bicycle from one constable, they retreated and warned the crowd to disperse. The riot squad congregated on Thurlow St. on the West side. Shortly after that the police fired tear gas into the crowd and people ran in all directions. As the police regained control of the streets, a police constable was left in front of major retail stores that had had their windows broken. Tear gas wafted through the open windows of residents of the West End that night, and St. Paul’s hospital placed guards at the emergency room entrance to prevent tear gas victims from entering, claiming there was nothing that could be done for them. Eventually, some bowls with water were placed outside by the security guards for those suffering from tear gas. The NY Times also reported on this event.  Total damage to the downtown core was estimated at $1.1 million.  Like other Robson and surrounding retailers, the then Eaton’s department store had more than 50 of its storefront windows smashed.Subduing the crowd required the efforts of both theVancouver Police Department  and RCMP officers. In all, 540 officers were directly involved with the riot. Many individuals were arrested and charged, and up to 200 individuals were injured.

As fans  on the streets of Vancouver – deep in the throes of what the mainstream media call a great outpouring of patriotism- anticipate a Gold Medal for Canada in the 2010 Olympics one wonders if there will be a tipping point should Canada fail in this goal (and it says here -no Gold Medal for Canada in men’s hockey -get over it)?  If hockey is Canada’s Game then it is also our gift to the world. C’mon kids learn to share.

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Responses

  1. I don’t want to start a riot but I always liked Palmateer better than Cheevers….I mean….I liked them both but Palmateer more…..

  2. Johnny Bower has the Power…

  3. Gump Gump Gump……

    I was advised today by none other that Thom Newnham that all eyes would be on the tube to watch the US/Canada game….hoping to catch some highlights tonight in the pub….


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