Today in Sports-Induced Violence

Photo: Kashklick

Yesterday I wrote about the handful of studies that have been done showing that large sporting events do not lead to higher rates of hospital visits, or for that matter, deaths or public violence. The latest study comes from Canada, and shows that during the 2010 Olympic gold medal ice hockey match between the U.S. and Canada, emergency room visits declined by 17 percent in Canada. I thought it was a pretty good indication of how much Canadians love ice hockey, and also of the tranquility with which they seem to consume it. I imagined an entire country transfixed by the game on their TV sets, peacefully watching their countrymen defeat the world in their most-beloved sport.

But then I saw this: “Vancouver Fans Riot After Stanley Cup Loss“:

Rioting hockey fans clashed with police officers, set vehicles ablaze, smashed windows and looted stores and set several fires in downtown areas here on Wednesday night moments after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins.

Local hospitals reported eight people treated for stab wounds, according to Alyssa Polinsky, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health, the regional hospital authority.

Eight people stabbed!? And another 60 admitted to the ER for other injuries. Apparently, when it comes to hockey, Canadians aren’t so tranquil when they’re on the losing end. All it takes is a 4-0 beatdown in a Stanley Cup Game 7 on their home ice to unleash Vancouver’s inner soccer hooligan.

This outbreak of violence is consistent with a piece that Justin Wolfers wrote in 2008, on a study looking at public violence on college football game days, specifically the point that upset losses by the home team have a particularly large effect on violent assaults, while expected losses have little effect.

This seems to indicate that all the research showing no increase in hospital visits and public violence after sporting matches needs a big asterisk next to it that says: Applicable only if the home team wins.


"This seems to indicate that all the research showing no increase in hospital visits and public violence after sporting matches needs a big asterisk next to it that says: Applicable only if the home team wins."

No Way! Maybe if these economists spent more time experiencing life with the normal population, they wouldn't have been surprised by this revelation that sporting fans have known for decades. People also don't like getting tickets from a speed trap.

Eoin O'Riordan

I know the article may not be that statistically rigorous, but it certainly seems that Glasgow isn't the place to be on a Rangers Celtic match day.

"The average number of domestic abuse incidents on non Old Firm match days is 123. On Old Firm days that number rises to 173."


This also happened in Vancouver in '94 when they lost the Cup. Which explains their tourism motto, "Gracious hosts, self-destructive losers."

In '93, Montreal won the Cup at an away game, but had the quiet dignity to have a celebratory riot in Montreal rather than a "loser" riot in their host city.


What I don't understand is the rioting aspect of this. We have seen the fans of winning teams riot over and over again through the years. What we don't see is a losing riot like the one in Vancouver (not their first, by the way). I can understand that violent crime, especially domestic crime, rises after a loss. But why is it that only Vancouver seems to fall into a full-blown public riot after losing? It can't be that they have never won. By that logic, Cubs fans should have burned the city to the ground after failing to capitalize on a 3-1 NLCS series lead in 2003. For that matter, Mavs fans should have torched Dallas in 2006 after losing to the Heat (nice revenge this year, BTW) in the NBA Finals. Are Vancouver fans somehow trying to prove that they are more committed by rioting? Beautiful city, ugly fans.

Ian M

I think that the loss is good for the NHL. How many Canadians watch hockey with the dream of seeing the cup return to Canada?

I prefer not to give a rat's ass.

caleb b

Couch burning and Ohio State football - i'm pretty sure that goes on win or lose.

Jason Collins

How many stab wounds are treated on a normal Wednesday night in Vancouver?


The majority of the 100,000 hockey fans (or however many they are calling it now) that were downtown watching the game in the arena and on outdoor big screens left the downtown core when they could. A dedicated minority used the anonymity and apathy of a giant crowd of drunken, discouraged hockey fans to incite and participate in violence. If you watched the coverage you would have seen hockey fans protecting The Bay on Georgia St (the people inside the store with their mouths and noses covered using fire extinguishers to chase people out of the store after the windows were broken) and try to de-escalate the situation by quieting the violent minority as they were trying to confront the crowd control police. When all of those fans left the violent minority had free reign and the police stepped up the force of their response.

Anyhow, my view of the situation is there was a small core of people that wanted to participate in violence and they happened to use the anonymity provided by a large crowd of people cheering for a hockey team.

The protectors of The Bay. Ignore what the reporter says, he's wildly wrong but this was early in the night. Later they showed clips of those people chasing looters out of the store.
I cannot find a video of the guys trying to de-escalate the situation but there were many situations where someone would try to incite the police to retaliate and people in the crowd would pull them back and try to make them stop.
And to end it off with some humor...


Drew Alek

As a Canadian, and a hockey fan, I am embarrassed and ashamed to be represented by these fools. We do love hockey, but at the end of the day it is still just a sport. My apologies to those that were hurt in any way, and to our neighbours to the south.

Darcy Q

I live in Vancouver and walked the streets before the game. This riot had nothing to do with hockey. Watch the videos, most of the rioters aren't wearing hockey gear.

From 5 o'clock onwards it was clear that there were people downtown geared up to cause trouble. They knew they wouldn't get caught. Hockey fans don't bring malatov cocktails to watch hockey.

Very sad ending to an amazing three weeks.


For the 2010 Olympic gold medal ice hockey match, any data on the hours after the match, or on the next day?


I live in Vancouver, went to the game, and walked through a small amount of the riot while trying to get home safe last night.

Please DO NOT refer to these rioters as hockey fans - this was pre-planned. These idiots showed up downtown with masks, pepper spray, and Molotov cocktails. That's not the work of a hockey fan angry at a loss; that's a pre-planned show of destruction.

Please do not judge our team, loyal and dedicated fans, or our beautiful city for the actions of some classless jerks that think it's funny to set a city on fire.


Should be noted that last nights violence in Vancouver was organized & planned. It was pulled off by the "Black Block" groups of the Anti-Poverty Alliance - the same groups that disrupted the beginning of the Olympics last year, and targeted the same companies.

Why I am sure a few joined in after drinking all afternoon in the mob mentality. This wasn't hockey inspired violence, it was hockey being used as an excuse for a violent group to cause mayhem

Stuart Lynne

I'll point out that there where more than 200,000 people downtown for the game (most watched outside on big screen TV's...)

And for the most part probably more than 95% of those people had nothing to do with any of the (as the CBC initially called it) the Post-Game CHAOS...

There was a certain small segment of the community who really was not so much into hockey as they where into seeing what they could get started after the fact. Unfortunately the police had got used to the exemplary behavior of the Olympic crowds last year (where hooliganism was severely constrained by the smaller crowd sizes and the reaction of most of the other people there to enjoy the show) and they let things get a little (!!!!) out of hand.

There was also lot of coverage of a couple of blocks. This was in no way a burning down of the entire downtown area.


In soccer riots at least the police fear more that the home team wins. If the loose, most people are just depressed and go home. If they win, they go crazy and all hell breaks loose.


Perhaps Vancouver/ Montreal are filled with people who love to riot and rarely get a chance to except for at major sporting events, rock concerts or large political events (G8, APEC, canceled Guns N Roses concerts etc).

Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa have all lost the cup in the past 10 years, and I don't recall too much rioting then.