In 1994, I screamed myself hoarse at the TV watching the Rangers beat the Canucks: “Rangers SUCK, go Canucks!”. I was 10, at the time, the fact that my parents were letting me swear was a big deal. I might have even shed a tear that night, but honestly, I don’t remember too much, except that we were watching with Kevin and Gregg and eating jalapeno chips, our childhood favourite.
The next morning in school, news of the riots had reached us early bed-timers. Over the next couple of days, I remember seeing pictures in the newspaper over breakfast, on my way to the comics section. We talked in school about why what the people had done was wrong and what they should have instead. Even a class of Grade 4’s couldn’t understand why the ‘grown ups’ were so violent . . . our team had lost, and it was very sad, but even we knew that tomorrow is another day, and that stealing, hurting and breaking other people’s property is wrong.
It is afternoon in Australia, and the city I love is burning in the night, again rocked by violent riots of so-called ‘fans’ of the Vancouver Canucks. I love my city, and have proudly displayed a Canadian flag on every backpack I have ever travelled with – I even have a bumper sticker on Blue Thunder, the only Canadian in town. When asked “Where are you from in Canada?” I have always replied “Vancouver”, which unfailing draws gasps of jealousy: “Lucky!” “Beautiful!” “Ohhh, what a lovely city!”
And it is. Or at least, it was. Just 16 months after Metro Vancouver rallied over no-snow and very un-February-like weather, we welcomed millions of visitors to our city to put on a wonderful Olympic and Paralympic Games and yet here we are, put to shame once again by the few who cannot cope with loss. We were praised the world over for our sportsmanship, our willingness to cheer for any team, for any country, for our ability to accept defeat humbly, and recognize a better effort. Where is that spirit now?
A reminder: Hockey is a GAME. Yes, I know it’s important. Yes, I know it’s emotional. Yes, I know it’s disappointing. But NO, it is not worth destroying a city over.
This past Saturday (Friday night in Vancouver) I was privileged to run into a fellow Metro-Vancouverite at a Starbucks in Melbourne. She had a Canucks jersey on, and our conversation went something like this:
Me: Are you from Vancouver?
Desiree: Yeah! Are you?
Me: Yeah! . . . Are you going to the game?
Desiree: Yeah, we’re headed to a pub . . .
Me: Cool! Can I come?!
We spent the next 3 hours watching the game and drinking indoors on a beautiful day with 200 other Canadians (even Flames fans!) as the Canucks rewarded us with a win. My Australian friends seem slightly surprised that I asked to go along, and that this stranger didn’t think it was weird that I asked to go along. That is the Vancouver spirit, the Canadian spirit, that I am so proud to have and carry with me.
I want people to go to Vancouver and visit, to see the beautiful city I still call home, but am currently embarrassed of. Shame on you, Vancouver Rioters, shame on you. How dare you deface our stunning, world-class city with your petty loss.
The only good thing that I can see so far are the groups that are already organized on Facebook, with hundreds signed up to head downtown tomorrow and clean up the city, to try to put a wrong that they had no hand in to right. What they hope to accomplish, however, will only clean the surface of the city, and cannot erase what is going on right now back home. I thought we had learned our lesson 17 years ago, but it appears not. Part of having a Stanley Cup winning hockey team is waiting patiently through the bad years, loosing with grace and humility to earn our teams name on the cup. Clearly, Vancouver is not there yet, and if we have to wait another 17 years for our next chance from the behaviour tonight, then so be it, we don’t deserve to win if this is how we lose.