4 Canadian sports riots
Macleans.ca excerpt: The Book of Lists
DAVID WALLECHINSY, AMY WALLACE, IRA BASEN, and JANE FARROW | Dec 27, 2005
1. The Christie Pits Riots(1933)
Sometimes sports serves as a pretext for anger that is actually directed elsewhere. For example, some historians believe the Rocket Richard riot(see below)was not really about Richard's suspension, but about long-simmering French-Canadian anger over Anglo domination. Similarly, the riot that erupted after a softball game at Toronto's Christie Pits on August 16, 1933, wasn't really about anything that happened on the field that night. All summer, gangs of young Nazi sympathizers had been harassing Jews in the city's parks and beaches, and Jewish groups were determined to fight back.
It all came to a head during a game between two neighbourhood teams, St. Peter's and Harbord Playground. Thousands of people had gathered in the park that evening. Most were more interested in what was happening in the stands than in what was happening on the field. Skirmishes broke out between the Nazi "Pit Gang" and the Jewish "Spadina Avenue Gang" while the game was still in progress, but the real fighting began after the final out. Nazi sympathizers unfurled a blanket with a swastika painted on it, and the Jewish gangs were determined to tear it down. Hundreds of combatants battled for hours in the midtown neighbourhood. Police were slow to arrive. Only five people were arrested, and it was 2:30 in the morning before the fighting finally ended. Oh yes, St. Peter's won the game 5-4.
2. The Rocket Richard Riot(1955)
One of the most famous riots in Canadian sports history was precipitated by a violent incident in Boston on March 13, 1955. During a game between the Bruins and the Canadiens, Maurice "Rocket" Richard smashed three hockey sticks over the back and head of Bruins defenceman Hal Laycoe in retaliation for an earlier incident in which Laycoe had given Richard a cut to the head that required eight stitches. Then Richard punched linesman Cliff Thompson in the face. League president Clarence Campbell suspended the Rocket for the rest of the season and the playoffs.
Four days later, against the advice of League officials and police, Campbell showed up at the Canadiens' first home game since the suspension. He came in late, with his young girlfriend on his arm. His appearance sent the crowd into a fury. They threw tomatoes, eggs, shoes and bottles. One fan managed to slip by security and punch the League president. At the end of the first period, someone threw a smoke bomb in the Forum, which resulted in fans streaming out onto Ste-Catherine Street, where they joined up with hundreds of protestors who were gathered in front of the building. The crowd smashed windows, threw bricks and set fires. The riot lasted for seven hours. By the time it ended, 12 police officers and 25 civilians were injured, and 70 people had been arrested.
3. The Montreal Stanley Cup Riot(1993)
You would think that, by the time the Montreal Canadiens had won the Stanley Cup a record 24 times, their fans would have learned how to celebrate peacefully. But given their behaviour after the Habs' last two victories, that doesn't appear to be the case. In 1986, 5,000 people rampaged through downtown Montreal following the team's victory over Calgary. So poorly prepared were the Montreal police to stop the violence that Quebec courts ruled the police criminally negligent. So, with the Canadiens poised to win another Cup on June 9, 1993, Montreal authorities deployed close to 1,000 police officers, many of them helmeted riot troopers. It was not enough. Moments after the game ended, thousands of people descended onto Ste-Catherine Street, setting bonfires, overturning cars, breaking windows and looting stores. By the next morning, 15 city buses and 47 police cars had been destroyed, 168 people had been injured, including 49 police officers, and 115 people were in jail. Damage was estimated at more than $10 million. Few people could argue with Montreal mayor Jean Doré's assessment of it as "a regretful and appalling situation."
4. Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot(1994)
One of the ugliest riots in hockey history was triggered not by a victory, but by a defeat. On the night of June 14, 1994, following the Vancouver Canucks' loss to the New York Rangers in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final, between 50,000 and 75,000 people jammed the streets of downtown Vancouver. The mood of the crowd was initially upbeat, but things turned ugly when drunken brawls broke out at the corner of Robson Street and Thurlow. Total damage was estimated at $1.1 million. More than 50 plate glass windows at the downtown Eaton's store were smashed. It took several hours before 540 Vancouver police and RCMP officers could restore order. Dozens of people were arrested, and more than 200 were injured. The most seriously injured was teenager Ryan Berntt, who was shot in the head by police with a rubber bullet. He spent nearly a month in a coma and suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the shooting. But that wasn't the end of Berntt's problems. He spent nine months in jail for his part in the riot, and his civil suit against the city of Vancouver and its police force was dismissed in December 2001, more than seven years after the riot.
Excerpted from The Book of Lists, The Canadian Edition by David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace, Ira Basen and Jane Farrow Copyright © 2005 by David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace, Ira Basen and Jane Farrow. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
David Wallechinsky is the author of numerous books including The People's Almanac Presents the Twentieth Century: History with the Boring Parts Left Out and The Complete Book of the Olympics.
Amy Wallace is the co-author of four previous volumes of The Book of Lists, as well as several other popular reference books. She also wrote the bestselling memoir Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda.
Ira Basen is a long-time CBC Radio producer. He worked together with Jane on Workology, and has also produced This Morning, Quirks & Quarks and Sunday Morning. His book Spin will be published by Penguin Books in 2006.
Jane Farrow is the author of Wanted Words and Wanted Words 2. She has hosted the CBC Radio One programs The Omnivore, Home and Workology.