Despite pandemic restrictions and a capacity limit at Montreal’s Bell Centre, Habs fans are finding inventive ways to witness their team’s surprise playoff run. “It’s insane,” remarked Stuart Saunders, a die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan. “I was there for the previous Stanley Cup parade in 1993, so it’s been a long.” Being able to watch the playoff run with fellow fans in the aftermath of pandemic isolation is crucial for residents of Otterburn Park, a community roughly 40 kilometers east of Montreal.
While the entire province of Quebec is now under green alert, which means fewer restrictions, there are still certain restrictions on gathering indoors. And, with the playoffs extending into the summer and tickets being scarce and expensive, the potential for outdoor viewing is significant. That’s why Saunders decided to throw watching parties in his front yard, complete with a 180-inch screen and huge Bluetooth speakers for the entertainment of his neighbors.
“Everyone’s been shut in for so long,” Saunders explained. “We haven’t seen anyone since the outbreak began.” Across the province, similar viewing parties can be seen (and heard, when the home team scores) on lawns, balconies, rooftop patios, and parks. During the first round of the playoffs, when the Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrick Béland and Omar Hafez began screening NHL games at the baseball diamond in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Park.
The mob, which is lounging on picnic blankets and camping chairs, has taken over much of the infield. The organizers stretch a white sheet about 150 inches long against the backstop as a makeshift screen, and a projector broadcasts the game, with sound from rented speakers. “The best way to watch these games is in a group, preferably on a single screen. We’re overjoyed with the turnout ” added Hafez, adding that they like watching the games in their “neighborhood backyard.”