I Predict A Riot

With a few changes and additions, the following is what I posted on the MetaFilter thread discussing the riot after last night’s game

I’ve heard a wide range of opinions (many mentioned in this thread) on why this particular riot happened…

It was drunken Canucks fans.
It was anarchists.
It was gang members/hooligans/insurgents.  (I never came across “terrorist” but am sure someone used it at some point.)
The police were too lenient.
The police were too overbearing.
It was spoiled white kids from the suburbs.
It was too much booze.
Digital cameras and social media encouraged rioters to act out more than they otherwise would have.
Asking tens of thousands to a central location to watch the games is asking for it.
It wasn’t having a central location but having people in penned areas that escalated the violence.
Trying to overly control people rather than letting things develop spontaneously.
It was a self-fulfilling prophecy as people worried about a repeat of 1994 (along with not learning the lessons of that year’s riot.)
The culture of violence in hockey spread to the streets.
The need to create spectacle in a world of overriding commercialism, powerlessness and obeisance to the state.

…and the truth is probably some combination of all of the above.

What I’m more interested in though, is why a riot or violent incidents happen sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t, even given very similar circumstances.

For example, just using “Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup Final in the last twenty years”, we see:

1993 – Montreal – win the Stanley Cup in five games at home – riot
1994 – Vancouver – lose series in seven games on the road – riot
2004 – Calgary – lose series in seven games on the road – no riot
2006 – Edmonton – lose series in seven games on the road – riot
2007 – Ottawa – lose series in five games on the road – no riot
2011 – Vancouver – lose series in seven games at home – riot

There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between whether riots happen and if the series goes the distance or not, if it’s lost at home or on the road, the population of the city, the demographics of the city, the number of people who gather, whether bars and liquor stores are shut down early or not, whether big screen TV’s are set-up or not, the day of the week that the deciding game falls on and so on.

There do seem to be some cities that seem predisposed to riots (Montreal has also rioted in early rounds of the playoffs, Vancouver had riots after a Guns ‘N’ Roses concert was canceled) while others such as Calgary don’t (there was nervousness when the G8 was held in nearby Kananaskis given the violence at other gatherings of this type but again, Calgary went against historical precedent with very few incidents and no riots.)

(To sneak in my own Stanley Cup final story, my wife and I lived in Calgary during the Flames’ 2004 Stanley Cup run. We lived about six blocks from the “Red Mile”, regularly went down to join the tens of thousands of people on 17th Avenue during game days. On the day of Game Seven, we had to go to a bar off the Red Mile at noon for a six o’clock game because all other bars were already full and, after the Flames lost that heart-breaking game, made our way along the Red Mile before stopping for Vietnamese food on an outdoor patio where we watched dejected but definitely not angry/violent Flames fans straggle by.)

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