'A once-in-a-lifetime experience': All 7 teams return to crown Season 5 winners
Just three pairs were left standing at the beginning of the show in Week 7 of Battle of the Blades. The finale would see the winning duo declared — selected by audience vote. But before we could crown the pair, we'd get to see the return of all the amazing figure skaters and hockey players who launched this competition seven weeks ago.
And what a season it's been. "For Canada, it is a show that entertains by lifting people up, not pulling them down. Everyone in the family can watch and you get those 'warm fuzzies'," said head judge Kurt Browning.
The show got underway with an on-ice introduction of all seven teams, which did produce those "warm fuzzies" Browning described.
We saw a tribute to the movie Frozen II performed by Kaitlyn Weaver, Violetta Afanasieva and Andrew Poje, as well as solo numbers by Browning and Elladj Baldé, entertained the crowd. A group performance featuring the top three teams — Ekaterina Gordeeva and Bruno Gervais, Natalie Spooner and Andrew Poje, and Kaitlyn Weaver and Sheldon Kennedy — rounded out the skating.
Was it worth it?
For the competing pairs, none of it was easy, but was it worth it? "Yes, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me," said Vanessa James. "I also made connections with other people that I never would have had the chance to without the show. Other skaters like Kaitlyn Weaver and Amanda Evora who I have seen around the rink for years without really having time to get to know them."
"Are you kidding me? Yes, it was way beyond worth it," said Weaver.
Season 4 Battle of the Blades champion Amanda Evora explained it this way, "It was absolutely worth it! I literally begged to be back on the show; I believe in it so much, especially being able to give to the charities."
As teams were eliminated along the way, the competition became more fierce, and the work that much harder. "It was a tremendous experience and we pushed it to the limit," said Gervais. That limit for Gervais included a tear to his right bicep which had him pushing through the pain during his penultimate show's skates with partner Gordeeva. "To finally get to the show day, it lifts you up with all that energy," continued Gervais.
Finding new strengths
As the season progressed, pairs grew stronger and it became difficult to distinguish the strengths of one team from the next. "Brian McGrattan told me that this show made him a better skater, a better hockey player," said Browning. "I always thought this show opened up hidden skating talents for the players – acting talents too!"
There was growth but there were also memories.
For P.J. Stock, "Violetta dancing by herself during the commercial break after we got eliminated and getting the crowd all fired up," he said with a smile. Violetta Afanasieva offered, "making new friends and getting to hang out with old ones. Showing Canada all of the charities that are close to our hearts."
Announcing a winner
At the end of the day, this was still a competition and what would it mean to win? "I have already won," said Weaver, "but it would be wonderful to be able to donate $100,000 to the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities."
Mission accomplished as Weaver and Kennedy were crowned the winners of Battle of the Blades Season 5. The pair will dedicate their combined winnings to their shared charity.
Runners-up Spooner and Poje will split a donation of $35,000 to their charities Fast and Female and Right to Play.
"I honestly feel more like myself in hockey skates than figure skates," said four-time World Champion and head judge Browning. "This show has allowed me to meet and respect many hockey players. The mutual respect between the two sports is, for me, my favourite dividend of Battle of the Blades."