Quebec's Public Health Department will not allow more fans at the Bell Centre

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MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens say Quebec's Public Health Department will not allow more than 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre for the team's upcoming home games for the Stanley Cup final.

The team's public relations department made the announcement Wednesday night on Twitter.

The Canadiens first home game in the Stanley Cup final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning is scheduled for Friday. The Habs trail in the series 1-0.

The Montreal Canadiens organization said Tuesday it had asked the government to ease COVID-19 health restrictions and increase capacity at the Bell Centre to 10,500 people, up from 3,500.

Earlier Wednesday, Dr. Richard Massé, a strategic medical adviser at the Health Department, said discussions around the request were ongoing but he expected a decision to be announced later in the day.

Massé said the government wanted to be careful about making exceptions to public health orders because doing so would inevitably lead to other groups demanding similar treatment.

"This is why when we come up with measures, we want to be sure that these measures can be applied elsewhere," Massé said.

France Margaret Bélanger, the hockey team’s executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, said the team believes that 10,500 people — half of the arena's capacity — can be accommodated safely.

Massé said public health is open to the idea of having outdoor screenings of upcoming Canadiens games, which had been suggested by Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

The Health Department did not respond Wednesday afternoon to a request for comment about when the decision will be announced.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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