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Pockar honored for accomplishments, creativity

Three-time Canadian champion inducted into Skate Canada's Hall of Fame

Few could match the grace and poise Brian Pockar showed on the ice.
Few could match the grace and poise Brian Pockar showed on the ice. (Courtesy of Skate Canada Archives)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(11/29/2012) - "I feel he would like to be remembered as someone who had given a lot to skating in the realm of creativity," said Kevin Cottam, a lifelong friend of three-time Canadian men's champion, and world and Olympic competitor Brian Pockar. The two collaborated on the Closing Ceremony of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, with Pockar serving as artistic director and Cottam as choreographer.

"He was also very proud to be a Canadian and compete on the global stage," Cottam added.

Pockar, who passed away April 28, 1992, at the age of 32, is among six new inductees into Skate Canada's Hall of Fame. He won the world bronze medal in 1982, was a five-time recipient of the Alberta Achievement Award and was the last skater to defeat Scott Hamilton. That victory came at the St. Ivel International in Richmond, England, in the early fall of 1980. Hamilton won their next meeting, at 1980 Skate Canada, and remained undefeated for the remainder of his amateur career.

With World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, now seems a fitting time to remember Pockar, who died of the deadly disease at a time when the skating world was losing so many creative talents. Lisa-Marie Allen, who became friends with Pockar in the late '70s, said he hid his illness from his friends until near the end of his life.

"He thought if we didn't know, it wouldn't touch us," Allen recalled.

When Pockar finally revealed what most of his friends knew, they reaffirmed their love for him.

At a time when so little was known about AIDS, Allen said Pockar's parents loved him unconditionally.

"It was a tribute to how a mother and father can love a child," she said.

Former world and Olympic judge Frances Dafoe, a renowned costume designer, was also part of the creative team for the Calgary Olympics. She remembers Pockar as a "real gentleman."

"He really wanted to promote figure skating, and I think he did a beautiful job," she said. "He had all the champions come in. It was quite a wonderful time."

"He wanted to show the world what we could produce not only in the ceremonies point of view but skating and culture," Cottam said. "This is what the Olympic ceremonies do -- they look at the culture."

Sean Rice, two-time Canadian pairs bronze medalist with Jodeyne Higgins, remembers first meeting Pockar when he was about 10 and Pockar was toward the end of his competitive career.

"He always left a memory in my brain of his abilities out on the ice -- his grace, his poise and his ability to jump were brilliant," Rice said. "He was passionate about skating, but he was also a lovely person."

Pockar's warmth and charm are what Allen recalls. She has a photo of the two of them performing in a show in Sun Valley, Idaho, in the early '80s hanging in her home that she looks at every day.

When they turned pro, both were represented by agent Michael Rosenberg, who often tried to book them in the same shows. They shared the ice together at the opening of the rink at Rockefeller Center in the fall of 1991, one of Pockar's last performances.

Pockar was dazzlingly good looking but not vain. He used his looks to great advantage when he played Romeo to Dorothy Hamill's Juliet in the TV special Romeo & Juliet on Ice. He even posed for Playgirl magazine.

"When his professional career started to blossom, he kind of realized how beautiful he was," Allen said. "Barbara Roles (Allen's longtime coach with whom Pockar also trained for a while) and I used to call him 'The Sheik' because of that little mole on his cheek."

Cottam said Pockar would consider being inducted into the hall of fame a "massive honor." He described Pockar as possessing loyalty, integrity, humbleness and a love for what he did.

"He was truly a guy who loved to create, and this came full circle when he turned professional," Cottam said. "He loved music so much and would search for music that tapped into his soul. He was very heartfelt, and moved from his heart and inner depths of his soul. He was dedicated to being a true performer.

"He was a creative person who believed in practice, hard work and dedication to his craft," he added. "He simply loved skating with all his heart and every cell in his body."

The other Skate Canada Hall of Fame inductees are Jeffrey Buttle, John Knebli, Norman Scott, Kerry Leitch and Lori Nichol.