It's been eight months since the Boston Bruins snatched the Stanley Cup away from the Vancouver Canucks, but some fans have yet to move beyond the second stage of grief: anger.
The target, this time, was a church attended by the parents of Milan Lucic, the 23-year-old who grew up in East Vancouver and helped the city's major-junior Giants win the Memorial Cup, before starring for the Bruins.
A profanity aimed at Lucic was scrawled in black spray paint across the front of St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church in the suburb of Burnaby. "Go Canuks Go" – misspelled – and a crude image of a penis and testicles completed the pronouncement.
"Our church is not guilty because the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins," building caretaker Nikola Djasic said Friday.
A photo of the defacement was posted on Twitter.com by Lucic's girlfriend on Thursday, and then reverberated widely, reported online by NBC and CBS in the United States. As with the June 15, 2011, riot – the first rioter was sentenced this week, 17 months in jail – Vancouverites jumped to action, disgusted by the actions of a few that paint a poor image of the city.
Mid-morning on Friday, a group of about 20 students in Grades 6 and 7 at Lord Kelvin Elementary School, nearby the church and cultural centre, arrived to try to scrub away the mess. One parent, appalled by the graffiti after seeing it on the local news, organized the effort, a "teachable moment" for the kids.
"I thought it was really bad," said Matthew Wong, 12, on a break from scrubbing. "[Lucic]was born here. People should stop doing this, making damage all over the city. The people who did this are really bad."
Jason Boyne, owner of a Goodbye Graffiti outlet, also arrived after hearing the news. The kids, and their parents and teachers, had great intentions – but lacked the right tools. Boyne and his crew planned to paint over the mess, doing the $500 job for free.
"I'm a big Canucks fan, and a big Lucic fan – he's a great hockey player," Boyne said. The graffiti is from "the same type of people in the riot. They make us look bad. Right on a church, too. There's no sense in it."
In Winnipeg, preparing for a game Friday against the Jets, Lucic was not impressed. He's already felt anger from some aggrieved Vancouverites. At a street festival last summer, there were the rumblings of a fist fight. Such tension forced Lucic to change plans for his day with the Stanley Cup in Vancouver to a mostly private affair, instead of a public party at the beach in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. The closed-door celebrations included a community crowd of about 500 at the Serbian church and cultural centre that was defaced this week.
"It sucks that people would go to such extremes to do something like that and obviously it's some punk kids or teenagers or something like that thinking that they are cool," Lucic said.
"I know the whole [Serbian]community is not happy with something like that happening. … You never like to see your name [plus expletives]anywhere – never mind the culture centre and the church."
After the 2011 riot, civic leaders and many citizens tried to pin the blame on people who were not "real" fans of the NHL team. Reaction on Friday also included some decided dissociation.
Blaming "just a few idiots," one posting on thecheapseats.ca blog concluded: "Hell, how big a fan could they be? Can't even spell the team's name right."
Last summer, when the anger towards Lucic bubbled, managing editor Thomas Drance of the canucksarmy.com blog said denial was a mistake: "The first step towards fixing a cultural problem is to admit you've got a problem."
"It would be dishonest to write this off as an 'isolated incident,' " Drance wrote Friday.
"Feverish hysteria" underpins the NHL team, and its finances, he noted, but added it is also fuel for actions most people can't understand: "This same fanatical passion occasionally reveals its unique, dark and perspective-free underbelly. It's a hateful undercurrent that is chilling and destructive … and the fact that it has shown its face more frequently of late is disturbing."