Quebec public health denies Canadiens’ request to increase capacity at Bell Centre

Quebec public health has refused a request by the Montreal Canadiens to ease COVID-19 health restrictions and allow for increased capacity at the Bell Centre for the Stanley Cup final, the NHL team has announced.

“The Quebec Public Health authorities will not allow the Canadiens to have more fans in the Bell Centre,” the team said via its Twitter account Wednesday night.

Radio-Canada sources also confirmed the announcement.

The Canadiens’ first home game in the Stanley Cup final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning is scheduled for Friday. 

Earlier Wednesday, Dr. Richard Massé, a strategic medical adviser for Quebec public health, 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.

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.

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.

Hockey fans in Quebec City will be able to watch the games projected inside the Videotron Centre starting Friday, at a cost of $11 each. The rules will be the same there, too: A limit of 3,500 spectators per match will be permitted.

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