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Gold-medal mania hits Canadians coast to coast

What has become the hoser anthem of a hopeful nation during theseOlympic Games rang out loud and clear from coast to coast Sunday, asTeam Canada won what will undoubtedly prove to be the most-watchedhockey game in history.

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Woohoo!

What has become the hoser anthem of a hopeful nation during these Olympic Games rang out loud and clear from coast to coast Sunday, as Team Canada won what will undoubtedly prove to be the most-watched hockey game in history.

In Vancouver, fans draped in Canadian flags and red team jerseys danced in the streets when the thrilling game ended in overtime with Canada victorious over the USA in their gold-medal rematch.

Thousands of fans gathered around giant screens in downtown Vancouver held their collective breath for every near-miss, and then erupted in a chanting, giggling, flag-waving mass.

Evan Johnson, 30, of Toronto, danced a jig in the street when Team Canada scored its second goal.

"It's exciting, it's our country, it's our pride, it's who we are. I don't know if there's a bigger game going on - ever," she said.

"The energy and the togetherness of everyone makes us so proud to be Canadian," said her friend, Anne Marie Corcuera, 26, of Vancouver.

Tony Sam, 41, drove in from Chilliwack, about an hour's drive from Vancouver, with friends to watch the game.

"Before this, Canada only seemed patriotic when there was a beer commercial on TV. This is the most exciting thing that's happened in Canada, maybe, ever," he said.

A group of boys were walking up and down the street, slapping hockey sticks on the ground with a beat to rally the crowd in the downtown core, the epicentre of Olympic celebrations in the city.

Elsewhere, a trio of young men painted red and white from head to toe, except for their "tightie whitey" underwear, listened to the game on a boombox hoisted over one's head.

At The Great Hall bar in Toronto it was standing room only as the crowd erupted into wild ecstasy when Canada scored its first goal.

Wayne Gretzky's bar in Toronto, which has proclaimed itself "Toronto's Olympic Headquarters," was a cheering, screaming, chanting sea of red and white maple leafs. Standing elbow to elbow, the crowd booed loudly every time the U.S. goalie stopped a Canadian shot.

People began spilling out into the street between periods chanting "We want gold! We want gold!" and the whoops of delight could be heard for several blocks in the downtown core.

In fact, all over the world, from the Arabian desert to downtown London, Canadians celebrated as their homeland captured hockey gold.

In London, patrons of the city's only Canadian bar - The Maple Leaf - were lining up nine hours before game time to guarantee themselves a seat.

"I could not be more proud of my country. That was amazing!" shouted Janet Porter of Vancouver, with tears of joy pouring down her cheeks.

Clad in red and white from head to toe, she and fellow expats crammed into the pub were on pins and needles as the teams entered overtime.

The crowd shouted, "Canada! Canada! Canada!" after Sidney Crosby's game-winning goal flashed on the screen.

Shannon Leano, of Calgary, said she and her friends had waited in line for an hour before the bar opened at noon in London - 4 a.m. in Vancouver.

"I was out last night with a Norwegian, a Swede and an Australian - everyone was talking about today's game," she said.

Graeme Thomson of Port Alberni, B.C., came dressed for the affair.

"My mom sent me these Olympic mitts, and said, 'Ha ha! Wish you were here!"' Thomson said.

There were similar scenes in Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.

In Kandahar City, hundreds of Canadian soldiers and civilians who make up Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team watched the game in the middle of the night alongside a group of Americans who are in the minority at the PRT camp.

"No one is sleeping on this base!" said Farhaan Ladhani, who is stationed in Kandahar.

On the Arabian peninsula, some expats sought a way to enjoy the game the traditional Canadian way: while quaffing back a cold one.

Hanna Issa, of Montreal, is currently in Doha, Qatar, where she and her husband were getting ready to drop in on "one of the few international hotels where you can cheer for a hockey game the old fashioned way - with a beer in your hand."

Robin Wettlaufer, at the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan, said more than half of the Canadian staff turned up for the first Canada-U.S. hockey game when it was on live television at 5:30 a.m.

Wettlaufer was confident there would be even more interest in today's gold medal game: "We will all be cheering Canada on."

In Vancouver, liquor stores closed at 2 p.m. - before the game will be over - at the request of Vancouver police, who are hoping to control a crowd expected to swell to well over 150,000 by evening.

Back in London, one couple were feeling particularly optimistic about what was about to come: "It's been a perfect Winter Olympics, and this is the perfect finish."

Jason Arruda, from Victoria, was on pins and needles as the third period got under way.

"I'm so stressed I can't even express it. But at the end of the day, this is our game!"

 
 
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