Friday, August 03, 2007

Je Me Souviens - The '86 Stanley Cup Riot

Je me souviens is the newest FHF feature of crappy filler while we wait until the fucking season starts. The title says it all. If you don't know what it means, read a license plate. Or go use The Google.

I have been "lucky" enough to have participated in the 3 major riots in Montreal over the last 25 years - the Stanley Cup Riot of 1993, the Guns 'n Roses riot of I was too stoned to remember what year it was, and the subject matter of this post, which was the "best" (read: craziest) of the 3.

That whole 1986 playoff run was magical, and insane at the same time. To give the riot some context, let's try to summarize those playoffs and the season with some bullet points:

  • 20-year old Patrick Roy, in his rookie season, became St. Patrick by taking over as starter, winning a bunch of games to close the season, then having a 1.92 GAA in the playoffs and winning the Conn Smythe;
  • That whole team was a bizarre mix of leftover 1970's stars like Bob and Big Bird, and 8 rookies, and their regular season had been mediocre - 40-33-7;
  • The Oilers were eliminated in the playoffs by Steve Smith scoring into his own net off the back of Grant Fuhr's legs. Remember, the Oilers should have been in the Finals; 2-time defending champs, they had won the first-ever Presidents' Trophy and The Great One had a record 215 points (that number still freaks me out);
  • The Habs had to beat a pesky Hartford Whalers team in the Adams Final, in OT in Game 7;
  • Rookie Claude Lemieux played like Mario, scoring 10 post-season goals, while at the same time beginning to earn his rep as a shit-disturber;
  • The shit-disturbing led to this at the end of Game 4 of the Finals:

So that's the mentality we were dealing with. The whole city was in a Claude Lemieux - John Kordic (RIP) insanity.

I can picture where I was as I watched the final game - the basement of Bram Something-or-other's house in The Luc (Montreal suburb for you out of towners). As the game ended, about 15 or so of us who were there sort of moved toward the TV screen for some reason, then exploded when the horn sounded. Then someone said, "let's drive downtown and celebrate! It's gonna be wild down there." We had no idea.

We end up in the area of Ste-Catherine Street and Crescent, and from there the whole night becomes a series of images in my mind. First, excited celebratory screaming and hollering and high-fiving. It was amazing. Then, as the hours wore on, the first sounds of glass breaking. Then, the first images of fires burning. Then the fire engines showing up. Then the crowd literally commandeering the fire engines. Then the crowd building a massive bonfire right in the middle of the street - the kind of fire that lights up the sky. Then a bunch of idiots pushing a car towards the bonfire, me understanding the chemistry of explosions, and running the other way. Then people carrying looted clothes. While I did not loot, I am embarrassed to say I did climb up on a fire truck and partied on top of it. Young and stupid (I was 17), or at least part of the mob mentality.

The riot dragged on like this, fires and looting and dancing on fire trucks for as long as I can remember. There was no sign of any cops anywhere. It was weird - the mob really controlled the street. By about 4 or 5 AM everyone was just tired of rioting - that's the only reason it stopped.

The denouement takes place at Dorval Airport, where the mob had moved to welcome home our heroes, armed with freshly-looted tube socks. I vividly recall the mob taking over the terminal, sleeping on the luggage carousels as we waited for the flight. Never saw the Habs come in, I am not sure why. Dragged my ass home at about 10 AM to finally face my mom and her questions as to where the fuck I was all night.

I was at the riot, Mom. In 20 years it'll be a great story.

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