Montreal Canadiens celebration leads to 15 arrests as excitement grips city

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WATCH: Canadiens fans have been waiting for this moment for almost 30 years. On Thursday night, thousands of hockey fans descended on downtown Montreal to watch the game on screens outside the Bell Centre. An overtime goal by Artturi Lehkonen sent fans into a frenzy. While damage was minimal, there are lessons to be learned from how the crowds were handled after last night's game. Global's Tim Sargeant has more. – Jun 25, 2021

Montreal police say 15 people were arrested, 60 tickets were handed out and two officers injured amid a flurry of excitement and vandalism in the city’s downtown core following the Canadiens winning Game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

The overtime win prompted festivities that went on for hours but police quickly dispersed the crowd outside the Bell Centre with tear gas. Projectiles were launched at officers, according to police.

Julien Lévesque, a spokesperson for the police force, said the 15 arrests were for several reasons, including armed assault, mischief and obstructing the work of a police officer.

Click to play video: 'Montreal Canadiens fans party in the streets as Habs advance to Stanley Cup finals' Montreal Canadiens fans party in the streets as Habs advance to Stanley Cup finals
Montreal Canadiens fans party in the streets as Habs advance to Stanley Cup finals – Jun 25, 2021

READ MORE: Montreal streets awash with celebration, tear gas as Habs eliminate Golden Knights in overtime

Eight police cars were also damaged during the night, he added. The injuries to two police officers, were minor.

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“This is the only information I have concerning last evening’s police intervention,” he said.

Fans congregated outside the Bell Centre before the game even started on a night that happened to also be Quebec’s Fête nationale, a statutory holiday in the province. The thick throng of jersey-wearing Montrealers stayed throughout the match, breaking into celebration once the victory was clinched in an overtime goal.

Montreal Canadiens fans celebrate on Rue Ste-Catherine after the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime game 6 NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey semifinal action in Montreal on Thursday. Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante had called for calm ahead of the decisive meetup between the two teams, urging people to party safely. The city’s police force also had more officers on hand for the festivities and closed streets shortly after the first period.

On Friday morning, Plante thanked those who celebrated responsibly and for police intervening when things got out of hand. City crews are also cleaning up the area.

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“There was a bit of ruckus, but overall it went well,” she told reporters.

Plante said the city is in talks with public health authorities and the Canadiens organization about how to safely broadcast games outdoors.

She said she would also like to see COVID-19 restrictions eased to allow more fans inside the Bell Centre during the final round of the playoffs. The cap is currently 3,500 people.

Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press

In the meantime, authorities urged ecstatic fans to be careful about large gatherings as the pandemic continues.

“Wear your mask when you are celebrating if you are close to people,” Plante said.

Quebec’s Health Department said that the “situation is stable” in a statement to Global News, but added that it “deplored the excesses” seen Thursday and cautioned people to follow the rules.

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The Habs’ 3-2 win over the Golden Knights in Game 6 means the team is advancing to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993.

Montreal will take on the winner of Friday night’s Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders.

Click to play video: 'Canadiens playoff run attracts huge crowds' Canadiens playoff run attracts huge crowds
Canadiens playoff run attracts huge crowds – Jun 25, 2021

Excitement for next week

Habs fans are already ecstatic, but some are even more pumped about the potential opportunity of seizing tickets for the final.

Mike Shields has been a Canadiens enthusiast since 1969. His name is etched on a brick outside the Bell Centre.

“The drive to 25 has been long,” he said. “But again, we’re here. So, you know, all we can do now is wait to see who we’re going to play against and hope for the best result.”

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READ MORE: Call of the Wilde — Canadiens advance to Stanley Cup Finals with 3-2 win over Golden Knights

The current schedule, which was released Friday afternoon, shows that the club will head to the United States for the first two games. The Canadiens will then host games 3 and 4 on July 2 and 5.

Shawn Lemaire is a season ticket holder who is hoping to share a magical moment with his son as the playoffs wrap up.

“For sure, if we get tickets to the Stanley Cup final, he’ll be the guy I’m bringing with me.”

with files from Global News’ Amanda Jelowicki, Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

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