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16 Photos of the Vancouver Canucks Riots

Matt Gibson —  June 16, 2011 — 45 Comments

When Vancouver lost the Stanley Cup playoffs fans took to the streets and started flipping and burning cars and looting department stores. If you need photos, a story, or an interview about the riots contact me via email, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

You may also want to:

See more pictures in my Flickr photostream.

Read my first-hand account of the riot on the Huffington Post.

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See the girl in orange smash a cop car with a piece of wood and then light it on fire in this video. That starts at 6:57. She has already been identified numerous times in the comments on the video (and the title of it).

I’m also in the video a few time around 4:48, 6:03, 6:15, and 6:32, but just for a few seconds each time.

About Matt Gibson

Matt Gibson is three-time Canadian expat who splits his time between Tainan, Taiwan and Cranbrook, British Columbia, and traveling, all the while working as the Snowboarding Guide and freelancing as an inbound marketing consultant and travel writer and photographer.

45 responses to 16 Photos of the Vancouver Canucks Riots

  1. What! Do those Canadians think they’re in Los Angeles or something?! ;)

  2. Absolutely ridiculous for them to riot like this… Want a reason to riot? Move to the middle east! Oh poor you, your team came in second and took it all the way to game 7… It’s sad…

  3. I would say these are great photos but given the circumstances I am saddened and shocked to see a city I got to know a little bit act like this. Thank goodness it wasn’t everyone but the city didn’t deserve this!

  4. Great photos Matt, you really got right in there, love the free hugs photo and its contradicting tones!

    One question, does the green man have any pants on?

  5. I take exception at the word ‘fans’. These were not fans. They were goons, most of them from out of town and with clear intentions to create a violent mess, no matter how the game turned out. These people were vandals and classless. The true ‘fans’ showed up at 7 am and began spontaneously cleaning up the streets after these losers were gone.

    • I am sure a lot of those people did come to town looking for trouble, that’s for sure. Vancouver’s younger generation of fans (both hockey and music) have earned a very bad reputation for bad behavior, though. This is the topic of a new post I have written on the Huffington Post that should be published later today.

    • Fair point Matt. I guess I just have my definition of ‘fan’ which does not include carrying on like a violent idiot. So I guess it’s really just semantics isn’t it?
      It would appear, that yes indeed, there are also fans that are total hooligans. It’s so disheartening…

    • Yes, it is just sad. Especially that it keeps happening.

  6. Matt, Truly great photos!

  7. Sorry to say that this just ruined the wonderful impression I had of the people of Vancouver. I look at people on television who destroy their own cities when they are unhappy with something as complete imbeciles. Greece comes to mind.

  8. Wow, compelling photos…. and they’re even more shocking when you know what the mob was (or actually wasn’t) rioting about. I really appreciated your article on this in the Huffington Post as well – very nicely articulated!

  9. Cool photos, Matt. What a fucking crazy story, though… I can’t believe that things actually went that nuts. As has been said many times before, you usually expect that sort of thing after a ton of injustices or something… Not a hockey game.

    There are similar scenes across China right now. They’ve even had to bring the army in a couple of times to quell the little uprisings.

    • It was quite excessive. I’m sure that its nothing compared to riots in China though. I’ve heard that the police there are significantly less polite than in Van.

  10. Great pictures Matt! Ridiculous riot though.

  11. Interesting article in the Huffington Post and the pictures are certainly striking, but I definitely feel you were one of the many that inflamed the situation. (despite good intentions and journalistic aspirations). From the article it’s clear you saw yourself as a journalistic observer, but you were one of thousands of people heading towards and documenting the carnage instead of clearing out so the crowd could diminish. Now I know as a singular individual you weren’t responsible for damage or violence, but as part of the collective of observers you made yourself an element of the overall problem. In the article, when you described jumping up on the car to get a better shot, your intentions may have been different than others, but your actions weren’t – at least observably. You essentially became just another guy hopping onto a car, inciting a reaction from the crowd and giving others ‘permission’ to hop up on the car too. The dbags destroying property and each other were bad enough, but the literally THOUSANDS of amateur shutterbugs that stood by and snapped photos took it to a whole new level of idiocracy. If your first action when you see a riot isn’t to go in the opposite direction, but to crowd around and take pictures, then I think it can be reasonably argued that you’re no longer just an ‘observer’ of the madness – you’re an active participant.

    • I agree with much of what you say. Many people have also made similar comments on my Huffington Post article. But there is one thing that many people do not consider. I am a freelance writer. When an interesting story comes up, it is my job to go and get the best story that I know how. It would have been foolish of me, careerwise, to not have gone out to observe the riot. It was one of the biggest stories I have found myself near in a long time. I was ready to stay in that night after the game. I left the house only out of a sense of obligation (to myself) to try and take some pictures and find a story that I could sell. I would not have gone out to see the riot otherwise. I was not there to see it for my own enjoyment. I felt an obligation to be there.

      Jumping up on the car, though, was probably poor judgement. I did it to get a photograph that I knew nobody else would get, but you are right, in doing so I implicitly validated the action to others.

    • I appreciate the reply. Thank you for being so honest about your reasoning behind entering the fray and your willingness to analyze your own actions. One certainly hopes that stories like yours, at the very least, will become a bigger part of the discussion regarding journalistic integrity in the future (especially at journalism schools). The lines between reporting the story, influencing the story and becoming the story have the potential to get blurry fast.

    • This has made me think a lot about the role of photographers and reporters in making a bad situation worse. The big question is, do the benefits of good coverage outweigh the negative impact. These are cloudy issues with no definitive answers, but they certainly deserve our attention.

  12. These are not sports fans. As one of the 18,000 lucky ticket holders and a Canucks fan in the arena Wednesday night, I can tell you that nearly every one of us stayed and cheered the Bruins as they carried the cup. We chanted Go Canucks Go as our team knelt in defeat on their home ice. We were disappointed fans, but not even remotely related to the thugs who came into our city, with gas masks in their backpacks, intent on causing chaos for the sheer demented fun of it. Wearing a hockey jersey doesn’t constitute being a sports fan. The hooligans don’t represent anything at all about our city or its sports fans. I hope everyone who sees the horrible images, will realize that thugs and miscreants live in every city and we can only encourage our friends around the world to look beyond this one dark and tormented night and continue to visit beautiful Vancouver.

  13. I understand Canuck’s fans wanting to distance themselves from the rioters, but the sad reality is that it was fans that rioted. Shitty, spoiled, moronic human beings, but fans nonetheless. Do they represent the vast majority of fans? Absolutely not, but they are a significant part of the fan base and that needs to be fully acknowledged and addressed if any positive change is really to occur. While there were certainly a handful of gas mask wielding troublemakers with ulterior motives inciting the situation, there were also thousands and thousands of Canucks faithful recording and cheering on the mayhem. You don’t get to define your team and your city only by acknowledging the good and distancing yourself from the bad. They are all part of the same whole.

    • I’m sure that many of the people there were fans, and that many were not. Unfortunately, there seems to be an excess of people in and around Vancouver (fans or not) that enjoy rioting for no good reason.

  14. Don’t you think that by climbing on the police car you will be perceived as a participant?

    • Perhaps, although I didn’t consider myself to be one. I can’t say that is what was on my mind at the time.I think I might do things a bit differently if I were to find myself in a similar situation in the future.

  15. Hi Matt,
    We met at TBEX in Vancouver.

    I’m finally getting around to going through business cards and checking out sites… Nice shots of the rioting. I think I saw a tweet earlier in the week (re: rioting) that Vancouver police want to see people’s photos so they can further identify and arrest people…I wonder if these people thought they’d get away with these activities?? The things they did just seem sooo….barbarian.


    • Hey Meliha, glad that you liked the shots. I’m pretty sure that most of the worst of the rioters have been ID’d and many have turned themselves in. I was very surprised at what people were doing in front of hundreds of cameras. Mob mentality is apparently not a thinking frame of mind.

      Was good to meet you at TBEX. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

  16. While this riot was clearly different from the Toronto G-8 Summit riots in 09(?), I’ve noticed some alarming similarities within your narrative…and so, I’d like to ask if, at some point, you didn’t wonder if these riots were “staged” by the riot-police…as they did at the G-8 that year. Do you think undercover cops could have pulled off such a ruse? You said you didn’t observe the initial “spark” that triggered the riots. Also, you mentioned it being “unlike” the youth of Vancouver to act in such an unbecoming manner…which also precipitates my speculation. There is a GREAT documentary called, Into The Fire, , documenting the entire Toronto G-8 Summit Riots, going over everything leading up to the riots…right down to new legislation implemented as a result of the riots. It’s a very well done documentary…just to recommend it for comparison to what you witnessed!

    • I don’t think that police would have needed to stage the riots. There was already enough citizens that were ready to do that. If the police did want to have a riot, all they needed to do was allow it some time to get started. I don’t see any reason, however, why the police would want to instigate a riot over a hockey game.

      That being said, some people that I spoke to pointed out that it was very strange that two empty police cars were parked in a parking lot in the very area where the riot police were pushing the crowd. If those cars had been left there by accident, it was a very big mistake. They were the only cars in the entire lot.

      I will definitely check out that documentary! It sounds very interesting.

  17. hey matt, glad to meet you at tbex & spend a little time w/you during a friendlier stanley cup game! :) these photos are absolutely stunning! truly the best i’ve seen. read your huffington post story too and really enjoyed it, although i have to confess my anthropologist’s bell sounded at the first line- “Vancouver fans riot for the most pathetic reasons.” kind of a generalization, no? surely the rioters don’t reflect traits of all canucks fans…you’re one, right? also, are we sure this was really even about the game? i dunno, it was definitely a provocative opening line, and you are the native, but i winced a little reading it! it seems in the last couple of days, vancouverites, upon learning i’m here visiting and was during the mayhem, have struggled to separate themselves from the acts of these fools. i wrote a post about my thoughts on the riot & the importance of not judging a city by one (or a few) issues (caused by a handful of residents). would love to hear what you think :)

    • Hey Lorna. It was great getting to hang out!

      You are right, it is a generalization that was made for reasons of economy. I’d like to clarify what I meant.

      I don’t mean Canucks fans. I mean that Vancouver has a reputation as having audiences with bad attitudes in general–mostly when it comes to music–but also (after two riots) when it comes to sports. Many bands dislike playing–and outright refuse to play–in Vancouver. During the playoffs I also recall announcers commenting on the way the Canucks fans reacted to certain situations in games as being different (and less supportive) than those in other cities. I believe that it is this general bad attitude that leads Vancouver ‘fans’ to riot over silly reasons.

      Two Stanley Cup riots and one cancelled concert riot, plus a bad reputation among performers, indicates to me a trend.

      I do not mean to say that every single Canucks fan is bad. That would be ridiculous. But in identifying the group that rioted, I had no better term to use than Vancouver fans (I think that it’s safe to say that the vast majority of rioters were Vancouver fans). I could see no other way that I could economically make my point in the lead without using the generalization “Vancouver fans”.

      I certainly hope I didn’t offend any of your friends. That was not my intention. But it is true, Vancouver ‘fans’ are in certain circles considered less supportive and more rude than those in other cities.

      I don’t know why this is, because Vancouverites are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Nevertheless, this seems to be the case.

  18. Great pictures.

    Hockey – that´s the ice-skating game with sticks isn´t it….

  19. Matt, it’s interesting to comment on this after having spent some time hanging out with you. On a journalistic level, you were doing your job. Again, I think of the countless ways photojournalists capture their subjects in war zones, it’s not always pretty. On the other hand, jumping on the car and the crowd not knowing that you are a journalist could be an implicit act of “supporting” their behaviour. Ugh. The dilemma. I think you captured some tense, on the ground moments and in my view, they needed to be captured. People need to be shocked by them. Why? In hopes that we stop doing this kind of thing in the future. I am also a local and am ashamed at the “reasons” for this event. They struck me as small clusters of bored suburbia boys (and girls) who have become desensitized to authority and consequences. Yet, the fact that residents rioted in past years renders my theory flimsy. Overall, it has to be the stupidest riot in human history. Cheers for a good Huffington article.

    • Dilemmas indeed. Like Lorna and I mentioned when you arrived at lunch, the debate about the effect that an observer has on their surroundings, and the balance against the importance of the work, has been going on for centuries and will continue forever. There is no clear answer.

      But at least we can all agree, it was the stupidest riot in human history. The original title for the article, changed by the HuffPo editors was “The Most Pathetic Riot” :-)

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