The gloves have come off and the sequins put on. Eight former NHLers, half of them top-shelf bruisers or agitators, have signed up for CBC’s reality show Battle of The Blades.
Each has been paired with a Canadian female figure skating icon in what promises to be a season full of salchows and lutzes. It all starts Monday, Oct. 4, which is an evening in which there are no NHL games. No excuses hockey fans, let’s check out the boys as they try their fancy skating with the girls.
Here’s my pre-series seeding of the competition.
No. 8. Ken Daneyko and Jodeyne Higgins. Daneyko will be terrific in his own end, but surely will be less adventurous for any offensive moves. We all know Higgins excels as a professional adagio skater, but it won’t be enough to prevent this pair from being the first casualty. At 47, Daneyko will be susceptible to outside turns from his speedy partner.
No. 7. Bob Probert and Kristina Lenko. At 44 and 29, Probert and Lenko have the youngest combined age in this competition and the inexperience will show. Without a stick to lean on, Probert may struggle with balance as he tosses Lenko around. Her experience on the U.K. TV series Dancing On Ice will help, but who’s going to flip her when Probie skates off to the box?
No. 6. Claude Lemieux and Shae-Lynn Bourne. As the most recently active NHLer, Lemieux has a slight edge on his male competitors, even though he’s 44. He has the powerful stride to keep up with former world dance team champion Bourne and the win-at-all costs approach to make it work, but the judges will hate his sour-puss game face and deduct .3 because of it.
No. 5. Glenn Anderson and Isabelle Brasseur. We know these two will come to perform. Anderson was always Mr. Clutch in the playoffs and Brasseur has two Olympic bronze to her credit. Question is, will Anderson be able to skate in contact with another person and not “inadvertently” fall to the ice or dive? The judges won’t award penalty shots in this competition, Mr. Hall of Famer.
No. 4. Tie Domi and Christine ‘Tuffy’ Hough-Sweeney. It figures they’re putting a toughy with Tuffy. Domi loves to perform in a spotlight and never met a camera he didn’t like. He always had the ability to play up to the crowd and his skating was always underrated in the NHL. The biggest concern is whether he can handle trash talk from his competitors and not fly into a fit of rage.
No. 3. Ron Duguay and Barb Underhill. At 52 and 46, Duguay and Underhill are the Chris Chelioses in Battle of The Blades, but it’s that seasoned approach that will take them to the final three. Underhill has some work to do to measure up to Duguay’s coif, yet they both excel in smoothness and style. I expect their regal and dignified approach to be a winning formula.
No. 2. Stephane Richer and Marie-France Dubreuil. My guess is these two Quebec natives will have the best chemistry and be the best dancers of the group. Richer always had great wheels and finishing ability in his prime and Dubreuil won a silver at the world dance championships. All bets are off though if it turns out to be the other Stephane J.G. Richer guy.
No. 1. Craig Simpson and Jamie Sale. When Sale’s brother Ruslan turned down this opportunity, CBC went in-house to secure the event’s ringer. Simpson skates better than any of the men here and unless Domi blows a gasket, Simpson won’t have to take a pounding in the crease area and his back will survive. Let’s hope he’s hooked up to a microphone so we can hear his during-competition analysis.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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