Saturday, June 18, 2011

Victorious Boston, Riotous Vancouver

The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup! I think I need to say this because, thanks to the "exuberance" of innumerable poor losers in downtown Vancouver, That hard-earned triumph had to play second fiddle to riot trash talk. In fact, the hooligans accomplished, albeit incidentally to their purposes, the feat of distracting Canadians from the real and durable story Wednesday night - towering Chara hoisting the cup and, giving credit where due, the BC fans inside, staying on and showing genuine appreciation for the guys that had just tromped their idols. But in the media hype the next day this stunning win just didn't compete with burning cop cars in the heart of the world's most self-admiring city.

So I will make a modest correction of this and devote my opening paragraphs to that Bruins' win, commenting as I did to an embittered friend who called this a victory for "thuggery", that, no, it was heart beating ego. It wasn't quite the miracle on ice as when the U.S. Olympics squad upset Russia. But, especially if you lived and listened in British Columbia these past two months of playoff hockey, you would end up almost as dumbfounded as that fabled story way back in 1980. The Cup finals were supposed to be a coronation, a royal ceremony acknowledging that the Canucks like the city they play home games in, are best in every way. Indeed, the faithful frothing fans could not have been more surprised if - say - back in April, Kate Middleton had suddenly dumped Willy at the altar and leapt into the waiting arms of Tim "The Tank" Thomas.

In fact the Bruins earned the victory the old fashioned way. They were not thugs and though they are rough-and-tumble, nothing they did in the whole series to the purportedly faster, more sophisticated Canucks, compares to the vicious high hit, away from the play, that ended both perp Canuck Aaron Rome and victim Bruin Nathan Horton's 2011 finals.It had been a homey's series 'til then - indeed the Canucks' flop at the hostile Boston Garden was one of the battery of excuses that their supporters yanked out to explain the non-sweep. Ah, but back in GM Place, the Crown Princes of Lotusland would have their day. But, by mid way through the second period, badly outplayed and out-coached, Vancouver was a wind-bag with the air leaking out fast.

And, truth be told, how could that surprise very many partisan or not? Even going into the last game, the Bruins had outscored Vancouver 19-8; had the Canucks won, they would have set, by a country kilometre, the record for the worst goals' deficit by any Stanley Cup chumpion (did I misspell that?) ever. Boston, however, kidnly spared them that ignominy.

That's when the real civic ignominy took over by the milling mob outside. Already before the glass and debris was even cleaned up Thursday, Vancouver's spin doctors were predictably spewing out the "bad apple" theory story with many an indignant local adding to this over and over ad nauseum, to the effect that these aren't real Canucks fans, they were just a few bad and heavily marinaded twits; hell, they were probably mostly from Surrey!

Well, yes, in most any show of public violence whether by sports fans or pro-democracy demonstrators from Bangkok to Tunis, it is always a minority who go the furthest and start burning or throwing stuff. But let's not kid ourselves: there a lot of hoodlums on the loose.Of course, they had been stirred up to a fever pitch and milling about for days loudly insisting "it's our turn." The media had been trumpeting this for weeks; being a CBC listener I got a daily overdose locally, provincially and even nationally, as citizens were enjoined to support "Canada's team!" Rather presciently, the owner of the Canucks, Francesco Aquilini, even issued "a call to arms" in cajoling nationwide support for his team before Wednesday's match.

Like spoiled children who really thought it was "their turn", but who got queue-jumped, a rage of denied entitlement swept through that mob, a gigantic throng that had been encouraged to come on down for the party, while fore-notice was also trumpeted that the liquor stores would be closing early - like saying "Hey, stock up ahead!". Many injuries, arrests and millions of property damage resulted as did the predictable indignant proclamations "This is not the real Vancouver!",

And, sure, it was laudable that many locals turned out to help clean up and give with assistance to the police and business owners who got caught in whirlwinds of drink-stupefied disbelief and sore loser-ship.

But please: let's not pretend that this ugliness was just a few drunken idiots some of whom even came prepared to do damage. This, folks, was just as much the real Vancouver as all those mountains and early blossoms its inhabitants are so fond of condescendingly pointing out to the rest of us.