Class of 2012: Builder
Known as “Skate-maker to the stars”, John Knebli’s skill and dedication spanned five decades.
Born in 1904 in Hungary, John was a master craftsman in orthopedic shoemaking, a talent he brought to Canada when he immigrated to Toronto in 1930. By 1944, in partnership with his beloved wife, Elizabeth, John opened his own shoe store specializing in children’s shoes, soccer, 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 finally accepted when he received a sample pair of boots to take apart so he could study their construction.
A designer, innovator, and true fan of figure skating, John was constantly investigating how to make skating boots better. His low cut boot design, his development of specialized leather to withstand the cold and dampness, and his build of stronger and more comfortable boots all became standards in skating equipment.
Throughout his outstanding career, John crafted boots for many Canadian champions and world and Olympic medallists; some of his most famous clients included Brian Orser, Barbara Underhill, Paul Martini, Toller Cranston, and Peggy Fleming.
John’s dedication to his craft led him to shape the sport of figure skating one skate at a time. He passed away in Toronto in 1997 at the age of 92.