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The Globe and Mail

Montreal police close stretch of downtown core for Game 7

Police are closing off a large stretch of downtown Montreal on Wednesday night as the hometown Canadiens play their decisive Game 7 against the Bruins some 500 kilometres away in Boston.

A one-kilometre stretch of busy Ste-Catherine Street will be closed to traffic starting at 8 p.m. and a "festive zone" will be set up for fans adjacent to the Bell Centre.

Chief Insp. Sylvain Lemay said police are ready, regardless of the outcome of the game.

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"The police won't tolerate any mischief or indiscipline from people or fans wanting to celebrate downtown," Lemay said.

Montreal hockey celebrations have occasionally turned violent, including last May when youths tossed bottles at police while officers fired back with tear gas.

A number of downtown shops were also looted after the Canadiens knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ste-Catherine Street, one of the city's busiest east-west thoroughfares, will be blocked to vehicle traffic for security reasons.

"It permits pedestrians to move about and celebrate jubilantly, within rules and in tranquility," Lemay said.

Lemay did not want to specify how many officers will be on duty. Some will patrol in the transit system, while others will be visible on the street and on horseback.

Montreal police want journalists to conduct live reports in designated areas in order not to stir up rowdy elements.

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The city's infamous history of hockey-related looting and vandalism has made national and international news.

In 2008, cars were burned and downtown stores were trashed and looted after the Canadiens beat the Bruins in the first round of that season's playoffs.

There were also riots after the team's last Stanley Cup wins in 1986 and 1993.

The most famous riot occurred in 1955 when Habs legend Maurice Richard was suspended. Fans took their fury to the streets, and the ensuing damage prompted "The Rocket" to take to the airwaves to publicly plead for calm.

The Canadiens beat Boston 2-1 on Tuesday to even the best-of-seven first-round playoff series at 3-3 and force Wednesday's deciding game.

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