The Rise And Fall Of The Canadian Skater

It is sometimes difficult to step back and remember a time when information wasn't right at our fingertips. Whether we want to know what music a skater just performed to, the results of an international competition or who a skater's coach is, we've got peers on Facebook and Twitter, heaps of great websites and blogs to read and a bevy of talented sports journalists that can help answer our questions. In the days before social media, much of this information was gleaned from magazines... and in Canada, no true skating fan would have been without a subscription to the "Canadian Skater".

In 1967, the CFSA formed its first Public Relations Committee, having realized the importance of communicating information both to the media and internally to its clubs and members. The first person to join the committee was a British Columbian woman named Anetta Pagliaro. Anetta had started the B.C. section's publication "Thin Ice" less than a decade earlier and grown it from a one-page newsletter to a small magazine. She also produced the first skater biographical sheets issued to the media and developed a system to run press rooms at competitions. As the Public Relations Committee chair, Anetta's first recommendation was for the CFSA to print a quarterly magazine, which would be mailed to all clubs free of charge as part of a pilot program. The idea had been tossed around previously, but no one had the gumption to take it on. There had also been skepticism as to whether or not some clubs would have much use for a magazine, and some opposition regarding the cost of printing and distributing it.

Prior to 1967, the USFSA's magazine "Skating" had included Canadian test records and results free of charge. Theresa Weld Blanchard, the editor, had more than once encouraged the CFSA to take more advantage of the opportunity. A letter to the CFSA's board from the managers of "Skating" in 1968 that stated Canadian test results would only be published at fifty dollars a page going forward was perhaps the impetus needed for the "Canadian Skater" to proceed. Seventy-five thousand copies of its first eight page tabloid style issue were printed in December of 1968. Though the first issue was well received, George Blundun - the CFSA's Past President at the time - expressed concern about the cost, which exceeded two thousand dollars. A motion was put forward to discontinue the magazine, which was defeated.

In its first few years, the "Canadian Skater" featured everything from skater interviews to history, competition results and educational information for coaches. The highlight of the very first issue was an amusing article by Dick Button about what it is like to be a skating commentator called "Don't get mad at me, folks". There was a preview of the 1972 World Championships in Calgary and the first North American interview with the ISU's new President Jacques Favart. In 1973, an issue containing full coverage of the World Championships was published just three days after Karen Magnussen struck gold. A translation service was hired so that Francophone readers in Quebec and New Brunswick would be able to enjoy a French version of the magazine. Though there were criticisms that some of the articles in the magazine were gossipy in tone and further motions to discontinue the magazine because of cost, it survived the seventies relatively unscathed.

Anetta Pagliaro left the magazine in 1973, declining an offer to move to Ottawa when the CFSA centralized in the Canadian capital. Mary Gallant was chosen as the magazine's new editor, and her first order of business was to revamp the format of the magazine, adding more features. In 1974, the "Canadian Skater" was named the "Sport Magazine Of The Year" by the Sports Federation of Canada. Lynda Stearns took over from Mary Gallant in 1976, making the magazine "a glossy". Teresa Moore, the CFSA's long-time Public Relations maven, took over in the late seventies.

By the early eighties, criticisms about the amount of money being syphoned into the magazine's production had increased significantly. There were many naysayers who argued that the bulk of potential readers were recreational skaters and clubs who didn't relate or have interest in coverage of elite level skating. Advertising income suffered as the number of subscribers dropped at the same time the frequency of the magazine's printing was increased to six issues per year. The CFSA tried offering a special membership fee of thirty dollars, which included subscription to the magazine, and updating the magazine with several 'modern' looks to entice readers. All of these strategies failed, and in 1984, the CFSA's board voted to discontinue the magazine. CFSA President Barbara Ryan later recalled, "The 'Canadian Skater' was expensive. It cost us thousands of dollars, but it was money well spent. Its very quality and elegant, beautiful presentation made people assume that the Association that produced it was also of that same quality. Sometimes we were, sometimes we weren't, but it always gave that image."

In the years that followed, the CFSA partnered with National All Sport Promotions and the St. Clair Group to produce annual magazines called "Canadian Figure Skating Magazine" and "Today's Skater". Both magazines had more of a marketing tone than the "The Canadian Skater", and largely sat around the offices of skating club under piles of records and cassettes. Later, a paper newsletter called "Keeping In Touch" was produced. For whatever reason, none of these successors had the same appeal as the "Canadian Skater".

If you found this blog on the "Canadian Skater" interesting and want to learn more about skating magazines, I know you will love the new book "A Bibliography of Figure Skating". Not only does it have a comprehensive catalogue of current and past skating periodicals, but there are pages upon pages of listings of non-fiction skating books, tips on how to track down hard-to-find skating literature and much more. You can order your copy today in Kindle E-Book, paperback and hard cover editions on Amazon.

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 figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":