The Montreal Canadiens announced that they will have 2,500 fans in attendance at Bell Centre for games beyond May 28. That means they can have fans in attendance if their quarter-final playoff match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs gets to Game 6. Presently, Montreal is the only Canadian team planning to have fans in attendance.
Déclaration quant à la réouverture prévue du Centre Bell
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) May 18, 2021
Montreal Canadiens Can Have Fans Back
Parts of Quebec, including Montreal, have been under a curfew from 9:30 p.m to 5:00 a.m. to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Earlier today, Quebec’s Premier Francois Legault announced starting May 28, restrictions will start to ease. One of those eased restrictions is stadiums can have a 2,500 person capacity. This restriction will not be lifted during Games 3 and 4 of Montreal’s series against Toronto. The only way fans can watch the Canadiens play is if Montreal doesn’t get eliminated by Toronto in five games or less.
Currently, the Montreal Canadiens will be the only Canadian team with fans in the stands. Because of the pandemic, all seven Canadian teams have played the regular season without fans. All teams have used tarps to cover some of the seats, others have also allowed fans to buy cardboard cutouts of themselves sitting in the stands.
The situation is different in the United States. Fans have been allowed back in many buildings as the season has gone on. Since the playoffs have started, all American teams have had fans back, but not at full capacity. The Carolina Hurricanes, Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers have hosted the most fans in the playoffs. Carolina hosted 12,000 fans, the Florida Panthers hosted 9,646 and the Vegas Golden Knights had 8,683.
What This Means for the Canadiens
Montreal needs to make it to Game 6 for this to mean anything. An added 2,500 fans inside the Montreal Canadiens Bell Centre will certainly give their team an extra lift, but early returns in the playoffs have shown that fans in the building have not resulted in more wins for the home side. It could be different in Canada, where this is the first time any fans have been in attendance. The Canadian teams have only played each other this year, so this will be a new experience this season for everyone.
It is unlikely that Montreal’s decision is a catalyst for other Canadian teams being allowed fans back in, as Canada deals with their third wave. Ontario is under a stay-at-home order until June 2nd. Manitoba is facing a possible incoming crisis for the number of ICU patients expected in their hospitals, making it unlikely the Winnipeg Jets allow fans inside. Alberta’s cases are starting to drop from their peak. However, the hospital curve is still going up.