Police implemented safety measures around Air Canada Centre ahead of Monday evening’s Game 6 of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins Stanley Cup playoff series. The steps, including road closures and extra security, were taken following an incident earlier in the day in which a rental van plowed down a busy street in another part of Toronto, killing 10 and injuring 15.
Canada’s minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale, said “there would appear to be no national security connection to this particular incident,” after a 25-year-old Ontario resident, Alek Minassian, was arrested near the scene of the carnage. The episode occurred at approximately 1:30 p.m., five and a half hours before the Maple Leafs were set to play a home game that, were they to lose, would be their final contest of the season. Toronto won the game, 3-1, pushing the series to a seventh game.
When the teams took to the ice for Monday’s game, they lined up as the arena went dark, and fans were asked to join the players in a moment of silence for victims of the “horrific incident.” Before that, during a warmup skate, Toronto defenseman Ron Hainsey said, on behalf of his teammates, he wanted to send his “deepest sorrow and thoughts” to the victims and their families.
“Hold your loved ones tight, give them an extra kiss tonight — I know I will,” Hainsey said. “You just never know anymore.”
The Maple Leafs said in a statement that they were “keeping all of those impacted by the tragic incident in Toronto in our thoughts and prayers.” Noting that their organization “continuously works in close partnership” with Toronto police to ensure fan safety at all events, the team said authorities would be implementing “a number of additional measures” around the arena.
Despite the extra security, Devin Heroux of CBC News reported that Maple Leaf Square was “packed” about an hour ahead of the game. He added that the crowd was already “whipped into a frenzy,” befitting Toronto’s status as a hockey-mad city.
The Maple Leafs fell behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series against the Bruins, but Toronto won Game 5 in Boston to force Monday’s contest. Now, Game 7 will be in Boston on Wednesday night.
Air Canada Centre is also set to host an NBA playoff game Wednesday between the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. Police reportedly have yet to announce whether extra safety measures will be implemented for that event.
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