Skate Maker to the Stars

Believe it or not … John Knebli never set foot on the ice in a pair of skates, yet he contributed more to skating than many of its champions.

Born in Hungary (Roumania) in 1904 and educated there, he became a Master Craftsman in Orthopedic Shoemaking specializing in the properties and tanning of leather, anatomy of the foot and body, the study of kinisthetics, walking, skeletal development and musculature.

When he immigrated to Toronto in 1930, all those talents came with him, although many of those early years found him scraping by to make ends meet. He did everything and anything … from working on a farm to delivering milk … and finally had enough money saved to dream about opening his own shop. By 1944, in partnership with his beloved wife, Elizabeth, John’s dream came true when he launched his own shoe store specializing in children’s shoes, soccer, and hockey and roller-skating boots.

His career hit a turning point in 1948 when a skating coach convinced him to make skating boots for a student with problem feet, a challenge he at first refused because he didn’t understand a skater’s needs or how to build a boot to deal with them.

Gerry Blair, a successful coach in the Toronto area, brought one of his students to the shop. It was a young Paul Tatton (see blog …), a talented up and comer, but like most skaters, he had foot problems that made wearing over-the-counter skates a disaster. Young Paul’s feet needed special attention, boots with strength and flexibility that were customized to fit him and his problem feet.

Gerry was convincing … and John … always with an eye to research, creativity and business opportunities … finally accepted the challenge when he received a sample pair of boots to take apart so he could study their construction. As the story goes, after fastidiously pulling the boots apart, he said, “I can do better than that!” and promptly began the scientific study of designing and building quality skating equipment.

Over the years, John, or Mr. Knebli, or Papa K, as he was lovingly called, developed a philosophy about his masterful work.

The boot should be made to fit:

  • The foot
  • The person wearing it
  • The blade attached to it
  • Its use.

To do this, he was meticulous in his measurements of the foot: the width at the ball, the width at the ankle, the length of the arch, the height of the arch, and the length of the big toe were important parts of the equation.

But those weren’t the only things he considered in his formula.

He thoroughly studied skating and skaters.

By continually dropping in on skating sessions around the city, often with his young daughter Elizabeth in tow, he treated those visits as if they were his own scientific laboratories. Sitting rink side for hours, by watching and studying the dynamics of the sport and how the body needed to move, he realized that skating was nothing like walking where the point of balance is at the back of the arch at the start of the heel. In skating he observed that balance is further forward at the end of the ball of the foot, the body leaning to ease into the push-off.

Mr. K also realized that the height of the heel shifted the point of balance and was unique to every skater, a discovery that led him to further calculations in building the boot by considering the athlete’s body mass and weight distribution as well as their body stance.

A designer, innovator, and true fan of figure skating, Mr. K was constantly investigating how to make skating boots better.

His low-cut boot design was revolutionary.

Until then the widely-held belief was that in order to give maximum support to the ankle, the boot had to be high. Mr. K didn’t buy it for a second. Initially his motivation to build a shorter boot was all about aesthetics, believing that a shorter boot elongated the leg and made a prettier picture on the ice. To create the additional strength needed for the new look, he combined the low-cut design with stronger leathers and finally, around 1954-56, made his first pair of low-cut boots for future Canadian, World and Olympic Pair Champion, Barbara Wagner.

His development of specialized leather to withstand the cold and dampness and to enhance the boot’s strength became a significant part of his success. With his previous knowledge of leathers and their properties, he worked with tanners at Braemore Leathers in Cambridge, Ontario to develop the quality of leather he wanted for the uppers and to create a chrome finished leather sole for the boot’s base to deal with icy cold conditions.

His never-ending attention to detail around the quality of his boots also led Mr. K to other innovations, including developing specialized machinery to fulfil the customized orders that came to him from around the world.

Along with Coach Ellen Burka, he also invented a free skating blade for her daughter, future World Champion Petra Burka, which ultimately became known as Wilson’s Pattern 99, THE free skating blade for champions.

Throughout his outstanding career, John crafted boots for many other Canadian champions and World and Olympic medalists; some of his most famous clients included Brian Orser, Barbara Underhill, Paul Martini, Toller Cranston, and Peggy Fleming.

As stated in his nomination to the Skate Canada Hall of Fame, “Knebli’s dedication to his craft led him to shape the sport of figure skating one skate at a time.”

Mr. K passed away in Toronto in 1997 at the age of 92.

Skate Canada will officially induct John Knebli into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame in the Builder category at the 2015 Annual Convention and General Meeting in Winnipeg.

(Thanks to Mr. K’s daughter, Elizabeth, for sharing many details about this remarkable man’s career.)

Canadian skaters return with 16 medals from 2015 ISU Adult Competition

OTTAWA, ONT: Canada’s adult figure skaters returned this week from the 2015 International Skating Union (ISU) Adult Figure Skating Competition held in Oberstdorf, Germany. The twenty-three member team brought home a total of 16 medals, including eight gold medals, five silver medals, and three bronze medals.

The competition, which took place over the course of six days, included 400 competitors between the ages of 28 and 78 from 29 countries across the world.

“Once again, our Canadian adult skaters showed that skating is for life while putting on fantastic performances in Oberstdorf,” said Dan Thompson, Skate Canada Chief Executive Officer. “The level of sportsmanship displayed by this group on and off ice is one that would inspire any Canadian to embrace the joy of skating.”

The Canadian medallists at the 2015 ISU Adult Figure Skating Competition were:

Gold medallists:
Gary Beacom – Master (Elite) Men III & IV Artistic Free Skating
Gary Beacom – Master (Elite) Men II & III Free Skating
Isabella Ciocoiu – Bronze Ladies II Artistic Free Skating
Sara Davidson – Gold Ladies II Artistic Free Skating
David Dickie – Gold Men III & IV Free Skating
Shig Taya – Bronze Men I & II Artistic Free Skating
Janette Wood – Silver Ladies III Artistic Free Skating
Janette Wood – Silver Ladies III Free Skating

Silver medallists:
Diana Barkley & Geoff Squires – Ice Dance Gold Pattern Dance
Diana Barkley & Geoff Squires – Ice Dance Master (Elite) Free Dance
Michelle Swan – Bronze Ladies I Free Skating
Francesco Ventura – Silver Men III & IV Artistic Free Skating
Angie Zurita – Silver Ladies II Free Skating

Bronze medallists:
Isabella Ciocoiu – Bronze Ladies II Free Skating
David Dickey – Master (Elite) Men III & IV Artistic Free Skating
Francesco Ventura – Bronze Men IV & V Free Skating

At the event’s closing banquet, the ISU’s Peter Krick announced that the 2016 ISU Adult Figure Skating Competition would once again be held in Oberstdorf, Germany from June 6-11, 2016.

For more information, please visit

Skate Canada Challenge headed to Edmonton in 2016 and Pierrefonds in 2017

OTTAWA, ON: Today Skate Canada announced the location for the Skate Canada Challenge competitions for 2016 and 2017. The 2016 event will take place in Edmonton, Alta., at the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre from December 2-6, 2015. The 2017 Skate Canada Challenge will be held in Pierrefonds, Que., at the Sportplexe 4 Glaces Pierrefonds from November 30 – December 4, 2016.

Over 500 of the finest skaters from across Canada will participate in the 2016 and 2017 Skate Canada Challenge. Skaters qualify to compete through their respective sectional championships. For novice, junior and senior skaters, this is the only opportunity to qualify for the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. The Canadian Pre-Novice Champions in men’s, women’s, pair and ice dance are determined at Skate Canada Challenge.

“We are delighted to be able to announce both the 2016 and 2017 Skate Canada Challenge events. This is our biggest qualifying event of the season, with skaters hoping to make it to the national championships,” said Dan Thompson, Skate Canada CEO. “Both Edmonton and Pierrefonds have proven themselves as great hosting cities with incredible volunteer teams, terrific hotels and first-class venues. We know both cities will put on fantastic events.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to host the athletes, coaches and fans, and to introduce the rest of the nation to the incredible economic, cultural and athletic advantages Edmonton has to offer,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson. “For Edmontonians, it is a wonderful chance to see some of Canada’s best figure skating right here in our own community.”

“It’s an honor for Montreal to host such a high caliber figure skating competition. In addition to allowing Montrealers the opportunity to cheer on the best Canadian athletes in this discipline, the event will also result in significant economic benefits for West Island businesses, says Yves Lalumière, President and CEO of Tourism Montreal. “At the 2014 edition, 535 athletes, coaches and staff members participated in the Skate Canada Challenge, generating nearly 2,400 room nights in the region. We will continue working with Skate Canada to make the 2017 Skate Canada Challenge the most memorable yet, and we look forward to welcoming the participants back to the beautiful city of Montreal.”

More than 550 hotel rooms are used for the event, which generates economic activity to the region. At the senior level, many members of Canada’s National Team often compete in the event, as well as junior athletes who have competed internationally.

Skate Canada 2016 Annual Convention and General Meeting and National Coaches’ Conference to be held in St. John’s

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada announced today that St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, will be the host city for its 2016 Annual Convention and General Meeting (ACGM), in conjunction with the 2016 National Coaches’ Conference (NCC). The events will run from May 25-28, 2016, and the Saturday program will include the association’s 103rd AGM.

This marks Skate Canada’s first return to St. John’s since 2005 when the city was host to Skate Canada International.

“We are excited to return to one of Canada’s most historic cities for our National Coaches’ Conference and Annual Convention and General Meeting,” said Dan Thompson, Skate Canada’s Chief Executive Officer. “The skating family will undoubtedly feel welcomed by St. John’s vibrant east-coast culture and we look forward to a terrific week of growth and development.”

The event in St. John’s will provide skating delegates and coaches a great learning experience as well as the opportunity to celebrate the 2015-2016 season’s successes, while outlining goals and directions for coming years.

Nexxice and Bezic in Synch

Noted choreographer Sandra Bezic went looking for a novel element for her Niagara skating show last January and struck the motherlode.

She discovered Nexxice.

“I knew they were good,” Bezic said. “But I didn’t realize how good they were until I stepped onto the ice with them.”

Right from the first blush, when Bezic was with them at their training base, the Appleby Skating Centre in Burlington, Ont., she was “blown away” – just by their stroking exercises.

Watching them do this 30-minute, Anne Schelter-led work, in formation, 16-strong? Goosebump worthy. Watching them win the world synchronized skating championships several months later at home, in their own neck of the wood, in front of a throng of screaming, red-shirted, flag-waving people? Priceless.

Bezic was in the audience for the free skate, a spellbinding routine to “Rhapsody in Blue.” Dressed in black from head to toe, with the light sparkling subtly from their smoky shirts, a flip of deep cobalt blue kicking up from skirts as they moved, Nexxice finally executed the complex routine the way they wanted to all season. And now the world knows who they are, too: world champions of the highest order.

Their performance at the world event in Hamilton, Ont., in mid-April is perhaps a watershed moment not only for Nexxice, but for the synchronized skating world in general as it waits breathlessly for the International Olympic Committee to vote on its inclusion in July.

“I think we are maturing,” said Nexxice coach Shelley Barnett. “Our sport is maturing. We’ve been knocking on the door for a long time. But I also think we are getting more respect from other skating disciplines. That is something I didn’t see before, certainly not after 2007.”

Barnett was speaking of the year that the world championships last came to Canada in 2007, when the team finally won its first medal (bronze), in London, Ont. It was noisy there, too. But what happened in Hamilton was beyond compare.

People who had never watched synchro skating before tuned in. So did many of Canada’s elite mainstream skaters. Barnett noticed increased turnout for their team tryouts, and also registration for youth and beginner programs has tripled since the world championships. “Many of the younger skaters had never seen anything like this at this level,” she said. “And there is more enthusiasm and interest from parents who maybe didn’t quite get the full picture of what the sport could do for their children.”

Yes, Nexxice won, but it was the way they did it that sends shivers to the bone. Barnett said Schelter created choreography for the free skate that was complicated and required nuances of expression. “It had so many complexities and intricacies in the music that had to be brought out,” Barnett said. ”The team was challenged all year to find those nuances and to be able to control their movement enough to music.”

They wanted something challenging for the team, because Nexxice members were strong skaters, and the core of the team had been together at least five years. “They were capable of handling quite a bit,” Barnett said.

Bezic, known as the choreographer for folk like Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi, Kurt Browning, Tara Lipinski, Chen Lu and for years, Stars on Ice tours, went looking for Nexxice because she wanted local talent for her new Niagara ice show. She also wanted to mix things up in the show, putting new skaters with legends (Nam Nguyen and Kurt Browning), and mainstream skaters with synchro.

But when Bezic actually started to work with Nexxice, she was stunned by their skating ability. ”Their fundamentals are just unbelievable,” she said. “And their cohesiveness as a team, and their musicality, and their professionalism. They are in a class by themselves.”

In return for taking time away from a very important season for her show, Bezic returned to Burlington several times to help with Nexxice’s competitive programs. She saw the team work four or five hours at a time, with short breaks for ice-making, without a complaint.

“They are so respectful of the process,” she said. “They were completely delightful and fun and excited.” She found Schelter’s program composition so musical and it “made so much sense,” she said. “It was all balanced and beautiful and it had the restraint and sophistication and yet [the short program to MUD] was still fun.”

Bezic thinks Nexxice played a huge role in the success of her own show. “We never really get to see that calibre of skaters all together,” she said.

As for Nexxice, for the first time, at Bezic’s show, they felt a sense of inclusion. “It was really an honour to be recognized at the same level,” said Nexxice co-captain Lee Chandler, the lone male on the team. “We don’t have an Olympic sport yet, so to be recognized as elite athletes along with the big names like Kurt Browning and Tessa and Scott, it was really an honour.”

The two skating worlds traded stories about their experiences at rehearsals and the worlds collided with great cheer. Chandler heard Browning’s sage advice: to stay in the moment, to enjoy the training and the journey, to enjoy every single moment of the ups and downs through a long season.

The world synchro championships gave team members memories that will last them a lifetime. “It was kind of a whirlwind,” Chandler said. “That was probably the biggest crowd I’ve skated in, probably the most energetic crowd, in my skating career.”

The crowd, which numbered about 7,600 for their “Rhapsody In Blue” routine, started to scream as soon as Nexxice appeared from behind a curtain. They were on their feet, and waving the flags. “We were trying to stay as focused as we could,” Chandler said. “It was so loud. It was kind of just indescribable. The noise wasn’t really something that you heard. I was something that you felt. You could just feel the energy and the vibration right through the rink, when we were standing on the ice. It was an electric feeling.”

Then, they skated. “We worked countless hours to make sure that we did it justice and we skated it with maturity and poise,” Chandler said. “I think we can all be pretty proud. We went out and we owned it. We really didn’t hold back at all.”

Much of the team has committed to staying together for next season. Chandler says he’s finished, although he says if the IOC votes synchro skating in, he doesn’t want to close the door. He has a future as a coach and choreographer.

And it seems as if Bezic will never be the same again, like many, after having seen what a Canadian synchro team can do. “I felt like it was a shot in the arm for me to tag along,” she said.

Volunteers Honoured for Their Dedication to Skating

Every not-for-profit body is only as good as its army of volunteers. While running the business and developing its programming may originate at a national office, like at Skate Canada, it’s the inspiring folks at the local level that really make the organization hum.

At Skate Canada, with some 1400 clubs in towns and cities all across the country, it takes thousands of volunteers to keep clubs operating, to run events, interact with current and potential members and to define the club’s place within the community.

Most volunteers entered the world of skating because they wanted their children to learn to skate. Then, as their children’s interest and commitment grew, their involvement grew too, to a point where offering time to help make the club run smoothly seemed like the natural way to support their child’s hobby.

They discovered the job of volunteering requires anything and everything. It could be as little as an hour of your time or as serious as sitting on the club’s Board of Directors. And it can involve a smorgasbord of tasks … planning on-ice schedules, buying ice time, manning administration and officiating, fundraising, coordinating test days, producing ice shows, designing marketing and promotion plans … and even taking on the roles of psychologist, negotiator and team leader.

If it sounds like a bucket of scary snakes, it can be … but it can also be the stuff of life-changing experiences: friendship, teamwork, mastery of new life skills and the development of highly successful partnerships.

At the yearly Volunteer Awards Gala and Banquet during the Annual Convention and General Meeting coming up in Winnipeg, you can ask the amazing volunteers being honored for their outstanding service what skating has added to their lives. The award winners come from every province and from every part of skating … club and section volunteering, coaching and officiating … yet their individual messages about the value of partnerships are consistent and often spoken with one voice.

Laurie Bertholet, the mom of Manitoba’s representative for the CompetitiveSkate Athlete Award, states, “Success definitely starts at the grassroots and moves all the way up to the elite level. Promoting that we are all partners in skating’s progress shows that all parts of the skating family are important, whether CanSkater, elite athlete, coach, volunteer or administration.”

And as pointed out by Therese Bilsborough, the award winner from Northern Ontario, using the strengths of all partners is a key to success. “I feel that partnerships with our volunteers, municipalities, fellow rink users and the corporate world are absolutely necessary for my club and community to thrive.”

These days with so many other activities vying for a participant’s time and money, the challenge for skating and our clubs is to recognize the realities of today’s recreational landscape and provide an activity and environment that is positive, productive and fun.

New Brunswick’s winner, Carole Tiffault, describes such an activity at her club, the Dieppe Gold Blades. “We promote our programs to other sports like ringette, hockey and speed skating. All our associations do their registrations together so that people are aware of all the sports being offered.”

Cindy Ramsay from PEI agrees that getting along with other groups in the rink is critical, however looking outside the rink to build partnerships can also provide unexpected results. “We need to create a good working relationship with the municipality to be in their thoughts when resources are being handed down; with local business so we can tap into their resources; with high schools so we can access potential volunteers; and with local media so our events can receive coverage.”

What does a good partnership look like to our winners?

Doug Pettapiece from Alberta/North West Territories/Nunavut section describes the key characteristics. “There should be agreement on a common goal, openness, transparency, trust and mutual respect for all parties involved.”

Newfoundland/Labrador’s winner, Susan Thistle, goes even further. “The goals should be clearly defined so that a strategy can be established to reach the goal. Each partner needs to understand their respective roles in the partnership … and to work well together.”

Skate Canada Central Ontario’s winner, Joanne Phelps, adds one simple but vital piece of the puzzle, “Collaboration and respect are critical to any successful partnership!”

It’s true that some volunteers come to the club with special professional skills to share, and certainly those resources are invaluable to a club’s success. Most other volunteers however come with things that may not be as tangible but are every bit as important … an even bigger and better bag of tricks … motivation, dedication and time.

Perhaps they had a great skating experience as a youngster, maybe their children are learning to skate at the club and they feel it is their duty to volunteer or maybe they’re an official. The reasons for getting there are as diverse as the skating community itself but one thing holds them all together … to give time to a sport that has somehow or in some way has enriched their lives.

Based on her myriad of experiences, Nova Scotia’s Sarah Miles says it perfectly. “It takes many people to grow a successful sports organization. If those partnerships are really positive, they can create a lifelong commitment, involvement and love of skating.”

Twenty-Three Canadians to Compete in Germany at 2015 ISU Adult Competition

OTTAWA, ONT: Twenty-three Canadian skaters are headed to Germany to compete at the 2015 International Skating Union (ISU) Adult Figure Skating Competition. The event takes place in Oberstdorf, Germany, from May 18-23, 2015.

This year’s event will host over 400 competitors from 29 countries. In order to compete at the ISU Adult Figure Skating Competition, skaters must be between the ages of 28 and 78. The competition once again features many former international competitors, including Canada’s own Gary Beacom, 1984 Olympian and 1988 World Professional Champion.

“Our Canadian team at the 2015 ISU Adult Competition truly embodies skating for life. Their commitment and love for our sport is next to none, and an inspiration to all to embrace they joy of skating,” said Dan Thompson, Skate Canada CEO. “We wish our Canadian skaters the best of luck in their performances as they represent our country to the fullest.”

Over the seven-day competition, skaters will compete in the following categories:

  • Ladies and Men Free Skating
  • Ladies and Men Artistic Free Skating
  • Pairs Free Skating
  • Ice Dance – Pattern Dance
  • Ice Dance – Short Dance
  • Ice Dance – Free Dance
  • Synchronized Skating

Since the event’s inception in 2005, Canada has been well represented in entries and medal count. In 2014, the Canadian team earned a total of 34 medals, including 10 gold medals, 14 silver medals, and 10 bronze medals.

The adult figure skaters representing Canada are:

British Columbia Alberta Ontario Quebec
Diana Barkley Maureen Bennie Sandra Blitz Emilie Berthiaume
Gary Beacom Isabella Ciocoiu Jan Calnan
David Dickey Annette Nymeyer Sara Davidson
Alexandra Gunsett Shig Taya Takashi Ikeno
Betty Hyunah Catherine Taylor Hisayo Shibata
Geoff Squires Sandy Smith
Janette Wood Carol Snow
Michelle Swan
Francesco Ventura
Angie Zurita

For more information, please visit

Still Coaching after 60 years!

Paul Tatton then and now.

Paul Tatton then and now

It began as a way for a sickly child to get exercise but eventually turned into a life-long love affair with skating.

In the mid-1940s, Paul Tatton was 10 when he began skating at the North Bay Figure Skating Club. “I had been in bed with Pleurisy for over a year so naturally I wasn’t able to take part in active sports. Somehow I managed to pass my Preliminary Figure Test during my second season … and with that my love for skating was born.”

Young Paul Tatton.

Young Paul Tatton

His efforts in his first ice show never indicated the kind of career that lay ahead. “While Sonya Henie was the star of the show, I was a frog along with two other young boys. We were skating on natural ice in an inch of slush and carried on so much that when we took off our costumes, we were green all over – the dye didn’t come off for a week!”

From the beginning, it was a family commitment, his parents volunteering for every job at the club, his mom eventually becoming a gold test judge. “After my second year’, says Paul, “my father drove me all the way to Toronto to get a half hour lesson with Coach Gerry Blair. At the end of the lesson he told me that I could be as good as I wanted — he could show me what to do but the rest was up to me.”

When Paul arrived back in North Bay he informed his parents that he had to live away from home to get skating time. His parents agreed and the next day drove him to Copper Cliff, west of Sudbury, got him a room, arranged for meals at a boarding house and enrolled him in the Copper Cliff Skating Club. “I was 13 years old”, tells Paul, “and got up at 4am every morning, walked to get breakfast, then to the rink and skated from 5am to 8.30, then off to school. I trained there with Mr. Blair on weekends and practiced on my own during the week.”

Paul Tatton as a young boy.

Paul Tatton as a young boy

Paul admits that Gerry Blair took him under his wing and insured he had the things he needed to improve. “I had trouble with skating boots breaking down so Mr. Blair took me to see a friend of his, John Knebli. John made shoes for handicapped people. When shown my skates his immediate reply was ‘I CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT’! He took me back to his shop, measured my flat feet … and two weeks later I had the very first skating boots Mr. Knebli ever made. The rest is history.”

Under the guidance of Gerry Blair and later Sheldon Galbraith, Paul competed all the way to third place at Senior Canadians in 1954, finishing his free program despite experiencing an asthma attack part way through the performance. Returning home to skate in the official opening of North Bay Memorial Gardens, he knew his competitive career was at a turning point. Money was tight and with strict rules regarding amateur status, Paul felt he was almost forced to turn professional.

Paul Tatton pairs skating.

Paul Tatton pairs skating

“Arena manager Morris Snyder asked me to run a Spring School for him. He thought I might have a good turnout and of course, loving a challenge, I wanted to see if I could do it. It turned out to be a success with all high tests passing.”

That started Paul on his life’s work. “The transition to coaching was easy … I’m a tremendous planner … and not just in skating.” Whether it was learning to fly and getting his certification after one month, being scouted by the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL or receiving a scholarship to develop his high tenor operatic voice in Italy, whatever Paul set his sights on, he did with determination.

Thankfully Paul’s dedication to coaching skating won out.

He worked in the US, most notably in Hershey, Pennsylvania, at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio as the Director of Skating and finally back in Canada in 1976 after which he started his own school in Sundridge, Ontario. “Today I work for Riverside Skating Club, Windsor Skating Club and La Salle Skating Club in Western Ontario.”

Wherever Paul landed, he discovered it was the science of skating that kept him challenged, particularly during school figures. “I loved to see what happened if I turned my head one way, not the other. I still love doing skating research and then seeing the effects … it’s fascinating … I never get bored.”

He’s sad figures are gone. “Figures taught you to concentrate. Learning quality turns, body control and the tracing of a perfect edge was a real art form. It was the great divider; today it’s often just acrobatics.”

One of Paul’s former students, Jen Jackson, now a coaching colleague, recalls her early days under Paul’s tutelage. “I have known Paul since 1987 when I first moved to Windsor and was looking for a coach to help me finish my gold tests. I chose him because when I came into the rink to watch, even though he wasn’t teaching the best skater on the ice, he gave her a lesson filled with enthusiasm. I could see his passion for the sport … and he never watched the clock.”

Paul Tatton coaching.

Paul Tatton coaching

Paul admits his priority has always been to instill confidence in the skaters he teaches. “I like to think that with each lesson I’ve accomplished something that will help them. You learn a lot about yourself in skating. You learn to face challenges that will benefit you for life. My coaches sure gave me confidence and for that I am grateful. Now it’s my job to pass that confidence on.”

In many ways, Jen has followed Paul’s teaching model. “When I began coaching, Paul was so generous and had me work with all his skaters. Now that he’s getting older, he’s stepping back, letting others take more leadership so he can work on specific areas with the skaters. He loves teaching turns and has become the Spin Doctor. The kids just love him. He always has a kind word or a story about the good old days and how each skater reminds him of someone wonderful he used to teach.”

Getting older has meant facing other challenges for Paul. Two years ago he had shoulder surgery and also broke his back, injuries which kept him off the ice for months.

As Jen says, it may have kept him out of the rink, but it did not curtail his enthusiasm. “When I would go to visit him, all he could talk about was how the kids were doing. He never complained about his situation and instead just kept telling me that he couldn’t wait to get back and hopefully by then he was still needed.”

Paul admits, “I’m proudest of the moments when I’ve helped kids do something they didn’t think they could do.”

Teaching from the boards, although Paul doesn’t put his skates on these days, he is as enthusiastic and involved as ever, this week attending the Annual General Meeting of Skate Canada Western Ontario and celebrating his 60th year of coaching.

Congratulations Paul!

Tickets on Sale Now for the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships

HALIFAX, NS: All-event ticket packages for the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships will go on sale Saturday, May 2, 2015, at 10 a.m. (AT). The event will take place in Halifax, N.S., at the Scotiabank Centre from January 18-24, 2016.

The all-event ticket package is the ultimate ticket package that will allow fans to experience all levels (novice, junior, senior) and disciplines of skating (men’s, women’s, pair, ice dance), including practices. All-event ticket packages range from $125-$175, plus applicable surcharges. Fans can purchase tickets online at, by phone at 1-877-451-1221, or in person at the Scotiabank Centre box office.

Leading the senior events are 2015 World Pair Champions Meagan Duhamel, 29, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, 30, Balmertown, Ont. The four-time Canadian champions will look to win their fifth title, taking on Canada’s best. Current Canadian champion Nam Nguyen, 16, Toronto, Ont., will go head-to-head with three-time world champion Patrick Chan, 24, Toronto, Ont., as he returns to competition after a year off. In ice dance, two-time world medallists Kaitlyn Weaver, 25, Waterloo, Ont., and Andrew Poje, 28, Waterloo, Ont., plan to capture their second Canadian title. In women’s Gabrielle Daleman, 17, Newmarket, Ont., will defend her 2015 Canadian title against two-time Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond, 19, Marystown, Nfld. & Sherwood Park, Alta., who will return to competition after missing last season due to injury.

Athletes will vie for spots on the Skate Canada National Team and the Canadian teams that will compete at the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, 2016 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, and 2016 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Halifax to host 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships

HALIFAX, NS: Skate Canada and Canadian Tire announced today that Halifax, Nova Scotia will be the host city for the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. The championships will take place from January 18-24, 2016, at the Scotiabank Centre. The event will feature approximately 250 skaters in the men’s, women’s, pair, and ice dance disciplines, competing in three levels: senior, junior, and novice.

This is the fourth time that Halifax will play host to the National Skating Championships. The city held the event in 1981, 1995 and 2007. Halifax has also been the site of several international events, including Skate Canada International in 1983, 1997 and 2004, and the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in 1990.

“The city of Halifax is the site of so many memorable moments in skating history. We’ve seen champions crowned here on both national and world stages. We’re excited to bring the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships back to Halifax and create more unforgettable skating moments,” said Dan Thompson, Skate Canada CEO. “This event is the pinnacle of the Canadian skating calendar and we know the support from the fans, volunteers, and the rest of the city will be a catalyst for an incredible competition.”

“Canadian Tire believes in the power of sport to rally our nation and define us on a global stage,” said Pat McEleney, Vice President, Sport Partnerships, Canadian Tire Corporation. “We have celebrated skating for over 90 years, and as title sponsor of the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, we could not be more proud to help bring this world-class event to Halifax in 2016.”

Leading the senior events are 2015 World Pair Champions Meagan Duhamel, 29, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, 30, Balmertown, Ont. The four-time Canadian champions will look to win their fifth title, taking on Canada’s best. Current Canadian champion Nam Nguyen, 16, Toronto, Ont., will go head-to-head with three-time world champion Patrick Chan, 24, Toronto, Ont., as he returns to competition after a year off. In ice dance, two-time world medallists Kaitlyn Weaver, 25, Waterloo, Ont., and Andrew Poje, 28, Waterloo, Ont., plan to capture their second Canadian title. In women’s Gabrielle Daleman, 17, Newmarket, Ont., will defend her 2015 Canadian title against two-time Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond, 19, Marystown, Nfld. & Sherwood Park, Alta., who will return to competition after missing last season due to injury.

“We are very excited to welcome fans, coaches and athletes for the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in 2016,” said Scott Ferguson, President and CEO of Scotiabank Centre. “Scotiabank Centre has a rich history of attracting world-class skating events and we’re proud to continue delivering a diverse lineup of events for Nova Scotians to enjoy.”

Athletes will vie for spots on the Skate Canada National Team and the Canadian teams that will compete at the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, 2016 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, and 2016 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

All-event ticket packages for the entire week will go on sale this Saturday, May 2, 2015, at 10 a.m. (AT). This is the ultimate ticket package that will allow fans to experience all levels (novice, junior, senior) and disciplines of skating (men’s, women’s, pair, ice dance), including practices. All-event ticket packages range from $125-$175, plus applicable surcharges. Fans can purchase tickets online at, by phone at 1-877-451-1221, or in person at the Scotiabank Centre box office.