Skating season is underway and with it we are embarking on another exciting year of skating, learning, competing and building our community.
As alumni, you know what the start of the season means and the enjoyment it brings to Canadians. Our clubs and schools are working away to get Canadians registered for skating and our high-performance athletes are training intensely preparing for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
We also want to work to bring together, support and celebrate everyone who has been part of the proud history of Skate Canada. Today I am honoured to be able to reach out to our alumni through our first alumni newsletter. Skate Canada values your contribution to the sport and through our new Alumni Program we are excited to have a direct line to those who helped shape who we are today.
As the year progresses, we’re looking forward to reconnecting with you in person at alumni events – watch for invites in your inbox! I encourage each of you to get involved in the alumni activities happening this season – I hope you’ll join us!
Debra Armstrong, Skate Canada’s Chief Executive Officer
By Barry Soper (Canadian Ice Dance Champion 1971-1974 with partner/wife Louise Soper)
For those of you curious about Skate Canada’s relatively new Alumni Program, here’s a little history.
Leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships or “Canadians”, as they were once called, held in 2014 in Ottawa, Skate Canada’s leadership team decided to do something special to celebrate this rare milestone in Canadian sports.
History shows that national level figure skating competitions started in 1905, but with no events in 1907, 1909 and from 1915-19 (due to World War I), 1914 was deemed to be the first official Canadian Figure Skating Championship. As a matter of interest, national junior competition was added in 1928 and then novice competition in 1966 – my first year at a national event! There were eight more exciting years to follow for me, with Louise, but that, and the evolution of ice dancing as an Olympic sport, will have to wait for another edition.
Adding to the motivation to make 2014 a special year, our sport’s radar was also focused on the 2014 Olympic Winter Games scheduled for Sochi, Russia, and on the selection of Canada’s Olympic Team.
With so many reasons to celebrate, the creative team at the Skate Canada National office got to work. The goal was to develop a once-in-a-lifetime event – one truly honouring the rich history of our sport and its unique place as one of only three national sporting events, along with the CFL’s Grey Cup and Canadian Open Golf, to boast 100 years of history.
With so many great skaters in Skate Canada’s past, who all contributed to the amazing growth of our sport, the challenge was how to build a program and then manage the logistics of adding this historical element to the already complex national event.
Assisted by the creative, long-time Skate Canada staff member Celina Stipanic, the Skate Canada team came up with the idea to build awareness about how Canada got to be a world leader in figure skating. History became the natural focus and with it the idea to involve some of Canada’s past skating champions, Skate Canada’s “alumni”, to help illustrate and celebrate the path Canada had taken over the past 100 years!
The next task? How to create an exciting program for the sport’s past champions to motivate them to come to Ottawa and engage them while at the event. But first, the biggest challenge was to find a way of connecting with this diverse group spread out across the country and around the world.
By the time Canadians got underway in Ottawa, 58 past Canadian champions participated in the 2014 anniversary event joined by Skate Canada’s Hall of Fame members. The special invitation package was created – a package that included staying at Ottawa’s luxurious and historical Chateau Laurier Hotel, sitting as a group in the arena, in-venue introductions, access to the VIP lounge, a special alumni luncheon, 100th Anniversary Gala, and the Parade of Champions to witness the pre-Olympic crop of Canada’s best skaters.
For most of the alumni attendees, however, participation at the gala dinner and Olympic team send-off celebration was likely the major highlight for this memorable glide down ‘memory lane’. The event featured our glorious fraternity of skaters, Olympic Team, former champions and Skate Canada Hall of Fame members – all dressed in evening attire.
Photos were taken of all the participants, after which a magical evening ensued, highlighted by host, Brian Williams of CTV, and breathtakingly supported by videos which elegantly and emotionally captured the multi-champion performances of the ages by our long line of successful champions.
Barbara Ann Scott and the 100th Anniversary video below:
The list of attending alumni spanned eight decades and read like a “who’s who” of Canada’s skating royalty. Representing the decades, various speakers told inspiring stories about how skating helped shape their lives. Our highlight was a personal sharing by Tracy Wilson who stated that it was seeing my skating partner and now my wife, Louise, perform as a Canadian ice dance champion in Tracy’s local Inlet skating club (Port Moody, BC) carnival that got her excited to dream big… and we know how that dream turned out… an Olympic bronze medal, with Rob McCall, in 1988 in Calgary!
With the success of the program in Ottawa, the Alumni Program was born.
Skate Canada “green-lighted” and supported the formation of an Alumni Committee – with the on-going responsibility to develop programming to celebrate alumni and their history. With that attention, the program is now expanding to include senior event medal winners and other international level skaters. Today the Alumni Committee convenes regularly and continues to choose annual events in which alumni can participate to join in this incredible celebration of our sport.
Now our eyes are on the upcoming pre-Olympic-qualifying 2018 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships scheduled for Vancouver, BC, from Jan. 8-14, 2018. If you’re not already a participating alumnus, find out how to become part of our Alumni Program. Perhaps you’ll want to join us in Vancouver?
Please contact Celina Stipanic at Skate Canada ([email protected]) to learn more about the program and how the skating family can celebrate your contributions, too.
Let’s meet in Vancouver!
You can’t say “Skate Canada Alumni” without thinking about Canada’s great skating history. This year is particularly important as the final lead-up to PyeongChang, South Korea and the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
What do the Games mean to Canadians and to our alumni?
Alumni Committee member and Hall of Famer, Ann Shaw, asked Bob Paul, 1960 Olympic gold medalist in pairs with Barbara Wagner, to share some of his Olympic memories and his thoughts about the powerful symbols and the tradition of excellence the Olympics Games represent.
Recently Bob was reminiscing about the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California, an event so dramatically different from the size and spectacle of Olympic Games today. Even back in 1960, Bob recognized the relevance of the Olympic rings as a very important symbol of the Olympic movement.
Bob recalled that in 1960 the 8,500-seat arena butted up against the speed skating oval and was used not only for figure skating events but also for the opening and closing Ceremonies. Venues were much smaller in those days and many rinks were outdoors. Of course, training and competing outdoors was very challenging … and cold … however with one side open to the elements in the competition rink, at least there was a spectacular view overlooking the ski jump hills!
For the final hockey game, attendance in the rink swelled to 10,000 with standing room only. Bob remembered that for their pair skating event, adjacent facilities like dressing rooms and warm-up areas were almost non-existent. As a result, he and Barb had to sit in a restaurant on the lower level while they waited to perform, that day skating their five-minute program in the cold outdoor arena at 10 in the morning.
Squaw Valley was such a small site that the athletes had to live in fairly primitive dormitories… Bob called them barracks. He shared a room with fellow pair skater Otto Jelinek. With such limited accommodation in the area, many fans were forced to drive in from the nearest city – Reno Nevada – over 500 km away!
Bob also remembered the excitement of seeing famous people at the event. At one point, hanging over the boards watching in the audience was Sonja Henie who had been driven there from Los Angeles by an Ice Capades executive. (Sonja was a three-time Olympic Champion [1928, 1932, 1936] in ladies’ singles and a ten-time World Champion [1927–1936]. After retiring from competition, Sonja went on to movie stardom and at the height of her acting career was one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood.)
National funding was in short supply in those days (to remain eligible to compete, International Olympic Committee amateur status rules prohibited athletes from accepting any money or negotiating any professional contracts). To help with costs, he and Barb shared coach Sheldon Galbraith’s expenses with Toronto Club teammate Wendy Griner. Bob remembered Sheldon as the greatest psychologist, always encouraging them to stay positive.
Although Bob was honoured to be named the flag bearer for both opening and closing ceremonies, he remembered asking to have his partner, Barb, join him but was told only one person was allowed. Of course the team’s biggest thrill was the gold medal ceremony, celebrating Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in pair skating.
After the team’s gold medal win, Bob recalled being interviewed by the famous American newscaster Walter Cronkite who was anchor for those 1960 Winter Games, the first Olympic Games ever to be televised.
How did Canadian figure skaters fare in Squaw Valley? At those 1960 games, Don Jackson won bronze in men’s with Don MacPherson coming 10th; Otto and Maria Jelinek were fourth in pairs: and in ladies, Sandra Tewkesbury 10th with Wendy Griner finishing 12th.
- Prior to 1964, most Olympic figure skating events were held outdoors.
- The pairs short program was first added to competition at the World Championships in Dortmund, Germany in 1964. Short Programs became part of singles competition in 1973 and were added to the Olympic Games in 1976.
- Canada has won 25 Olympic medals in figure skating.
- Ice dance was added to the Olympic Games in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria.
Skate Canada recently announced the Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Read more on the exciting news about alumni inductees Joannie Rochette, Jennifer Robinson, Sadie and Albert Enders, Josée Picard, Éric Gilles, Ron Vincent and Steve Milton.
World Medalist and three-time Canadian Pair Champion (with Jessica Dubé) Bryce Davison married Michele Moore on June 17, 2017 at Hernder Estates Wines in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Former Canadian Men’s competitor, Fedor Andreev, is engaged to US Olympic Ice Dance Champion, Meryl Davis.
Interested in the 2017-2018 event schedule for Skate Canada hosted events or simply want to follow our skater’s results during international or domestic competitions? Please visit the Skate Canada events page.
Oct 12: 2017 Breaking the Ice: Olympic Edition – Toronto Cricket Skating & Curling Club, Toronto, ON
Dec. 10: Canada 150 Skating Day – 17 locations across Canada
Capital of each province/territory
Canadian cities that hosted Olympic Games – Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver
Canada’s capital – Ottawa
Jan. 11-14: Alumni Event Package – 2018 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Vancouver, BC
For more information contact Celina Stipanic, Alumni & Fund Development Manager at [email protected] or 1.888.747.2372 x2617
To honor members of the skating family who have left us recently, this newsletter is dedicated to their memories to acknowledge the contributions they have made to sport in Canada and to our skating community.
In loving memory of some of those who have passed:
- Deborah Marie (Rioux) Marion, New Brunswick, Skater – January 20, 2017
- Heidi Crim, Newfoundland, Skater – January 13, 2017
- Hans Gerschwiler, Skater & Coach – September 27, 2017
- Jean Dusseault, QC, Volunteer – September 8, 2017
- Lise Rivest-Thibodeau, QC Section, Official – September 7, 2017
- Frederick Rowe, Nova Scotia, Official – July 29, 2017
- Gary James Collier, Ontario, Volunteer – July 14, 2017
- Gregory Rochefort, Ontario, Coach – May 14, 2017
- Marlene Drummond, Ontario, Official – June 20, 2017
- Jim Reid, British Columbia, Coach – May 7, 2017
- Barbara Brown Roger (nee Paterson), Ontario, Volunteer – April 23, 2017
- Marilyn Symko, Ontario, Coach – April 2, 2017
- Louise (Loriaux) Mathers, Nova Scotia, Coach – January 17, 2017
- James “Andy” Joy, Newfoundland, Official – January 1, 2017
- Donald Gilchrist, Ontario, Official – March 14, 2017
- Francine (Losier) Mallet, New Brunswick, Coach – March 6, 2017
- Kathryn Richards, Ontario, Volunteer – January 8th, 2017
- Dick McLaughlin, Ontario, Skater – January 6, 2017
- Teslin Russell, Ontatio, Skater – December 31, 2016
- George Crha, British Columbia, Coach – October 30, 2016.
- Stanley Hughes, Ontario, Coach – October 21, 2016
- Brenda (Dymond) Beresford, Newfoundland, Skater – December 28, 2016
- Alma Joanne Wilson, Ontario, Skater – November 18, 2016
- Frances (Dafoe) Bogin, Ontario, Official – September 23, 2016
- Ellen Burka, Ontario, Coach – September 12, 2016
- Elizabeth Landers, New Brunswick, Skater – July 11, 2016
- Monique (Vanier) Payer, Quebec, Official – June 24, 2016
- Doreen Brown, Ontario, Official – February 12, 2016
- Hans Fredrich Strube, Ontario, Skater – March 29, 2016
- Jane (Rosamund) Sawbridge, British Columbia, Official – January 15, 2016
We’d love to hear from you! Today staying in touch is easier than ever!
E-mail us your stories, photos, thoughts, suggestions and questions. We can’t guarantee we’ll print each one however we will certainly read every word and in the case of questions, find answers to them all.
Contact Celina Stipanic, Alumni and Fund Development Manager at [email protected]