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Bars across Canada packed for gold medal game despite early start

Canadians turned out by the thousands early Sunday to watch the men's hockey team trample Sweden on its way to Olympic gold.

Undeterred by bitter cold and, in some places, a lack of alcohol, fans gathered to roar out their support as the team marched its way to a 3-0 victory. Across the country, people rose before dawn to watch together – in bars, arenas and churches – and then to celebrate.

Bars in Alberta were allowed to open at 5 a.m. and the first people into the Calgary's Garrison Pub were Craig Smith and his friends. Mr. Smith, who was a volunteer during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, said watching on his couch with his dog wasn't going to cut it for this game.

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"National pride is much better shared," he said.

Many felt the same way. Hours after the game ended, parts of downtown Toronto resembled World Cup football celebrations, complete with chanting, honking horns and waving flags. But unlike those celebrations, these were Canadian flags marking a Canadian victory.

"This is our team, this is what we live, this is what we breathe, this is what we do," said Mike Berks, who was wearing a hockey helmet mounted with a working red goal light and got up very early to cheer at the Real Sports Bar in Toronto. "4:30 in the morning is nothing to watch this."

At the same bar was Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. He posed for a series of photos with bystanders and his driver waved off what appeared to be someone's attempts to send him drinks. During the third period the mayor told The Globe he'd had to get up at 5:30 to watch but was loving the game.

"We're playing good. We're playing the game. Our game's a physical game … and that's why we're winning," said.

Mr. Ford was mobbed by seemingly well-refreshed fans as he left the bar after the game. The seething mass included some people making negative comments – including "have you sobered up yet?" and "is that your new crack dealer?" – but also lots of love. Jostling the mayor, shaking his hand and splashing him with beer, people chanted "Robbie, Robbie, Robbie" until he reached his SUV.

The exuberant mood was matched elsewhere.

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Montreal's aptly named Café Olimpico was stuffed with espresso-sipping fans, while Brasserie Cherrier offered a Timbit buffet to go with the pints. The Quebec government offered no special dispensations for opening early, but local laws already allowed bar owners to turn on the taps at 8 a.m. sharp. Many cheated just a little.

"It's pretty amusing to be here at 7 a.m. to watch hockey at the same place where we usually gather to watch games at night," said Ariane Campeau as her friends wolfed down bacon-and-egg breakfasts they took out from a deli next to the bar.

In Edmonton, the downtown ATB tower was programmed Sunday to become a giant goal light, with energy-efficient LED lights flashing a red and white pattern every time the Canadians scored.

In Calgary, meanwhile, fans lined up to get into bars, restaurants and pizza joints before the puck drop – despite the –28 C with wind chill temperature early Sunday. A common room in the city's main homeless shelter, the Drop-In Centre, was lit up early in the morning and packed with people watching the game.

Shabrez Khan watched the game intently right in front of the massive TV screen at the Cowboys Dance Hall. He pulled off the choice seat by arriving at the nightclub – famous for its rowdy Stampede parties – at 4 a.m. with just 20 minutes of sleep under his belt.

"I feel great. I feel really happy for the boys," Mr. Khan said after the crowd of more than 1,000 marked the victory with a wobbly rendition of O Canada.

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In Vancouver, the outpouring of jubilation wouldn't be squelched by snowy weather, no booze and a 4 a.m. start to the game.

David Addison stayed up all night to make sure he'd get a spot at the Sin Bin Sports Grill. "The energy in there is electric," he said. "We're just going to high-five and hug a bunch of strangers and feel really, really awesome."

Editor's Note: Moore reported from Toronto, Cryderman from Calgary and Perreaux from Montreal. With a report from The Canadian Press

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About the Authors

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

Alberta reporter

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National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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