MONTREAL – Montrealers weren’t in the mood Wednesday to party—or riot—thanks to the Boston Bruins Game 7 victory over the Canadiens.
Dozens of police officers patrolled the downtown streets of a city known for boisterous hockey celebrations that occasionally turn violent.
But following the Habs heartbreaking overtime loss, disappointed hockey fans shuffled out of the city core—quickly and peacefully.
Only a few faint chants of “Go Habs Go” and the trademark shouts of “Ole! Ole!” could be heard on Ste-Catherine Street after the game.
“We were expecting to have a big party tonight,” Habs fan Alex Guertin said as he stood on a Ste-Catherine Street sidewalk.
“We came down here expecting a win, but now that we lost . . . maybe we’re going to go home a little bit earlier.”
The Montreal loss ended any hope of the first all-Canadian Stanley Cup Final matchup since 1989, when the Calgary Flames hoisted the trophy after beating the Canadiens in six games.
The Vancouver Canucks, who won their own Game 7 matchup against Chicago on Tuesday, are now the only Canadian team left in the NHL playoffs.
After Tuesday’s game, Canucks fans poured into the streets of Vancouver to celebrate victory from a team that has high expectations.
In Montreal, the police department was bracing Wednesday for just about anything.
The city’s hockey celebrations have been rowdy in the past, including mayhem that erupted following key Habs victories during the team’s improbable run in last year’s playoffs.
After the Canadiens eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7, thousands of youths swarmed Ste-Catherine Street where they smashed storefront windows, looted boutiques and tossed bottles at police and their horses.
Officers in full riot gear eventually regained control of the downtown core after dispersing crowds with tear gas and charging the mob swinging batons and shields.
Two weeks earlier, rioting and looting also broke out in the city following the Habs’ Game 7 upset win over the Washington Capitals.
Montreal police weren’t taking any chances this year.
They closed off a large area of downtown during the decisive game, which took place some 500 kilometres away in Boston.
A one-kilometre stretch of busy Ste-Catherine Street was shut down to vehicle traffic from 8 p.m., for what police described as security reasons.
Some officers patrolled the subway system, while others monitored the streets on foot, bicycle and horseback.
But there was little work for police as the streets remained quiet.
Sgt. Ian Lafreniere said he didn’t know if the game’s outcome kept things peaceful.
“People in Montreal reacted perfectly,” he said.
“We’re happy with the result and I think Montreal citizens should be happy with that. . . I’m not talking about the game itself.”
The city’s infamous history of hockey-related looting and vandalism has made national and international news.
In 2008, police cars were torched and downtown stores were trashed and looted after the Canadiens beat the Bruins in the first round of that season’s playoffs.
The city was also ground zero for riots after the team’s last two Stanley Cup wins in 1986 and 1993.
Montreal’s most famous hockey riot exploded in 1955 after Habs legend Maurice Richard was suspended. Fans took their fury to the streets, and the ensuing damage prompted “The Rocket” to take to the airwaves to publicly plead for calm.
On Wednesday, the streets of Montreal were calm as Habs fans headed home.
Members of the heartbroken Canadiens faithful had words of encouragement for their team.
“Next year we’re going to win a 25th Stanley Cup,” said 17-year-old Kevin Montano.
“We’re gonna win it, I believe in them.”