'Stay out of the COVID-19 penalty box': Police ask hockey fans to celebrate Canucks' playoff run safely
St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) is scored on as Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40), Jake Virtanen (18), Christopher Tanev (8) and Jordie Benn (4) celebrate the goal during second period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff action in Edmonton on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks' playoff run has given Metro Vancouver residents reasons to celebrate, but officials are reminding hockey fans the pandemic isn't over, and they should adjust their celebrations accordingly.
In the past, fans have gathered to celebrate playoff wins at 72nd Avenue and Scott Road on the Surrey-Delta border.
Mounties say the gatherings have not caused any significant issues in the past, but because of the pandemic, police want fans to "stay out of the COVID-19 penalty box."
"What is of significant concern for us is the possible spread of the virus," Cpl. Elenore Sturko said Friday.
"We're really encouraging people at this time not to gather in large groups. If you do attend any kind of Canucks gathering or celebration, we're asking you to please be mindful of current public health orders."
Sturko also suggested scoring a "hat trick" of safety by practising physical distancing, washing hands regularly and wearing a mask.
"In the interest of ensuring the celebrations remain safe, Surrey RCMP and Delta police will be in attendance ensuring public safety and managing traffic," Mounties said in a statement Friday.
"Although police will be taking a measured approach, officers will be on hand enforcing the Criminal Code and other provincial statutes including the liquor act."
Police say they will also be monitoring for any violations of COVID-19 public health orders.
The message from Mounties comes the same day the province announced strict new penalties for those caught breaking COVID-19 rules in B.C.
Law enforcement can now issue tickets of up to $2,000 for owners and organizers of venues and events that break public health rules.
Officers will now have the authority to issue fines, but Sturko added that police will take a measured approach with an emphasis on education.
"While we understand people naturally want to celebrate Canuck victories, we encourage them to do so within their own homes or at small gatherings," Delta police spokesperson Cris Leykauf said.
"We have been seeing growing crowds along the border between Surrey and Delta, and we want to let people know that we're working with our partners at Surrey RCMP to ensure the area remains safe for pedestrians and motorists."
Officials say they are concerned about the risk of people transmitting COVID-19 at the gatherings and are asking people to ensure they comply with public health orders when celebrating.
The Canucks face off against the St. Louis Blues in game six Friday at 6:45 p.m. Vancouver leads the best-of-seven opening round series 3-2.
Sturko says officers will be in the area Friday night, win or lose, and want to ensure anyone who does gather there is being safe.
"This could be a matter of life and death for people in the community if they contract COVID-19. So please celebrate responsibly," she said.