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(John Morstad)
(John Morstad)

Montreal fans behave themselves Add to ...

Montreal hockey fans looked like they wanted to go home and drown their sorrows on Wednesday night, not go on a looting rampage.

At about 10:30 p.m., police in downtown Montreal re-opened central Ste. Catherine Street as concerns over postgame excesses dissipated along with Montrealers' hopes for a playoffs victory.

Police put in a commanding presence downtown to thwart the kind of looting and violence that has marked playoff games in the past. They also closed Ste. Catherine Street to car traffic. But the efforts looked as unnecessary as a parka in July after the Canadiens' heartbreaking loss to the Boston Bruins, which ended Montreal's playoff run.

Even if Montreal fans had thought about making trouble, it would have been difficult. Throughout the game, helmeted riot police stood in knots at major downtown street corners. Others rode four abreast on horseback down Ste. Catherine Street. There were also police dogs, officers on bikes, and the drone of a police helicopter overhead.

One business, the state-owned liquor outlet, had even placarded its storefront with plywood. It had been looted after a game last year.

"I think there are more police here tonight than hockey fans," a fan named Marc Garneau said after the game. "But people are disappointed tonight. They don't feel like going out to cause trouble."

Hockey stirs deep passions in Montreal and decisive playoff matches in the past have become a pretext for bad behaviour. A Habs victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins last year culminated with looting, bottle-throwing and more than 40 arrests, as well as some hand-wringing over why hockey seems to coincide with loutish postgame crowds. Police had to resort to tear gas to disperse rioters.

In 2008, cars were torched and stores looted after the Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins in the quarter-final playoff round. Riots followed Canadiens' Stanley Cup last wins, in 1986 and 1993.

But police had no incidents to report as of 11:20 p.m. on Wednesday night. Beneath their riot helmets, they looked as disappointed as the fans on the street.

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