Police will be on the alert for barn-raisings and duelling banjos as the Grey Cup comes to Vancouver.
I’m bored. How to liven up November? Quilting? Raindrop races? How about a big sports championship held in the heart of downtown Vancouver? Say no more – the Grey Cup is coming to the remodelled BC Place Stadium on November 27th. Why not? Excitement, action, and it’s good for business too. Recent experience in Vancouver shows that hosting a major sports final can really help merchandise fly off the shelves. And while the approaching Christmas season is a boon to some retailers, others could still use some stimulus. The plate-glass industry needs our support too.
Following the Stanley Cup riots many in Vancouver are understandably worried about another rowdy event downtown. But organizers insist there’s nothing to worry about. Since the hockey final, Vancouver has successfully staged other events in the core. September’s Word on the Street writer’s festival went off without a hitch, thanks to snipers and tactical squads.
Critics point out the Word on the Street Festival may actually have resulted in violence and looting, but we simply haven’t found out yet. Due to standard Vancouver Police Department investigation protocol, the first arrests could still be months away. Until recently there was a theory floating around that the Stanley Cup riots had actually been held in conjunction with the Witness Protection Program – participants were instructed to riot as the surest way to remain anonymous and at large.
Most locals are not worried, though. Consensus has it that the Grey Cup is different from the Stanley Cup. The last one held in Vancouver in 2005 was a peaceful and happy affair. This was surely because many Grey Cup fans flew in from around the country, and baggage restrictions make it difficult to pack bricks. Organizers may secretly be praying for out-of-town finalists.
At press time it was still unclear which teams would play in the Grey Cup game, and that will surely make a difference. Should the Saskatchewan Roughriders make it back to the championship, organizers are not worried about destruction, but rather the potential for impromptu barn-raisings, possibly on major thoroughfares. Police are promising that even well-behaved banjo players will be arrested and detained. Should Winnipeg make it to the Grey Cup, police will ensure that every Blue Bomber fan is carrying a round-trip ticket and will confiscate any camping gear.
There was a time when Grey Cup parties were of greater concern to local authorities. With the Lions playing at home in the 1963 game, there was trouble on Granville Street. Drunken rowdies threw beer glasses. There was a report of a small car being lifted onto the sidewalk. Someone started a conga line. Presumably ethnic dancing caused more alarm in those days. Old-school rioting sounds more like America’s Got Talent.
Safe to say if anyone lifts a small car onto the sidewalk before or after this year’s Grey Cup game police will probably thank them for their co-operation. During the Stanley Cup riots, lifting a car could have resulted in third-degree burns.
But the truth is that the Grey Cup game no longer carries the emotional punch of the Stanley Cup. The crazy-making power that drives mobs to trash London or plunder London Drugs is no longer generated by the CFL, at least outside of Saskatchewan. And those Prairie people are generally too decent to bust a place up. Any excitement we get out of Grey Cup 2011 will likely come from some whoop-up hotel-room parties and, with luck, a great game. Let’s all enjoy it and try not to overreact.
In the meantime, it is possible the Canucks will make it back to the Stanley Cup finals. Within the next few weeks I expect a progress report on the VPD’s 300-square-block steel cage. It must surely be under construction by now. Taxpayers demand an update.