What you are about to read may or may not offend you, but as a writer I'm expressing my opinions. You have every opportunity to either agree or disagree with me.
As a Canadian, I am entitled to my opinions, and as a fan of hockey, I'm also opinionated!
I am going to tell you exactly how I viewed the Vancouver Canucks as a team. I'll explain to you why I was cheering for the Boston Bruins in the NHL Finals, and why I am disappointed in Vancouver for flaunting the assumption that the results would have been different last night and for the many hypocritical statements made by their fans prior to this game.
I will explain why I think there is a far lesser chance of a riot happening in Toronto, and what the difference would have been in the way these two cities handled a Stanley Cup Final Game 7 in their own city.
First, the Boston Bruins represented in every way what Canadian hockey is all about. They had a larger number of Canadian players on their team, so I think it is unreasonable to say that the Canucks are more Canadian than the Bruins—aside from the matter of the cities they reside in—but to me, even that is debatable. The Stanley Cup will actually spend more time in Canada now, with each player taking the Cup home.
I am not one to hate on America at all, and will not fall victim to the mentality that comes from hatred toward American politics, as opposed to hatred toward individual people who have no control over where they have been born. Americans are proud, and this is no different to how proud we as Canadians are, especially when it comes to hockey. On an individual basis, people are people, and definitely a result of their own environment.
With Tim Thomas aside, the very large majority of clutch players in this series were, in fact, Canadian.
The Vancouver Canucks displayed every characteristic of a European soccer team. The embellishment was a disgrace to the sport I love, and I cannot stand to see it. Their leaders came in the form of two Swedish-born players, who flopped around the ice, trying to gain an unfair and cheap advantage. Burrows, Ehrhoff, Lapierre, Kesler and others have done it. It seems to be something that may very well be coached and taught to them.
The Sedins were nowhere to be seen in these Finals—shut down by the better team (I accentuate the word "team.") Their best player may have been Kesler, who has spoken out against Team Canada in the past, with words of disdain toward our country. I saw no reason to admire this team for many reasons.
I have seen Grabovsky embellish once or twice, and I was not proud in that moment, either.
I was worried that if the Canucks had won, other teams may have seen their faking antics as a new strategy to master in order to gain an unfair advantage in the playoffs. I did not want to see that happen and risk changing the sport I love, from a game with integrity to one that is more reminiscent of WWE wrestling or soccer.
I am involved in many hockey chat forums, where most of the hatred towards my team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, is now coming from Vancouver "fans," even more so than from the Montreal Canadiens fans. Hmm. We are not even divisional rivals or in the same conference. I cannot remember there ever being so many Canucks fans, and one thing I am proud of is that, regardless of how bad our team is here in Toronto, we are always there to support our team in every way. We are no bandwagon fans!
So my question is this: Is there a difference in mentality and arrogance in some Canadian cities in regards to their team?
Would a riot happen in Toronto if we lost in the Stanley Cup Finals? Would this happen in every Canadian city that lost in the Finals?
The answer to both questions is no.
The first argument I came across to suggest otherwise, was the G20 Summit in Toronto.
Here's the difference I see. The conditions were perfect for a riot. You have the downtown core sectioned off to make room for the richest men in the world to make decisions, behind closed doors, regarding world issues. You spend $1 billion on security!
This will anger people. Sober radicals started a protest that was peaceful at first, and later turned into a riot when black bloc tactics were initiated. This was a riot regarding human rights. The difference is huge.
In Vancouver's case, you have an extremely large number of hockey fans all jammed into the downtown core of the city. You do not deploy enough policemen. You do not have proper exit routes assigned. You do not stop cars from parking on the street nearby.
You shut down the nearby liquor stores and bars, forcing people to buy their alcohol early. These people likely bought liquor, which is much easier to conceal and also produces a very different result in many people, rather than beer. You start a party before the result of the game, and then you wonder how so many disappointed drunk people are going to react in a large crowd? Not very smart.
I think about places in the world where the circumstances warrant a political riot. Is there is any difference between those people fighting for their human rights and those who protested the G20 summit? Some, indeed, but not nearly as big a difference when compared to those who rioted because their own government spent millions of dollars to rent big-screen TVs and host a party for them.
The second argument put forth was that I would be a fool to assume this wouldn't happen in every Canadian city.
Well, it did not happen in Calgary in 2004, and it did not happen in Ottawa in 2007. Montreal is famous for their Maurice Richard riot in 1955, proving that this type of outbreak is not exclusive to this generation. Montreal lost to Calgary in Game 6 at home in Montreal in the 1989 Finals, and nothing happened, although on several occasion in Montreal, an outbreak did happen regardless of a win or loss in 1986, 1993, 2008 and 2010.
How about the Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals? Guess what? They lost the series 4-3 and started a riot!
It's funny when people say the rioters aren't "true Canucks fans," yet so many of the rioters were waving Canucks flags, were wearing Canucks jerseys and were chanting anti-Loungo statements while smashing their "beautiful city"!
So, if you were to say "they aren't true fans," would that make you feel better? Because it is laughable. These are still fans, regardless of the bad behaviour. It may very well have been a small group of criminals/fans who started this riot, but thousands of people were involved in it and you cannot say they were all not fans. They were.
In Toronto and surrounding areas, we have a very large number of hockey fans. If anyone can remember the playoffs here in 1993, when we were in the conference finals, I think it is fair to assume that our expectations were every bit as high in this city. There were just as many or even more people watching the conference finals outside of their own homes as there were in Vancouver for these Finals, just not all in one place.
Why did a riot not ensue after Kerry Fraser's brutal call in the 1992-93 series against the Los Angeles Kings?
This series was the most brutal series many people had ever seen. It was vicious and had its share of controversial calls, from the Game 1 hit on Doug Gilmour by Marty McSorley, to the devastating non-call on a high stick in Game 6. Many Leafs fans believe we could have capitalized on the five-minute major and game misconduct, which was generally given to high-sticking penalties that drew blood at the time. The culprit was none other than Wayne Gretzky himself. Gretzky went on to score the overtime winner minutes later.
Does that sound like enough of a reason to cause hockey fans to be angry? Definitely.
So why did a riot not happen here?
Because there would be no street party prior to the result of the Finals. There would be no large crowd of people invited into our downtown area. People would not be forced to buy liquor early in preparation. How many people chose to buy liquor over beer in Vancouver because it is easier to conceal on the street? Here in Toronto, they would be able to go to any bar.
People would be spread out into smaller crowds, which are much easier to control. The main party would happen if and when we won, and not before. I think the city of Toronto and its people understand the passion behind something as personal as their very own hockey team, in comparison to the way people here felt about Team Canada in the Olympics, where we did host a public viewing at Dundas square. If we didn't before, surely we do now, and we can thank Vancouver for further ensuring that this never happens in Toronto.
The fact still remains that we have never had a hockey riot in Toronto, the city with the most passionate and numerous fans of any team. Be proud of that, Toronto!
I can actually feel a difference in the overall mentality of this city, compared to all the other Canadian cities I have been in, which includes Vancouver. I would bet money that it will not happen here, and although outsiders may argue that it could happen anywhere, I will stand behind my view of the people here as a whole.
Yes, it's true that it only takes a few people to start something up, and that then many followers will follow the alpha males and join in, especially under cover of a large crowd. I am not saying that there are not idiotic people in Toronto. There definitely are, in every city. If they had won, the followers in the crowd would follow the alpha males in celebration instead, and the result would be much better, but it is perhaps a bit presumptuous to assume that victory is yours, and I believe the whole city of Vancouver may have assumed this.
I am not saying that this group of thousands represents every fan of the Vancouver Canucks. There were over 200,000 people in the streets, and just a few thousand people involved in the riot. Still, a few thousand is a lot of people, and although the Vancouver media and their police force may blame this riot on a few criminal-minded individuals who started it, you cannot say that none of those people were hockey fans. You have to look no further than the $150 jerseys on their backs to figure that out.
It is a shame that a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. I hope the City of Vancouver has somehow learned a valuable lesson from all of this, and I also hope this may, in the future, temper the anger I saw coming from Canucks Nation. Sports are something people are very passionate about around the world, and to have a party like this is just playing with fire. I pray that this will never happen anywhere else in North America.
I am ashamed of the segment of Vancouver that took part in this. I am embarrassed for my country when my American friends look on in disgust, and I'm repulsed by what can now be seen as the biggest display of unsportsmanlike conduct this team's followers have ever shown. Ironically, I did not think anyone could top the embellishment, but I was very wrong.
I feel sorry for the many good fans there are in Vancouver; in fact, most Vancouverites are disgusted themselves. This situation is terrible for the game I love. Unfortunately, no matter how many good people and good fans there may be in Vancouver, this riot will take decades to live down.
I ask you as Leafs fans to spend some time thinking about this and how you can better represent our team in a loss—with dignity, integrity and a lot more respect for your fellow man and for the reputation of the city in which we reside. Let's all make sure this never happens here!
I would love to hear your opinions on this year's Stanley Cup Finals, and your opinions on the riot. Thank you.