I have a confession to make. Despite the assertion I've heard from some of my fellow hockey fans that real hockey fans wouldn't be caught dead watching it, I've not only been watching, but also enjoying CBC's Battle of the Blades. I admit, I tuned in the first week out of a morbid sense of curiosity. The idea of Bob Probert and Tie Domi in figure skates was so ridiculous and so terribly gimmicky I just had to watch to see how bad it could possibly be.
The funny thing, though, is that it wasn't bad. Sure, some of the guys wore hockey skates because they couldn't adjust to the longer, straighter figure skating blades...not to mention the unholy toe picks that have caused more than one bruise during practice. Some of them looked stiff and awkward in performing unfamiliar manouvers. In the first week, all of the men took a backseat to their partners who did most of the really tough stuff. But you know what? These guys are doing something good here. They're skating for charity to begin with, which is commendable. Even more importantly, however, they're knocking down some walls that have been standing for a long time in the hockey world.
I know a little guy, almost ten years old. He's a really good hockey player, and his mom signed him up for power skating classes to help his game. The teacher, as is often the case, was also a figure skating coach. She saw a lot of promise in this kid's skating, and she taught him a couple of things. He found he liked figure skating, but there was no way he'd let his friends know about it for fear of the mockery that would follow. Sure enough, after a few weeks of figure skating lessons, his buddies found out and tormented him about it, so he quit. But a couple of weeks ago, he went back, because he saw Craig Simpson and Claude Lemieux doing it and nobody was laughing at them. They looked cool, and they were having a lot of fun. That's a pretty nice side effect of that little show, I think.
These guys are approaching figure skating with respect, fun and dignity. They're not perfect, although they are improving every week, but they're taking what they're doing seriously and they're showing a lot of class while they're at it. I think anything that shows a guy can be a man without mocking something softer is a good thing. It's something a lot of hockey players need to learn, when they hit the ice with the intention of going after an opponent's head or knees.
And, of course, the bonus in Battle for Habs fans is that two of the final three competitors are Stephane Richer and Claude Lemieux. I'm having a great time rooting for our '86ers. Watching them bring all the concentration and effort to this endeavour that they brought to the game we love proves to me that it's no fluke they won multiple Cups. A winner is a winner, no matter at what sport he's competing. And winners are fun to watch.