TORONTO – Hockey-crazed Canadians from coast to coast thought nothing of an early morning start and streamed into bars on Sunday to watch and celebrate Team Canada capturing Olympic gold.
Mayor Rob Ford was among the die-hard crowd at the Real Sports bar in downtown Toronto which exploded in an ear-splitting roar as Canada topped Sweden 3-0 to win its second consecutive Olympic gold medal in men's hockey.
Beer — which began flowing when the puck dropped thanks to relaxed liquor rules — was tossed into the air from red hockey-boot mugs, while revelers mounted chairs and tables in unbridled joy as red-and-white streamers fluttered down on them.
Ford briefly pulled many eyes away from the jumbo screen as he posed for photos with fans.
"This is what Canada's all about — it's hockey right? When people say how do you define Canada, I say, wait until there's a hockey game," said the embattled mayor who is a big sports fan.
Superfan Mike Berks knew what to wear for the big game — a hockey helmet mounted with a working red goal light — and thought nothing of getting up well before sunrise for the gold-medal contest.
"This is our team, this is what we live, this is what we breathe, this is what we do — 4:30 in the morning is nothing to watch this," he said as fans decked out in red-and-white jerseys hooted and hollered around the bar.
"There's no doubt that Canada's the No. 1 hockey team in the world. This is it, Canada's No. 1."
After the game, crowds spilled from the bars into the streets, with a throng of fans paralyzing a major downtown intersection.
In Vancouver, snowy weather, no booze and the early start didn't stop the outpouring of jubilation at a downtown sports bar.
David Addison stayed up all night to make sure he'd get a spot at the Sin Bin Sports Grill and said the fact the taps were dry due to provincial liquor laws didn't take away from a fantastic win.
"The energy in there is electric," said Addison pointing the crowd in the bar. "We're just going to high-five and hug a bunch of strangers and feel really, really awesome."
Montreal fans packed into a stretch of downtown pubs to watch the gold medal matchup.
One group of women showed up in their pyjamas to watch the game.
"When I'm on vacation, I don't usually get up at 6:30, so I decided to come like this," said Montrealer Nathalie Theoret.
For many the celebratory eruptions started as the clock ticked down the final seconds of the game, Canada's 3-0 lead no longer in any doubt.
The hockey faithful jumped out of their seats and waved flags over balconies at a two-story sports bar in downtown Halifax just before the final buzzer.
Some cried as they watched the players receive their gold medals, and the fans in Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby's hometown let out an ear-splitting cheer when it was his turn to accept gold.
Bonnie Forrestall said Crosby's breakaway goal during the second period that cemented Canada's lead was the highlight of the game.
"Sidney Crosby showed who he really is," said the Halifax resident, who was amid the crowd at the HFX Sports Bar and Grill. "(He's) always in the moment when he needs to be. He's there, always."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper honored the hockey heroes.
"Today's exciting victory by this exceptional group of players has demonstrated once again that hockey truly is Canada's game," he said in a statement.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau tweeted "This is OUR game! Congrats to TeamCanada on completing the sweep of hockey gold!"
On Thursday, Canada's women's hockey team rallied from two goals down and defeated the U.S. in overtime.