Results announced in live show at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre
Ice dance star Kaitlyn Weaver and retired NHL player Sheldon Kennedy were announced as season 5 winners of CBC’s Battle of the Blades at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre Thursday night.
Together, the pair received $100,000 for Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, which provides financial assistance for children across Canada to access sports in their communities.
“I knew it would be special, but I had no idea what I was in for,” said Weaver, a three-time world medallist, about the season.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice. To share this with Sheldon and then ultimately with Canada … I’m just overwhelmed.”
The CBC show pairs up professional hockey players and figure skating stars to perform figure skating routines, with a pair eliminated each week through Canadians’ votes. This season, seven pairs competed at arenas across southern Ontario for charities of their choice.
Kennedy, who previously played for the Detroit Red Wings, the Boston Bruins and the Calgary Flames, joined the show after stepping back from advocacy work for victims of child abuse.
“This was a personal journey, but it was also probably just as important, a journey where we can give back and help … kids across this country and help them get involved in sports,” Kennedy told the Ryersonian.
“We’re trying to skate, to raise money to give kids the same opportunity that just helped us grow so much as adults. So it was, it’s kind of full circle.”
The first season of Battle of the Blades in 2009 was filmed at Maple Leaf Gardens, before the facility was renovated into Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre and Loblaws grocery store the following year. Season 5 marks a revival of the show since it was cancelled in 2014 due to budget cuts, post season 4 in 2013.
“For our finale, we felt it was appropriate to get back to where we started 10 years ago,” said four-time world champion figure skater and head judge Kurt Browning during the opening.
“It’s fitting for Halloween, we’re back in our old haunt,” added Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean.
Team Canada hockey player and Olympic gold medallist Natalie Spooner, and three-time world ice dance medallist Andrew Poje (Weaver’s ice dance partner), came in second, receiving $17,500 for each of their chosen charities, Fast and Female and Right to Play.
Spooner hopes that she showed girls and women, regardless of body shape, how to feel empowered to try whatever sport they want.
“Coming into this, that was something that did scare me,” Spooner said. “I was like, ‘How is my partner even going to be able to lift me up?’ But I think that I proved a lot to myself through this experience about just going forward and taking chances, wearing the crazy outfits, being vulnerable, finding my womanly side when I’m not wearing all this hockey equipment.”
“I would have never thought I’d be trying figure skating, at the age of 29 … I think that’s something that’s really special, and for young girls just to go try whatever the sport they want, no matter what their body type is … they should have no restrictions, they should just go for it.”
In third place was former NHL player Bruno Gervais and four-time world champion figure skater Ekaterina Gordeeva, receiving $15,000 for each of their chosen charities, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Gervais-Talbot Foundation.
Battle of the Blades has a history of accidents during training, and this season did not fail. Prior to last week’s show, Gervais partially tore his right bicep, and the pair had to make last-minute changes to their routine.
“It was and more and more intense towards the end of the shows,” said Gordeeva. “But we did it … the show is amazing and all the people who work on the show [are] absolutely great people and … they will be friends for a lifetime.”
Also present at the show to judge were Canadian Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and NHL player Colby Armstrong, who was originally slated to compete in the competition but tore his hamstring during training.
Weaver and Kennedy both gave a shout out to Ryerson during their interview with the Ryersonian.
“Thank you, to Ryerson, for letting us borrow your home tonight, it was wonderful,” Weaver said.
“Thank you, Ryerson, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” Kennedy added, in reference to Elton John’s I‘m Still Standing, one of their winning performances and a personal anthem for Kennedy.
Battle of the Blades is the highest-rated original English-language Canadian format of all time.