Fans cheer on their team during the pre-game warmup of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal with the Montreal Canadiens facing the Vegas Golden Knights Friday, June 18, 2021 in Montreal. The Montreal Canadiens say they're asking the provincial government for permission to allow 10,500 fans to attend upcoming games in Montreal, up from 3,500. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Montreal Canadiens ask Quebec government to increase arena capacity to 50 per cent

MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens say they’re asking the province for permission to allow 10,500 fans to attend upcoming playoff games in Montreal, up from 3,500.

France Margaret Bélanger, the team’s executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, told reporters today that discussions with the Quebec government began on Friday, but the team has not yet received an answer.

Bélanger says that with the first home game in the Canadiens Stanley Cup final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning scheduled for Friday, she hopes to get an answer today.

She says the Bell Centre arena is big enough to hold 10,500 fans — 50 per cent of capacity — safely and that people would be separated into 14 zones with separate entrances. Mask wearing would be required.

The team plans to show away games to 3,500 fans on the large screen inside the arena starting Wednesday.

Large groups of fans have gathered outside the arena during both home and away games to watch on screens inside nearby restaurants.