I’m having great difficulty containing my excitement right now. So I won’t.
HOLY CRAP, CANADIANS IS COMING BACK TO THE WEST!
Skate Canada, you’re blowing my mind a little.
In separate press releases today, Skate Canada announced that the 2013 and 2014 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships will be held in Calgary, AB, and Burnaby, BC respectively. I’m currently based in Calgary, so couldn’t be happier about this news for obvious reasons. But this is also amazing/important because of the following:
- The timeline. I can’t remember the last time Skate Canada announced one Synchro Nationals location this far in advance, let alone TWO of them. At Nationals in the late 90s, we used to wait with bated breath for the end of the Senior final on Sunday to find out the location of the following year’s event. In more recent years, the lateness with which the upcoming Nationals location has been released (summer or fall) has been a bone of contention for skaters, officials, and fans across the country. Budgeting and planning is a headache at the best of times, and to be fair, I can sympathize with Skate Canada in the instances where the late announcements were the result of entirely uncontrollable circumstances. But now–finding out where the next two Nationals are before this season’s has even taken place? Skate Canada, consider yourself forgiven.
- Cost to skaters. I grew up skating on teams in Saskatchewan and Alberta. If you’re from Ontario or Quebec, you may not be able to fully grasp how thrilling it is to have Nationals in the West for skaters who are based here. I know that skaters from Ontario and Quebec are always excited at the prospect of being able to travel outside their home provinces, since those opportunities are rare. For Western skaters, however, having to travel to Ontario and Quebec for Nationals (and Winterfest, if they want to be competitive), year after year after year after year has actually led to the collapse of some clubs and teams. The cost of travel is debilitating to Western teams. Quebec and the Maritimes teams started to feel this as well when they were part of the same qualifying Region, but I maintain that overall, since the inception of Canadians in the early 80s, Western teams have born the brunt of travel costs–thanks to those pesky, if beautiful, Rocky Mountains, teams in Alberta and BC still have to fly in alternating years just to qualify for Nationals. So the Western synchro family tends to lose our composure a little at the mere suggestion that Nationals might be held West of Ontario.
- The cities. Calgary and Burnaby have airports (well, there’s one *very* close to Burnaby). AND hotels! CHAIN hotels! If you attended Nationals in Sarnia, Brandon, or Chicoutimi, this is enough to make you weep with joy. (Though I do have fantastic stories of epic gong shows from each of those trips.) Being able to fly directly into a major city and stay at a hotel that is not in the United States, is not shaped like a Smurf hut, or does not have a saloon beneath your rooms, is exciting no matter where you’re from.
- Back to back Nationals in the West allows for development of clubs and officials. Western synchro afficionados always try to take maximum advantage of opportunities to attend Nationals when it’s close to home. But when Western skaters and coaches (and skaters and coaches from the Maritimes, for that matter) can only afford to see what the top teams are doing, and compete against them, once every few years, they can’t become one of the top teams. Similarly, recruitment, which has become an issue across the country, is made even more difficult when prospective skaters never have the chance to see what world-class excellence looks like. Give a little girl (or boy) a chance to see Nexxice live, and she starts to dream big. My first Nationals was in Calgary in 1995, and I’ll never forget it. If I hadn’t had the chance to be in awe of teams like black ice, Les Pirouettes, and Ice Fyre, and felt the electricity in the arena during the finals in person, my passion for the sport may never have taken flight. The excitement about the location of Nationals also doesn’t end when you become an official. Yes, officials who are invited to sit on panels at the event have their expenses covered. But for those officials who are working on promotions, that’s not always the case–they need to trial judge Junior and Senior teams (rare species currently only found in Ontario and Quebec), and sometimes need to pay out of pocket to travel to do so. Development isn’t *just* about cost, however. It’s about excitement, and buzz, and PR, and letting people (skaters and non-skaters alike) see and experience something new. It’s about letting skaters in the corridor travel outside it, to know what it’s like to travel across Canada. It’s about supporting excellence on a greater geographic scale, so there are more teams that are more competitive. It’s about sharing this amazing sport with the entire country.
So, Skate Canada, on behalf of synchro skaters, parents, fans, coaches, and officials everywhere, thank you for the early Christmas present. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.