MONTREAL — Due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Thursday night’s game between the Flyers and the Montréal Canadiens will be played without fans at the Bell Centre.

Quebec public health officials contacted the Canadiens organization on Thursday afternoon and requested that the game be held in a closed setting. The Canadiens complied in an effort to “ensure the safety and security of our fans and fellow citizens throughout our community,” the organization wrote in a press release.

The province reported 2,736 new cases on Thursday, which is its highest daily total since Jan. 3. According to Santé Montréal, 949 of those new cases are in Montréal alone.

The Canadiens will update the public on the status of Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins on Friday. However, the Bell Centre will likely be empty for the immediate future — in January, the organization plans on returning to partial capacity at the arena.

On Monday, the city of Philadelphia released a new mandate that will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination at any indoor venue that serves food starting after Jan. 3, including the Wells Fargo Center. Until Jan. 14, those who are unvaccinated can show a negative COVID-19 test from the last 24 hours to be admitted to the arena.

However, after Jan. 17, everyone over the age of 5 must be vaccinated in order to enter the Wells Fargo Center and any other venue that features indoor dining.

As of Thursday, the Wells Fargo Center has not announced any plan to reduce capacity at the venue. Daily COVID-19 cases have been steadily on the rise in Philadelphia — as of Wednesday, over the past 14 days, there had been 8,283 new cases in the county.

Couturier hesitant about Olympic participation

As the 2022 Beijing Olympics approach, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the state of diplomatic relations between North American countries and China has put NHL participation in question.

For Flyers center Sean Couturier, if Hockey Canada names him to the Olympic roster, the decision to participate in these Olympics is not clear-cut.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of uncertainty,” Couturier said. “It’s hard to make a decision right now, hoping we have more news. That remains to be seen. It’s 50-50 personally.”

Couturier said that his hesitancy to participate if given the opportunity isn’t necessarily because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he’s more concerned about “everything around it,” including the political situation and the five-week quarantine that would come with a positive test.

On Dec. 8, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be joining the United States and the United Kingdom in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. The decision to not send diplomats to the Games serves as a protest of China’s alleged human rights violations.

Although Canadian diplomats will not attend the Olympics, Canadian athletes are still free to participate. However, the diplomatic boycott concerns Couturier.

“If we’re there, who do we go to if we have any problems?” Couturier said. “These are questions we have.”

Breakaways

Goalie Carter Hart (18 games played, .915 save percentage, 2.80 goals-against average) starts in net for the Flyers against the Canadiens. … In the other goal, Cayden Primeau (two games played, .877 SV%, 4.82 GAA), son of former Flyers center Keith Primeau, will start for the Canadiens. The younger Primeau played for Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken Township prior to playing at Northeastern University.