Montrealers rejoice after Habs oust Leafs in Game 7
'The nightmare’s over': Montreal fans celebrate together for first time in over a year
Colin Morgan was one of the first people through the Bell Centre's doors on Saturday when spectators were finally allowed back in the stands after Quebec began loosening health restrictions — and he certainly didn't miss Monday's hockey game either.
He cheered the Montreal Canadiens alongside friends and strangers, in front of McLean's Pub downtown, celebrating as his beloved team defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1.
The Habs have booked a date in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Morgan was all smiles as he told CBC News how it feels to see the Habs win.
"It's one of the most emotional things I have ever experienced in my life," he said, fans screaming for joy behind him.
"What this city has gone through — this is the start of the recovery. Montreal is going to drive forward from here on out."
The Habs are back, he said, and "the nightmare's over."
The Leafs, who did not once lead on the scoreboard Monday night after going up 3-1 in the series, hosted 550 fully vaccinated health-care workers inside the 19,800-seat Scotiabank Arena in Toronto to watch Game 7 after getting a thumbs up from the Ontario government to open the arena.
This came after the Canadiens welcomed 2,500 ticket-buying fans at Game 6 on Saturday at the Bell Centre — the first NHL crowd allowed in the province since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
The Canadiens hadn't faced the Leafs in the playoffs since 1979. The Habs lost the only other Game 7 between the teams in 1964 when Dave Keon's hat trick led Toronto to a 3-1 victory at the Montreal Forum.
The Habs have moved on to the second round for the first time since 2015. The Canadiens will take on the Winnipeg Jets, which swept the Edmonton Oilers in their opening-round series. Game 1 is set for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The victory comes on the same day that Quebec loosened more public health restrictions across the province, and the province is now seeing a substantial drop in new COVID-19 infections.
After more than a year of pandemic stress and several months with a curfew, Quebec's Habs fans were eager to get out and enjoy the game.
Crowds swarmed downtown to watch from terrasses. There was chanting, cheers, applause and celebrations in large groups.
Spectators, gathered at outdoor patios and terrasses, shouted "Go Habs go!" and "Carey! Carey! Carey!"
Some wore masks, but other didn't as they hugged, jumped, sang and waved flags.
Luna Morales, wearing a Habs t-shirt and matching ribbon in her hair, was ecstatic as she celebrated the victory alongside Jordan Katz.
"So pumped," said Morales.
"It's insane. Obviously, with the pandemic, we have all been cooped up at home. And now we're so excited to be here and finally going back to normal."
Premier François Legault thanked goaltender Carey Price on Twitter, saying he can't wait to see Ontario's premier in a Habs jersey.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also took to Twitter to say: "Let's celebrate while respecting sanitary measures and take advantage of this great victory for our team!"
with files from Alison Northcott and The Canadian Press