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While Luke Mercer, a first-year defenceman for the men’s hockey team, had never figure skated before the Battle of the Rams, he may have still had the upper edge on the competition.
He worked with a figure skater in the past to help him with his edges, which Mercer says is important for any hockey player.
The Battle of the Rams is a figure skating competition that pairs members of Ryerson’s figure skating and hockey teams. The seven pairs competed against one another on March 23 for the chance to claim the Battle of the Rams trophy.
Mercer and his partner Briar Koski, a first-year member of the Ryerson figure skating team, were the first Battle of the Rams champions, with a perfect score of 40.
“I felt amazing after and finding out that we got perfect and all 10s made it that more special,” Mercer said. “Briar and I worked very hard and I’m glad we could put on a good show.”
But the two were not paired together when the figure skating and hockey teams first started practising for the charity event.
When the coaches originally paired up the skaters, Koski was with another hockey player. The girl-to-boy ratio wasn’t balanced, so the figure skaters had to be put in rotation at practices.
“I got put with Luke after switching out with one of the girls and we ended up just working really well with each other,” Koski said.
After the official pairing was announced, Koski asked her coach if she could skate with Mercer instead of her original partner.
“I kind of scouted him out a bit,” Koski said. “It all worked out in the end.”
According to Mercer, he knew from the beginning that he and Koski had good chemistry. With the help from their coach, Tara Bartolini, they were able to work well together as skating partners.
“When I first started I was a little rusty as was every hockey player,” Mercer said. “Once I got switched to Briar as my partner she was with me every step of the way and helped me out a lot.”
Both Mercer and Koski had heard from other teams that they were one of the stronger pairs in the competition.
“We looked really good, but with a judged sport, you just never know who’s going to win,” Koski said.
The judges who made the ultimate decision were Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics, Lisa Haley, the Rams women’s hockey coach, Heather Lane Vetere, Ryerson’s vice-provost students, and Piper Gilles, a four-time Canadian ice dance medallist and Ryerson creative industries student.
Scores were awarded for the overall performance as well as how well the team completed the required elements. All teams needed to have a footwork sequence, a field move, two creative moves and a lift in their two-and-a-half-minute routine.
According to Koski, figure skaters really have to trust their partner with everything, especially lifts.
“I was a little hesitant at first but we did a lot of off-ice sessions to practise our lifts and to get the timing right, that’s the most important part,” Koski said. “He only dropped me once on one of our very first practices, so I had no reason not to trust him.”
“Lifting someone, and jumping for that long is for sure tiring, so both (figure skating and hockey) are equally demanding for good physical strength,” Mercer said.
While strength is important in both sports, there are differences between the two as well.
“Well I think the biggest difference is hockey you’re going hard for 40-50 seconds per shift, and for figure skating you’re doing a whole routine for two-and-a-half minutes,” Mercer said.
A crowd of about 200 people came to cheer on their favourite teams, and hockey teammates heckled their friends from the bench.
“The hockey players were completely out of their element but we have been working so hard throughout the season to train and prepare for Battle of the Rams and it really paid off,” said Lauren Hildebrand, captain of Ryerson’s figure skating team and organizer of the event. “The audience was really impressed with all of the performances and so was Ryerson Athletics.”
With all of the positive feedback that Hildebrand has received she says that there is a good chance Battle of the Rams will become an annual event at Ryerson. “Battle of the Rams 2017 is already in talks,” Hildebrand said.
“Now that people really understand what Battle of the Rams is all about, I think the audience and amount of interest from Ryerson hockey teams will continue to grow each year.”
The proceeds from the event will be split between the figure skating team and the Skate to Great charity, which provides new hockey and figure skates, along with equipment, to children across Canada.
The amount of money raised was not available in time for print but will be released in early April.