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Sidney Crosby’s gold medal-winning goal may have been 10 years ago Friday, but it feels more like yesterday for Claude Nearing.
The Sydney native was working as an event supervisor during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was inside the arena – known at the time as Canada Hockey Place - when the Cole Harbour product scored what’s known as Canada’s golden goal.
“I guarantee you the ground was shaking in British Columbia that night,” laughed Nearing. “Everyone was screaming, celebrating and jumping all around, it was an amazing experience and something I’ll always remember.”
Nearing, whose job was to assist workers inside the building when needed, was standing on the left side of the United States net when Crosby’s shot beat United States netminder Ryan Miller at 7:40 of overtime, giving Canada the 3-2 win on Feb. 28, 2010.
Despite being on the same side as the goal, Nearing didn’t see the puck cross the goal line or the original celebration.
“I saw the play going on and I closed my eyes and opened them, and Canada had won the game,” said Nearing. “At first, I didn’t accept the fact it happened – nobody really knew what to expect in the game because it was so evenly matched.”
Team Canada led the gold medal game 2-1 late in the third period.
With Miller on the bench for the extra attacker, U.S. forward Zach Parise tied the game with a rebound beating Roberto Luongo with 24.4 seconds to play in regulation time.
The overtime goal, which at the time clinched Canada’s first men’s hockey gold medal since the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, happened fairly quickly with Jarome Iginla winning a puck battle on the boards, which saw the puck land right on the stick of Crosby.
“Like most people in the rink, I was nervous going into overtime,” said Nearing. “It was very touch and go, everyone was on pins and needles, but when they scored, it was like an earthquake, the whole city shook – it happened so unexpectedly.”
After the game, Nearing was told to return to B.C. Place, where he was stationed for the majority of the Olympics.
“It was totally chaos on the streets, people were cheering and jumping up and down,” said Nearing. “It was like every single person had a bottle of wine or pop and they were shaking it and throwing it in the air.
“By the time I got back to B.C. Place, I was soaked from everyone spraying each other on the streets, it was incredible — I’m getting excited just thinking about it.”
In 2009, Nearing was working with the television show So You Think You Can Dance Canada and happened to be in Vancouver for a show taping when he learned of the possibility of working the Winter Olympics.
“I met some people who were getting trained to work the Olympics and they told me that I should apply to work the event,” said Nearing. “I decided to apply, and I later received a call from the Olympic association asking if I was interested in working the event.”
Prior to the event, Nearing and the Olympic employees took part in a month-long training session to be prepared for every possible situation that could happen during the 16-day event.
“It was pretty intense,” said Nearing, who during the Olympics was in charge of 100 people at B.C. Place. “We had to go through security and had to learn different things and what to look out for, especially with my job being a supervisor.”
Nearing spent three months in Vancouver. Along with training and the Olympic games, he also worked the Paralympic Winter Games.
The 2010 event wasn’t Nearing’s first experience working the Winter Olympics. He also took part in the 1988 games in Calgary.
“I was in charge of working the Olympic Village, which was fantastic,” said Nearing of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. “My job was to give support to the athletes – if they needed to go somewhere or wanted information, I was one of the people who helped them.”
Since 2010, Nearing has had the opportunity to work the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but decided not to take part.
Although Canada isn’t expected to host any Olympic Games until at least 2030, Nearing said he wouldn’t think twice about applying to work the event again.
“Guaranteed I would work it again,” said Nearing. “If it does come back to Canada, you may see a co-Olympic Games between Calgary and Vancouver, it would be interesting for sure.”