'Lace Up' celebrates Canadian skating history

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame unveils new exhibit

Jamie Salé and David Pelletier's locker, which is part of the class of 2012 display.
Jamie Salé and David Pelletier's locker, which is part of the class of 2012 display. (Canada's Sports Hall of Fame)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(05/09/2013) - Ice sports are part of Canadian culture.

The three major ice sports -- figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey -- aren't just for elite athletes. Every winter, millions of people lace up their skates and enjoy skating at rinks and outdoors on rivers, ponds and canals.

The exhibit "Lace Up: Canada's Passion for Skating" will be on display at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame (CSHOF) ( until Aug. 9. Opened July 1, 2011, CSHOF is a spectacular 40,000-square-foot facility located at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alberta. Visitors can see things such as the skates four-time world champion Kurt Browning wore when he landed the first quadruple jump in world competition.

"We have an entire skating gallery called 'blade gallery,'" Janice Smith, director of exhibits and programming, said. "It features original costumes of figure skaters and speed skaters. They're animated, so they're actually in poses that you would have seen them skating in, which is really quite dynamic."

Other costumes on display in the "Lace Up" exhibit are CSHOF members Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini's free skate costumes from 1984, as well as Jamie Salé and David Pelletier's Love Story costumes. Salé and Pelletier were inducted into the CSHOF in 2012, joining names like Browning, Elvis Stojko, Brian Orser, Karen Magnussen and Don Jackson.

"Lace Up" is a perfect complement to the CSHOF's new partnership with WinSport Canada, in which school children take a learn-to-skate class at a rink at Canada Olympic Park and then come to the hall to see the collections and learn about Canadian Olympic history.

"Our teachings come directly from our honored members' stories," Smith said. "We're teaching the values that our honored members instill related to sport -- whether it's setting goals or teamwork or inspiration, which are values the students can equate to their own lives.

"It doesn't have to mean that they're involved in sports; it could be something they aspire to do or to be. We're utilizing original collections and artifacts to help tell some of those stories."

There are extensive video collections of figure skaters and speed skaters, as well as other sports. Browning narrates an exhibit element called "Ask the Athletes," where he describes parts of his life, such as how he learned to skate. There's an interactive component that teaches visitors about the science and technology of skating.

More than 140 of the CSHOF's honored members have been interviewed, including world pairs champions Maria Jelinek and Otto Jelinek, who immigrated to Canada from Czechoslovakia with their family and won the world title in the country of their birth in 1962.

"We have some amazing photographs of the Jelineks," Smith said. "They're part of a huge collection of photos we have in the hall from (the late) Michael Burns (a renowned sports photographer)."

Honored member Sheldon Galbraith -- coach of fellow CSHOFers Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul, Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, and Barbara Ann Scott -- loaned the CSHOF some books from his extensive collection. One book showed various compulsory figure patterns.

"We transposed five onto a mural that is the backdrop of our blade gallery," Smith said.

CSHOF also has the hat Galbraith wore at outdoor competitions, his armband identification tags and some of his notebooks.

There are also displays showing the evolution of speed skates over the years. Smith said they have some unique skates from Japan that look like flip flops with blades attached at the bottom.

"We like to do comparisons and talk about the evolution of equipment as well," Smith said. "That's an element students get to see, of how those innovations have changed the sport."

The CSHOF also features items like medals, Olympic torches, some life-sized statues and even a square hockey puck. An upcoming project will involve having skaters and hockey players live on site interacting with visitors.

"It's really important that we have the opportunity to share the history of the ice-related sports," Smith said. "They're truly part of Canada's national identity."