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Stars on Ice bring holiday cheer to Bryant Park

Buttle, Eldredge and Robinson advise ABC anchors

Jeffrey Buttle, Jennifer Robinson and Todd Eldredge will tour with <i>Stars on Ice</i> this year.
Jeffrey Buttle, Jennifer Robinson and Todd Eldredge will tour with Stars on Ice this year. (David Baden)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/10/2008) - Todd Eldredge still remembers the best present he ever got.

"One year, my brother and I, when we went into the living room to see what Santa brought us," he remembered, "there was a huge train set all around the room -- under the tree and out the door and all around everything. Each present we opened was a different car and different stuff for the train set, so it was really cool."

The six-time U.S. champion dropped by The Pond at Bryant Park, an ice rink in the heart of Manhattan free to the public, with fellow Smucker's® Stars on Ice (SOI) headliners Jeffrey Buttle and Jennifer Robinson on Tuesday, Dec. 9, to spread a little holiday cheer and give ABC News' Good Morning, America co-anchors Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion a few skating tips.

"There's going to be a flurry of Salchows this morning," Buttle, who capped his competitive career by winning the 2008 world title, joked.

"My 'retirement' is great, but it's not like I'm taking it easy," added the 26-year-old Canadian, who will perform on 26 stops of the upcoming SOI U.S. tour.

The trio decided to meet in Eldredge's hotel suite last night to compose an impromptu two-minute number to the yuletide classic "Jingle Bell Rock," featuring some of their favorite moves. It set the 37-year-old Eldredge to reminiscing about Christmases long ago.

"My brother and I always had to wait, and then wake up our parents and go into the living room to do the whole gift-opening thing," he said. "Then we'd go to everybody else's house, because all of our relatives lived pretty much in the same area [Chatham, Mass.]."

This season, Eldredge will return to his family's home.

"I've got a Steve Disson show [the 'Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular' in Rapid City, S.D.] on the 23rd, and then on the 24th, I fly to Boston and go to my parents' house. Then on the 26th, I'm leaving to go to Europe for a few shows," he said.

"This will be the first time in I don't know how many years I will be able to go to my parents' house and spend Christmas. My brother and his family are in the midst of moving to Maine, but they will be there as well."

Eldredge -- who still owns a home in Michigan but now lives in Florida -- is working with his lifelong coach, Richard Callaghan, to help train 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner for the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.

"Sure, she's had a few rough competitions this season, but it happens -- everybody goes through it," Eldredge, who won the world title in 1996, said. "She's got some new skates, and she's working out the kinks there, getting those [boots] comfortable before nationals."

Eldredge, along with the rest of the SOI cast, debuted this season's show in Lake Placid over Thanksgiving. He performed to John Mayer's "I'm Gonna Find Another You" and Meat Loaf's "Is Nothing Sacred," both choreographed with Callaghan.

"It's a little bit of a different mix -- the Mayer [number] is kind of bluesy, and Meat Loaf is kind of my normal, big-old, dramatic-skate kind of thing."

Robinson, who also performs two solos in the show (to Natasha Bedingfield's "Angel" and Lizz Wright's "Stop"), is especially excited about the opening number.

"The theme of the show is 'Heart of a Champion,' and the first group number is a kind of retrospective of what we've all achieved," she explained.

"We start out on podiums, in beautiful white costumes, but it's very powerful. It kicks off into high gear right away, and the audience will know they are in for a technical, entertaining show. What's really cool is everybody came into Lake Placid knowing our rehearsal time was short and you had to be ultra prepared, and everyone is in the best skating shape I've seen in a very long time. For a bunch of oldies but goodies, we're still keeping up our tricks."

Robinson, 32, and her husband, skating coach Shane Dennison, will spend Christmas day with her family.

"My parents just moved to Barrie, [Ontario], which is where I live, so it will be the first Christmas for all of us together," she said. "Being French-Canadian, we go to midnight mass and come home and open all the gifts after midnight, then have a 1:30 or 2 a.m. buffet. That's our tradition."

Stars on Ice, which runs through April 11 in select cities throughout the U.S., also features Sasha Cohen, Ilia Kulik, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, Michael Weiss, Yuka Sato and John Zimmerman. Guest stars join the troupe in February and April.