Epilogue : Vancouver Canuck Fans Riot – 2011 Stanley Cup Finals vs Boston Bruins

“Rioting knows no bounds in sports, either in terms of restraint or nationality. Rioters in Vancouver burn police cars after their Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)”

Handful of Vancouver Canuck Fans

It’s just past the 5 year anniversary of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals riot in Vancouver so it seemed like a good time to revisit the events and aftermath. We all know the story: on Wednesday June 15th, 2011, the Vancouver Canucks were facing the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena in Vancouver – game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, arguably the hardest plateau to reach in all professional sports.

Vancouver lost the game and the capacity arena flowed out onto the streets of Vancouver, joining the already thousands present in hope of a Stanley Cup celebration.  Georgia Street was partially blocked off and two massive TVs were setup for fans to watch the action from outside.  Called the “fan zone”, we believe, with approximately 70K attendees.  While this might seem like an unwise idea in retrospect, it’s important to note that the fan zone was setup for the previous 6 games without incident, also with about 70K raving Vancouver Canuck fans.

The Back Story

Let’s stop there, and go back in time – June 14th, 1994.  The Vancouver Canucks are playing the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York – also a game seven, and also a loss for the Canucks.  Back in Vancouver, about 50-70K angry fans hit the streets of Vancouver and all hell broke loose – riots squads were deployed, tear gas was fired, several stores along Robson had their windows broken by rioters…  It was ugly and back then, had no precedent.

2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Riot in Vancouver

By Elopde – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15538714

The 2011 Riot

Back to where we left off in June 2011 with the Canucks vs. the Bruins.  The game ended, Vancouver lost, the stadium voided itself of the disappointed fans and were quickly joined by the thousands outside in the “fan zone”. Bottles and other debris started to be thrown at the large big screen TVs. Portapotties were overturned, fights broke out, and a car was flipped over and lit on fire… At this point, everything ballooned out of control: 17 cars were burned (including seemingly abandoned police cars), stores had their windows smashed and subsequently looted, and fans were storming up Granville, Robson and Georgia Streets.  Future Shop, Sears, and Chapters were some of the larger retail stores that were looted with plenty of camera footage of the *ahem* participants.

But then, this happened:

2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riots - kissing couple

Yeah, sure.  We’ve all seen the image.  We’re a pessimistic bunch here at Bad Sports Fans, and therefore it seems a little too perfect, a little too posed.  This isn’t behavior that one would expect when retreating from a police barricade and rioting fans. But that’s just our opinion, and believe-you-me, we’ve been wrong before 😉   Let’s take it for what it is: a photo that gives one hell of a better impression than any of the others.

For the record, there has been some anecdotal  evidence of “fans” present that seemed to have planned ahead: backpacks filled with masks, bricks, crowbars, and various incendiary devices were found by some of the bystanders, and was addressed by the Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson as well as then Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu. He stated that the “instigators appeared to be some of the same individuals involved in a protest on the opening day of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and that they came equipped with eye protection, gasoline and other tools” and referred to them as “criminals and anarchists” who disguised themselves as fans.  Hmmm ok.

Not only were molotovs being thrown, I saw kids opening their backpacks throwing bricks.

The Vancouver Police were under heat for their response to the 2011 riot from the getgo – many felt the “criminals and anarchists” was a convenient deflection of responsibility. We might be prone to agree on this point. There are no shortage of ways the Vancouver Police could have done better: not allowing cars to be parked near the crowds, clearing up anything that could be used as a projectile, and a stronger response to the riot that ballooned out of control so quickly.

It’s been asked a thousand times: how could this happen again after the 1994 Stanley Cup riot? How could the police be caught so off-guard? All very good questions – we will be tackling this in Part 2, coming next week.

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