Hockey and its fans.

Paris riots

photo by glucozze

In the world of organized sports – hockey, as chance would have it – The Montréal Canadiens recently won the quarter-final match against the Boston Bruins. Montréal is not my home town, but I’m living there for the time being, and on the night of game seven, I could tell that they had won because the car horns on the street outside my window immediately began honking. They didn’t stop for the better part of six hours.

Now, I don’t like hockey. I know that admitting that means that I must immediately be ejected from the country and branded a foreigner to these lands, but I’ll take that chance. (I don’t drink beer either, so at this rate the only way I can redeem myself is to use maple syrup the same way one might use heroin. That, or do something unspeakable to a beaver – the ‘be a Canadian’ handbook is a little unclear on that last bit). In general, though, I don’t have a problem with people who do enjoy hockey, or any other sport.

What I do have a problem with is this. From one of the Gazette stories:

The violence, touched off as thousands of people were on Ste. Catherine St. W. celebrating the Canadiens’ victory over the Boston Bruins, caused damage to 16 police vehicles and 10 buildings, mostly businesses, near the Bell Centre. The images of burning cars and people looting stores evoked memories of Stanley Cup riots in 1986 and 1993.

Sixteen people, including three minors, were arrested and face charges ranging from mischief to aggravated assault. Most were released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.

Honking on the streets is bad enough. That alone can get my blood boiling, and to the people who would tell me to just let it go, I invite them to send me their home address so that I can bring 300 of my closest friends and their cars and spend six hours honking outside the house of the apologist whilst they try to sleep. People who would condone or forgive such behaviour are almost always people who don’t live anywhere near the repeated offence.

But this rioting and destruction of property is simply beyond the pale. It gives the sport of hockey a bad name, and it drives a nail into the idea that organized sports are important as a source of culture in a city. I sincerely hope that whoever participated in this riot is caught and pinned to the wall.

And yet … I’m forced to ask why such a thing would even happen. Despite my dislike of hockey, I’m sure that winning such a pivotal game on their path to the Stanley Cup would be a happy day for Canadiens fans. So how does it end up in rioting and destruction? The photo at the top of the page is, despite appearances, not of the Montréal hockey riot, but of riots in Paris (the 2005 riots, I believe). I find it odd that such similar outcomes – looting, burning, destruction – can come from such dissimilar causes as civil unrest and a victorious hockey time. This is the sort of thing that social psychologists and sociologists have probably studied to death, and if anyone in those fields read this, I’d love some introductory citations to relevant review papers. (I’d search myself, but hey, there are only so many hours in a day…)

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