Fans rage, fires burn, cars flip after loss

Associated Press / June 16, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Parked cars and garbage cans were set on fire, cars were tipped over, and people threw beer bottles at giant television screens following the Canucks’ 4-0 loss to the Bruins on last night in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

People chanted obscenities and some leaped over raging bonfires as riot police moved in to try to restore order in the downtown streets strewn with garbage and filled with acrid smoke.

Flames shot about 10 yards into the air off the cars, and some bystanders tossed firecrackers. Another fire erupted nearby in an area littered with abandoned Canucks memorabilia and hand-lettered signs. Fans set fire to a stuffed bear, and other people sang a drunken tune as they danced on an overturned vehicle.

A small group of rioters appeared to be at the heart of the action reminiscent of a similar scene that erupted in the city in 1994 following the Canucks’ Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers.

Police and firefighters stood nearby but did not intervene right away. If a pedestrian happened to be heading in a direction of danger, however, officials warned them to turn around.

At least two young men covered in soot reported being roughed up by the police, but they were not arrested. Rivers of poured-out alcohol, broken glass, and trash made navigating the streets treacherous.

As the evening progressed, fans wandered amid the chaos, some with bandanas or T-shirts pulled over their faces — to hide their faces from police and TV cameras, to guard against the smoke, or both.

Patrick Fleming, 15, said a small group took out its anger on cars in the game’s dying moments, flipping over two vehicles and setting one on fire.

Two other overturned vehicles were visible nearby as orange flames erupted from an exploding car, prompting several bystanders to duck down in alarm. Fans who were trying simply to get out of the danger zone found their visibility reduced by the thick black smoke.

Som Gosh, 16, said police blocked off the area and detained a number of people.

“I think it was a few people,’’ Gosh said. “ . . . Everybody else is watching.’’

Some members of the crowd could be seen trying to hold others back. Others posed for pictures, while most wanted no part of the violence and headed in the opposite direction.

A long line of police tried to hold back the surging crowd from the blazing cars.

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