What if the hockey rioters were stoned instead of drunk?
By Tony Wilson
As I write this, the smell of tear gas, charbroiled police cruiser and embarrassment still wafts in the air in downtown Vancouver. It’s an unpleasant stench; metaphorically reminiscent of an obscure Paris metro station combined with the scent of a bad Grade 7 science experiment I once did involving sulphur dioxide, iodine and fire. Oh… and add high notes of diesel, testosterone and rum to the aroma. Call it “Eau de Riot.” Or “Acqua di Moron.”
You know you live in a world-class city when the morning after a massive riot, the streets are covered with shards of broken glass and littered with the detritus of the previous night’s looting; scenes of the madness being played (and re-played) on CNN, the BBC and other news networks around the world. But interspersed between the (seemingly few) police on duty that night, among the broken glass, the burning cars, and the rioters, an amazing photograph: a couple lies in a tender embrace in the middle of the road; a momentary kiss among the chaos. Watch for the movie. The soundtrack will include track seven from side two of The White Album.
In some cities, people riot over justice. In other cities, people riot about the cost of food. Or they riot to overthrow an undemocratic political regime. In Vancouver, people only seem to riot after the Canucks lose game seven of a Stanley Cup final.
Even I expected a riot that night when I ran into some pretty rowdy 22 year olds walking down Pender Street in front of Revenue Canada’s building, drunk as skunks, a mile from the game, at 2:00 p.m. “Spidey-sensing” the danger, I decided to watch the game from home. Couldn’t anyone at Vancouver City Hall have contemplated the real potential for trouble that night? Or were they more concerned about how the Bike Lanes would look on TV?
So with that well deserved zinger off my chest, let me ask this question. If all the 22-year-old rioters (who were happily turned in by their Facebook friends) had been stoned on B.C. Bud or Columbian Gold instead of beer, vodka and rum, would there have been a riot at all? Instead of setting cars on fire, would they all have gone peacefully to a park somewhere to listen to the Grateful Dead on their iPods? Instead of looting The Bay and all those other stores, would they have simply raced to McDonalds for Triple Quarter Pounders and fries? Having seen the dangerous effects of hard liquor on older teens from the emergency room of Royal Columbian hospital once, and having sadly watched Vancouver being smashed up by drunk rioters on June 15th, I have to wonder whether our marijuana laws have it all wrong, and that alcohol is the more dangerous drug.
My second musing is this. As much as I love hockey, why are there hockey riots but not skiing riots, tennis riots or golf riots? If Andy Murray loses at Wimbledon, why aren’t there cars burning in the streets of Glasgow? Why aren’t legions of Tiger Woods fans smashing the windows of Restoration Hardware in Pebble Beach and looting the high-end cappuccino makers after a bad round? Why aren’t the riot police dragging balaclava-wearing anarchists off to jail after Lindsey Vonn takes a bad fall on the downhill at Aspen? Is there a connection between violence on the ice and violence off the ice?
In hockey, we count the goals, the assists, the shots, the saves and the hits. And when there’s a fight, the crowd erupts in euphoria with every punch. There aren’t many sports where fighting is as much a part of the game as the game itself, except maybe… fighting. So when Don Cherry brags about all the punches he’s thrown in his career, or suggests that Daniel Sedin shouldn’t have let Brad Marchand punch Sedin six or seven times at the end of game 6, why are we surprised if 1000 or so fans, fuelled by way too much alcohol, want to get into the action by punching out someone’s lights, (or their store windows), on the streets of Vancouver?
Vancouver Franchise Lawyer Tony Wilson practices at Boughton Law Corporation, is a regular columnist with the Globe and Mail and is an Adjunct Professor at SFU. His views do not reflect the views of the CBABC, the Law Society of BC or any other organization.
This article was published in the August 2011 issue of BarTalk. © 2011 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.