A Gentleman’s Guide to a Proper Riot


Probability dictates that, barring a planetary or economic catastrophe of crippling scale, the Toronto Maple Leafs will win another Stanley Cup. At worst, they’ll be defeated in a gut wrenching final paralleling their Canadian, specifically British Columbian buddies of last evening. (Fun fact, to distract from that frustrating reminder of it: The province’s name was chosen specifically by Queen Victoria in 1858, mainly in reference to the then-British local territory drained by the Columbia river1 – in fact having nothing to do, as I had assumed, with being a tea-swilling version of its Latin American counterpart).

If the fervour, emotion, and insanity with which the city of Vancouver reacted to last night’s outcome can be considered a molehill, the passion for hockey in the Greater Toronto Area would undoubtedly be its mountain. Vancouver’s a city placated with success in sport, having hosted a wondrously successful Olympics last year and serving as the focal point for intense national pride as Canada again proved that, as a nation, we’re pretty much still awesome at that sport we’re clearly always awesome at.

Last night, the pendulum swung back. Anarchy, terror, and otherwise normal people kicking probably the same Canada Post boxes into which they’d posted letters earlier that day, reigned. If a balanced hockey environment as Vancouver could react to the loss with such vitriol, imagine the result of a similar outcome in Toronto.

If nothing else, let us move forward from last night’s shameful national black eye in the most productive way possible: by learning from it.

One day, this chaos may find you. In Toronto, in Winnipeg, in Ott…ha, no. But seriously, you should be prepared.

In that spirit, Maple Leafs Hot Stove and The Toronto Truculent proudly give you the ultimate reference guide for conducting and surviving a Hogtown riot properly, should we be fortunate enough to one day ice a team with a snowball’s chance in hell of playing such high stakes hockey in the early summer.

Do not flip cars over. First of all, it’s terribly cliché. Everyone tunes into a riot report expecting to see overturned cars. You’re there to make an assholic statement: at least be original about it. And, frankly, with a dozen men working at it – it’s not that impressive. A 2010 Mazda Miata weighs 2480 pounds, which, divided amongst twelve guys means they’re each only moving about 200. Anyone who gyms regularly wouldn’t brag about benching 200 pounds – and, forget benching – they’re really only nudging it onto an angle. Gravity is doing all the work. What, honestly, is so damned appealing about it?

Do not flip other peoples’ cars over. At least be considerate and flip your own, if you are so moronically inclined. Most drivers in Canada have to principally insure against theft, fire, and collision (note: but not, “with idiots”). One assumes riot insurance would incur an extra option with, at the very least, a significant premium. It’s simply inconsiderate. At least first make an effort to contact the owner and inquire on the status of their coverage plan.

Do not park your car on the street anywhere in or near downtown. Thought I was going to let the owners off easy, didn’t you? Come on. What did you think would happen? Giant throngs of potentially very pissed off people, and you want to leave some two-ton luggage that you’ll have to eventually take home right in the middle of them all? It’s like a building a two-story children’s playhouse out of golf clubs and saying, “I really can’t control whether or not the lightning hits it.”

Riot police do not have to fill out even close to as much paperwork as regular police. Meaning, they can do pretty much whatever they feel is necessary to push you back. A regular cop, for example, needs to fill out something like nine pages of forms every time he discharges a round2. They have batons and shields. Those are the weapons we can see. You go at them, and they will not move. You’re JFJ, and they all have no-trades.

If any one of Luke Schenn, Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, or James Reimer is still less than 32 years of age, the emotion isn’t worth it. If the Toronto Maple Leafs are contending before that point, they’re likely good enough to mean there’s several more years of contention waiting directly ahead. Don’t waste all your inner-riot on the first one.

Take public transportation. Not for convenience, or even reliability. But because, like zombies, a malicious pack of emotion-crazed people can only be deterred by a sudden emotional or biological response. If you must enter the scene, do so at a location capable of calming even the most possessed and rabid of commuters fans: in Toronto’s case, the calming olfactory influence of the Union Station Cinnabon.

Real Sports does not care that you didn’t think to make a reservation. Honestly. They don’t even care in June when there are no playoffs in Toronto. They have bigger problems to worry about at this point, like bracing the east and north walls with rows of sandbags to slow the mob throwing itself against the glass.

Do not plan to travel via the Gardiner Expressway. Sorry, not sure why that one’s in this article. Should be filed under ‘General.’

Carry hockey-related items with which you can barter. The unruly crowd is drunk and in love – or perhaps in pyromaniacal hate – of anything branded with their team’s logo. Drunk people love…things. They’re hilarious. Or useful. In this stage, they’ll trade something of far greater value (subway tokens, their phone, money) to get that Luke Schenn t-shirt you’re carrying, because they happen to be the one idiot in the crowd that didn’t wear a jersey down to the game and now they need to fit in so that pretty girl won’t go home with their roommate instead. Don’t carry cash – if they realize you are, the barter jig is up. They’ll just beat you and take it.

You are not Batman. Don’t try and take on the entire mob. It doesn’t work in real life. Christian Bale needed almost two and half hours to take down Heath Ledger’s Joker. One guy. One crazy anarchist. Going against these insane crowds of less-than-human scum is like taking on 1,000 Jokers, even if you’re a brave, well-intentioned, normal person who does the right thing and is now the subject of a search in order to recognize your Good Samaritan-ness and actions – which were nothing short-of-heroic.

The Air Canada Centre has been fortified against looting, wall-scaling assault, and nuclear explosions. Don’t try. I have it on good authority that in the case of emergency, the upper parapets will deploy a sentry gun system capable of peeling off the strange, disconnected tuft of hair under Tomas Kaberle’s lower lip. At a thousand yards.

Looting is dumb, and not worth it. There’s a reason the higher ticket stores (Future Shop, Dundas Square) build on the upper floors. If you want to run down Yonge, smash windows, and speed away with merchandise in totally chaotic and utter lunacy – fine. Be criminal. Be gutless. But don’t complain that, when you finally make the news for the first time in your life, it’s running out of The Bay on King Street with an armful of training bras.

Looting Centre Sports or the Jays shop might be worth it. $40+ for a fitted cap? You’re asking to come back amidst a crowd and smash doors down to get at it. Waterloo may border Amish country, but I’ll be damned if the St. Jacobs Outlet Mall doesn’t have the same headwear for half the price. Seriously, check it out. You can have an authentic apple fritter.

Authentic apple fritters are amazing. Again, ‘general.’ But worth noting, sinceTim Hortons’ have gone straight downhill in recent years. And don’t think for a second that the ‘Hort won’t be the looters’ first target.

This guide is rudimentary, in no way a guarantee of your survival (or, for that matter, responsible or liable in any way for your actions in following its advice). But, the average Canadian needs to be aware.

Last night’s debacle was a bruise on the flexed bicep of Canadian hockey. Toronto, one day, will have a chance to hold its head high through similar circumstances. Let’s pre-empt the hypocrisy that would come with breaking Bay Street windows, and reflect on the simplest fact lost in all of this.

It’s a game.

2 – Not researched in any way.

-Matt Mistele