They say that it’s within us all.
“The Heart of Darkness,” a book by Joseph Conrad, is a story you may be very familiar with, having been the inspiration for the movie “Apocalypse Now.” It’s a tale that exposes three ugly truths:
“The darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the Europeans’ cruel treatment of the natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil.”
Last night, after the Canucks lost Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final, the people of Vancouver got ugly, they got destructive, evil, and had succumbed to that dark heart. Rioting in the streets, they burned cars, looted stores, running primitive and rampant like wild beasts within their own beautiful civilization. For the sake of capping off the book’s analogy, think of the “wilderness” as the long descent into the anxiety of a very long playoff tun, and the “cruel treatment” as simple modern-era struggles of our time.
Today, social medias like Twitter are alight with condemnation, and rightfully so, for the people of Vancouver and what they unleashed from themselves and into their city last night. But how far removed are we from them? Should we really be casting stones, so to speak, or should we try instead to understand how this happened?
More importantly – could this happen in Buffalo, and what do these latest riots mean for the future fan experience of the NHL?
In 1999, the good folks of Buffalo lined up overnight for hours in preparation to purchase tickets for the Stanley Cup Final. The problem is, by the time most of them got to the gate, the tickets were sold out online. The internet wasn’t so popular back then as it was now, and those who waited in the cold were taken by surprise.
What followed was a very small riot – nothing like we saw last night in Vancouver – but who knows what may have happened if there as many people in the streets that day as there were last night in Vancouver.
Riots are a growing phenomenon as populations increase, and along with that growth, the pressures of urban living. A quick check of Wiki’s list of riots shows just how the rioting trend ups by the decade.
Not to excuse the folks of Vancouver for losing it last night, but they’re not the only ones to lose it lately after a hockey disaster. And rioting is by no means limited to sport. It’s a simple recipe, really – take a huge amount of people, put them in a relatively small space, and deny them something they all need.
Remember the Woodstock Festival back in 1999? Things would have gone great, if not for over-priced water that people just couldn’t afford. By the time Metallica wound down the show with their song “Creeping Death,” (the perfect song to set the scene), music lovers were climbing up projection stands and setting them on fire. It was madness.
All of this isn’t new, but this latest incident in Vancouver is garnering national attention – the worst kind of attention that Gary Bettman and the NHL need now, or ever.
And there will be consequences.
The “Party in the Plaza” fan experience has become an NHL tradition since Tom Golisano and Larry Quinn “invented” it for the 2005-07 Sabres playoff runs. Those who can’t afford tickets are allowed to clamor around a giant TV screen or two at the arena. Bands play, beer is swilled, and it’s an all-around good time for everyone. That is, until the team loses.
Don’t think for a second that the City of Good Neighbors is too good to succumb to a mob mentality.
The NHL is going to have to do a lot of thinking over the summer about these Parties, because what they really are in the end, are mobs. Either the mob is rewarded, or it is denied – and in either case, a riot sometimes ensues.
As citizens of the United States, we all have the right to peacefully gather.
After seeing the good people of Vancouver fall to the power of the mob however, it might be time that the NHL steps in to prevent this from happening by preventing any more gatherings from happening. They will have due cause to support their case.
We’ll see what happens. For now, the people of Vancouver have a lot of thinking and healing to do while they put their city back together. And all hockey fans need to rethink how we approach games and open air arena parties.
Lest we lose it all to the Heart of Darkness.