Canada Travel Stories

Vancouver Riots–The Untold Story

“Vancouver Canucks fans riot in the streets after Stanley Cup loss” screamed the headlines, as a mob of fans smashed and burned cars and looted stores. To myself and others who had recently been in Vancouver for the TBEX conference of Travel Bloggers, this was quite a shock. After all, we had all witnessed the grand celebration in the streets of downtown Vancouver when Canucks beat the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup.

Crowds Celebrate Game 5 Victory

This was a celebration unlike anything else I have ever witnessed. As a sea of fans poured out of bars and onto Granville Street, which serves as the downtown entertainment district, people were suddenly no longer strangers. Endless high fives went around as people hugged each other. Crowds cheered wildly whenever a large Canucks flag went by as those horns made famous in the 2010 South Africa World Cup were blared endlessly till the early hours of the morning. The masses surrounded a baby who sat on his father’s shoulders wearing a Canucks jersey and bearing a ubiquitous “Go Canucks Go” sign. It was so much that I simply had to film the experience in a video that you can check out below.

Now juxtapose that scene with a very different one a mere 5 nights later after Game 7. This was a scene I was glad to have missed as I was in the midst of a road trip on Vancouver Island with fellow bloggers Skinny Backpacker and What’s Dave Doing?, though several other bloggers from the conference were caught in the midst of it and even reported being tear gassed by police attempting to restore order (Gareth from Tourist 2 Townie captured a stellar video of the Vancouver riots). As the frightening images appeared on my Twitter stream of looters and fires burning on the streets, I couldn’t help but think back to the Red Shirtsprotests in Bangkok last year. This wasn’t the Vancouver I’d gotten to know and love over the previous week but an urban war zone!

The Aftermath

Two days after the riots that made worldwide news I was back in Vancouver and found a city at peace. Here was a story that did not make worldwide news. The day after the riots, thousands of Vancouverites came together to help clean up their city and show the world that they are so much better than a few dozen wasted troublemakers. The Hudson Bay department store, which was viciously looted by rioters, had nearly every window boarded. But those boards were completely covered by incredibly moving messages from well wishers; the people of this fine city who helped to clean up the mess.

Inspirational Messages

Inspirational Messages

It was a beautiful scene filled with beautiful messages. Even on Saturday, three days after the riots, people gathered at the Hudson Bay armed with Sharpies to inscribe their own thoughts onto this important symbol of a city united. People taped up signs, wrote emotional messages and left flowers. Signs dotted streetlights on Granville Street saying “Thank you Vancouver for Helping! –City of Vancouver.”  Even the Hudson Bay Company hosted a free pancake breakfast to thank everyone for all their help in moving past this dark spot on the city’s history.

Vancouver Thanks It's People

Hudson Bay Doors

To me, this was an incredibly moving experience. This is a story that should be told. A city rejects the violence that occurred on its streets and demonstrates that those acts of violence were done by such a tiny fraction of people. And the city comes together to rebuild as a community. That should be the headline because human kind coming together for a common good is simply beautiful.

Inspirational Messages

Inspirational Messages


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

26 replies on “Vancouver Riots–The Untold Story”

🙂 It certainly was a site to behold! I got so caught up in checking out all the messages that I was later to the airport than I had planned!

One aspect that no one is talking about is the untimeliness of the game 5 celebration. Although it was peaceful and there was nothing wrong with the spirit, I have never seen a fan base go nuts over winning one game in a final series. I think this premature party did a lot to psyche up Boston who must have felt that the Canucks thought they had the cup won after game 5.

Glad to see though that Vancouver rebounded and came out to clean up the streets and put a positive spin on the final chapter of this unfortunate drama. Although it is not over yet as a lot of hooligans will have legal problems to deal with. Just ask the Olympic water polo player who was captured on video trying to light a police car on fire.

Interesting as to your thoughts over the Game 5 celebrations. I agree that it was nothing quite like I’ve ever seen before (and that includes when, say, the Yankees win the World Series), but seeing just how Boston played, particularly at home, I’m not so sure they needed any additional psyching up! Every game Vancouver played at Boston in the series was a pretty epic loss. I think it better illustrates just how big of a deal hockey is there!

This is the second post I’ve read today about the positive aftermath of the awful riots in Vancouver. Amazing to see a city of people fighting back in such a way. The world would be a much better place if everyone reacted in the same way.

I agree which is why I’m proud to have posted this! People need to hear this story, not just about the actions of a bunch of hooligans.

I was up by 9:30 the morning after the riots and walked the streets. People had already cleaned up the city and there was a crowd around the messages. I think everyone was moved at the how the community reacted afterwards. The night of the riots I was embarrassed for the city, but after witnessing that… I felt nothing but love for the city.

Thanks for sharing your experience Jenny! I definitely had similar thoughts about the experience…feeling embarrassed for the city after the riots and then experiencing a total 180 when I saw the aftermath. This is what Vancouver really is!

Hey Aaron! I’m new here – my name’s G, hi! Great post and amazing photos. That’s really awesome you got to see in person such a great act of decent humanity; to me, from afar, the instant acts of good swept in just as shockingly and overwhelmingly as the acts of stupidity and was certainly redemptive – quite a feat for such a situation!

I wrote a piece on it (linked to my name) the night the riots happened but gave it some balance by mentioning the intended clean-up that was already organized and 11,000+ strong. I kinda wish I’d waited to write it though, so I could have covered only that story about the clean-up – because you’re right, that’s the one that should have been told more than anything. I’m just glad I had at least mentioned it, because they did me proud as a fellow human being, and set one excellent example that others can pattern after.

Btw we were in the neighborhood for the Red Shirts in BKK too, though tried to stay mostly away from it especially when it was at its worst. Had a few friends running from bullets though! Crazy stuff! We were in Japan for the earthquake and nuclear stuff too. In case Asia isn’t exciting enough, huh!?

Hey G,

Thanks for stopping by! I definitely had similar feelings about this, as it totally restored Vancouver in my eyes, even elevating it beyond what my original feelings were. Smart to keep your distance from those red shirts! I was staying a couple of stops away on the Sky Train when they moved to the commerical district and my last day there they decided to take over the interseciton at my Soi, which made it kind of tough to go anywhere! (In fact seems like whenever I’m in Thailand there’s trouble…coup, bombings, red shirts…). Yes, Ithink Asia is a bit dull… 😛

I was downtown for game 5, when Vancouver won against Boston and the vibe and energy was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m not a Canuck’s fan but their enthusiasm was so contagious I almost found myself wanting to put on a Canuck jersey. It was really such a shock to see on tv how bad things got after game 7. Too many newspapers and tv stations focused on the riots, and didn’t really focus on the morning after. I’m glad the people of Vancouver got together to clean up the mess that just a few bad apples created.

Likewise! I was out there yelling “Go Canucks Go” with everyone else! The feeling was just infectious after Game 5. I actually debated staying in town for Game 6 & maybe Game 7 but had a feeling that it’d be sheer insanity either way (I was there for Game 4 when they lost, but people were still out going crazy, just on a much smaller scale). Glad that I missed it in retrospect.

Haven’t seen Vancouver with my own eyes yet but I know it’s a wonderful city. Also, I’m glad to find out that the Vancouverites are wonderful people too: I was shocked when I first saw the news about the riots and how things got bad a few days ago, but now I’m happy to know that everything is back to normal, thanks to, again, the people of Vancouver.

Vancouver is indeed a wonderful city with some really wonderful people in it, as evidenced by the massive cleaning effort that followed last week’s riots. You should check it tout sometime…it’s really a fantastic city!

That’s superb Aaron. Not only is it awesome that vancouver is still filled with amazing people, but it’s just as cool that you took the time to give them some notice. Vancouver remains one of my favorite cities in the world and your story makes me feel great to know it’s still a fantastic place. ~Vago

Thanks Vago! It was a truly inspiring moment that really helped restore my faith in Vancouver. Loved the city so much beforehand that the riots put a black spot on it for me, but the fantastic actions of the citizens of Vancouver turned that around!

“A few dozen wasted troublemakers?” Did you see the same video I saw? Big deal, so people cleaned up their city. You’re supposed to take action like that for your community. That’s not a big deal. What is striking is that HUNDREDS (not dozens) of Canucks hockey fans, regular citizens, and “troublemakers” decided to ignore warnings, clash with authorities, and trash the area. The Winter Olympics aside, Vancouver has shown a propensity for acting ill-mannered (putting it mildly). You don’t need to look any further than the on-ice ceremony awarding the Cup to the Bruins. Those fans, in typical Vancouver fashion, acted selfishly in spoiling what should have been a great memory for the Bruins players by booing at the top of their lungs and actually throwing things at Gary Bettman. Not only was it classless, but it was dangerous and thoughtless. Another great example was the incessant booing during the U.S. national anthem when the World Junior Tournament was held there a few years back. Let’s face it, it’s a city that has a large segment of classless, selfish, childish morons living amongst some decent folks.

To say that Canadians like hockey is very big understatement. I’d say the fascination with it is closer to a religion for them. During the Stanley Cup, the city rivalry was clearly front and center as things with the name “Boston” in them (like the Boston Cream doughnut) were renaed “Vancouver” (i.e. “Vancouver Pizza” and “Vancouver Cream doughnut.”

While I’m certainly not condining the behavior of the fans, the point I’m trying to make in this article is that it’s not representative of the city has a whole. Are there rowdy fans? Sure! Did alcohol and a mob mentality play a big part in this? Absolutely. News reports stated that people came with the intention of rioting and I imagine they are the ones who started all this.

And I wouldn’t term it a large segment either. The population of Vancouver is roughly 650,000. A few hundred rabble rousers are a small fraction of that.

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