Podcast: B. Lavoie – Part 2 | Alumni Spotlight | “Memories of Moscow” | Browning receives Order of Canada | Wedding Bells | 2020 World Championships and National Championships

Benoît Lavoie – Part 2

Last month we had the opportunity to listen in on the conversation between Skate Canada’s past President, Benoît Lavoie, and Olympic silver medallist Debbi Wilkes as they discussed Benoît’s early years in skating. This month it’s part two of the conversation when Benoît talks frankly about skating, its joys and its challenges and his role on the ISU Council.

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A Magical Moment for a Canadian Ice Dance Couple – Joni Graham & Don Phillips

by Barry Soper

In just year six of its relatively new, ‘virtual’ existence, the Skate Canada BC/YK Section chose to induct into its Hall of Fame two accomplished Canadian Ice Dancers in the Athlete category, namely British Columbia’s Joni Graham & Don Phillips – Canada’s Ice Dance Champions in 1967 & 1968.

Ice Follies – circa 1968-1969

Although Don passed away in 1997 at only age 53, Joni, with her husband Ron Taylor and admiring family, did attend the annual BC/YK Section Awards & Hall of Fame Induction Gala on April 27, 2019 to accept the honour on behalf of this accomplished BC Ice Dance team.  On hand to receive Don’s part of this honour was his son Ashton Phillips of Vancouver, who learned so much more about this exciting chapter in his father’s earlier life.

Besides the additional accomplishments as Canada’s Junior Ice Dance Champions in 1966 and, after moving up to the Senior level, achieving a Silver medal at the 1967 North American Figure Skating Championships, they managed two top 10 placements at the two World Championships in which they competed in 1967 & 1968.

Circa 1967

With their 6th place finish at the 1967 World Figure Skating Championships in Vienna, Austria (the last World’s event held on outdoor ice), this qualified Joni and Don to be one of six Demonstrator Couples invited by the International Olympic Committee in conjunction with the ISU to demonstrate Ice Dance at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

Why was this significant?

Ice Dance, historically the 4th of figure skating’s four disciplines and officially added to the World Figure Skating Championships in 1952 was not included as an Olympic discipline at that time. While the other three skating disciplines of Men, Ladies, plus Pair skating had been the mainstay of World level figure skating since its early roots in the late 1800’s (Pair skating was added in 1908), Ice Dancing did not become part of the World scene until 1936 after evolving from its initial ‘ballroom dancing on ice’ to greater movement over the ice.  It was this transition to greater athleticism that eventually caused the International Olympic Committee to adopt Ice Dancing as an official Olympic figure skating discipline at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

Thus, Joni and Don were part of that six Ice Dance team contingent in 1968, led by Great Britain’s World Ice Dance Champions, Diane Towler and Bernard Ford, to demonstrate to the ‘Olympic’ world that, indeed, Ice Dancing did belong as a Winter Olympics’ discipline.

The impact on the skating world, especially in the discipline of Ice Dancing, was significant.  With the prospect of Ice Dancing being included as an Olympic sport, many more skaters were attracted to the discipline.

So how did Joni and Don find themselves in this enviable position at the 1968 Winter Olympics?

Joni was one of numerous aspiring single skaters who kept an open mind to exploring the Ice Dance discipline.  Training under the capable guidance of long-time coach and mentor Hellmut May, and skating out of Vancouver’s Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club, Joni recognized that there was one major ‘roadblock’ to overcome: “I need an Ice Dance partner”!.  It just so happened that long-time skating judge Florence Morgan tipped off Joni that a similarly aged male dancer was having tryouts for a partner at his home Capilano Winter Club in North Vancouver.  As a result, Joni asked to be included to try out with the suave and dapper Don Phillips, who was training under club coach Alex Fulton.  Joni’s audition at this tryout was a success, with Don deciding that he had found the ‘right partner’.  It was then decided that both Alex Fulton and Hellmut May would coach the team and each skater would represent their own club.

Once the partnership was formed, it wasn’t long until the team gelled, and they set about proving it by qualifying to compete in Junior Dance at the 1965 Nationals in Calgary where they earned a silver medal.  While this meant that Joni and Don were training at two clubs, it was clear that this Ice Dance team was on track to do something special with their opportunity.  The next year they won Junior Dance (1966) and headed for Senior competition.

Circa 1967-1968

After this promising start, Joni and Don were advised to take notice of what was happening at a new skating club on the North Shore at West Vancouver’s Hollyburn Country Club where former 4-time World Ice Dance Champion Jean Westwood was coaching. Jean was making a significant impact in the Ice Dance coaching world by attracting top American Ice Dance teams and was looking for Canadian teams to round out her program.  In 1966, Joni and Don became part of this very competitive training centre which was able to attract aspiring new competitive coaches. Names like Robin and Heather Jones assisted Jean in creating and guiding exciting, competitive Ice Dance teams vying for Canadian, American and World Ice Dance medals – at a time when interesting choreography and dance lifts elevated the quality and difficulty of the sport.

The results from Joni and Don’s search and commitment to making the most of their opportunity gave proof to the importance of skating in a competitive training environment led by accomplished and motivated coaches.

The other Ice Dancing force that was emerging, at that time, was the arrival of Russian Ice Dance teams and their emphasis on speed and drama.  By 1969, Liudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov were already on the podium – just ahead of their run of World Ice Dance titles beginning in 1970.

In terms of a denouement to Joni and Don’s Ice Dance career, the team was invited to join Ice Follies in 1968, an attractive and lucrative way to end a skating career. Other priorities then took over and Joni and Don went their separate ways, with Joni having met her future husband while touring with Ice Follies and settling in the United States, while Don chose to begin his coaching career in Peterborough.  Not long after, Joni left the USA as a single mother to begin her coaching career at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton, Alberta, while Don returned to BC to pick up his life where he left off, marrying his first wife. However, there were new chapters to unfold for both partners.

Don found very interesting work as a coach in Santa Rosa, California, in a rink built by famous American cartoonist Charles Schulz (of Snoopy fame).  It was here that he met and married his second wife with whom he had two children.  Unfortunately, Don’s life was cut short in 1997 when he died at the age of 53.

North of the border, Joni returned to BC when her boys were finished school and found coaching work at Coquitlam FSC in Greater Vancouver.  Not long after, Joni met and married her second husband, Ron Taylor, in Dec. 1996 – complete with special wedding singer Michael Buble, a good friend of Joni’s two sons.  Joni and Ron are now kept busy with nine grandchildren plus Ron’s 101-yr. old mother and Joni’s 103-yr. old uncle.

Congratulations to Joni Graham and Don Phillips, a BC team who made Ice Dance history, honoured by their induction into the BC/YK Section’s Virtual Hall of Fame.

Memories of Moscow (1978)
by Robert McCall

It all seems unrealistic to me now, like a fantastic dream.  We were actually on our way to the Soviet Union to participate in Moscow Skate.

Only two weeks earlier I had been lying in hospital bed in Darmouth, Nova Scotia with huge red blossoms all over my body and a tube stuck in my arm.  Few people believed that I would be well enough for Moscow Skate, but I was determined that nothing was going to prevent me from skating with the world’s best ice dancers.  Not even scarlet fever!

Luckily, I was well enough by the time our departure day arrived.  My partner Marie McNeil, our coach Janet Dunnet Purdy and I boarded the jet in Halifax and flew to Toronto where we were to meet Billie Mitchell of Vancouver and Toronto international judge Suzi Francis.  The five of us then flew to London, England where we were supposed to board a connecting flight to Moscow.

However, London had other plans for us!  When we arrived at London airport the fog was so dense that we had to detour to Scotland and land in Preswick.  After a two hour delay, we were able to fly back to London and land.

Memories of Mrs. Mitchell bustling about London airport will remain with me forever.  Her energy is phenomenal, and I was exhausted just watching her.  While the rest of us melted into and available chair, Mrs. Mitchell made record time organizing the rest of our flight schedule to Moscow.

Since we had to stay overnight in London, we took the scenic route to our hotel, and were able to see that great city in the brilliance of its Christmas lighting.

The next morning, we flew to Frankfurt, Germany and boarded a Russian airliner.  When we landed in Moscow, we had little trouble clearing customs and were whisked to our hotel, the Hotel Russia.

Our hotel room was very similar to a Canadian or an American one but remembering the story about a Canadian woman who found a strange lump under the bedroom carpet of her Moscow hotel, I was cautious not to tamper with any screws or fixtures.  Apparently, this visitor was afraid that the screw under the carpet held some sort of listening device, so she took a screwdriver and loosened it – only to hear that a chandelier crashed to the floor in the room below!

As we entered the hotel restaurant for our first meal, we were surprised to see the British skaters Carol Long and John Philpott, and coach Bobby Thompson.  Marie and I had become good friends of Carol and John in Lake Placid, New York and had also worked with Mr. Thompson at that time.  After a gossip session we were escorted to our table and found a familiar Canadian flag as the centrepiece.

An all-female band entertained us while we ate.  Most of us had a little appetite at this point.  Marie and Janet stared into space while Mrs. Mitchell and Dr. Francis politely ate a little food.  I, however, attacked my food with all the grace and elegance of a professional wrestler.

When we woke the following morning, a light snowfall greeted us.  From my window I could see a Greek orthodox church with its towering mosques.  We took a bus ride through the city en route to the famous Palace of Sports for our first practice session.  The streets were remarkably clean, and the snow was white.  Not like the brownish sludge at home!  We passed the Czar’s Palace, the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Church, all reminders of the elegance and grandeur of a by-gone age.

At the rink the Russians were already practicing.  The workout sessions were divided into two groups, seven Russians teams in one session and all the other nations (six including Canada) in the second group. All the top Russian ice dancing teams competed except for the World Champions, Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov who were to give exhibitions.

The first evening of competition included the pair’s short and compulsory dances.  All the pairs, except one East German team, were Russian.  I was awed by the Russians precision and skill.

Performing before audiences of 18, 000 people against former world champions after only one compulsory practice almost overwhelmed me.  Fortunately, Marie was composed enough to support the team.  Under the circumstances, our dances were not of historical significance, with the exception of the Yankee Polka.  At the end of the first night’s competition we were in 12th place.

The Russian audiences were extremely receptive and supportive of all the skaters.  Every seat was occupied for the entire competition.

After the first night of competition, we attended the Bolshoi Ballet in the great opera hall.  Our host, Natalia Linichuk, picked us up at our hotel.  It was a memorable experience.  The hall was packed, and the dancers were acclaimed like national heroes.

The next day we were invited to lunch with the Canadian ambassador, Dr. D. Ford.  Despite the fact that I spilt tomato juice all over an expensive white carpet, the luncheon went smoothly, and His Excellency joined the cheering section of the audience for the exhibition performances on the final day, throwing bouquets of roses to Marie and I as we completed our number.

The second phase of the dance competition was the Original Set Pattern (waltz).  We were pleased with our showing in the waltz, although we knew that it was almost impossible for us to move up in the standings after the compulsory dance.

The competition ended Saturday afternoon.  Overall it was of extremely high calibre.  In the ladies’ singles, Teresa Foy of Great Britain shone in the long and short free-style programs yet dropped in placement after figures.  The final winner was Carola Weissenberg of West Germany.  For a country that has produced world champions in men’s, pair’s and dance, Russia has yet to produce a world champion in the women’s event.

The pair’s and men’s event were spectacular, but it was really the ice dancing that captured the audiences.  Andrei Minenkov and Irina Moisseva skated with the poise and confidence of world champions, and all the Russian teams skated imaginative and creative programs.

Following the final competition, the Russian officials hosted a reception for all the guest skaters, judges and officials.  The competitors received commemorative medals to remind them of Moscow and the competition.  And remember we will!

Competing with the excellent Russian teams, experiencing the history and splendour of Moscow, renewing old friendships…  All of these memories of Moscow will remain with us for a long time.

Kurt Browning receives Order of Canada

The Order of Canada is one of our country’s highest civilian honours. Its Companions, Officers and Members take to heart the motto of the Order: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (“They desire a better country”).

Her Excellency presented the Member insignia of the Order of Canada to Kurt Browning, C.M.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, invested 1 Companion, 7 Officers and 21 Members into the Order of Canada during a ceremony at the Citadelle, on July 4, 2019.

Kurt Browning was one of twenty one recipients to receive the Order of Canada in a ceremony at the Residence of the Governor General at the Citadelle in Quebec on July 4, 2019.

Described below is a brief biography of Kurt Browning by the Governor General.

World figure skating champion of 1989, this easy-going Albertan is admired for his skilled and disciplined performances. His fresh outlook and engaging personality make him an excellent role model for the youth of this country and an impressive ambassador for figure skating as he embodies the ideals of Canadian amateur sport.

Congratulations Kurt!

Olympic Champion, Eric Radford marries Luis Fenero in Spain!

Credit: Victor Lax

After a two year engagement, 3 time Olympic medalist Eric Radford married ice dancer Luis Fenero this month in a beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony in Spain.

In a recent social media post, Eric expresses his feelings about his special day.

“Words can never explain how incredible the last days have been. An amount of love I could’ve never imagined and a wedding day I could’ve never dreamed. Thank you to the amazing Victor Lax for capturing the best moments of my life so beautifully and making them into art.”

Best wishes on this wonderful journey, as you build your new lives together.

Wedding Bells Ring for Siobhan Karam!

Siobhan Karam, Canadian junior national champion and ISU Grand Prix competitor in Ice Dance, had her dream wedding on July 20th when she married singer-songwriter Mike Godwin at Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Congratulations on finding each other! Your greatest adventure has just begun.


ACT NOW!  Deadline to purchase 2020 World Alumni Event Package is August 28!


“Inspiring all Canadians to embrace the joy of skating.”

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 cstipanic@skatecanada.ca

Podcast: B. Lavoie | A Legend, A Legacy | The Partnership | Lives Lived: A. Doherty | My Very Own Centennial Celebration | 2020 World Event Packages

Benoît Lavoie – Part 1

Of all the individuals who have contributed to skating in Canada and around the world, few have the incredible experience of Benoît Lavoie. His skating career began as a competitor but it was his commitment as a volunteer which gave him the greatest satisfaction. National, international and Olympic judge, past President of Skate Canada and now a Council member of the International Skating Union, Benoît shares his adventures with Alumni Chair Debbi Wilkes in this first edition of a two-part conversation.

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A Legend, a Legacy

by Debbi Wilkes

Today’s goals for competitors are the same as ours were back in the 60’s … to become the best skater/performer you could be. While the landscape may have changed dramatically since then with technology advances and increased support, many of life’s best lessons remain the same thanks to the legacies built by so many skating pioneers.

Let me set the stage.

As many will remember, decades ago there were no Grand Prix events, no summer competitions or individual events, no such thing as an invitational, no chance to test programming until you were actually competing in Sectionals or Canadians. You may have had the luxury of a visit from an official to get their impressions but back then it was pretty much done on the QT, judges and skaters separated by protocol as if they were on opposing teams. Today, all members of the skating family contribute to a skater’s success. What a bonus!

But what about down time, periods of rest to recover and re-energize? Today there’s really no such thing as “time off”.

With a short recess after show performances and special appearances, competitors today use the off season to begin the real “foundational” work for the next year… the decisions for the creative process, the ideas, the music selection, the choreography, the costume design and, most importantly, the practice needed to improve, prepare and train for the new season.

In my day, my family insisted that I had at least two months off… June and July… “to be a normal kid”, my Dad would say. We had a cottage up north, a sanctuary, somewhere to escape the pressures of competition and the expectations that went along with them… but I couldn’t wait to get back on the ice!

Much of my love for skating was motivated by my coaches Bruce and Marg Hyland at the Metropolitan Summer Skating School at the old Weston Arena in Toronto. With Bruce’s passing just a few weeks ago, it gave me the opportunity to look back at all those years of summer skating and to reflect on many of those life-shaping experiences and the incredible impact they had on my life and career.

Margaret & Bruce Hyland

Summer was the only time of year when I could skate all day and practice with some of the best, like Otto and Maria Jelinek, Louis Stong and Don Jackson. As a young skater looking on, that taught me some of the best lessons.

As heads of the school, Marg and Bruce brought many original and revolutionary ideas to our training, things that today are automatic additions. Activities like “off ice” training, strength-building exercise, creative movement, musical appreciation and modern dance became part of our daily regimen. Marg even took it a step further by teaching us classes about diet, manners and etiquette, grooming, clothing and make-up. I loved every second!!

And then there was technology … or lack of it by today’s standards.

In the 60’s, let’s remember nobody had heard of laptops, cell phones or the Internet. We had Hi-Fi radios and record players… yes, vinyl… stereo if you were leading edge, black and white TVs, and the only kind of video tape was a 2”-wide type used by TV stations. Digital??? Never heard of that either!!

The selection and recording of music was always top of the summer’s agenda and one the hi-lites of the summer for me.

To choose our music, my Mom would listen to the radio all day long, during laundry, house cleaning, cooking, driving, you name it, all in search of good selections. When she heard something she thought we might like… remember, 99% of programming was to classical music… she would either phone or write the radio station directly… imagine, snail mail… give them the date and time she heard the piece, and they would check their programming logs to give her info on the title, composer, and recording. Under Bruce’s direction, the process would often take weeks!

The next piece in solving the musical puzzle was to head to a special record store in downtown Toronto, Sam the Record Man, to try to find or order the recording. (My parents must have spent thousands on records!)

“Sam the Record Man”

Once Bruce had approved the music, we’d all get together to choose the specific parts of the selection and figure out if and how they’d go together. That was a tutorial all on its own! Bruce was adamant we learn about the music’s history too, its composer and its story. He’d say we couldn’t interpret the music unless we understood its “soul”. We’d listen for hours to hear the tones and nuance… and to FEEL the music.

Then it was off to this magical place… RCA recording studio. Bruce insisted we join him to witness the expertise of the engineers… where a sound wizard would push buttons and pull levers to create two copies of our very own vinyl record. (In those days we carried our records in a specially-built wooden carrying case, all the rage. Remember those?)

As you can imagine, Bruce was very picky about how music fit together, one note more or less made a big difference to the sound. And he was determined that if we could understand what the music meant, our choreography would be developed according to what the music said.

He taught us his music rules too, things like you should never start or end a movement in the middle of a phrase of music. To Bruce, skating wasn’t just about completing tricks successfully, it was just as important to tell your story. Every stroke of the blade had to match a specific musical note, otherwise your “story” wouldn’t be clear to the audience and could never have the greatest impact.

With music in hand, the choreography would begin, and Bruce was a magician in design. We’d go through days of experimentation with the placement of elements and how they were connected. Was there enough time to set up a lift properly? Was the order correct to maximize their success? Were we covering the entire ice in a way that showed off our best skills? Were our program hi-lites matching the musical hi-lites? Was the program construction so intense we’d be exhausted by the halfway point … remember senior pairs skated 5 minutes … or had we built in some breathing space? Just like a beautiful piece of music with highs and lows, he explained, a beautiful program had to have them too.

Bruce Hyland

Looking back, I remember feeling our programs were never quite “finished”. As our ability to skate them well improved, Bruce always made little tweaks to make them better, more flowing and more difficult, even up to competition day. Bruce never wanted them to be automatic or robotic despite the hours and hours dedicated to their training. But any change was always driven by what the music said.

I can still hear him call out, “Listen to the music!”

Thank you Bruce … for all the lessons.

The Partnership

by Nancy Sorensen

In the 1980’s, competitive figure skaters in the Maritimes had several disadvantages. There weren’t very many of them! The few who reached national levels, were usually the best skaters on home ice with little or no competition, nobody to “skate up to”.  Outside of Maritime-generated competitions, there was limited exposure of Atlantic skaters to competitors and conditions in unfamiliar venues. This resulted in talented, young athletes lacking high level competitive experience and in performing frequently before audiences.  The New Brunswick Skater Development, of which I was a member, sought a solution to this dilemma.

In Fredericton in 1981, a minor, professional hockey team was established called the Fredericton Express.  Parent teams were the Quebec Nordiques and the Vancouver Canucks, both NHL affiliates. Home games for the Fredericton team were held at the Aiken Centre on the UNB campus.  Attendance was, generally, favourable. Could hockey benefit figure skating?

Fredericton Express

I met with the General Manager of the Express and we discussed our needs.  For figure skating it was exposure, audience interaction, and performance experience. For the hockey franchise?  Early evening games meant many fans had little time, if any, for supper before heading to the Aiken Centre.  The manager’s problem was the mass exodus of fans to the concession stands between first and second periods, long line ups for food and drink, then the constant dribble of spectators returning to their seats.  This sorely disrupted avid hockey goers who didn’t want to miss a minute.  There seemed to be a constant upheaval of people standing, shuffling, getting resettled.  This had become a major irritant to hard core hockey buffs resulting in multi complaints.  Could figure skating help hockey?

The team manager and I hatched a plan that we hoped would benefit both of us. Let’s put a figure skater on the ice between Period 1 and Period 2 as entertainment for non hungry spectators and as an incentive to the foodies to return to their seats promptly. The second period could begin with an attentive, game ready crowd.  What more challenging exposure for figure skaters than to perform before a hockey crowd!

There were kinks to iron out.  Everything about hockey is timed, including the intervals between periods of play.  Teams are fined if those breaks run overtime.  Nets have to be removed, the Zamboni makes its rounds, ice dries, goals replaced, teams return to the ice.  A twenty minute window. So, we practised. The manager and I, stop watches in hand, timed the various activities between periods one and two. Now, we had to squeeze in a skater, performing up to a three and a half minute program within that time allowance. Rehearsals continued during Express practices…..nets, Zamboni, 30 seconds for skater to be announced and get on/off the ice, the program, applause, nets restored.  Close!  It could be done as long as here were no hitches or unforeseen problems. My Skater Development colleagues and I composed a roster of skaters who might best benefit from our plan yet enhance the hockey game.

There were other things to consider, such as an available empty dressing room somewhere in the arena.  No warm up!  Preparation would be a loosening up before stepping onto the ice.  To charm the audience, spread eagles, long spirals, fast spins and, please, do not fall. Gear the program for a non knowledgeable audience.  Show business all the way.  Bright colours, and sequins. Take your bow, exit the ice as quickly as possible.  The idea was to promote figure skating to possibly uninterested onlookers while gaining performance experience. All skaters involved were not Frederictonians which necessitated travel, accommodation and other expenses.

For the team directors, they were looking for an effective way to lure the concession cats to their seats in good time to watch the skating but more so, to be ready for the continuation of the games and be less a nuisance to serious hockey fans.

Our first presentation to a good Aiken Centre crowd was a very young skater, super cute, with an impressive spiral and a wicked wind up spin. Her impending performance was announced at the start of the game in hopes that curiosity might entice some spectators to stay put and watch. Our skater debuted to sparse numbers. Our next effort featured a promising, young dance team, well received by those who cared to remain.  Was this going to work?

André Bourgeois

These exhibitions were sprinkled throughout home game schedules. As the seasons progressed, we noticed more and more people stayed behind or hurried their concession visits in order to watch the announced entertainment. Our skaters grew more comfortable at presenting themselves and their talents before hockey aficionados. They skated to increased spectator numbers since their programs added a special dimension to the hockey evening.  Our competitors did well, one being Andre Bourgeois, who had had a most successful run, winning the free skating in Junior Men and reaching the podium at Canadians.

The stopwatch practices paid off.  We never had a time infraction and the process became a smooth routine. Our alliance benefited both sports as hoped.  Alas, all good things come to an end.  In 1988, The Fredericton Express team moved to Nova Scotia to become the Halifax Citadels.  All was not lost however. Our skaters met the challenge of performing before audiences while the hockey crowd gained a greater respect for their own game and an appreciation for figure skating.

Figure Skating, Fun and Friendship

by Joyce Hisey and Audrey Williams

A special friend of Figure Skating, Anne Doherty, died on May 31st. She was a member of the Skate Canada Alumnae but more than that a special friend to Audrey Williams and Joyce Hisey.

With Audrey, the friendship began in teenage days when they crashed together running in a hall and got a shock! For Joyce, the fun and games began when Anne, then a C.F.S.A. Board member asked her to produce a new set of dance records.

L-R: Audrey Williams, Joyce Hisey and Anne Doherty

Anne’s main love was Figure Skating, especially dance. When her skating days ended, she took to judging covering all three disciplines at the domestic level and eventually became an ISU Championship judge.

At home she became a leader in the Manitoba Section administration and played an important part in its development. This outstanding contribution covered many years.

Judging, monitoring skaters and mentoring young judges was not all Anne accomplished. She volunteered with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, ran a flower shop and lately got into environmental ‘water’ matters at her cottage on Lake Winnipeg.

On the home front, partner Ken and son John were #1 on Anne’s list of priorities. Family time in the city or at the cottage always came first.

Finally, retirement! Roomies, Audrey, Anne and Joyce, burned the midnight oil many a night sipping white wine (rye for Joyce) and reminiscing. Time at events meant renewing friendships, gossiping and enjoying their favorite sport. Never without an opinion on a program, music, costume or judging, the ladies were happiest remembering ‘the good old days’!

The skating world has lost a most worthy participant, skater, official and friend in Anne. She will be greatly missed.

To read Anne’s obituary please go to this LINK

My Very Own Centennial Celebration – Heather Fraser

by Heather Fraser

Heather Fraser

At the 1967 Canadian Championships, it was the Centennial year for Canada. Being such a special year to win, there were many wonderful celebrations included in each Province and, at many of those, athletes from all sports were invited to participate.

My journey that week was one that ended exactly how I had dreamed…

I came 6th in figures and just wanted to give it my best in the freeskate. I remember that performance as movement filled with joy and knowing I had done all that I could (but so had everyone else!).

I was sitting in the dressing room when the awards were just starting, and a coach came in and said I had best get my skates on fast. I didn’t know why, but I did as I was told and then sat in the penalty box.

The Ladies were announced and when I heard my name called, I went out and stood on the 3rd place stair – feeling pretty good – 6th to 3rd. Then when the person handing out the medals gave me a hand up to the top – shock set in.

When the medals were given out, I got a silver one… so right away I thought I had come second and was put in the wrong place. The others were given medals too and then I was given the trophy… so I did win!

Canadian National Medal – 1st place

I learned years later that a silver medal was given by the CFSA (now Skate Canada) for all podium finishes.

Several months later I received a GOLD Centennial medal with the Centennial Maple Leaf on it and with a small skating figure at the bottom. These were given to everyone in sport who won a National title. The skater changed to tennis player or swimmer etc. depending on the sport.

Centennial Gold Medal – CANADA

With Toronto hosting that Canadian Championships that year, Ontario invited all sport national champions from competitions held in Ontario to a special event and presented them with medals that were also lovely. I was unable to attend but they graciously mailed me my medal.

Ontario Centennial Medallion of Excellence

It was such a great accomplishment and memory… and now these medals are resting in a very special place!

Get your package today – limited seats left in Option 1



STAY TUNED – Alumni Event Packages for the 2020 National Skating Championships will be available in the late Summer beginning of Fall.


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 cstipanic@skatecanada.ca

Podcast: D. Steele | Worlds from the Stands | “The True Meaning of Teamwork!” | Lawrence Ties the Knot | Lives Lived | HOF Dubreuil & Lauzon | Osmond Retired | ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020 – ALUMNI EVENT PACKAGE

Debbi Wilkes, speaks with Saskatchewan’s Doug Steele, whose career in skating spans decades from learn-to-skate toddler to Skate Canada President. Along the way, Doug was tasked with developing the national and international competitive framework for what was to become Synchronized Skating.

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“Worlds 2019 … From the Stands”  

By Eric Radford, World Pair Champion

Landing in Japan to attend the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships felt surprisingly foreign to me this past March. Sitting on the plane for 14 hours and not thinking about my triple Lutz or a Throw quad and just being able to lose myself in a movie felt very different than what I had been feeling just over a year prior.

For the 2019 Worlds, I was still competing but this time off the ice in order to campaign for the ISU Athletes Commission. The position is voted on by the Athletes at the competition and this year there were two candidates.

Continue reading “Podcast: D. Steele | Worlds from the Stands | “The True Meaning of Teamwork!” | Lawrence Ties the Knot | Lives Lived | HOF Dubreuil & Lauzon | Osmond Retired | ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020 – ALUMNI EVENT PACKAGE”

Alumni Package Information: ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020


You may have heard that the tickets for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020  will go on sale to the public on May 31, 2019.

Before you rush to the ticket line, here is an important piece of information.

Please stay tuned for further details on May 31, 2019 (through this Alumni blog) about how you can purchase an Alumni Event Package for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020 which will take place next year from March 16-22, 2020 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Items being considered for the Alumni* Event Package include (limited quantities and subject to change until confirmed on May 31):

  • Event Tickets
  • Alumni Seat Section
  • VIP Lounge hosted by Skate Canada
  • Alumni Social hosted by Skate Canada
  • Alumni Brunch
  • Event Pin & Program

* Alumni:

  • Senior Athletes & Coaches (Olympic and ISU Championships Teams, National Medallists, National Team, Synchronized Team Medallists)
  •  World & Canadian Junior Champion (s)
  •  Hall of Fame Members
  •  Past Presidents
  •  Officials (Challenge, Divisionals level and higher)


If you plan to attend the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020, we would encourage you to book your hotel now directly at the following LINK or you can look at other options on your own.

Please help spread the word amongst your Alumni peers!  And I look forward to sharing more news and details on how to purchase your Alumni Event Package on May 31st!

If you require further information please do not hesitate to email Celina Stipanic at cstipanic@skatecanada.ca

Podcast: J. Picard & E. Gilles | Spotlight: M. McNeil Bowness | Chan Office Visit | Dore Mentorship Fund | Milestone Events

Josée Picard and Éric Gilles were recently inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame at the 2019 Canadian National Skating Championships in Saint John, New Brunswick.  Alumni Committee Chair, Debbi Wilkes, visited with them recently to discuss their success as coaches and to discover that some of their greatest long-term achievements were actually “off the ice”.

Listen now

Marie McNeil (Bowness). Credit: Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame

Where is Marie McNeil now and what has she been up to?  

Written by Marie McNeil Bowness

Newer generations know me as Marie Bowness, an ISU technical specialist and power skating coach.  Older generations, many alumni, know me as Marie McNeil, Ice Dance champion with partner Rob McCall. So, as you can tell I have spent most of my life on the ice.  As they say, once a rink rat always a rink rat.

Rob McCall and Marie McNeil (Bowness)

Continue reading “Podcast: J. Picard & E. Gilles | Spotlight: M. McNeil Bowness | Chan Office Visit | Dore Mentorship Fund | Milestone Events”

Podcast: Moscovitch & Baldé | Passing of Mrs. Mitchell | 2019 Nationals | The Brothel Incident | Westwood Gems Part 2

This season Skate Canada and the Alumni Committee welcomed two new members into the Alumni Family. This past January at Nationals in Saint John, two of Canada’s most popular national team members, Dylan Moscovitch and Elladj Baldé, renewed their friendship and reminisced about the experiences skating has brought to their lives Facing the end of their first year of retirement from competition, they also talked about their new goals … and through many giggles … shared how skating has prepared them for the road ahead as they both embark on new directions.  

Listen now »

Skate Canada saddened by the passing of skating pioneer Billie Mitchell

Skate Canada is saddened by the passing of beloved Hall of Famer Billie Mitchell. She passed away peacefully at age 103 on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Mitchell, a native of Vancouver, blazed a path for female leadership in sport and was devoted to advancing figure skating throughout her life.

Continue reading “Podcast: Moscovitch & Baldé | Passing of Mrs. Mitchell | 2019 Nationals | The Brothel Incident | Westwood Gems Part 2”

Podcast: E. Stojko | Oly | The Whistle | J. Westwood | Reynolds Retires

As Athlete Ambassador of the 2019 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, Elvis shared accounts of some of his experiences competing at Nationals, the things it taught him and the lessons he hopes he can pass along. 20 years post competition and he is still one of the most sought-after performers in the world.  Listen Now »

About the OLY Designation?                                     

By Denise Benning, OLY

When you see the letters PhD after someone’s name, it is recognition that the individual has reached the highest academic level, an accomplishment which took years of hard work and sacrifice to achieve.  From a sports perspective, this description also rings true when considering the dedication it takes to compete as a high-performance athlete.

Continue reading “Podcast: E. Stojko | Oly | The Whistle | J. Westwood | Reynolds Retires”

Podcast: J. Hisey | Special Holiday Message | Oh, the People You’ll Meet! | Once Upon an Ice Rink… | Alumni Celebrate at Grand Prix Final

Ann Shaw, Skate Canada Alumni Committee member chats with Joyce Hisey about her experience as a Team Leader at the annual senior competition in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Listen Now »

A fun holiday message from our alumni, Elizabeth Putnam, Patrick Chan and their sweet pup, Poppy!

Oh, the People You’ll Meet!** (With apologies and thanks to Dr. Seuss)

Janice Hunter & Susan Heffernan

Written by Susan Heffernan

“Out there things can happen and frequently do

To people as brainy

And silly as you.

Oh, the people you’ll meet!”

As I reflect on my skating journey it is about the PEOPLE I’VE MET. Skaters, coaches, volunteers and of course my fellow officials.

Continue reading “Podcast: J. Hisey | Special Holiday Message | Oh, the People You’ll Meet! | Once Upon an Ice Rink… | Alumni Celebrate at Grand Prix Final”

Podcast: E. Leger | Skating Memories by S. Milton | Thank You Canada Tour | Rochette & Baldé at Skate Canada International 2018

Skate Canada Archivist – Emery Leger

Skate Canada Hall of Fame & Heritage Committee member, Diane Imrie chats with Emery Leger, Skate Canada Archivist about Skate Canada’s collection from photographs, trophies, medals, costumes, films… and much more.

Listen Now »

Keeping with our theme of early-season memories, here are a few from recent Hall of Fame inductee Steve Milton, one of the most prolific and highly regarded skating journalists in the media business.

Skating Memories – Written by Steve Milton

I have a confession to make about the start of the competitive figure skating season during the early years of my journalistic career.

I had no clue what I was looking at.

And this was even after a few years of being widely referred to as an “expert figure skating journalist.” I think that was a relative term because there were no speciality websites or blogs in the late ‘1970s and early ’80s, and most “mainstream” media members who covered other sports, as I and my colleagues did, didn’t know the difference between a Salchow and a Jersey cow.

Continue reading “Podcast: E. Leger | Skating Memories by S. Milton | Thank You Canada Tour | Rochette & Baldé at Skate Canada International 2018”

NEXXICE SR Podcast | “Our Good-byes” | Season Starting Memories-Part 2 | HOF Inductions: J. Rochette & C. Bourne


Tune in to listen to NEXXICE legends Shelley Simonton Barnett (coach) and Jennifer Beauchamp (alumnus) chatting about our 9 time Canadian Champions.


Listen Now »



Canada Ice Dance Theatre: Volume 4 “Our Good-byes”

By Ron Vincent

When I look back on CIDT history, and the people I worked with, it is with a great deal of sadness over the early losses of the majority of the original principals.

Continue reading “NEXXICE SR Podcast | “Our Good-byes” | Season Starting Memories-Part 2 | HOF Inductions: J. Rochette & C. Bourne”