First, the good news. CBC announced another stunning rating for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. A record 8.76 million Canadians tuned in for the Boston Bruins' clincher over the Vancouver Canucks, the second largest audience in history for CBC. Boston's win produced a record in the United States as well. Game 7 was watched on NBC by 8.54 million people, making it the most-watched NHL game in 38 years. It was up 3 per cent for 2010's clinching Game 6 and the fourth most-watched Stanley Cup game in history. One, two, three ... yay! And then there was ... "I don't often riot, but when I do I choose Vancouver. Stay classless, my friends." - the world's most interesting looter.
If there were a way to hand back all the media equity it earned during the 2010 Olympics then Vancouver managed that distinction late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning in the wake of the Canucks loss. News organizations that might otherwise have ignored the hockey game were suddenly all over the riots like a wolf on a lamb chop.
The event was only too willing to offer itself up to the world media. As CBC's Peter Mansbridge tweeted, "MSNBC 'Morning Joe', one of my favourites, asks 'what ever happened to docile Canadians?' And, 'They lose and they take it out on cars?' " CNN, FOX, CNBC and HNN also dined out on the images of the riot, not of the Bruins' win. Many asked how this squared with Canada's mild-mannered reputation.
ESPN - which rarely mentions the NHL since losing its U.S. TV cable rights - gave plenty of play to the riots on their TV and radio outlets. Syndicated radio host Jim Rome - usually kind to hockey - pounded the Vancouver violence throughout his Thursday show.
Actor John Cusack tweeted, "The U.S. has a warning against travelling to Vancouver? Give me a break ! A few hooligans f'd it up for the lot of us." Tweeted U.S. comedian Patton Oswalt. "Have the Vancouver riot police turned on the maple syrup cannons yet?"
Hockey Night In Canada's postgame with the Cup winner is traditionally the happy punctuation of the hockey season. Players' back stories, families and emotion make a memorable sendoff to the season. But that was quickly lost Wednesday as the images filtered in from the streets. Instead, CBC itself was at the heart of the violence as crowds, danger and smoke swirled around their downtown location.
From cameras mounted in their complex they captured the rioters as they systematically set fire to police cars - with no police anywhere in sight. Props to CBC for keeping Peter Mansbridge live in the Toronto studios to supplement the CBC Vancouver coverage with a clearly appalled Tony Parsons.
But as the rioters moved up Granville to the Hudson's Bay and London Drugs stores, CTV Vancouver took over as must-watch. From its helicopter shot (CBC has no chopper BTW) it captured the multiple fires as hooligans threatened to burn the downtown landmark stores. They were live with a distressed mayor Gregor Robertson.
And if the Gemini Awards mean anything there must be one for CTV reporter Rob Brown who (with security in tow) roamed the streets, mixing with the rioters, interviewing kids stranded downtown. For those of who admire enterprise journalism, having Brown just behind the riot squad as it prepares to advance was both scary and exhilarating.
Hello it's me
Amazing to see so many of the looters only too willing (stupid) to have themselves photographed, videoed and otherwise captured in the act. Which is why we don't believe the profile of the "angry looter." Mostly they looked like grinning droogs from A Clockwork Orange. If there were any doubt about the motives and world views of some rioters, a stroll through Facebook and Twitter revealed people apparently only too willing to incriminate themselves.
With impeccable timing, the NHL chose Thursday to announce that Guardian media has formed an alliance with NBC Universal to flog the NHL's Guardian Project, the Stan Lee superhero franchise. Leading to a flogging on Twitterverse. Colleague Allan Maki summed up the mixed message from Wednesday's mayhem, "What was Vancouver's super hero again? Tear Gas Man?"