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Vancouver Canucks fans loot merchandise through the smashed windows of a Sears store during a riot in reaction to their team's loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia June 15, 2011.

MIKE CARLSON/Reuters

Vancouver, 0 for 3 in the Stanley Cup finals but 2 for 3 in post-Stanley Cup violence, will examine its policing plan, scrutinize the decision to make its downtown a party zone, and perhaps even blame its own losing hockey team to explain its latest, and most frightening, riot.

The police and municipality need to answer tough questions. For instance, why were some practices recommended in a report into the 1994 Stanley Cup riot not in place on Wednesday night?

That said, there has been post-championship street chaos in cities that have won the big game, and in cities that have lost it. Cities that created public spaces for collective sports viewing have fallen victim to violence. Others have discouraged public celebrations, but still seen violence. Nor is the creation of a virtual police state a guarantee of safety, as shown by the 2010 G20 experience in downtown Toronto.

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While we need to examine our institutions closely, it was primarily the thugs who brought this terror and shame on a great city. And they, too, should be held accountable for their actions.

Who were they? Hooligans, but also anarchists and people with a prior intent to be violent. Drunks, but also some who had what is sometimes called, in an overly delicate fashion, "a few too many." They were overwhelmingly men. They were hosers. Some just appeared to think it was all a lark.

And yes, many of them were hockey fans. The Globe's Rod Mickleburgh captured the lunacy: "Fistfights were everywhere, often between combatants wearing jerseys of the Vancouver Canucks." A team's colours are a badge of belonging; they do not insulate the wearer from acting out his more anti-social or violent fantasies.

The image of Canuck fan on Canuck fan might strike some as comical. It wasn't. The few hundred in a peaceful crowd of tens of thousands - and the bystanders and voyeurs who abetted them or basked in the criminal afterglow - inflicted more damage than Toronto's G20 rioters did last year. For in addition to the car torchings, glass shatterings and lootings, they drew blood: Wednesday night's mayhem featured stabbings and injuries from hurled rocks.

The thugs spread fear to - and embarrassment on - Vancouver, indeed on the entire country. Authorities and individual citizens should use the legal tools available to them to bring them to justice.

The riot will provoke reflection and investigation, into the public safety measures in place on Wednesday, and on the connection between alcohol and violence. But Canadians can also focus on a different image of Vancouver - of the volunteers descending on downtown yesterday not to destroy it, but to rebuild it.

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