Montreal Canadiens' request to expand fan capacity for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final denied

TAMPA, Fla. -- Quebec public health authorities denied the Montreal Canadiens' request on Wednesday to increase fan capacity for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The team will continue to have 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre when the series shifts to Montreal on Friday. The Canadiens petitioned to have 50% capacity -- equating to 10,500 fans -- for the next set of games.

The team was optimistic the proposal, which included requirements for all fans to wear masks and social distancing guidelines, would be approved. The club was also open to having fans show proof of vaccination for entry.

"We've never had any COVID cases at the Bell Centre since we resumed our operations there on Jan. 3," Canadiens executive vice president and chief commercial officer France Belanger said on Tuesday. "Bell Centre is two million square feet, so we've got a lot of space. And we intend to use that space to make sure that all these guys are distanced from one another with the family bubbles, and we're very confident that we can actually do it."

The Lightning, meanwhile, were able to increase their capacity to 18,600 for Game 2 on Wednesday -- the maximum capacity the NHL will allow, accounting for a section of seats blocked behind the team benches and penalty box.

That's an uptick from the 16,3000 fans the Lightning allowed for Game 1 at Amalie Arena. Belanger attended that game.

"It was brilliant, there were so many people, and we're wishing with all our heart to welcome our fans, so that our fans in very large numbers can transmit their energy to their team and in their way as our seventh player can offer that energy to our players who are giving their all," Belanger said. "They want to win and we want to win, and we just want to have more fans just to be able to give more energy to our team."

The Canadiens are in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, when they were the last Canadian club to win the Cup.