The Gophers won the men’s national hockey championship for the second year in a row Saturday, sparking riots on the University of Minnesota’s campus similar to the previous year with overturned cars, bonfires and several arrests.
“We had a lovely day (Saturday),” Minnesota Police Department Spokesperson Ron Reier said, noting the large amounts of alcohol that were consumed in response to the weather as a partial explanation for the riots.
Police said they took extra precautions this year to ensure the game did not result in a repeat of last year’s events.
Officials added more officers to the streets of the U of M last weekend and planned alcohol-free events such as the celebration at Mariucci Arena, where a number of fans gathered to watch the game on four available screens.
Even with this year’s game taking place in Buffalo, New York, the Minneapolis police force could not deter the dangerous celebration.
Reier said once the game ended, crowds immediately poured into the street. A crowd of approximately 1,000 gathered at the main intersection in town chanting “Go Gophers” and starting fires.
Reier said celebrations moved on to the burning of bonfires with mattresses, furniture and dumpsters, noting that police responded to more than 60 fires Saturday evening.
Rocks and bottles were thrown at club-carrying police officers when they approached the unruly crowds of people to warn the rioters.
Police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd after numerous warnings were given and no change in behavior was noted.
“It is an extremely dangerous situation when you have people throwing rocks and bottles,” Reier said, noting how fortunate it was that no injuries resulted directly from the disturbance.
Police have arrested approximately 12 people thus far for misdemeanor and felony charges. Reier said he predicts the number of arrests to increase because of videotapes that were taken Saturday evening.
“This was a happy event that turned into a criminal event,” Reier said. “This was the behavior of unreasonable … unresponsible people.”
Reier also congratulated the team and said how sorry he felt for the players who had planned on returning home to a joyous celebration after their win.
One U of M student noted hearing individuals planning for a “riot” of this sort.
“I heard students before the game say, ‘If we win, we’re going to have to riot even more than last year,’” U of M sophomore Eric Lundgren said.
However, Lundgren said he was just confused when it came to the action of his fellow peers.
“The students got out of hand,” Lundgren said. “I don’t know whose idea it was to start cars on fire, but it was a terrible decision. I don’t understand the real cause of the craziness.”