The Canadian had stretched the rubber band as much as possible by delaying the date of his return to the Bell Center. This strategy, developed with the complicity of the NHL and made possible thanks to a serious outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases in December within the team, was to buy time.
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But there is a limit to slowing down the hourglass. The CH will return Tuesday from a very long trip of seven games on opposing rinks, having crisscrossed the United States with stops in Boston, Chicago, Glendale, Dallas, Vegas, Denver and St. Paul.
The reunion at the Bell Center will be done with the greatest possible discretion. France Margaret Bélanger, president of sports and entertainment for Groupe CH, confirmed what she had been dreading for several days already.
“I regret to announce that we will be playing our next three games behind closed doors at the Bell Centre, mentioned Ms. Bélanger in an interview with the Journal. We will be contacting all our fans who held tickets for these three games to offer them the possibility of refunds or exchanges. »
The Canadian will not be his first experience without the presence of spectators this season. On December 16, the date of the last game at the Bell Center, the CH had closed the doors of its amphitheater at the last minute, listening to the directives of the Public Health of Quebec. He beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the shootout.
Hope for February
However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Like the rest of society, the Habs are waiting for a relaxation of sanitary measures.
“We have a little game for the month of February, recalled Ms. Bélanger. We have postponed our meeting from 1is February. After the game on January 30, our next meeting will take place on February 8. We have several discussions with the government for a return of the supporters, but there is still nothing clear. There could be positive news for January 31 or a little later. »
The CH would like to see a percentage of amateurs again from February. Within the management, we have repeatedly mentioned to the government of François Legault the fact that no outbreak has been identified at the Bell Center and that instructions such as wearing a mask have always been applied.
In Ottawa, the team geographically closest to Montreal, the Senators, will also play their next three games (Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabers, Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes and Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks) behind closed doors.
From January 31, the “Sens” will be able to accommodate 500 supporters. Our goal is to return to 50% capacity at the Canadian Tire Center by February 21.
Zegras, McDavid and Domi
The CH will return to Montreal on Thursday for the visit of the Ducks. There will therefore be no spectators in the stands to watch the prowess of young Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale.
The Edmonton Oilers and the Columbus Blue Jackets will arrive next, Saturday and Sunday. During their only visit to Quebec, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will tread the Bell Center ice in complete silence. There will be no danger of seeing an Oilers faithful, even if they are rarer in Montreal, throwing a team jersey on the ice.
At the Jackets, Max Domi will not have the opportunity to greet his ex-supporters. Traded to Columbus in October 2020 for Josh Anderson, he still hasn’t faced his old team. There are, however, very few fans who will mourn the lack of a standing ovation for Tie’s son.