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A few of the Canadian fans who were able to watch and celebrate a gold medal at Real Sports Bar in Toronto as Canada defeated the United States in women’s hockey at the Sochi Olympics on Feb. 20, 2014. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
A few of the Canadian fans who were able to watch and celebrate a gold medal at Real Sports Bar in Toronto as Canada defeated the United States in women’s hockey at the Sochi Olympics on Feb. 20, 2014. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

It was sudden death for workplace productivity as Canada won gold in women’s hockey Add to ...

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From Bay Street to Ottawa to offices from coast to coast, productivity slowed to a crawl as hockey fans were lured to TV sets, computers and mobile devices for the dramatic overtime showdown in women’s hockey.

Toronto’s city council erupted with applause midafternoon as the game was tied in the dying seconds. A jubilant Mayor Rob Ford jumped into the air six times, sending his cellphone flying to the floor.

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City business had temporarily been abandoned as councillors watched the last minutes of the third period on the chamber’s big screen. Minutes later, councillors voted to resume business rather than watch overtime, but at least five screens were showing the game on councillors’ desks. One politician was chastised for watching, but after the game-winning goal was scored, councillors decided to turn the big screen back on to watch the medal ceremony.

Television screens attracted audiences throughout Toronto’s financial district. The trading floor at TD Securities erupted in cheers after the winning goal. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce economist Benjamin Tal was on his way to a meeting when he saw hundreds of people watching the game on a big screen in a food court. “It was 2:45 and my meeting was at 3:00, so I decided to stay for a few minutes,” he said. “Talk about timing. Less than five minutes into it, Canada scored the winning goal. It was an unbelievable picture to see hundreds of people celebrating and hugging total strangers.”

In Calgary, Brett Wilson, a long-time oil patch financier who owns slightly more than 10 per cent of the Nashville Predators, watched the entire game in his office with about 15 of his staff. “By the middle of the third period, there was quiet acceptance that it’s not our turn, which evolved to ‘new game’ comments on 2-to-1, to ‘gotta believe’ comments on tying the goal, to ‘no frigging way’ with the overtime win,” he recalled.

Mark Wiseman, president and chief executive for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, watched the overtime goal at the Porter lounge at the Toronto Island airport. “Having heard the two goals in the cab on the way to the airport, I rushed through security in time for the overtime.” he said. “Since there are no TVs in the lounge, everyone was huddled around laptops or iPads streaming the game. Interestingly, those that had faster connections saw the goal before others. So, one half of the lounge cheered, then the other half waited for 30 seconds to get confirmation of the result from their own screens."

According to CBC’s early numbers, the game posted the highest online viewing audience ever to a CBC live event, with a preliminary average audience of more than 325,000 on desktop and mobile devices combined, according to a spokeswoman. That topped the previous record of 280,000 that was set during the prior day’s men’s hockey game between Canada and Latvia.

Many hockey fans, though, were left yearning for a video feed in the middle of their workday.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was attending a lunch event, but said he “surreptitiously” followed the game online, and friends sent him text-message updates.

“I was at the Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions, full of a bunch of artists and philanthropists and supporters of the arts – and it’s not exactly a group that you think would watch hockey scores,” he said. “But did they ever watch the hockey scores. I saw so many phones out.”

The excitement extended beyond Canada’s borders. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a surprise announcement about the win via intercom during a flight back from a North American leaders’ summit in Toluca, Mexico. Passengers on the plane included a group of journalists and business delegates who were travelling with the Prime Minister during his first official visit to Mexico. As he announced the win, Mr. Harper joked that he had temporarily taken over the plane and said he was looking forward to the beer U.S. President Barack Obama owed him. The two leaders had bet one case of beer on the women’s Olympic hockey final, and a second on the men’s semi-final, which takes place Friday.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz may become an advocate for wireless communications on airplanes in the wake of the game. The central bank governor got the news somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, when the pilot of his Air Canada flight to Sydney informed passengers of the result. Mr. Poloz, who landed safely in Australia for a Group of 20 meeting this weekend, was “thrilled” when he heard the score and was sorry he missed seeing the game, a spokeswoman said.

“I was in Barbados, two screaming housekeepers by my side, watching every shot as I am trying to explain the game to two wonderful elderly Barbadian ladies and they ‘got it’ in OT,” Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said in an e-mail. “Everyone was jumping up and down in my living room. I was sooooo proud that moment being a Canadian. … Got two new Sens fans on top! Perfect day!!!!!”

John Doig, chief marketing officer for Bank of Nova Scotia, watched the game on an iPad mini in his office with a couple of colleagues. “We were trying to keep it low-key, but it was nerve wracking.”

Leo de Bever, chief executive of the Edmonton-based Alberta Investment Management Corp. (AIMCo), said his staff was watching the game outside his office. “I had a conference call. It was easy to figure out who won.”

“I wish I saw it live,” Royal Bank of Canada chief executive Gordon Nixon, another frustrated fan, said in an e-mail. “I was walking to a meeting through the [underground] path knowing we were down by one and heard a massive roar which I assumed was the tying goal. When I got back to my office I checked my computer and saw the headline. Between that and our curling gold, it was a great day for Canadian women. Very proud Canadian!!!”

“I wish I had been watching,” said Craig Alexander, the chief economist of Toronto-Dominion Bank. “My entire team was crammed in a conference room watching it on TV. The TV is there for watching budget releases and financial events. This time it was being used for something important. I was meeting with the CEO. It would have been career limiting to bail on him.”

Chrysler Canada chief executive officer Reid Bigland said he monitored the game online from his office in Detroit. “Great comeback,” he said.

It wasn’t only Canadians who were watching.

“My staff was glued to the Olympic hockey game,” television host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted. “Congratulations, Canadians! You gave an epic performance.”

Back in Canada, Governor-General David Johnston learned of the win while participating in a conference in Ottawa. He then asked the assembly to rise and sing the national anthem as he savoured the moment.

Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was doing political rounds in Kelowna, B.C., when “all of a sudden all hell broke loose and we had just won the game,” he said. “Everything froze. I spun around in my chair. There was a TV screen not that far away. And nobody pretended that anything else mattered any more. We just concentrated on it. We were waiting for the replay because a lot of us had missed it and everybody was just going nuts.”

In Montreal, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was following the game on Twitter while preparing for his speech to the Liberal convention. Television monitors were set up all around the convention floor, with groups of Liberals gathered to watch the game.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was rushing between meetings in Toronto during the overtime period, but insisted on poking her head in the government caucus office to watch for a couple minutes, according to her office. By sheer luck, she happened to be there when the goal was scored and the room burst into cheers. She told staff she was “thrilled.”

“I was at my office at the School of Public Policy and Governance [at the University of Toronto], where everyone was glued to their livestreams,” former federal Liberal Party leader Bob Rae said in an e-mail. “Simultaneous eruptions of joy everywhere. Great fun.”

“From what I can tell, the entire country shut down,” said former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, who is now an afternoon talk-show host on Toronto radio station CFRB and is considering a run for the city’s mayoralty.

He was driving to work listening to the game on the radio when the team was down by two goals. Later, in the radio station, he could hear others erupting as the women scored their comeback goals.

“I almost fell over when in about the first minute of OT we had a close call,” he said. When they won he was preparing for his show, but the rest of the radio station sounded like a party, he said.

Tory wasn’t the only one who didn’t get to see the final seconds. Kellie Leitch, Canada’s Labour Minister and Minister for the Status of Women, was driving in her truck in the Toronto area while listening to the game on the radio.

“When [Brianne] Jenner scored [to cut the U.S. lead to 2-1], I was hopeful, because obviously they were reaching down deep,” Dr. Leitch said. When the game was tied, “we almost drove off the road,” she added.

“Today’s been a fabulous day for female Canadian athletes,” she said. “So many young women and girls in this country will be so inspired, and should be so proud of these Canadians.”

Linda Hasenfratz, chief executive officer of auto parts maker Linamar Corp., watched the game with her daughter who is ill in hospital with pneumonia in Guelph, Ont.

“I am keeping her company so we have been filling the day watching the Olympics (while I prepare for quarter end at the same time),” Ms. Hasenfratz said in an e-mail. “I tried to tell Emily if she wasn’t sick we would not have had the chance to watch the game so a bit of a silver lining.”

Some lucky individuals got to be at the game in person.

“I watched the game live with many from the NHL, including management, other owners, and Gary Bettman,” George Gosbee, a co-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, e-mailed from the after party in Sochi. “After Canada scored to tie it, everyone was standing and cheering. Not just because Canada scored, but because we were watching a great, passionate game.”

With reports from Oliver Moore, Jeff Gray, Greg Keenan, Boyd Erman, John Daly, Simon Houpt, Kelly Cryderman, Elizabeth Church, Adrian Morrow, Gloria Galloway, Tim Kiladze, Dave Parkinson, Sandra Martin, Josh Wingrove, Kim Mackreal, Kevin Carmichael, Jacqueline Nelson and Jane Taber

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