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Canadians go hockey mad as Olympic men’s squad nets gold medal

Hockey fans celebrate as Chris Kunitz scores Canada's third goal in the Olympic Hockey final in Toronto's Maple Leaf Square on Sunday, February 23, 2014. Canada beat Sweden 3-0 to win the Gold Medal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Hockey fans celebrate as Chris Kunitz scores Canada’s third goal in the Olympic Hockey final in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square on Sunday, February 23, 2014. Canada beat Sweden 3-0 to win the Gold Medal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Will Campbell, The Canadian Press

Hockey-crazed Canadians from coast to coast thought nothing of an early morning start and streamed into bars — and even a Halifax church — on Sunday to watch and triumphantly celebrate Team Canada capturing Olympic gold.

The diehard crowd at the Real Sports bar in downtown Toronto 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 revellers mounted chairs and tables in unbridled joy as red-and-white streamers fluttered down on them.

Superfan Mike Berks knew what to wear for the big game — a hockey helmet mounted with a working red goal light — and didn’t give second thought to 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.”

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was among the capacity crowd, and 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,” Ford said.

Crowds then spilled into the streets, with a throng of fans paralyzing a major downtown intersection.

Snowy weather, no booze and an early 4 a.m. game time didn’t stop the outpouring of jubilation at a downtown Vancouver 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 decided to wear their pyjamas to 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 away the final seconds of the game and Canada’s decisive 3-0 lead no longer in any doubt.

The hockey faithful jumped out of their seats and waved flags over balconies at a two-storey sports bar in downtown Halifax just before the final buzzer. A local church even took fans into its pews to watch the contest.

Some cried as they watched the players receive their gold medals, and fans in Sidney Crosby’s hometown let out a deafening 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 HFX Sports Bar and Grill. “(He’s) always in the moment when he needs to be. He’s there, always.”

Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Chris Kunitz scored their first goals of the tournament in the gold medal game, while goaltender Carey Price earned his second straight shutout.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper honoured 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.

Canadians watching the game both here and aboard lit up Twitter as the squad in Sochi took home the coveted medal.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau tweeted “This is OUR game! Congrats to #TeamCanada on completing the sweep of hockey gold!”

“Congratulations to the best hockey players in the world! Canada, numéro 1 au monde. Bravo!” said his NDP counterpart Thomas Mulcair.

Many Canadians proudly posted posted photos of friends and family crowded around TVs worldwide as they cheered on Team Canada.

“Dubai> a bar full of Canucks rooting for Team Canada!” tweeted celebrity chef Michael Smith, along with a photo of himself in a hockey jersey surrounded by cheering fans.

Several hockey devotees used Twitter to track down a pub in London, U.K., that would show the Olympic hockey final instead of Premier League soccer.

And Canadian eyes were firmly cast on the game even in Yangon, Myanmar — until recently closed to the rest of the world — where roughly a quarter of the 200-odd Canadian ex-pats living there revelled at the novelty of watching the game together at a swanky new bar.

The spectators were handed lapel pins intertwining the Canadian and Myanmar flags by Canadian ambassador Mark McDowell, who called it a “very interesting evening.”

— With files from Steven Chua in Vancouver, Aly Thomson in Halifax, Ben Shingler in Montreal and Tamsyn Burgmann

© The Canadian Press, 2014