Even the skaters in tonight’s Stars on Ice show at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre realize it can’t reach the historical crescendo of last year’s show. The 2018 tour took place in the golden glow following Canada’s stunning performance at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and played to sold-out rinks across the country.
It was one of the most unforgettable moments in Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre history last May when all seven members from Canada’s Olympic gold medal in the team event group-hugged at centre ice amid a rousing and extended standing ovation after skating to Fields of Gold by Sting in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,889.
But the 2018 Winter Games are now long in the rear-view mirror and the big draws, Pyeongchang double gold-medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, have retired from both competitive and show skating. But Olympic team gold medallists Patrick Chan, Kaetlyn Osmond, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford return to headline a solid cast for tonight. Osmond, Duhamel and Radford also won 2018 Olympic bronze medals and three-time Olympic medallist Chan is a three-time world champion.
Osmond recently announced her retirement from competitive skating but will continue performing in shows.
“It’s still fun for me and I want to do as many shows as I can,” she said, by phone.
“Leaving skating behind totally would have been hard. It’s everything I have known the past 21 years,” added the former women’s world champion.
Also skating tonight will be world silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Canadian-champion Nam Nguyen and Canadian silver medallists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.
A notable international addition to the cast this year is two-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver-medallist Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia.
There are also the golden oldies as represented by four-time world champion and three-time Olympian Kurt Browning, 52, and three-time world champion and 1994 Lillehammer and 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics silver-medallist Elvis Stojko, a mere youngster at 47 compared to Browning.
“We’re lifers who obviously need the feel of the blades,” said Browning, by telephone, as the cast stopped over the weekend for shows in Calgary and Edmonton.
Browning sat out the show last year and said he felt the respite was helpful.
“It helped my body snap back better than before and I feel in a really good place,” he said.
Browning became the first skater to land a quad in competition but don’t expect that tonight.
“Maybe a back flip,” quipped the man who brings a great deal of humour to his show routines.
The 2018 Winter Olympics group has been labelled Canada’s greatest generation of skaters and Browning concurred with that assessment.
“I agree with that sentiment,” he said.
“The full-roundedness and depth of that team was unbelievable.”
Four of those seven — Osmond, Chan, Duhamel and Radford — will be on display again tonight on Blanshard. With a little something added as Duhamel will be skating while 15 weeks pregnant.
Toss in Medvedeva, a marquee Russian name in world skating, and it remains a stellar cast.
Although nothing will recapture the magic of 2018 for Canada in skating, Browning said this year’s show has been well received across the country and vowed this cast will give the 12-city 2019 run a boffo conclusion tonight at the Memorial Centre and Thursday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
“It’s a good group and we’re looking forward to the annual West Coast portion,” said Browning.
“The Island fans are so knowledgeable and we always treat Victoria as a kind of reward for us near the end of the tour.”