If the National Hockey League playoff series between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs lasts until May 29, a limited number of fans will be permitted in the Bell Centre.
The Quebec government announced Tuesday that indoor venues will be able to start hosting up to 2,500 patrons starting May 28, the same day a provincial curfew will be lifted.
“Although the number of spectators remains limited, we applaud this decision which allows us to foresee an eventual return to normality,” said France Margaret Bélanger, the Canadiens’ executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, in a statement.
Bélanger said 2,500 people is about 12 per cent of the Bell Centre’s capacity.
The announcement of Quebec’s reopening plan came 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.
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