November 23, 2010
(Ed. Note: Yahoo! Sports Canada has extended coverage of CBC Sports' "Battle of the Blades" Season 2, including exclusive reactions from judge Jeremy Roenick(notes). Each Monday, Puck Daddy will offer a companion piece with our whimsical take on the BOTB competition episodes. For those who watched it, and those in the U.S. that can't yet, here is Erin Nicks of The Universal Cynic, who watches so you don't have to.)
Their new crystal trophy may have seen better days, but Katia Gordeeva and Valeri Bure had the night of their lives on Monday, when they were crowned the champions of the Battle of the Blades. It was anyone's guess who the winner would be -- which was why we needed last night's extravaganza to send us out with a bang. Or a crash, in the trophy's case, as the top of the Blades prize toppled to the ice during the closing credits.
Season 2 was full of thrills and spills (including one involving the championship award - more on that later). After eight weeks of competition, the field had been narrowed to three pairs: Shae-Lynn Bourne and Patrice Brisebois(notes), Isabelle Brasseur and Todd Warriner and Katia Gordeeva with Valeri Bure.
Each couple brought something different to the table -- Shae-Lynn and Patrice were the performers, with Patrice's biggest improvement being his attention to detail during the numbers. Izzy and Todd were the tricksters, breaking out gasp-worthy moves every week. (Remember the "mixer"?) Meanwhile, Katia and Val were the consummate skating couple -- they had the perfect mix of speed, grace and technique that impressed the judges week in, and week out.
Each couple skated two numbers on Sunday night -- one original, and one favourite from their previous seven weeks in the competition. All the pairs were on fire; there were literally no missteps. Todd broke out the metallic tie-dye for a fierce skate with Izzy to "Black Betty" by Ram Jam. Patrice slipped into Michael Jackson's closet and wore a bizarre military-ish jacket for his electric performance alongside Shae-Lynn to "Let's Get It Started" by the Black Eyed Peas.
And Katia and Val went for some Russian techno flavour, with their piece set to "Stereo Love" by Edward Maya and Mia Martina. As for their favourite numbers, Izzy and Todd chose "Dynamite" from Week 7, Katia and Val went with their James Bond-esque "From Russia With Love", and Shae-Lynn and Patrice chose their charming foxtrot for a second go-around.
Monday night's show opened with all of our couples taking to the ice in their "show intro" costumes: Black on black for the guys and red skating dresses for the ladies. Each duo took their moment in the spotlight - some of the highlights included Georges Laraque(notes) pressing Anabelle over his head, then dropping to one knee and throwing one hand up over his head in glee. Why couldn't he ever end a fight that way? Theo Fleury(notes) and Jamie Sale were also worthy of note, busting out some strong dance moves. Oh, Mr. Fleury, we'll miss your booty-shaking ways. (File that one under "Sentences I never thought I'd type.")
After the couples left the ice, it was time to watch some well-wishes from current NHL players. Ottawa Senators defenceman Matt Carkner(notes) made an appearance to offer his support. "I know you guys are working hard out there, and you look great." You know what doesn't look great, Matt? Your goatee in HD. Feel free to groom that thing, kiddo. Next up was Kirk Muller from Montreal, and he was all smiles. (Aside: I know Muller is an assistant coach with the Canadiens, but doesn't he feel like one of those retired players you can't escape? He's like the guy who graduated three years ago, but still likes to hang out at the high school.)
Who's up for more ensemble skating? This time it was the men's turn (plus co-hosts Kurt Browning and Ron MacLean) in a western-themed number. The boys chose to perform to "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" by Big & Rich. The performance began with gentle play-fighting -- imagine a TimBits hockey scrap, or perhaps Daniel Alfredsson(notes) and Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) coming to blows.
Synchronicity wasn't the forte of this piece: Step, heel, step, turn, make fun of Ron's decision to wear double denim...lather, rinse, repeat. The number finally ended with the guys "suspending" their cowboy hats strategically over their belt buckle area, Full Monty-style. Ack.
Cut to Jamie Sale on the mic. "Yee haw! It's getting warmer in here!" Good God, what kind of freakish variety program rabbit hole have I fallen down into?
But wait, there's more! Violetta Afanasieva and her husband Pete Dack, champions of World Extreme Ice Skating performed a wild piece that featured at least eight hula hoops, and a spin where Pete had Violetta balanced stomach-down on top of his head. This caused my boyfriend to comment, "Is he wearing her as a hat?" How does one begin to answer that question?
However, the fun couldn't last forever, as the time had come to ice the first pair. Placing third on finale night ... Isabelle and Todd. Their journey had earned them $25,000 for their chosen charity, The Heart and Stroke Foundation.
It's an important segue, as we looked back to all the pairs and the various organizations they were skating for. The Men's Project, One x One, The Children's Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, Cardiac Kids, Compassion Canada, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Sainte-Justine UHC Foundation, The Archie Courtnall Centre - Victoria Hospitals Foundation and Hockey for Haiti. All of these charities benefited from the hard work, sweat and tears of these couples. Blades may be easy to riff on, but it has served a great purpose for a lot of people.
Here's Jeremy Roenick on why charities are the real winners:
Finally, the moment had arrived to crown the winner of Season 2. It really could have been a toss-up between Shae-Lynn and Patrice versus Katia and Val, but Canada couldn't resist the sleek and complete package that the Russian duo presented week after week. And so, the crystal trophy went to V & K, only to see have promptly smash to the ice.
Hey, at least it wasn't Anabelle, again. (Sorry, Georges!)
Well, that's it, kids. Chances are we'll see another season of Blades in the near future. The show has yet to be renewed by the CBC, but as almost 11.3 million Canadians have tuned in over the past eight weeks, there's no doubt that a strong and devoted audience exists for this oddball hockey-figure skating crossover.
Hopefully we won't have to wait too long - and here's a teaser: Jeremy Roenick has said that he wants to come back...as either a judge or a skater. Are you amped up for that? Me too!
Until next time, Bladeheads ... Shae-Lynn Bourne-style metal horns up!