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Canucks — and Vancouver — won't forget this night easily

The hockey team and city both saw their images tarnished Wednesday, when the Canucks flopped in the Stanley Cup finals and rioting broke out in the streets. Thursday, volunteers helped clean up the city, and notes of apology were left at a department store that suffered damage.

June 17, 2011|Helene Elliott
  • People write messages on plywood covering the windows of the looted Hudson's Bay Company store in Vancouver on Thursday, the day after fans rioted following the Canucks' loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
People write messages on plywood covering the windows of the looted Hudson's… (Darryl Dyck / Associated…)

From Vancouver, Canada — A world-class team and the worldly city it represents absorbed devastating blows Wednesday night. The damage won't easily be repaired for the Canucks, who were thumped by the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, or for Vancouver, where rioters looted in the downtown core after the team's 4-0 loss.

The stench of disappointment was overpowered by the smell of tear gas deployed by police in an attempt to quell the unrest. Cars were flipped and burned, sending plumes of smoke skyward. Windows were broken at department stores, pharmacies and coffee shops. Fools set fires in trash bins and taunted police.

This wasn't about losing a hockey game. It was about power and senseless destruction and the horrifying force of the mob mentality. The Canucks' loss — their third in three trips to the Cup finals — was a handy excuse to turn this beautiful city into an ugly, smoky mess.

PHOTOS: Riots in Vancouver after Canucks lose playoffs

As crowds were pushed back, street sweepers began to remove shards of glass, splinters of wood and clumps of twisted metal that once were cars. Hope sprang up Thursday morning as volunteers came downtown to pick up debris and stow it in trash bags. The plywood covering broken windows at the looted Hudson's Bay Co. department store was being filled with penned notes of apology. Websites were set up to display photos and videos of the rioting in hopes of identifying the criminals.

But memories of the destruction will linger, as will the failure of a Canucks team that led the NHL in scoring over the 82-game season yet was held by Boston to eight goals in seven games.

The Canucks' stars — Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler — were largely silent. Their depth, tested by injuries and the suspension of Aaron Rome, was outweighed by players' many and varied injuries. Defenseman Alex Edler had two broken fingers. Christian Ehrhoff had a bad shoulder. Henrik Sedin and Kesler wouldn't say what was wrong, but they were clearly not in top form.

Anything less than the Canucks' best was going to be inadequate against Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, voted the Conn Smythe winner as the most valuable player in the playoffs. And the Canucks were far from their best.

"They've got a great team over there," Daniel Sedin said. "We had to beat five guys all the time and when we did that we had to beat Thomas, and we didn't do that enough."

The Bruins, tested in two previous Game 7 situations this postseason, were unshakeable. They lost Marc Savard to a concussion in January and winger Nathan Horton to a concussion in Game 3 of the Cup finals, but the talent of David Krejci and Milan Lucic carried them. Rookie Brad Marchand, the kind of agitator coaches love and opponents hate, scored an impressive 11 playoff goals. Rookie Tyler Seguin gained invaluable playoff experience. And the key players are under contract through next season.

"I think it was great the way our team just looked at the small picture. Every game, all we talked about was going out there and earning it," Coach Claude Julien said.

"It wasn't ours to have, it was ours to earn."

The Canucks face some choices as defensemen Ehrhoff, Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and Andrew Alberts head for unrestricted free agency, as do forwards Chris Higgins, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass and Jeff Tambellini. Goaltender Roberto Luongo, who careened between the sublime (two 1-0 shutouts) and the ridiculous (yanked twice in Boston) is under contract through 2021-22. That looks more like an albatross than a security blanket for the Canucks. He didn't lose this series, but he didn't win it for a team that expected a title.

"It's obviously disappointing. But do we need to change anything? I don't think so," Daniel Sedin said. "We have a great core group and a lot of guys who are going to be here next year."

The Canucks will restructure their roster. The city of Vancouver will repair its smashed storefronts. Neither should forget how the worst side of their natures came to light Wednesday.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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