Fans survive nastiness

BILL KAUFMANN --Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:07 PM ET

 VANCOUVER -- It didn't take long for the ugliness to boil over. Minutes after the Vancouver Canucks straggled off the ice Thursday night following their 2-1 defeat to the Calgary Flames, alcohol and frustration melded with bloody results.

 A punishing brawl erupted on the concourse of General Motors Place with about half a dozen men pounding each other -- one left lying in a spattering of his own blood.

  A quick scan of the mayhem revealed no Flames jerseys in the fray -- these were Vancouver fans, perhaps taking the agony of defeat out on each other.

 After a night of badgering and ducking missiles from often furious Canucks loyalists, some of Calgary's Road Warriors weren't about to take any chances in the combustible atmosphere.

 Flaming C jerseys were quickly shed and squirrelled away.

 But Chris Wagner didn't and a glowering young man pummeled him in the midsection with a balled up towel. Some towels were used by their owners for crying, others as weapons.

 Earlier, while the Road Warriors reclined in the stands savouring victory, a grapefruit-size chunk of ice sailed over, launched by an inebriated Canucks fan several rows away.

 The man, plastic glass of draft beer in hand, then came over to make amends, but ended up arguing over what he called Flames fans obnoxious cheering style.

 "You guys are all airhorns and cow bells -- why don't you try using your voices instead," bleated the fool.

 But even he shared the ever-shrinking morale infecting many Vancouver fans, who were dispirited even before the drop of the puck Thursday night.

 The energy level in GM Place throughout the game couldn't hold a candle to the bedlam at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

 "Without (Todd) Bertuzzi, our team doesn't know who they are, there's no identity, which is what your guys have," said the drunken ice thrower.

 Some of the obnoxious fans fired a knotted official Canucks towel at Road Warrior driver Greg Wedderburn, who replied with a verbal volley.

 "I told them it's good timing, because I'll be changing the oil in my car this week and I'll need a rag," said Wedderburn.

 Before game time, a Road Warrior bid to win Vancouver hearts and minds by handing out beef jerky that obviously met with limited success.

 Past a gauntlet of verbal venom the Warriors' Dan Hawkwood, Wagner, Cam Heintz and Ross Baradoy emerged from the game onto a street thick with snarling Canucks faithful.

 Some Vancouverites stopped to offer congratulations and a hand shake. "Well done, Flames -- you did all the simple things well," said one man.

 But a gaggle of beer-addled men across the street baited the Flaming Cs with threats and an invitation to rumble.

 Another group on the same sidewalk as the Warriors chimed in: "If you guys act up, we'll force you across the street to those guys, we're serious," said one.

 The presence of two city police officers lent comfort.

 The guys were adamant about heading out for a celebratory beer, but there would be no parading the Flames colours while doing it.

 The Warriors were eager to reflect on the Flames happier fortunes while savouring a trip that landed them in a rare role.

 "It's been fantastic and to win in Vancouver just topped it off," said Hawkwood. "I also loved being the bad guy in their building."

 Pity the Canucks at the 'Dome for tonight's Game-6 pandemonium.


Videos

Photos