Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Ben Hutton (55) gloves the loose puck as Montreal Canadiens forward Cole Caufield (22) and Canadiens forward Eric Staal (21) watch during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

NHL fans in the stands? It could happen during Leafs/Habs series

Quebec announced that indoor venues will be able to start hosting up to 2,500 starting May 28

A limited number of fans will be permitted in the Bell Centre to watch a May 29 playoff game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, should the series last that long.

The Quebec government announced Tuesday that indoor venues will be able to start hosting up to 2,500 patrons starting May 28 and that the provincial curfew will be lifted the same day.

“We are delighted with the government’s decision regarding shows and events,” France Margaret Bélanger, the Canadiens’ executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, said in a statement.

“Although the number of spectators remains limited, we applaud this decision which allows us to foresee an eventual return to normality.”

Bélanger said 2,500 people is about 12 per cent of the Bell Centre’s capacity.

“We really missed our fans and spectators and we can’t wait to host them again. And we will be ready,” she said.

The announcement of Quebec’s reopening plan came mere hours after Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said allowing fans into games is not under “serious consideration” at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would say if you look at that timing and what’s the schedule for the NHL playoffs, which is taking place right now and into the summer months, it’s not really something that’s under serious consideration in terms of fans in the stands, just based on where we are with our vaccination campaign at this point,” Njoo said in Ottawa.

All of the American games so far in the playoffs have had fans, with a high of 12,000 for a Carolina Hurricanes home contest against the Nashville Predators on Monday night.

The NHL has had Canadian teams play exclusively in the country this year with no fans at any games. The Edmonton Oilers open the North Division playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, while the Maple Leafs and Canadiens start their best-of-seven series Thursday in Toronto.

The winners square off in the second round before the Canadian survivor faces one of the three remaining American teams in the third round.

While Njoo did not see fans in attendance at Canadian playoff games, he said discussions are ongoing to determine if there can be cross-border travel in the third round and/or the Stanley Cup final.

“The live issue of course right now is what happens when we do get to the final four,” Njoo said.

Njoo said the federal government has had discussions with the provinces to figure out what might be possible.

The issue for the NHL is the 14-day quarantine for those coming in from outside Canada, which would be impossible during a best-of-seven series when one team hosts Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 and the other hosts Games 3, 4 and 6.

If the league and the country can’t come to an agreement on a modified quarantine, the North Division winner could relocate to the U.S. after the second round.

Many Canadian professional teams in other sports with regular cross-border travel have played home games in the U.S. during the pandemic.

Jets coach Paul Maurice said Monday the fans were very noticeable during the American playoff games.

“I really do believe that the only possible silver lining in all of this is the people and the players have just a great appreciation for just how great fans are and the experience for the players, especially,” Maurice said.

“I think it makes a big, big difference.”

The CFL’s Montreal Alouettes said they were encouraged by Tuesday’s announcement. The CFL is hoping to return to action in 20201 after having its 2020 season wiped out by the pandemic.

“Since the presence of a certain number of fans in the stands is essential for the Alouettes to return to play, today’s announcements is a step in the right direction considering that the team’s first home game (in Montreal) would most likely take place in September,” the Alouettes said in a statement.

“It goes without saying that the organization is also extremely happy that youngsters will be able to practice their favourite team sport once again.”

Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal) was the first Canadian professional sports team to have fans during the pandemic when 250 fans attended an Aug. 25 game against Vancouver.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: Twenty-two BCHL grads chasing Stanley Cup as NHL playoffs begin

RELATED: ‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read