#Unearthed: The Development Of Fancy Skating In Canada

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. This month's 'buried treasure' is an article that appeared in the "National Pictorial" back in 1922. Penned by John S. Maclean, this piece offers a snapshot in time of the figure skating community in Toronto during the early roaring twenties.


Figure skating, the most fascinating of winter sports, combines healthful exercise with exhilarating effects. Its advantages may be shared by young and middle-aged, and even the elderly, for, paradoxical as it may seem, the junior championship of the United States was won last year by a gentleman of sixty-five. It brings together the youth of both sexes under most wholesome conditions, and the joy of their first waltz on ice will linger long in the memory.

Figure skating requires a keen sense of balance, which, however, is readily learned, combined with a knowledge of prescribed poses which are plainly described in instruction books illustrated with photographs and diagrams. The skate is slightly curved on the bottom, so that only a small portion
of the blade rests on the ice at one time, and this enables the skater to perform those circling figures which are the admiration of spectators.

The blade of the figure skate is also slightly hollowed on the bottom and the ability to travel on one edge or the other is one of the tests of a good skater. While the fundamentals of figure skating are simple, the combinations of them are almost numberless. Upon the foundation of a few curves,
turns, spins and jumps can be built up a skating performance of the most amazing variety.

One authority has estimated that more than 8,000 skating figures can be based upon the combinations of the fundamentals. The fundamental or 'school figures' adopted by the International Skating Union and accepted as standard in all parts of the world are the result of years of comparison and competition among the best experts of Europe. They include the edges, or gliding along in gentle curves forward or backward, changes of edge, threes, loops, brackets, rockers, counters and combinations of these. Skaters cannot be regarded as skilled until they can execute the school figures. In the enthusiasm to learn waltzing on ice many neglect the school figures, and find that when they enter a competition they are 'nowhere'.

The Amateur Skating Association of Canada which governs figure skating in Canada, is affiliated
with the International Skating Union of Europe and is authorized to hold tests and competitions in accordance with International rules and regulations. The competitions include both the prescribed school figures and also free skating to music, which is marked according to the contents of the programme and to the manner of performing it. The Union has also set up four graded tests which serve to classify club members. The simplest is the fourth class which is frequently used as an entrance test by clubs. The first class is very difficult and few have even succeeded in fulfilling the requirements of it. The badges indicating that skaters have passed these tests are keenly sought, for the tests are accepted by all clubs in the Association to indicate the standing of the members.

The leading figure skating organizations of Canada are: The Minto Skating Club of Ottawa, The Winter Club of Montreal and The Toronto Skating Club. In Ottawa and Montreal climatic conditions make practicable the use of natural ice each season but the milder weather of Toronto has hitherto impeded the progress of figure skating in this city. The Toronto Skating Club has now completed the erection of an artificial ice rink on Dupont Street, where the sport can be enjoyed for five months each season under ideal conditions. At one end are the club quarters in a two-storey brick building, equipped with dressing rooms and all accessories, parlors, dining and reception rooms. The wall overlooking the ice is glass so that members who do not care to skate can watch in comfort those who do. A hanging gallery along one side gives a magnificent view of the evolutions on the ice below. Three times a week the rink will be thrown open to the public, and for them comfortable quarters are also provided overlooking the ice. The skating surface, 160 feet long by 75 feet wide, is greater than that of any rink in New York. A portion of it will be reserved for those of the public who wish to indulge in figure skating.

The Governors-General of Canada have always taken a great interest in figure skating and make it a
prominent and, in the evenings, a picturesque feature of entertainment at Government House, Ottawa. Among the members of Vice-Regal households who have become accomplished skaters was Lady Rachel Cavendish, daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, who attended the carnival of the Toronto Skating Club last season and afterwards joined the members in one of their band sessions.

"With a view to the encouragement and development of figure skating in Canada," so the deed of gift runs, the Earl and Countess of Minto presented a trophy known as The Minto Cup, open to members of any established Amateur Canadian Skating Club. The winner of it and the title last season was Mr.
Duncan McIntyre Hodgson of the Winter Club, Montreal. The Duke of Devonshire, with a view to "the encouragement and development of individual figure skating for ladies in Canada" presented a trophy known as The Devonshire Cup, open for competition by members of any established Amateur
Canadian Skating Club. Miss Jeanne Chevalier of the Winter Club, Montreal, is now the holder of that trophy with the title 'Lady Figure Skating Champion of Canada'.

Even more delightful than the skating of a single performer is the graceful work shown in the combined skating of lady and gentleman. To encourage pair skating the Earl and Countess of Minto offered The Minto Challenge Cups, and the lady and gentlemen winning them are known as the 'Pair Skating Champions of Canada'. That title is now held by Miss Beatrice MacDougall and Mr. Allan Howard, of the Winter Club, Montreal. A further development of combined work which adds the requirements of great precision in movements is skating in 'Fours'. For this Earl Grey offered The Grey Challenge Trophy and clubs desirous of competing for it must each enter one or more pair of individual skaters (one lady and one gentleman); one or more pair (or hand in hand) skaters and one or more fours (two ladies and two gentlemen) . Thus one club may enter four or more skaters. It was won last season by the following representatives of the Winter Club, Montreal: Miss Jeanne Chevalier, Miss Winnifred Tait, Mr. Allan Howard and Mr. Norman Gregory.

An international aspect has been given to competition by the Duke of Connaught who offered a trophy open to teams of four, consisting of two ladies and two gentlemen from any recognized skating club in Canada, 'or elsewhere'. The deed of gift specifies "the general style and pose approved by the International Skating Union." The New York Skating Club sent a team of four accomplished skaters last season to Ottawa to compete for the Connaught Cup and a most exciting contest took place in the presence of the Governor-General, the Duchess of Devonshire and many other distinguished spectators. The cup, which had previously been held by the Minto Skating Club of Ottawa, was won by the same representatives of the Winter Club, Montreal who had won the Grey Challenge Trophy. The New York Skating Club was second and the Minto Club, third.

These competitions, it will be noticed, have always been won by skaters from Montreal or Ottawa. The Toronto Skating Club, however, expects that it will be able, before long, to bring some of the trophies to this city. In its new quarters it will have the finest facilities on this continent for figure skating and it has resolved to give great encouragement to the junior members for among the rising generation must be sought the coming champions.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.