After 50 years, Skate Canada remains an anchor on winter sport schedule


Over the telephone from her residence close to Ottawa, Lynn Nightingale is bursting to speak about determine skating. 

Fresh in her thoughts’s eye is that point practically 50 years in the past when, as a youngster, she skated from the ice at Calgary’s Stampede Corral proper into the residing rooms of numerous Canadians. 

“Skating in our nation was driving a giant excessive — Karen Magnussen had simply gained the world championship and success breeds success,” stated Nightingale, who was born in Edmonton however honed her expertise on the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa. “It was a small rink, an intimate crowd, and I bear in mind it vividly as a result of it was the primary time that I had confronted these sorts of expectations.” 

In 1973, a 17-year-old Nightingale gained the ladies’s singles title on the inaugural Skate Canada International again in 1973. 

She was victorious once more the following 12 months in Kitchener, Ont., and for a short while, for a era of determine skating followers on this nation, grew to become the face of a sport which was simply starting to blossom within the golden age of tv.

“Television boosts the sport massively. Having it on mainstream TV is basically necessary and publicity is crucial,” Nightingale stated. “You have to captivate individuals. The energy of determine skaters is unbelievable. The extra individuals see it, the extra they may fall for it.” 

Skate Canada International grew out of the defunct North American championships and from its inception grew to become the primary actually annual worldwide invitational competitors for novice skaters held in America. 

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For Canadian determine skaters, in some ways it was the one residence sport they may depend on each season. And Skate Canada remains that method as an anchor occasion of the Grand Prix of determine skating collection which has assembled the very best on this planet within the fall and early winter seasons since 1995.

To have that uncommon alternative to compete earlier than a pleasant crowd of passionate and educated followers is one thing that athletes like Nightingale have by no means taken without any consideration and certain by no means will.

“It was all about studying to compete,” she stated. “It was about studying to depart every part behind and focus on what you may management. It was about going through totally different sorts of pressures and skating beneath circumstances that you just had probably by no means encountered earlier than.”

In the early days Skate Canada was a low-budget occasion and determine skating was effectively behind sports activities like hockey, soccer, and curling within the effort to thrive due to tv publicity.

Broadcast rights have been solely bought for the primary version by CTV on the situation the community be capable to use promoting on the rink boards, one thing unparalleled in Canada again then however widespread follow in European markets. 

It took a change in ruling by the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Television Commission), which allowed placards on the boards, to make it worthwhile for Skate Canada to hit the airwaves. 

The gamble paid off and the primary Skate Canada International in Calgary not solely had substantial crowds, however robust broadcast viewership and ended up turning a revenue for organizers. 

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When Nightingale, who stood in seventh place after the obligatory figures, skated near-flawless brief and free applications she might hear the supportive followers cheering their approval on the Stampede Corral. 

With the legendary Canadian broadcaster Johnny Esaw calling the play-by-play, and world champion pairs skater Otto Jelinek offering evaluation, the entire impression was one among a grand, summit on ice which was of Olympic calibre. 

“Representing Canada at Skate Canada was an honour and I liked the assist of the house nation crowd,” Nightingale stated. “It all appeared so essential on the time and we understood that any competitors is nice competitors. It signaled the start of the season and a style of what lies forward.”

Over the practically half century of its existence, Skate Canada has featured iconic athletes who’ve been the acknowledged superstars of this sleek endeavour which manages to meld the depth of sporting competitors with the aesthetic worth of an artwork type.

Women’s champions through the years have included East Germany’s magnetic Katarina Witt, Japan’s trailblazer Midori Ito, and the sleek Michelle Kwan of the United States. On the lads’s aspect, generational skaters like American Scott Hamilton and Russian Evgeni Plushenko have prevailed at Skate Canada as have ice dance greats equivalent to Natalia Linichuk and and Gennadi Karponosov of the Soviet Union. 

National consciousness

It wasn’t till 1984 that pairs skating was included within the Skate Canada gathering. Early organizers on the Canadian Figure Skating Association thought it was an excessive amount of like “curler derby on ice.”  But quickly partnerships from the Soviet Union got here to dazzle on Canadian ice just like the two-time Olympic champions Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. 

Just as necessary has been the elevated alternative for Canadian skaters to weave their method into the nationwide consciousness. Toller Cranston, Brian Orser, Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, and Patrick Chan have all gained at Skate Canada. So too have Elizabeth Manley, Josee Chouinard, Joannie (*50*), and Kaetlyn Osmond.

Pairs groups like Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, in addition to Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have discovered success on pleasant ice as a precursor to attending to the rostrum at world championships and the Olympics. 

Canadians Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon and, after all, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, amongst others have normal an enduring legacy in ice dancing in arenas throughout the nation from Kelowna, B.C., to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador at Skate Canada International. 

Nightingale has little question that her victory in 1973 helped propel her to a profession which noticed her win 4 Canadian titles in addition to compete on the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She additionally competed in 5 world championships.

“It’s a tough sport and skaters and followers are each starved for competitors,” she stated. “Skate Canada is necessary as a result of it is important to be launched to younger athletes who would be the stars of the longer term. We watch skaters develop and turn into champions. The sport must be nurtured and also you all the time have to harvest a brand new viewers to understand it.” 

Skate Canada International has, by advantage of its longevity, develop into a fixture occasion on this northern nation. And like hockey or curling, determine skating is a pillar of our nation’s sporting folklore. 

It’s one thing that speaks to a Canadian obsession with ice and the proficient athletes who’ve an capability to tame it whereas carving out a compelling narrative. 

Skate Canada International is one thing to depend on whilst we enter the deep freeze of winter.


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