You are currently viewing archive for May 2010
Posted By SkatingPj

I have been spending the better part of this weekend at the Skate Canada Annual general meeting in Toronto promoting my book and generally hanging around.

It has been a great chance to see old friends and make some new ones and along the way get the chance to unearth some very interesting stories.

Take Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who were on hand as part of the athletes' delegation. In a video created for this event, we got the chance to re-live the tail end of their Olympic Free dance and Scott can be seen saying "thank you very much" as he cradled Tessa in the closing moments of their final pose.  I asked him last night who he was thanking he said: "I was thanking Tessa and the "Big Guy" upstairs." So like Scott; to be unassuming, grateful and cognisant of the fact that although it was 'his" moment, he didn't get there alone.

I also had the chance to have a chat with one of two women who run a company called Carrot Creative - an event company that comes up with themes and decor for corporate events. Tracy and Annette are business partners and are great fun to be around, and in a slow moment, I spoke with Annette about the red streak she had in her hair and whether it was a dye job or hair clip.  She filled me in on the story.  Her 26 year old niece, Eva Markvoort, passed away in March of cystic fibrosis.  She had had a double lung transplant about two years ago and had started to suffer organ rejection about six months ago.  She was on the list for new lungs but time ran out.

Annette told me about the sparkling presence of this young woman and about the many projects in which she was involved in her too short life.  If you get the chance, go to and you can read about Eva's thoughts on living with cystic fibrosis or google Eva Markvoort. She talks about dying her hair red so that she will never "be lost in the shadows."

After she died, Annette and her daughters attended a "life celebration" in Vancouver for Eva and they were all dressed in red.  Annette and her girls were resplendent in red wigs, red tutus and red bodysuits in honour of Eva. It was a powerful and moving tribute to this young woman to have the celebration attended by 1,200 people.

You get the sense of the gratitude that Eva inspired in other people.  Gratitude for the time that she had, the gratitude that was felt by all who knew her and the gratitude that she felt if even one person checked out her website and made the decision to consider organ donation.

In both stories, a subtle reminder that we need to try and remember "it's not all about me."

Posted By SkatingPj

I was at a book launch last night - kind of a cool thing to be doing on a balmy Thursday evening in Toronto.

It was for Fraser Sutherland's latest book (his 14th!) called "The Philosophy of as If".  It was a poetry book. Settle down. I can hear you giggling from there. Pj at a poetry launch/reading??!!  I would have thought the same thing but it really was quite wonderful. In the same way that going for a "local" dinner in a foreign country can be a once in a lifetime experience.  Although you don't really understand what's going on - if you can find a way to "just go with it" you can have a great time.  Just make eye contact with "the locals", smile a lot and murmur "thank you" and touch your heart a lot to show your sincerity. One warning, you have to make sure to not ask too many questions . Invariably, when you ask a question, someone is going to answer it and that can only lead to trouble. What I mean by that is that every group/nationality/family or even club has its' own traditions and language and it seems normal to them.  If you are not in your own world, other people's languages and customs can seem a little strange.  That goes double for situations where you share a language in common, or at least you think you do, but not traditions.

I was trying to go for something pseudo-intellectual looking in my outfit  so I would "blend".  I could not have been further off the mark.  There were women in "smart" outfits (my grandmother's word) and women in "eco-chic" outfits and women who were just plain chic.  I am sure the women in the room were saying what is that perspiring woman doing wearing a turtleneck in May? Sigh. I even tried to go for that casual unaffected "toss my hair into a chignon with a comb" look only to have two great big hanks of limp hair fall out on either side of my face. Sigh.  I am not going to even comment about the horror of being at the front of the room, seated beside the author and not being able to refresh my lip gloss - I have small lips - and I am not sure without it you could even be sure I was speaking and I was the MC!

I did my best to not offend.  I tried to pretend I don't watch TV. I had my friend Paul give me names of serious authors so when I was asked what I was reading, I was going to be able to say something other than Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper and People magazine.  When someone used a word I didn't know or made reference to a "serious work" I nodded and went to my default "Ah!" or occasionall "mmmhm." (For the record - they work in any language and any country - have used them all over the place!)

As much as I considered last night an adventure and the chance to be in a different place with different people - which was fun for me - I often wonder about people landing in my skating world for the first time.  How strange it must be to land in the midst of mostly diminutive, powerful, athletic young people moving around backstage together like a bunch of rare, exotic and beautiful birds.  A normal view from the window in my world.

Posted By SkatingPj

Time and time again, as I interview people for my book, (Taking the Ice)  I realize that many of us who are 'in skating' feel the same way...and that is that skating has taught us valuable lessons about how to be in the rest of our lives...namely taking pride in one's job more than one's accomplishments and the importance of generosity and volunteerism in today's world.

Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Coach Extraordinaire, Carol Lane - part of the coaching team responsible for Canadian Ice Dance sensations Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier.  She told me about being at a seminar recently and being asked how she could explain the success of Vanessa and Paul.  "It's simple" she says "I coach them every day the same way that I have been for the last 10 years."  She demonstrates commitment to her job and her desire to help her students improve.  She could be seen just as proudly at the local Winter Glitters competition with her Pre-Preliminary Ladies as she was at the Olympics or Worlds.

I have had similar experiences when people have expressed surprise at seeing me announce at home club North Toronto's club show.  I am always surprised at the questions.  I am delighted to be asked. It's great when people think you do a nice job at something even nicer when you can offer that skill in your own backyard.

Last week the coaches at my club hosted an Awards evening for the first time where we invited all of the kids and their families. We asked them to bring a pot-luck dessert for our table and a non-perishable food item to be donated to a food bank for someone else's.  We decided as a group that we would nominate and vote on a recipient for the first ever "Skater of the XXX Session".  We had a great time doing it and we think that the kids were also delighted to know that they had been observed and their hard work acknowledged.  The biggest problem was trying to come up with a small token for the 5 winners - fortunately for us Jason Dietrich of the Figure Skating Boutique kicked in some goodies for really cool gift bags for the kids.

On Saturday night, I was asked to fill in as an announcer for Kevin Frankish, a wonderful Toronto-area morning TV guy on Breakfast Television.  He was to have announced the COS Margaret Garrison Memorial Show at the Hershey Centre and had to pull out because of a familly emergency.  Kids from Canskate level to Patrick Chan all dontaed their time and energy to this wonderful cause and it was a great show.  Here is something that stood out - The Icemen performed and we determined that along with their predecessors, Ice Nightmare, these guys have raised about $45,000 for breast cancer esearch during their history.  Way to go guys!

As an aside, if I could go back and answer a question differently that was posed to me in an oline interview recently, I would:

"Have you ever coached anyone of any note?"

I wish that I had said:  "Yeah - every last one of my skaters."


Posted By SkatingPj

It has been a busy weekend for me.  My mother and I were guests at the Stars on Ice Show in Toronto on Friday night which was outstanding. On Saturday, my daughter Caroline took me out for a birthday dinner and to see a concert by her favourite band.  My problem is that I know she has two favourote bands:  Great Big Sea and Barenaked Ladies and because I couldn't remember which one it was I referred to the show as either the Great Big Naked Ladies or the Bare Naked any event...turns out it was Barenaked Ladies - a new and revamped version - kind of like Stars on Ice; also new and re-vamped this year.

Let's go through all the things that the two shows shared in common: Both shows were in hockey arenas.  Both featured OUTSTANDING Canadian talent. Both shows had lots of pink-ish lighting. Both sets of performers seemed to have practiced a lot. Both casts featured an adorable, personable and yet follicly-challenged man (Kurt in SOI and Tyler in BNL).  Both shows featured solo performances which were a great way for everyone else to take a break. Both shows had their fair share of audience members talking, standing up and sitting down all over the place during the performance. Honestly,  does no one know how to hold on til the end for a pee break any longer? Two people, one sorta thuggy looking  guy and his moll, insisted on arriving to their seats and disturbing me during the final number in the first half of the SOI show...Madonna for heaven's sake was the thread tying the number there nothing sacred any longer?? Just know it caused me to have to unleash my very best "Meryl Streep as the disapproving Nun in Doubt" glare at said offenders. 

When it was all said and done though, both  shows had very happy fans (myself included) leaving the rink at the end of the evening.

So where do they differ? In some very key areas:

First of all at the beginning of the BNL show there was a guy dressed in black playing the tambourine - just some random dude - and then after a bit he was gone.  I am pretty sure in the SOI experience, we didn't misplace any performers.  SOI was full of interesting choreography AND music but  BNL's choreography was restricted to some of the musicians jumping up and down. As with the misguided concept of "leggings as pants",  said "choreography" doesn't really count.  BNL had roadies come out and re-tool everything for the guys after the opening act and SOI only had a zamboni.

There didn't appear to be any real chance of falling during the solos for BNL which of course reduced the number of possible bruises/injuries for the guys. I am thinking that from my vantage point on the outside:  music looks like more fun to do in performance and skating looks like more fun to watch.

The biggest difference?  The sequin count.

A spilt decision on 2 great shows.




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