Skating for Joy!

You have to admit … skating is in Canada’s DNA.

Millions of Canadians know how to skate. Whether it’s outdoors on a frozen pond, in a backyard on a home-made rink or indoors at the local arena, whether it’s hockey, figure skating, ringette or speed skating, whether it’s in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in Tofino on Vancouver Island, or anywhere in between, Canadians love to skate!

Add to those wearing the skates and you have all the folks who participate in other ways, as club administrators, volunteers, families, friends, supporters, TV watchers and FANS … and you’ll find there’s a love affair going on with the wonderful sport of skating.

How did this love affair begin and what is it about figure skating, in particular, that makes its supporters so passionate about the joys of skating?

Perhaps a little history lesson will help demonstrate that skating and Canada were meant for each other.

Back at the very beginning of the sport, blades were made of animal bone and used for transportation during the long, cold months of winter. With the invention of iron, bone blades gradually gave way to engineered blades of steel, until by the mid 1800’s, improved facilities and equipment led to the development of the “sport” of figure skating.

At that time Canadians were beginning to realize the benefits and joys of skating for fun and started developing and joining skating clubs where they could practice on ice that was smooth and well maintained. The first official club opened in 1833 in Lilly Lake, New Brunswick, but with interest for skating steadily on the rise, it wasn’t long before other clubs followed in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Toronto and points west.

By the late 1800’s, Canadian Governors General were playing a pivotal role in the sport’s development too. The Earl of Dufferin offered his grounds at Rideau Hall in Ottawa to the local “fancy” skaters; the Earl of Minto and his wife, Lady Minto, hosted skating parties, with the Earl becoming Patron of Ottawa’s Minto Club, still in operation today; Lady Evelyn Grey, daughter of the Governor General in 1910 and 1911, represented the Minto Club when she won two titles at the event considered the forerunner to what would become the official Canadian Championships in 1914.

One hundred years later, that interest in skating has grown and spread out across the nation.

Certainly coverage of our Canadian athletes has contributed to the sport’s popularity and star power both on and off the ice. Names like Barbara Ann Scott, Don Jackson, Petra Burka, Brian Orser, Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, Liz Manley, Patrick Chan, Joannie Rochette, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir … and their engaging personalities … have brought skating into our homes and into our hearts. We follow their stories, their wins and their losses to such an extent that, for example, when Kurt Browning apologized to the nation for missing an Olympic title in 1994, fans sent him enough metal to open his own mint!

It also helps to build the profile of skating when our athletes become leaders and innovators in the advancement of the sport. When Don Jackson first landed the triple Lutz in 1962 or when Patrick Chan set Guinness World Records 50 years later, we felt proud and a part of that success.

Much of that ownership and pride stems from the realization that our legends, those incredible athletes at the top of our sport, and those who are only beginning to discover their talents, all began their journey at the same place … the local club. Those dreams were identified and nurtured by coaches and volunteers who passed along their passion for skating and inspired gangly beginners to dream of greatness.

Those lovers of the sport who are active at some level of skating … plus many other dedicated fans … were front and centre last week at the National Championships in Kingston, loud and enthusiastic in their support.

What we discovered in Kingston is that fans and participants have as many different reasons for loving the sport as there are clubs in Canada … and it was clear that for each one of them their passion for skating was ignited by something special about the sport.

When asked what they love about skating and what it brings to their lives, many spoke of the lessons they’ve learned from the sport, things that they’ve taken beyond the rink and into life. Perseverance, goal-setting, motivation and dealing with success and failure were common themes. Others spoke of their admiration for the creativity and artistry the sport demands, of the rigors of training and competition and the enormous thrill of witnessing the best in the country perform.

On the softer side, those with less athletic explanations for their interest described the magic of skating, the effortless beauty of a glide across the ice where there are no boundaries except the ones you choose.

But above all, the attribute about skating that was shared the most was about the sport’s ability to offer friendship and community; where individual interests are often set aside in favor of providing thoughtful direction about what is best for skating; it’s here where newcomers are welcome and where new skills are learned.

Whether it’s at a tiny club in rural Canada, in a major training location or at the national championships, Canadians are embracing the joy of skating!

Skating inspires the imagination.

Skating is for life!

Kingston Skating Clubs Keep Making Strides

*It Takes a Team!

Last year Skate Canada Eastern Ontario (EO) felt privileged to host the 100th Anniversary of the National Championships in Ottawa.

With such a highly successful event tucked into their skate bags, it’s no wonder the skating family is back in Eastern Ontario once again, this time in Kingston to celebrate the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships at the beautiful Rogers KRock Centre.

This year many of the dedicated LOC members have returned to be joined by some newly recruited local volunteers for a total of over 250 volunteers from Kingston and the surrounding area.

Glenda Cartwright, Vice Chair of EO and Volunteer Recruitment Director for CTNSC, has high praise for her dynamic team.

“These dedicated people have graciously given their time to assist in delivering a successful event. I’ve had the pleasure to work with several organizations in the City of Kingston to recruit support and of course many clubs in EO have also provided enormous help: St Lawrence College, Queens University, local Senior Centers, CFB Kingston Military, plus over 30 Medical and Physio volunteers, along with those long-standing volunteers who return every year to join in the fun.”

Despite the volunteers’ enthusiasm and the positive experience of many past successes, the week didn’t start out all that well when a flood forced the EO office to suddenly relocate to temporary accommodation.

“The office flood could not have come at a worse time!” said EO Chair Gloria Brighten. “Having to move while repairs are taking place caused real stress for the office staff. We’re involved in multiple events, Seminars, Clinics, Special Olympics, and of course in the lead-up and execution of the National Championships, so the transition was really tough. But everyone has maintained a positive attitude and when the Championships are all over, we’ll work together to return to full service for our Eastern Ontario members.”

Did You Know?

Did you know that one of the oldest skating clubs in Kingston is celebrating a major milestone in 2015? This year the Fort Henry Heights Skating Club will be 50 years old! Congratulations FHHSC for providing many wonderful years of skating to the community.

Within the Kingston area, three clubs are in operation providing lessons, coaching and programming to over 800 members.

Fort Henry Heights Skating Club (FHHSC) is located at the Constantine Arena at Canadian Forces Base Kingston, Kingston East. Constantine Arena opened its doors in 1960 with a small recreational skating club of approximately 30 skaters who received lessons from volunteer coaches. Five years later the Fort Henry Heights Figure Skating Club was officially founded and became a member of Skate Canada, then the Canadian Figure Skating Association. Today the club has grown to approximately 275 members and this year, 2015, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Skate Kingston, located at the Invista Centre in the west end of Kingston, is an amalgamation of the old Kingston SC originally founded in 1958, and the West Kingston SC founded in 1971. With approximately 450 members including Skate Kingston CanSkate, STARSkate and Adult as well as the Kingston Silver Blades (Special Olympics) and Kingston Synchro Skating (KISS), it opened its doors in 2008.

Loyalist Winter Club’s (LWC) home arena is WJ Henderson Arena in Amherstview and was founded in 1970. While LWC is not located in Kingston proper, with the sharing of many coaches and skaters, the club is considered an integral part of the greater Kingston skating family.

In addition to its great clubs, Kingston can also boast about some of the national and international skaters and judges the area and its clubs have produced.

Jean Matthews (Gilchrist) is the only figure skating member of the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 2004 as a Builder. Jean joined the Crystal FSC (’62), now the Kingston SC, and was instrumental in starting the club’s first certified competitions. As an international skating judge, Jean officiated at two Olympic Winter Games (1988, 1992) and five World Championships (1985-89).

George Meagher, born in 1866 in Kingston, was a figure skating pioneer in Canada and in Europe. He is best known for both his talent on the ice and for the co-founding of the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa. In 1891 he won the Amateur Championships of the World (Ottawa). In 2010 George was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame as an Athlete.

Other notable athletes: Ice Dancer Darryl VanLuven took his first skating lessons in Kingston; competitors Janet Emerson and Drew Markham skated with LWC; Robert O’Toole from FHHSC ; and World Ice Dance silver medalist Tanith Belbin started her CanSkate career in Kingston before moving and competing for the USA.

The City of Kingston is a perfect host for the national championships. The services and venue are top notch with a downtown core that’s visitor friendly with the potential for excellent dining and shopping … and we all know how much skaters and fans LOVE to shop!

Historically, the city has embraced skating as a national winter pastime. Constantine Arena and the Invista Centre provide opportunities for open family skating. And every year Springer Market Square has the outdoor rink up and running throughout the winter season, a great place to go and spend time with family while enjoying the great outdoors. In February, the city also hosts Feb Fest, inviting skaters from each Club, Synchro, Queens University and Special Olympics to join with a “famous” headliner to provide a first rate show for the Kingston Community. This year World Champion Patrick Chan will star in the show.

In preparation for the start of the event and to publicize the Championships, the City of Kingston and Springer Market Square hosted a CanSkate Demonstration with the skaters and Coaches from Skate Kingston.

CanSkaters, along with World Champion Elvis Stojko, his wife Gladys Orozco and our Athlete Ambassador, Paige Lawrence, were put through their paces on a CanSkate circuit on the outdoor rink entertaining family, friends and spectators,” offers Glenda with pride in her voice. “Paige has also been invited to visit StarSkate sessions this week at FHHSC and Skate Kingston.”

During the week of competition, EO, its skaters and coaches will be presenting the CanSkate Showcase Demonstration at KRock Centre on several occasions. Forty FHHSC CanSkaters from age 3 to 11, Coaches and Program Assistants will “strut their stuff” with a mini CanSkate Demonstration. When it was announced that the National Skating Championships were coming to Kingston at a time when FHHSC would be celebrating their 50th Anniversary, everyone was so excited with the prospect of being involved. Every board member and Coach is volunteering along with numerous parent volunteers.

“The STARSkaters are here on mass,” comments Glenda, “Flower Retrievers, Ceremonies and Ice Patchers are all doing their best. They’re living this wonderful experience and will have treasured memories for a long time to come. That’s the power of this wonderful sport!”



Thanks to Skate Canada Eastern Ontario for their generous participation in this feature.