COLUMN: Hockey fans were part of the anarchy

It seems another rude awakening is due, after last week’s sickening display of violence in downtown Vancouver.

Almost immediately after the Stanley Cup riot of 2011, authorities were blaming the mayhem on a small number of “anarchists, criminals, thugs, etc.”

It sounded plausible.

It seems another rude awakening is due, after last week’s sickening display of violence in downtown Vancouver.

Almost immediately after the Stanley Cup riot of 2011, authorities were blaming the mayhem on a small number of “anarchists, criminals, thugs, etc.”

It sounded plausible.

Even better, for “true” hockey fans, and embarrassed Lower Mainlanders, it was a good explanation for the gross behaviour.

Except, it’s not exactly accurate.

Seems most of the louts responsible for the destruction, the fires, and the looting, are not dyed-in-the-wool professional rabble-rousers.

Most of the young men tipping cars, smashing windows, and throwing newspaper boxes weren’t anarchists. Half of them probably wouldn’t even know what the word meant.

They’re just goons. And there were a lot of them.

It’s now emerging that of the 100-plus individuals arrested for a variety of offences, only a handful have previous criminal records.

One hapless fellow, who was outed by a picture of him stuffing a lit rag into the gas tank of a police car, is actually a star water polo player from Maple Ridge.

There is similar anecdotal evidence coming from those who are turning themselves in to police, or offering public apologies.

One young woman said she just got caught up in the moment.

Another opined on Facebook that picking up merchandise from a looted store seemed OK if it was someone else who actually stole it.

No anarchists there, folks.

Just unthinking, impressionable people.

The video footage shows hundreds of people cheering while the destruction went on. They posed in front of burning cars. They taunted and threw objects at police.

I’ll bet if you asked them today if they are hockey fans, they’d answer sincerely, yes.

They didn’t start the afternoon intending to wreak destruction. They came to watch the game. And when that turned sour, and more exciting entertainment was provided, they absorbed it all, with varying levels of delight and participation.

They took photos and video, and ramped up the masochistic, testosterone- and alcohol-fuelled rampage. Those who had enough booze in them, and not nearly enough moral fibre, joined in.

Yes, apparently there were some individuals who came prepared to riot, equipped with accelerants and weapons and gas masks.

But they wouldn’t have been able to wreak millions of dollars worth of damage without support and help from a howling, frenzied mob of young onlookers, who prevented police from getting at the core of the rampaging.

It was a stunning example of crowd behaviour, and a deeply disturbing comment on this society.

Those huge throngs of happy fans filling the streets of Vancouver after each Canuck victory had the potential to turn ugly, just as they did last Wednesday night.

All it takes is the right catalyst.

So, let’s not kid ourselves about how these weren’t hockey fans.

Put a Canucks jersey on a goon, and he’s still a goon.

And as we’ve witnessed, put otherwise relatively “normal” people in an environment of alcohol, adrenalin and violence, and some of them become goons, if only “in the moment.”