Scott Moir has taken in a few recent London Knights games at the Budweiser Gardens — not merely because he's a huge hockey fan, but to soak in the energy and noise in what can be one of the loudest arenas around.
The London, Ont., rink is also the hometown venue where Moir and partner Tessa Virtue will be gunning for their third world ice dancing title in March.
"It's definitely our home rink and we felt quite a connection with it since the very first time we skated in it — it feels like home, simply put," Moir said on a conference call Tuesday. "It's also probably one of the loudest rinks we've ever skated in, and we have to prepare ourselves for that."
First though, Virtue and Moir will be in the hunt for their fifth Canadian figure skating title next week at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont. — what's sure to be another loud venue for Canada's Olympic ice dance champions.
The two skaters managed to maintain their composure to capture gold with incredible grace in front of an ear-splitting crowd at the Vancouver Olympics. They are well-practised in the art of steely focus — thanks to some oddball tactics from coach Marina Zoueva.
"Marina has a couple of different tactics," Moir said. "She'll turn the music way down sometimes, turn it way up, she'll just try and distract us, have skaters follow us yelling things.
"Usually when we get to that point we can do the program with music or without, it doesn't really matter."
Moir, a native of Ilderton, Ont., just down the road from London — Virtue's hometown — said he's attended both Knights games and concerts to take in the venue.
"It is a special venue and one of the [Ontario Hockey League] shrines and pride of the league so it's pretty interesting," Moir said. "I try to get in there and take in some of that energy especially when the Knights have been as hot as they've been."
London boasts the best record in the OHL.
The 23-year-old Virtue and Moir, 25, finished second at the Grand Prix Final last month behind American rivals and training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They returned home and spent a full five days away from the rink over Christmas — a rare break that they won't be able to afford next year heading into the Sochi Olympics.
"Really what it does is it gives our bodies a chance to rest, it also re-motivates us," Moir said. "Sometimes, going into the rink, it's like Groundhog Day, you feel like you're doing the same thing over and over and over again. So taking that break really helps."
The Grand Prix Final was held at the Iceberg Skating Palace — the figure skating venue for the Sochi Games.
"It was a spectacular venue, the rink is just stunning, you drive up and it really does look like an iceberg, just all lit up in turquoise and this beautiful glass," Virtue said. "It has a nice feel to it and we were going in expecting that because it's a brand new building and there is always something about an Olympic venue.
"But the ice was great, everyone was excited about that, even just sitting in the stands watching some of the other events. It just has a nice warm feeling to it."
The two have made some changes to their programs since their silver-medal performance last month, mostly in their short dance to The Waltz Goes On, a piece of music written by actor Anthony Hopkins.
"I think a lot of that was just simplifying, beginning of this season we decided that we come up with a story that was a little bit complex and I don't think it showed through," Moir said.
The two said the short dance has become a reflection of their own story as longtime partners.
"There's a history, there's the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs … I think we tried to showcase the reality of a relationship and truthfully it's just two people who enjoy each other and are in love and dancing to beautiful music," Virtue said. "We started with this really complicated storyline and it's hard to get it across in three minutes and include all of the technical elements as well.
"We wanted to simplify that and really just create some beautiful movement."