MONTREAL — For the first time since March 10, 2020, the Montreal Canadiens will host upwards of 2,500 fans at the Bell Centre when Quebec’s 9:30 p.m. ET curfew is officially lifted.
Premier François Legault announced on Tuesday that the province is preparing to ease several coronavirus restrictions in most regions, including those on gatherings at outdoor stadiums and interior concert halls, with the admission of up to 250 people per section coming into effect as of May 28.
“This is a big day, a big step,” Legault said.
The Canadiens, who are scheduled to start their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series in Toronto against the Maple Leafs this Thursday, have played 28 games at the Bell Centre this year without fans in attendance. Should the best-of-seven series extend to a sixth game — scheduled for May 29 — that will change.
Legault and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda also announced a four-phase plan to convert Quebec’s red zones to green by the end of June.
The reopening of the Bell Centre to the public is part of the preliminary phase, which will begin on May 28 and also see curfew lifted for the entire province for the first time since January, restaurants permitted to reopen their terraces, backyard gatherings of up to eight people and travel between regions authorized.
Phase 1 will begin as of May 31, with high school students from Grades 9-11 returning to class, and restaurant dining rooms and gyms reopening.
For Phase 2, which begins June 14, orange zones will shift to yellow, with bars reopening and all team sports — including contact sports — resuming.
And the final phase will see most regions turn to green zones as of June 28, with indoor gatherings of 10 people from three separate homes being permitted and all indoor sports resuming.
“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. Regarding the Montreal Canadiens and the playoffs, under the new rules, the Bell Centre will initially accommodate 2,500 people — or about 12 per cent of capacity — for a hockey game beyond May 28. We really missed our fans and spectators and we can’t wait to host them again. And we will be ready.”