Issaquah man experiences Vancouver’s hockey riot

June 21, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Erik Richards, a lifelong Vancouver Canucks fan and Issaquah resident, experienced the mayhem up close June 15 as Vancouver, British Columbia, erupted into a riot after the team lost the Stanley Cup.

Richards — a self-described “huge Canucks fan” — stood among the crowd on Granville Street and snapped photos as rioters lit cars aflame and smashed storefronts.

“There were people running and cars on fire,” he said after returning to Issaquah. “It was like a scene out of a movie.”

The riot started at about 8 p.m. as the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena. Immediately after the loss, frustrated fans started tearing signs down along Granville Street, a destination for Canucks fans watching the Stanley Cup finals on a huge screen.

“I kind of predicted that stuff would go down, but I didn’t think it would end up being a full-scale riot,” Richards said.

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Then, rioters flipped a car and, moments later, lit another on fire. Soon, riot police stormed down the street.

“I didn’t really have a sense of danger at the time, just because in the moment I was trying to get pictures,” he said.

Tear gas clogged the air and a stun grenade, or flash-bang, exploded near the 2010 Issaquah High School graduate. Richards’ friend took a hit from a rubber bullet on the shoulder as police attempted to disperse the rioters.

The chaotic scene after Game 7 contrasted against the celebrations following Game 2, 11 days earlier.

Richards, 19, and friends headed north to Vancouver to watch Game 2, and managed to find space in a waterfront bar to watch the match-up.

“That was crazy. After they won, it was like the whole town was just erupting,” he said. “Everybody was honking. It was just a big party.”

For make-or-break Game 7, every establishment in the city seemed to be packed, so Richards and friends watched the game from outside a bar.

“I was pretty confident that they were going to win the Stanley Cup,” he said.

Officials took steps to prevent a hockey riot after the decisive game. Downtown Vancouver liquor stores closed at 4 p.m. on game day — a step similar to safety precautions taken during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Police and public safety officials enacted the precautions to attempt to avoid a scene similar to the 1994 riot after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers.

Following the June 15 riot, hospitals treated more than 150 people for injuries. Police managed to break up the riot by midnight.

“For the people of Vancouver, I know they all came together the next day and helped clean up,” Richards said. “That says something.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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