Canada

As Montreal Canadiens clinch playoff berth, COVID-19 is ruining the fun for some

After picking up one point in their overtime loss against the Edmonton Oilers Monday night, the Montreal Canadiens are officially in the playoffs.

Like last season, however, COVID-19 will put a damper on the the usual playoff energy that takes over the city.

While the season is not over yet, the Habs’ most likely first round opponent is the north division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. Depending on how the final few games of the regular season play out, there is also a slight chance they could play the Edmonton Oilers.

“The Leafs are fantastic and it’s going to be a huge challenge if they go on to play Toronto,” said Global News hockey analyst Brian Wilde.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens lock up playoffs with 4-3 OT loss to Edmonton Oilers

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The Canadiens haven’t played their archrival in the playoffs in decades.  Getting some key players like Brendan Gallagher and Carey Price back from injury could change the odds.

“If he’s the better Carey Price, great things can happen. If he’s the average Carey Price, probably nothing great is going to happen,” said Wilde.

Whether the Habs can beat the Leafs or not, though, some Montrealers are feeling like they’ve already lost.

“For us, it’s a disaster,” said Peter Sergakis, who owns multiple sports bars. He said each one of his 40 establishments can bring in $25,000 in revenue during a Canadiens playoff game.

But with bars still closed because of COVID-19, he’s preparing for huge losses.

In non-pandemic times, downtown bars would be jam-packed, and the streets would be full of fans. Instead of a sea of blue white and red, Sergakis is just feeling blue.

“It’s not only the the establishments that are losing money, it’s our employees, too. Our employees makes four times more in tips when there’s a Canadiens playoff game,” Sergakis explained.

Read more: Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin out indefinitely for personal reasons

At struggling sports souvenir store Sports Crescent on Ste. Catherine Street, meanwhile, optimism is hard to find.

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“In these playoffs, nothing big is going to happen for us. Everything is closed, so nothing can change,” said Sports Crescent manager Santana Enrique.

As of now, there are no plans to allow any fans into the Bell Centre. Like everything else this year, the cheering will have to take place at home or online.

“I don’t know if the series is going to be lit, but I guarantee you Twitter is going to be lit,” said Wilde.

The Canadiens have one more regular season game against the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night. The playoff schedule is not yet known.

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