Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The chaos that devolved into a riot Wednesday night in Vancouver began shortly before Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins were putting the finishing touches on an improbable and thrilling run to a Stanley Cup title.
With under three minutes left in the third period, Brad Marchand scored an empty-net goal to stake Boston to a 4-0 lead and effectively seal the Bruins' first championship in 39 years. Thomas took home the Conn Smythe Trophy and also became the first goaltender in NHL history to record a shutout on the road in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Unfortunately, Boston's glory was destined to be overshadowed by the shameful acts that played out on the streets of downtown Vancouver.
Towards the end of the disappointing Game 7, a handful of idiots among the thousands of folks who had gathered outside to watch the hometown team began hurling bottles and other debris at a big screen.
The situation worsened from there as reports of fistfights and flipped-over burning cars -- some of them police vehicles -- played out in a seemingly endless stream on the CTV broadcast. In the end, many people, including myself, wound up watching more footage of the riots than of Game 7 itself.
The Bruins may have dominated on the ice, but they couldn't compete for headlines for long, certainly not once raw video footage of looting and other types of drunken mayhem came across the airwaves.
In the end, many people, including myself, wound up watching more footage of the riots than of Game 7 itself.
At one point, a young man ran and jumped through fire on top of a burning car, summing up the special brand of asinine behavior on display Wednesday evening. Unfortunately, he wasn't even close to being the worst offender on a night that saw windows smashed and businesses robbed.
Somehow anarchy ruled the night and a strong show of visual force from the police, who did use tear gas and other tactics to try and disperse the crowds, was too little, too late.
For the city of Vancouver, it was a horrible reminder of the riots that occurred after the Canucks lost Game 7 to the New York Rangers on June 14, 1994. However, that contest 17 years prior was played at Madison Square Garden, nearly 3,000 miles from the scene of the crime in Vancouver.
This time it's an even bigger black eye for Vancouver because the city was actually hosting the last game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Seeing their hometown revel in such an ugly display of violence has to be heartbreaking for all those who love and rightfully have pride in Vancouver.
After all, the perception of Vancouver as a world-class city was tarnished thanks to the stupidity of a tiny percentage of the thousands who had gathered downtown anticipating a celebration.
Many Vancouverites took to Twitter and other social media sites to bash the looters and rioters as not "real fans" of the Canucks and there is some evidence to back up that notion.
The true supporters of Vancouver's hockey club were the ones who remained in attendance at Rogers Arena for the Stanley Cup presentation and even had the class to cheer Thomas when he was awarded with his much-deserved Conn Smythe.
After all, for most passionate fans the disgrace of losing 4-0 in a home Game 7 against what was supposed to be an inferior opponent is enough to bear. The folks who truly cared about what happened on the ice would have been too glum to join in on the civic ugliness that took place of it.
Vancouver had many large gatherings during a successful Winter Olympics hosting stint in 2010, including the grand celebration that followed Team Canada's win over Team USA for the Gold Medal on the final day of the Games. Those assemblies also involved untold amounts of alcohol and went on late into the night, but the atmosphere was festive, not violent like it became yesterday.
Those of us who were at the Vancouver Games marveled at how clean the city looked the morning after the Gold Medal party. The downtown area that appeared to be a mess just a few hours earlier was once again sparkling, surrounded by its famous mountains in the background.
The physical cleaning of the city isn't likely to take long this time around either, but sadly, the damage done to Vancouver's reputation could take years to repair.