The Battle of the ice has once again started. Battle of the Blades pits ex-professional hockey players, and their figure skating partner, against each other to win money for their favorite charity. For a recap of what has happened in the last two years, you can look here.
This year, Battle of the Blades ran an episode solely for boot camp and introductions. It was nice to see the players off the ice and get to know them and their chosen charity a bit more. There were a few tears to be had but also a few good chuckles.
The show starts with a white screen, and in black, "This show is dedicated to Jennifer, Andie and Alex Belak" followed by "In loving memory of Wade Belak 1976-2011". Already, the show hits on the loss of Wade. Ron McLean and Kurt Browning are once again the hosts of Battle. Ron starts off by saying that they lost Wade on August 31st and that "many of the moments you are about to watch document the last of his life".
The introduction video this year was fantastic. The folks putting together the montage should be very proud of their work. All the players and skaters talk briefly about when they started skating and the fact that figure skaters and hockey players did not, and do not, get along.The skaters talk about the smell and the spit, the players complain about the damages that the toe picks cause. Both complain about loss of ice time to each other. They show injuries and triumphs, including a clip of Curtis Leschyshyn lifting the Cup in Colorado Avalanche gear. Every member talks about the competition and the fact that they don't want to make a fool of themselves, and that they want to win for their chosen charity.
The first day of boot camp, which, like the show, was in Toronto on July 19th. In a mix of sit-down interviews and watching the players file onto the ice we learn that Brad May is worried that his buddies will laugh at him, Wade thinks that crossovers are "the worst" and much different than on hockey skates. This year, they are starting the hockey players off on figure skates immediately. In years past,they started the players on hockey skates and then moved them onto figure skates. The first player to fall this year is none other than Brad May and Belak skates by laughing when he sees May on the ice. Meanwhile, Curtis Leschyshyn says that they were all waiting for the first guy to fall and when May fell it was a "thank you" moment.
Brad May's introduction: he talks about how for 19 or 20 years, in the NHL, he was a fighter. The viewers get to see a montage of some of his fights, he also talks about how when he was 13 he was playing for a house league (he explains that it's AA, A, house league) and that there were kids on that team that were unable to skate. Five years later he was the first-round draft pick for the Buffalo Sabres. There was a montage of Brad, at his house, cooking with his kids and his wife. "Don't ever let anybody tell you you can't be something."
The female figure skaters file in to watch the hockey skaters skate and are happy with what they see. Until May falls again, and again... and umm, again. He had issues with the picks. They then paired the players with the skaters so the players could see what it's like to skate with a partner and to get an idea of who to pair together. Cale Husle describes having issues remembering everything and they need to forget everything they have ever learned. He says he needs to get "good at this now, right now" because he wants to raise the most amount of money possible for his charity.
Cale Husle's introduction: he grew up in Calgary, and his older brother played hockey so he wanted to play. His parents drove across the Country to watch him play, even when he was in Juniors and he played 12 hours away in Portland. He starts in the NHL, gets traded to Calgary and he was able to buy his parents season tickets and then they only had to drive thirty minutes to be able to watch him play. He scored his first NHL goal in front of his parents, in Calgary, which he says is the most unbelievable moment. He is skating for the Canadian Cancer Society. His father has been battling cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, for 12 years. Cale is visibly upset talking about his father's fight with cancer. There is a montage of Cale baking with his young children as well. He wants to raise money to save another family from having to go through what they had to go through.
While the players are on the ice, a "new, surprise" cast member arrives. Ron huddles everyone to center ice and is cryptic about the newest member. " From Sudbury Ontario, turned professional, first round draft pick, first over all,World Champion 2007, Gold Medal gold winner at the Olympics"..."Tessa". Kurt Browning "you can beat by a girl". Wade says "she's just as competitive as the guys, she wants to beat us and hurt us. She's evil". Tessa says that she thinks she is much bigger than the other women on the ice.
Tessa Bonhomme 's introduction: she says that she can't remember a time when she didn't skate. There was always outdoor rinks everywhere "Sudbury winters are anything but warm." (Author's note: this is very true, there are still a number of outdoor rinks in the winter, and a great tobogganing hill there). Her father was an OHL scout, but never envisioned a hockey career for his daughter. Her mother supported her in her desire to play hockey. She played in a boys league growing up and by 2007 her team was the World Champion. She only wanted gold, to dominate the other team, she wasn't going there just to play hockey, she wanted to set the bar for the rest of the world. She then won Gold at the Vancouver Olympics, and the fact that they were in Vancouver made it that much better for her. She is skating for Run for the Cure. In honor of her grandmother, who beat it, and her friend who perished from it.
Then they showed the pairs skating and this year the issue of creating the partnerships will be difficult because everyone can look good and work well together. Brad fell, again, three times actually, he was having issues getting up. Boyd Deveraux was looking "super good".
Boyd Deveraux's introduction: he got the Gold Medal winner against Russia in 2007. He won the Cup with the Wings in 2002. In at came to an end in 2009 while playing at the Spangler's Cup due to an open ice hit.
The next lesson was "how to lift a girl", or in Tessa's case "how to be lifted". Last year's P.J. Stock came to help them, he was fantastic at lifts last year. Cale talks about being worried during the lifts (the first is a butt lift, the guy lifts up the girl by the derriere), he compares it his first dance at school where does he put his hands, "is this appropriate, is this not appropriate" , Wade talks about he they are giggly like school kids. Then it's Tessa's turn, and Kurt says that he thinks her job is actually more difficult than that of the boys, but she is praised by the other skaters for being fearless, but the skaters also say that she has a professional under her that is strong and solid. David knows what he's doing and knows how to lift. The players have a way to go before they are able to be comfortable, solid, and stable. Wade says he doesn't care what happens to him, he can fall flat of his face, but he doesn't want to hurt the girls. Cale is worried about their safety as well. David talks about how he wanted to lift the Cup, but instead he ended up lifting women. They have a short intro about his skate that led to the scandal and his eventual Gold medal. They have a short introduction for all the other pro skaters, but clearly the time is given to showcase the hockey players.
Day 2: Boot Camp. Wade is mocked for having a figure skating bag, he says that it's not. This day is about choreography, how to count music and how to skate with a girl. Kurt talks about how this sport is about taking the crowd with you on the way to the finish line.He says they need to learn how to act, Wade says that it was awkward at the begining and, jokingly, that he was concerned about his breath. He also mentions that he's going to have to bring out his sensitive side. He also teases Cale for his hair. Tessa is worried about being "glitzy". Curtis says that he had trouble in ballroom lessons, in phys ed, in Junior High and that it's coming to bite him in the butt.
Curtis Leschyshy's introduction: he was a self-proclaimed rink rat. He was drafted third-overall by Quebec. After he won Game Four, with the Avs, against Florida, it was like a weight had been lifted. The viewers get to see Sakic hand Curtis the Cup, Sakic gave it to him because of the amount of respect he felt for Curtis. Curtis has still been competitive since his retirement, he takes part in bike races, triathlons, and as an owner, bull riding.
Todd Simpson's introduction: "I wasn't the best skater, didn't have the best hands" he was a stay-at-home defenseman. Intimidation, and throwing people off their games was his specialty. Two years into his career he was given the captaincy of the Calgary Flames. He is skating for a children's organization, they put kids into after-school activities that otherwise couldn't afford it.
Choreography session, Day 2: Brad May grabs two girls, Wade is left with no teammate "that's great, just like freaking Junior High". Cale is shocked, he says it's like a system overload. There is a video montage of the players skating with their figure skating partners. Cale is worried about the first performance. May says there is no one else to blame, Bryan Berard says he is concerned about it as well.
Bryan Berard's introduction: was a number one draft-pick and won rookie of the year and then moved on to Toronto in 1999. While in Toronto, in a game against Ottawa, he got a high stick to the eye. He was injured in a bad way and knew he was in trouble. He was rushed to the hospital and spent that night in surgery for six to eight hours. His mother begged the doctors to try to do everything they could to keep his eye. He thought he was done, as did his doctors who only gave him a five percent chance of regaining any vision in the eye. Six surgeries later, and a six million dollar insurance settlement, he decided to return the money and try playing hockey again because there was nothing else he wanted to do. The game meant more than the money. Two years later he returned to the NHL and won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2004.
Wade Belak's introduction: "to be drafted in the first round that was.. I think I was more shocked that anybody. First round? Really? Have these guys seen me play? Haha, oh, are we rolling? Sorry." Then the video montage... "The Quebec Nordiques are very proud to select Wade Belak" "he is described as very raw, but with loads of talent." Todd talks about meeting Wade when in Saskatoon, they were defensive partners and had great chemistry. "Losing Wade is a huge loss, still in shock". "Wade was one of those guys that everybody loved and everybody wanted to have on their team." The viewers see a montage of Wade laughing. May says "every time I fall, I hear Wade's little yelp and somewhat of a little chuckle at me." "He didn't take himself too seriously." The viewers see him joking around, pulling Zoolander faces and laughing. Then the scene cuts to him with his two daughters, Andie and Alex, and the viewers are told that he was skating for tourettes because his daughter has it and he wanted more people to know about it. They show his pushing his daughters on a swing set with his wife swinging with them, then laughing, smiling and goofing off at the arena. "Everyone thinks I'm a real tough guy on the ice, with the tattoos and stuff like that, but I think I'm a sensitive person." He talks about his tattoos, his wife was a guardian angel on his arm, he had his daughters name tattooed and angels tattooed on his arms, as well.
The pairs this year are:
- Cale andVioletta Afanasieva
- Boyd and Tanith Belbin
- Curtis and Elena Berezhnaya
- Tessa and David Pelletier
- Bryan and Marie-France Dubreuil
- Todd and Marcy Hinzmann-Harris
- Brad and Anabelle Langlois
- Kim Navarro was supposed to skate with Wade, but she is "waiting for a new partner"
In the last few moments of the episode, Ron let's the viewers know that Russ Courtnall will take Belak's spot, and will skate with Kim Navarro. Russ was the first competitor eliminated in last year's Battle of the Blades.
"This one's for you Wade"