While images of the city of Vancouver rioting after their devastating Stanley Cup loss to the Boston Bruins make their way around the globe, it must be said that this is not Canada. There are probably people out there, shaking their heads in amazement and labelling all Canadian hockey fans as a bunch of backwards moose-eating hooligans, but this is not the case. Here are some fundamental truths about Canada and hockey:
1- The rioters are not hockey fans. 100,000 some odd people showed up to watch the Stanley Cup Final on big screens in their designated fan zone, mostly families with children. The handful of violent rioters are the kind who don't come for hockey, but who love to create mayhem- and this kind of world stage is just the kind of thing that they're looking for. It's happened before in Montreal as well. The real fans come to cheer; not to smash cop cars.
2- Hockey is a religion in Canada. The Stanley Cup originated in Canada and it's the Holy Grail of hockey. The hardest trophy to win in all of professional sports and named after Lord Stanley from the province of BC, it is the most coveted award and there is no doubt in our minds, as proud Canadians, that it belongs in the hands of one of our teams. We are passionate about the game, passionate enough to even postpone political debates in order to accommodate the playoffs schedule. But we are not violent about it.
3- We leave it on the ice. While it may surprise some people that a nation known for its politeness and sense of general fairness is obsessed with a fast-paced body-slamming sport, Canadians know to leave violence on the ice. It's where competition can be fast and furious and sometimes bloody, but it doesn't go much further than that. We are the type of nation that scraps on the rink and shakes hands afterwards. That has always been our mentality, that has always been our game.
4- What you saw on Wednesday was not real hockey. The officiating was the worst that I have ever witnessed in my hockey loving life and the game was an all-out goonfest. This is not the sport that we love. Real hockey requires skill, speed and precision- all of which were absent in this clumsy, brutish game. The rest of the world may think that we love a brutal sport, but we do not. Real hockey is beautiful to watch- and this wasn't it.
It's too bad that this Stanley Cup Final didn't live up to its billing. It's too bad that the quality of the hockey played didn't live up to the high standards that we hold to the game. And it's even sadder to know that the rest of the world will think that we are crazy, violent sore losers.
Let's hope for better next season.