Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oh No, Canada

Oh, Canada - rioting again? It's just a game.

Try telling Canadians that ice-hockey - the national sport in The Great White North - is anything other than life and death, though, and you might be pitched into one of the street fires set in last night's riot in Vancouver, B.C. The reason? The city's National Hockey League team, the Canucks, lost to the Boston Bruins in the penultimate game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, dashing hopes for the first Stanley Cup win for a Canada-based NHL franchise since the 1990s. The riot prompted some belated and already outdated travel advisories; it's over, though the fires, looting, overturned cars, thrown beer bottles and other bad behavior did pose a hazard of sorts to visitors and locals should they be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Canadians are caricatured as really, really nice, reserved people - people so polite, they say thank you at ATMS. I have lived in Canada twice and traveled there many times and I can assure you Canadians are just as ornery as their neighbors to the south, if more lightly armed. Of course, the thought that this could be true sends them into spasms of denial. The fact that the Canucks blew the series, after leading three games to two, makes it all the more imperative to run amok. The Canucks lost game 6, 5-2, on home ice and then got their butts kicked in game 7 by a 4-0 score.

The truth is, Canadians are likely to riot not only when they lose but also when they win - witness the ugly riots along Montreal's St. Catherine Street last year after the Quebec city's beloved Canadiens won a post-season series. Or, the 1993 Montreal riots when the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. Or way back in 1955, when Montrealers rioted when Canadiens star Maurice Richard was suspended. Well, you'd run riot, too, after saying thank you to ATMS your whole life, eh?

It's safe to go back now. Although Boston won the Cup, with the help of Canada-born-and-bred pros, in Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, it's wait till next year.

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