The Montreal Canadiens are hoping their crowd noise will be greater than the sum of its parts.
Having a capacity of just 2,500 fans due to COVID-19 restrictions, Montreal has the smallest maximum crowd of any of the NHL teams remaining.
Waiting to see whether they’ll be playing against Vegas or Colorado in the semi-final round, Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said he can see the impact fans have had on other series. Both the Golden Knights and Avalanche have filled their stadiums as much as possible while adhering to local restrictions. Vegas had over 18,000 fans at their last home game, while Colorado fit in over 10,000 on Tuesday.
“As an opposing player, it’s tough to come into,” Gallagher said Wednesday. “When you watch these teams play you see home ice advantage really is a thing with fans in the building. They just create so much energy for the teams and you’re really able to feed off that.”
Answering a question from TVA’s Renaud Lavoie about a possible competitive advantage with their next opponent, Gallagher recognized the discrepancy between the crowd sizes.
“We’re hoping to kind of compete with those teams,” he said, “It’s definitely an advantage [to have larger crowds] for sure.”
“2,500 will feel like 25,000, I swear to god,” one anonymous fan quipped on Sportsnet prior to a Game 6 matchup in Montreal against Toronto two weeks ago, before being brought on by the team’s social media to repeat his now-infamous rally cry.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) June 7, 2021
It appears the players share the same sentiment. The Canadiens have a 3-0 record at home with fans these playoffs, and a 0-2 record without.
“We saw with the 2,500 fans we were able to get in our building the different level of energy we were able to create, the impact that the fans have,” Gallagher said. “Our fans have been loud. They’ve definitely helped us out so far and been incredible.”
“Everyone counts,” Gallagher said. “Every time you get another person in the building, [we feel] that excitement that’s going on around the city and how much our fans are behind us right now.”
While 25,000, or even the 21,302 max usually allowed at the Bell Centre won’t be happening any time soon, Gallagher is looking forward to the chance of an increased capacity in Montreal.
“We’re probably hoping that we can get a couple more fans in the building,” he said.