For the first time since March 2020, a Canadian NHL team will have paying fans in the arena tonight.
After Quebec loosened COVID-19 restrictions, the Montreal Canadiens will be permitted to have 2,500 fans in the 21,273-seat Bell Centre for Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While it is a first for a Canadian NHL team, American rinks have had bigger crowds throughout the playoffs.
The Canadiens say they gave priority to season-ticket holders, luxury-suite holders, and corporate partners to purchase tickets in pods of two or four.
Ticket buyers are allowed to resell tickets. Prices were high Friday, with the cheapest seats selling for just under $1,500 on Ticketmaster.
All fans must socially distance from those outside their pod and those aged five and up must wear a mask except when eating or drinking. Only bottled water will be sold at concessions. The first 12 rows also will remain empty.
Quebec’s curfew – in place since Jan. 9 – was lifted Friday night. Restaurant patios across the province were also permitted to reopen Friday after being closed in some parts of the province, including Montreal, since Oct. 1.
The new measures come as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec have declined to their lowest level in more than six months.
The then-Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal) of Major League Soccer had the first crowd in Canada at a pro sporting event during the pandemic when they were permitted to allow 250 fans to a game at their outdoor stadium last summer.
Some junior hockey teams also have been allowed to have limited crowds. The Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had a maximum attendance of 1,900 for games this season, the biggest crowds among the six Maritime teams in that circuit.