When Dallas "Sallad" Bridgeman got to Houstons Country Roadhouse at 4:55 a.m., he expected the men’s gold-medal hockey game to be a "ring-a-ding-dong-dandy."
And, depending on what that means exactly, he wasn’t wrong.
Donning red and white gear from head to toe with a flag in one hand and a hockey stick in the other, Bridgeman — born on Canada Day — was the unofficial cheerleader at the bar, rousing the crowd of about 400 who came out to watch Team Canada shut-out Sweden yesterday to bring home the gold medal on the final day of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"I’m a true Canadian hockey fan, through and through, and it wouldn’t have mattered if we were down going into the third period," Bridgeman said as his voice took on a Don Cherry-esque cadence after a "couple of pops."
"I love all my Canadian players!"
The Moline native was shaking with excitement on Saturday in anticipation of yesterday’s game.
"It’s been a truly special month for me, but also for all Canadians out there," Bridgeman said after the final buzzer sounded, his voice hoarse from cheering. "Oh my goodness, back-to-back gold medals! We just proved we are the best hockey country in the world!"
He and his friends were a few of the hundred or so people who lined up outside the bar to take in Canada’s win.
Once inside, the crowd basked in the glow of two large projectors. At times, people were tensely silent in the dance bar and only the sound of shredding ice and the broadcast announcers filled the room.
But the crowd’s silence often gave way to bursts of cheering, cowbells and clapping at every breakaway and save by Canada.
Just as the low morning sunlight peaked through the single window into the night club, a countdown began as the game came to a close.
Sporting a bright red onesie and a cowbell, Darren Scribner was standing on his chair, shaking his noisemaker as loud as he could.
"It’s epic, that’s all you can say is it’s epic," he said as crowds around him hugged and cheered while members of Team Canada accepted their hardware.
"It’s something only a fan can dream of and only a player can dream of. This is it, this is Canada."
Houstons was one of more than 75 Manitoba bars given the green light to serve alcohol on Sunday morning, along with Montana’s Cookhouse and Boston Pizza.
While some of the patrons were at the bar until last call only to return a short while later to continue drinking, some staff worked through Sunday morning and into the 6 a.m. opening.
Houstons bartender Faydra Veldhuisen was working all the way until Sunday morning’s 2 a.m. last call, rested for just over an hour, and returned before 5 a.m. to prepare to get the drinks flowing again.
"It’s not so bad right now," she said as the crowds started flooding out of the dark bar and into the early morning sunlight. "But I haven’t stopped moving."
The massive crowd of early morning revellers smashed expectations for bar manager Darcy Paton. who was expecting around 150 fans to show up.
"Far bigger turnout than we expected," he said. "People were great, everyone was fantastic, so into the game.
"It’s fantastic when people support things like this, it’s great."