Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press Rioters burn police cars after the Vancouver Canucks were defeated by the Boston Bruins in the NHL's Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday June 15, 2011.

The same city that played peaceful host to an idyllic 2010 Winter
Olympics showed a darker side Wednesday as a heartbreaking Stanley Cup
loss sent furious hockey fans on a violent, liquor-fuelled rampage in
downtown Vancouver.

Angry,
drunken revellers ran wild after Wednesday night’s 4-0 Game 7 loss to
the Boston Bruins, setting cars and garbage cans ablaze, smashing
windows, showering giant TV screens with beer bottles and dancing atop
overturned vehicles.

For many, the ugly chaos added a vicious sting to the already bitter taste of defeat.

“This isn’t what the Canucks are about,” said Chad McMillan, 31, a Vancouver resident and lifelong Canucks fan.

“This isn’t what their fans are about, this isn’t what this city is about.”

Tear
gas mingled with the stench of acrid smoke and stale beer as riot
police, truncheons drawn, moved in to quell the violence, pushing crowds
away from the burning cars that were at the epicentre of the anger.

Later in the evening, police cars were also set aflame.

At
one point, police were using flash-bangs – grenades that are designed
to distract and disorient, rather than injure – to try to break up the
mob, McMillan said.

There were no immediate indications of
injuries, although live television did show images of at least one woman
mopping blood from her forehead.

“You don’t ever hope for a situation like this,” said Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness.

“You
celebrate the good times and you prepare for the bad times and that’s
exactly what we’ve done. Unfortunately, the tables have turned tonight.”

Flames
leaped from at least two flipped vehicles, which rested in the middle
of trash-strewn streets, filling the downtown core with heavy black
smoke in the moments immediately following the game at Vancouver‘s Rogers Arena.

“I
heard a loud noise and turned and there was a car being stomped on by a
bunch of guys,” 18-year-old witness Brandon Sinclair said of the first
few moments of violence.

“A bunch of guys started rocking it,
then they flipped it over and five minutes later it was on fire and then
they flipped another one. It was just out of control.”

Bright
orange flames were seen shooting nearly 10 metres into the air as
bystanders tossed firecrackers, setting off intermittent barrages of
staccato explosions.

Live television images showed a large fire burning inside a parking garage, but it wasn’t immediately clear what was ablaze.

Patrick
Fleming, 15, from Richmond, B.C., said a small group of fans took out
their anger on nearby cars in the game’s dying moments, flipping over
two vehicles and setting one on fire.

Another upturned vehicle
was visible nearby as flames erupted from the exploding car, prompting
bystanders to duck down in alarm. Fans who were trying simply to get out
of the danger zone found their visibility reduced to zero by the thick
black smoke.

About an hour after the game ended, some bold
troublemakers started hurling garbage and bottles at police officers,
who deflected the debris with riot shields. Protesters who rushed the
police line were quickly subdued with blows from a truncheon.

Some
protesters held what looked like pipes or hockey sticks over their
heads as they jeered at officers. Newspaper boxes were wrenched off the
sidewalk and hurled through store windows. Portable toilets were tipped
as the stifling black smoke spread through the city’s core.

Some
seemed to revel in the rampage, recording the vandalism on cellphones
and video cameras. A few congratulated those who tried to attack police,
while others erupted with cheers every time something was damaged.

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