TORONTO – Tomas Kaberle couldn’t pass up the chance to see former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Tie Domi put on figure skates.
That’s why he jumped at the opportunity to attend Sunday’s taping for the debut episode of “Battle of the Blades,” bringing new Leafs tough guy Colton Orr along with him.
Kaberle came away impressed after watching eight former NHLers perform figure skating routines with experienced female partners. His expectations for the hockey players weren’t very high.
“I was surprised guys did so well on the ice,” Kaberle said Monday. “It’s not easy, I wouldn’t do that. They were sharp and the crowd loved it.”
Roughly 3,000 fans attended the taping at Maple Leaf Gardens – the building where Kaberle started his NHL career.
Even though the arena has been mothballed for several years, the Leafs defenceman didn’t think it looked much different than he remembered from his rookie season.
“It’s nice to see them doing it over there actually to remind (people) that Maple Leaf Gardens is still sitting there,” said Kaberle.
Sunday’s show drew 1.95 million viewers on CBC, many of them current NHL players.
In fact, “Battle of the Blades” was a popular topic of conversation in dressing rooms across the country on Monday. Calgary Flames tough guy Brandon Prust was among the guys endorsing the program.
“I think it’s a great thing, especially in Canada,” he said.
Prust might make a good candidate for a future season of the show after a figure skating routine he performed last year when he was with AHL Quad City (there’s a clip on YouTube called “Brandon Prust figure skates like a little girl”).
Others who indicated they might also be interested in taking part include Montreal Canadiens winger Mike Cammalleri and Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who figures wife Bibi might force him into it.
“She loves those shows,” said Alfredsson.
Senators teammate Mike Fisher was most impressed with the performance of 52-year-old Ron Duguay, who is two decades removed from his last NHL game. The other seven guys also earned his respect.
“They’re brave,” said Fisher. “Some of them are pretty good, but obviously some of them have been off blades for a little while and you could tell. But Duguay’s still got it – how old is he?”
Kaberle thought the best performances came from Duguay, Claude Lemieux, Craig Simpson and Glenn Anderson.
“They were awesome,” said Kaberle. “They looked like they’ve been doing it for awhile. Obviously they practised for the last month or so, but they look like they’ve been at it for a couple years.”
One player that didn’t make it out to the debut taping was Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek, who had to decline Kaberle’s invitation because of a previously scheduled commitment.
He’s eager to get out and support the former NHLers.
“I want to go next Sunday for sure,” said Komisarek. “I can’t wait.”
Even though many NHL players were curious to check out the show, a few had absolutely no interest.
“I refuse to watch that,” said Leafs defenceman Ian White.
With files from Chris Yzerman in Ottawa and Laurence Heinen in Calgary.