MONTREAL — When the Montreal Canadiens begin the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs next week, police will be ready to manage the big crowds that are expected to gather in the city's downtown, a senior police official said Friday.
Police said they made 15 arrests during a rowdy celebration after the Canadiens' series-clinching victory against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, which sent the team to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993.
"We're satisfied with the way things went last night, we thank Montrealers for being able to rejoice in peace, respecting each other and respecting property," Insp. David Shane said in an interview.
"Obviously, a few individuals or a few groups of individuals decided otherwise and decided to take it to another level, but fortunately our police officers were very professional, very patient."
Police said the arrests were for assault, armed assault or obstruction — all against police officers. Eight police vehicles were vandalized and at least one was overturned.
Around 9 p.m. on Thursday, police began restricting people from entering the area near the Bell Centre to avoid overcrowding. Eventually, exuberant fans began jumping on the cruisers, which were positioned strategically to block traffic and keep revellers safe, Shane said.
Officers began firing tear gas to disperse the massive crowd surrounding the Bell Centre about 11:15 p.m. after officers were allegedly assaulted. Two police officers sustained minor injuries.
The raucous atmosphere outside the arena led officials to temporarily prevent the 3,500 fans inside from leaving the building.
Shane said police had a plan to control the crowds. "When things started to go overboard, we were able to react quickly, and eventually regain control of downtown a few hours later," he said.
And police are getting ready for next week's finals — although Shane wouldn't go into operational plans. "We're analyzing the situation and preparing for the next games," he said.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante on Friday thanked fans for mostly celebrating peacefully. She raised the idea of broadcasting games in a large space outdoors, adding the city is in discussions with public health and the Canadiens organization about how to do that safely.
"What I'd like to do is create ways where Montrealers can gather, in a safe way, and meeting outdoors is one of the safest ways," she told reporters, adding that she would like to see COVID-19 restrictions eased to allow more fans inside the Bell Centre for the finals.
Police said they issued 60 tickets after Thursday's game for various municipal violations, traffic offences and the use of fireworks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2021.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press