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

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Most Read