Canadians may be the nicest people on earth, but something about big hockey games turns our manners upside down, as cultural norms against indiscriminate violence vanish in a puff of ice, beer and tear gas.
So, as you get ready to watch Canada and the U.S. face each other in the Sochi Olympics twice over the next 24 hours, first in the women's final today and then in the men's semifinal tomorrow, remember this: Regardless of who wins, somewhere in Canada, somebody will probably consider setting a few cars on fire. Here's a look back at Canada's most memorable hockey-inspired civil disturbances.
Vancouver, June 15-16, 2011: After the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins, fans set out on a four-hour rampage that included setting fire to or otherwise destroying 77 cars, attacking firefighters and looting department stores. The police continued to investigate for more than two years, charging their 350th suspected rioter last July. Two of those charged were 14 years old.
Montreal, May 12-13, 2010: Montreal Canadiens fans celebrated a Stanley Cup win over the Pittsburgh Penguins by throwing bottles at police trying to clear them from the streets. A Toronto Star reporter described watching looters break the window of a women's apparel store, take limbs from mannequins and use them to break other windows. At least 25 people were arrested. “I might have expected this if they lost,” one witness told the Star. “But they won!”
Montreal, April 21-22, 2008: After the Canadiens eliminated the Bruins to move to the next round of the playoffs, rioters damaged 16 police cars and 10 buildings. The police chief pronounced the night a success: "What I retain from this is there was not a citizen or a police officer injured, and I think that was the principle objective we had."
Vancouver, June 14-15, 1994: The Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers. The riot that followed involved at least 50,000 people, injured more than 200, and left one person with permanent brain damage. The person tasked with investigating the riot recommended that before any future Stanley Cup finals, the city remove anything that might be used as a projectile, including newspaper boxes, advertising signs or barriers -- advice that was ignored 17 years later.
Montreal, June 9-10, 1993: The Canadiens beat the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup, on the 100th anniversary of the tournament. To celebrate, fans vandalized 47 police cars, destroying eight. The police reported 115 arrests and 168 injuries, and almost 1,000 officers deployed in the downtown shopping district. The chief of police called the rioters "despicable hoodlums"; a store owner called the police, some of whom stood and watched the rioting, "a bunch of idiots."
(Christopher Flavelle is a member of Bloomberg View's editorial board. Follow him on Twitter at @cflav.)
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