Being a jhr intern here in Ghana, there are certain comforts of home I’ve had to give up: my bed, poutine, Alexander Keith’s. But if there’s one thing that’s burned me most over the last month and a bit, it’s that I was missing the Stanley Cup run of my hometown Vancouver Canucks. With ice hockey being little more than a rumour in Ghana, I’ve had to resign myself to checking box scores and NHL.com highlights the day after to track the progress of the team. With every goal scored and every series won, my pain grew stronger. Almost unanimously, experts had Vancouver going all the way to the Cup, and when the Canucks drew the unimpressive Boston Bruins as a Finals opponent, I lamented the fact that this was the year my team finally won the Cup, and I was halfway around the world.
And then, of course, the Canucks lost. And the city of Vancouver lost its head.
“I was actually right at Canada Post watching the game, which was the location where the riots first started,” said Mike Noble, a Canucks fan who saw the violence erupt downtown. “With about 10 minutes left in the third, the entire pavilion we were at just completely lost their minds.”
Brendan Batchelor, who covers the Canucks for Vancouver’s TEAM1040 radio station, said the riots were caused by a very small number of people, many who were not even fans.
“Even after the game seven loss, the feeling inside the building was positive and not negative,” said Batchelor, who was covering the game from the arena. “Many of these rioters were not fans of the hockey team, just people looking for an excuse to act like animals.”
When I found out the next morning in the office, I read out some headlines regarding the incident. My colleagues in the Kapital newsroom couldn’t believe it.
“I was very surprised,” said Benjamin Yamoah, Kapital’s sports editor. “What happens down here in Africa, yes we might lose a game, and we’ll be disappointed that we lost a game… but to go to the extent of destroying stuff and causing mayhem in the city, that won’t happen in Africa, that won’t happen in Ghana.”
This came as a surprise to me. In Ghana, football reigns supreme. Everybody and their grandmother has a team they cheer for, and football talk dominates every aspect of radio, television, and face-to-face interaction. It’s strikingly similar to the passion surrounding hockey in Canada. Yamoah agrees, but he points to one distinct difference between the two countries.
“Here, people leave their emotions inside the stadium,” said Yamoah. “When our teams lose, it gets to us, but we should know how to control our passion.”
Farhan Devji, an Ottawa-based freelance writer for Canucks.com who flew home to Vancouver to witness the run, said the actions of a few have spoiled the image of the entire fan base around Canada, and even globally.
“This reflects very poorly on not only Canucks fans, but also the city of Vancouver as a whole,” said Devji. “But believe me when I say this isn’t an accurate reflection… Canucks fans are passionate, no doubt, but it isn’t fair to group them together with the people who destroyed our city.”
In light of this, perhaps it was better that I wasn’t at home to witness what took place. The Canucks’ run, supposed to end in glory and the ever elusive Stanley Cup, instead ended in a black mark that will forever mar Vancouver’s reputation as a peaceful, welcoming city.
Yamoah summed up his thoughts with a justified reprimand.
“We feel that you ought to know much better,” he said. “I mean, it’s supposed to be Africa that is not well developed and well advanced in certain things … That’s why I was very surprised, because this sort of thing should not be happening over there.”