The welcoming crowd might have been a little bigger if the Northview hockey bus had returned to Sylvania Tam-O-Shanter before midnight.
But the late arrival -- because the state championship game went into seven overtimes, becoming the longest contest in state final history -- was a big part of why the 200 students, parents, school staff, and other fans waiting on the team to get home Saturday night were so ecstatic.
"They made history!" retired coach Jim Cooper yelled from his perch on top of a bar in the Tam-O-Shanter lobby.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for photos from the title game
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for photos from the welcome home
Cooper, who coached the team from 1976 until 2008 was master of ceremonies for about 20 minutes of speeches and cheers when the team arrived at 12:05 a.m. Sunday, after tying for the state championship with Cleveland St. Ignatius at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Cooper described himself as an old man who had been around the sport for a long time and never had he seen a team come together on the ice as Northview did for 101 minutes on Saturday afternoon before officials stopped the game and deemed it a tie at 1-1.
"We're going to talk about this game 30 years from now," Superintendent Brad Rieger said.
Head coach Mike Jones said he felt like he was watching a Rocky movie as his team kept getting hit and kept on fighting.
But his thanks in the Tam-O-Shanter lobby went to the fans of the underdog Wildcats.
"It takes a village. And it certainly takes a village to get done what we got done today," he said.
Northview's sports are pay-to-play at a cost to students of $150 for their first sport and $125 for the second sport they play in a year. Those fees don't come close to covering the school district's costs for the team, according to staff. And it's also only the beginning of the bills for parents and students, many of whom have spent thousands of dollars on skates, sticks, and ice time.
But Saturday night was the third time in as many years that a Northview crowd has gathered to welcome home a hockey team from the state tournament and the cost to get there was not foremost in many minds.
"It's gonna be great to put another banner up there," yelled Chris Irwin, athletic director.
Jeremy Snyder, who coaches the goal tenders, took his turn on the bar and immediately called senior goalie David Marsh to "Get up here!"
"This guy right here made me look like a genius," Snyder said, embracing Marsh, who made a state tournament record 77 saves. The scoreboard registered more saves - and some fans counted 83 -- but 77 was the Ohio High School Athletic Association's official total.
Moe Sediqe, a senior who led the student fan section at the game, claimed that he was fresh out of chants when he was called to lead the crowd one more time.
But in a hoarse voice he came up with, "I believe that we will win!"
Many students had backed up that belief with their pocketbook.
Assistant Principal Mellisa McDonald said game tickets were $8. But two-day passes to the tournament were $11 and many Northview fans bought those passes on Friday hoping, believing, maybe even knowing, she said, that their team would be playing more than one game.
She estimated about 600 Northview students were at the game -- about half the student body -- to cheer on the 22 players who rode the bus from Sylvania to Columbus.
Many of those who stayed home were still in on nearly constant tweeting, texting, and facebook messaging of saves and shots.
One ESPN tweet about the contest had been re-tweeted 7,453 times as of 11:55 p.m.
Amid all the excitement, even as the hour got later and another hour was soon to be lost to daylight saving time, Cooper wasn't a bit shy about reminding the crowd that the school district will have a levy on the May 6 ballot. The school board is asking voters for a 3.8-mill operating levy that would add $133 to the annual property tax on a $100,000 home and Cooper is a proponent.
But he ended the rally by calling the team up to sing their song.
"Roll along Northview Warriors!" they belted out in a rare public performance of the song they sing in the locker room after victories.