The 1975 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy Bibliothèque de Québec.

"Please Mr. Postman" by The Carpenters topped the music charts, the game show"Wheel Of Fortune" made its television debut, newspapers teemed with stories on The Watergate Scandal. The year was 1975 and from January 29 to February 2, many of Canada's best figure skaters gathered in Québec City to compete in the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. It was the first time in history that the capital city of the province of Quebec had played host to the Canadian Championships. Twenty committees comprised of members from the province's twenty three skating clubs worked feverishly to make the event a success... with the help of a measly three hundred and seventy-eight dollar government grant.

In an attempt to improve transportation (an issue at the 1974 Canadian Championships in Moncton) a shuttle was arranged to transport skaters from the luxurious Hilton Hotel to the event venue, the Colisée de Québec on boulevard Wilfrid-Hamel. Blue and red hockey lines were painted over the ice to make the venue more aesthetically appealing for CTV's television coverage. A meeting between representatives of the CFSA and PSAC (Professional Skating Association of Canada) was even arranged, where coaches Sheldon Galbraith, Kerry Leitch, Bette Maden and Brenda Evelyn hoped to propose a (then controversial) merger. Pierrette Paquin Devine, one of the judges, was "personally proud to be the only judge in Quebec, the only French-Canadian judge." The local press latched onto the idea that Quebec skaters would be 'screwed' because they only had one judge on the panel. Considering the fact not a single skater from the province had made the national team five years earlier, the fact that ten skaters had qualified for the event through Divisionals was viewed as quite the accomplishment... and the event was expected to be both a success and a building block for the development of skating in the province of Quebec. Mother Nature had other plans.

Jean-Guy Rochon and Robert Gagnon discussing the event in front of a section of empty seats. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque de Québec.

On the first day of the competition, a massive snowstorm caused organizers to cancel the Opening Ceremonies and delay the event's start by fifteen minutes as many of the competitors were late arriving. They had been warned by the organizers to prepare to spend the night at the Colisée if they had to. Shelley MacLeod and Bob Knapp took the warning seriously, piling up the back of a bus from the hotel to the rink with pillows. The compulsory dances went on as scheduled, with only a handful of spectators in the seats.

The show went on despite the weather and at the conclusion of the event, some fourteen thousand, three hundred tickets had been sold. Unfortunately, these numbers just weren't enough... and the event ended with a fifteen thousand dollar deficit. Following the competition, Robert Gagnon, the chair of the event's organizing committee, told reporter Jacques Arteau, "It's no glory for Quebec. Okay, we have nothing to pay for our pockets, but this is the first deficit for the Canadian Figure Skating Association." Despite the competition's unprecedented financial failure, the competition itself was quite a thrilling one. Let's take a look back at how things played out!


Twelve teams vied for the novice ice dance title. Ultimately, it was Julie Hammonds and Bruce Carmichael of the Capilano Winter Club who edged Halifax's Marie McNeil and Rob McCall for the gold. A rule in place at the time that stated teams could only compete in novice for two seasons meant that all three of the medal winning teams would have to move up to junior the following year.
The novice pairs title was won unanimously by eleven year old Sherri Baier and fifteen year old Robin Cowan, who trained with Kerry Leitch at the Preston Figure Skating Club. Cowan and Baier had only been skating together for nine months, and had qualified for Canadians by winning the Central Divisional title in Brandon two weeks earlier. In second was a young team from Oshawa, Barbara Underhill and Jim Sorochan. Vancouver's Joyce Fordyce took the novice women's title, narrowly defeating Carolyn Skoczen of Windsor. Karen Alexander, who hailed from Montreal and was toted by the local press as a medal contender, placed a disappointing tenth.

Daniel Béland. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque de Québec.

Fourteen year old Daniel Béland, who trained at the CPA Palestre Nationale under Louise Seguin, took the gold in novice men. As the only skater from Quebec to win a gold medal at the event, his success was the talk of the town. The local press suggested that he was going places, and that he'd perhaps be better off going elsewhere to train... much like Toller Cranston had. Louise Seguin responded, "I know he has talent, I do not count the hours I can give him to help him. It is quite a problem for him to train and I would not like him to be forced to confide in professionals from another province simply because he can not get more ice hours here in Quebec... We have about thirty hours a week at our disposal in various centers in sports. But it will take more time and summer schools, to allow us to target the top three places in the juniors for the next Canadian Championships."

Despite a fall, Thornhill siblings Marie-Ellen and Bernard Souche skated well enough to take the junior pairs title. Judie Jeffcott and Keith Swindlehurst of the Upper Canada Figure Skating Club came out on top of eleven other teams in the junior dance event. In the junior men's and women's events, Jim Szabo and Gary Beacom and Heather Anderson and Julie Bowerman were first and second after the school figures. Most interestingly, the top two after the figures in both events settled for silver and bronze medals overall. The winners of the respective events, Kevin Hicks of Windsor and Camille Rebus of Edmonton, both weren't even in the top four in figures... certainly a testament to both of their free skating abilities.


Lynn Nightingale.  Photo courtesy Bibliothèque de Québec.

Nineteen year old Lynn Nightingale of the Minto Skating Club had claimed gold at the 1974 Canadians in Moncton and was considered a heavy favourite the senior women's event based on her strong sixth place finish at the 1974 World Championships in Munich. Prior to the compulsory figures, Lynn told a reporter from "La Nouvelliste", "The figures scared me to death, but I feel like I'm getting better in this area. I do not think I'm the best in the world in this discipline, but I have improved more than ever this year." Her improvements were noticeable to the judges, who placed her decisively first in that phase of the competition.

Lynn Nightingale. Photo courtesy Health and Welfare Canada.

Sixteen year old Kim Alletson, the previous year's junior Champion, skated brilliantly in the free skate... including a triple Salchow in her performance. Lynn unfortunately singled a triple Salchow attempt of her own and was disappointed with her performance, but it was enough for her to remain in top spot by almost eight points overall. The bronze medal went to Barbara Terpenning, the silver medallist in 1974.


The heavy favourites, five time Canadian Champions Sandra and Val Bezic, were forced to withdraw from the senior pairs event due to Sandra's leg injury. Sandra and Val's withdrawal left only four teams. Candy Jones of the Cricket Club and Don Fraser of the Richmond Hill Figure Skating Club took the gold by the narrowest of margins, defeating Kathy Hutchinson and Jamie McGrigor of the Preston Figure Skating Club by one ordinal placing and 0.31 of a point. 'Skating up' in seniors, junior champions Marie-Ellen and Bernard Souche lost out on the bronze to Christine McBeth and Dennis Johnston.

Barbara Berezowski and David Porter.  Photo courtesy Bibliothèque de Québec.

Ginnie Grieco and John Rait of Toronto were forced to withdraw from the senior ice dance event as Ginnie was recovering from a bout of mononucleosis. After the five remaining teams weaved their way through the Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, Kilian and the Blues OSP, Barbara Berezowski and David Porter of the Granite Club had a comfortable lead. Performing a confident free dance choreographed by Brian Foley, fifteen year old Barbara and twenty one year old David took the gold medal. After finishing second the previous three years at the Canadians to Louise and Barry Soper, who had retired, the victory was sweet. Shelley MacLeod and Bob Knapp earned a standing ovation for their free dance, but couldn't surpass Susan Carscallen and Eric Gillies for silver. Lorna Wighton and John Dowding and Debbie and Randy Burke rounded out the field. Marijane Stong, who coached Berezowski and Porter, told reporters, "Dancing draws the biggest crowds in Europe but until the last five years the skating system in Canada hasn't been geared to it. Now the trend is changing. There are a lot more good dancing teachers in Canada and it has become much more popular."


Toller Cranston in Quebec. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Four time and defending Canadian Champion, twenty five year old Toller Cranston, faced criticism from the local press for attending the Moscow Skate competition not long before the Canadian Championships. In a pre-Grand Prix era, some felt that attending autumn international competitions would cause skaters to peak at the wrong time. In an interview with a reporter from "La Presse", Toller responded, "I like to work harder at certain times, to be in excellent condition when the time is right. You can never be at the peak of your fitness 365 days a year. Off-peak periods can be beneficial anyway... People think the tension is gone, but it's not. I have to prove to myself that I am capable of delivering exceptional performances. I must prepare for this event in the same way that I would against the best opposition in the world. In fact, the tension should be stronger because people expect to see me win. "

Toller Cranston

Ron Shaver, who would have likely been Toller's chief competition, was unable to compete due to a ripped tendon. A top five finish at the 1974 World Championships in Munich pre-qualified him for the 1975 World team, allowing him the time to treat his injury at home. Toller didn't have his best showing in the school figures, but rebounded with a superb free skate to Prokofiev's "Cinderella", taking the gold with seven ordinal placings and 187.60 points to Robert Rubens' fourteen ordinal placings and 175.20 points. The bronze went to Stan Bohonek of the Granite Club.

Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine

Toller claimed that Ron's absence made defending his title difficult. He said, "In short, I was competing against myself." Following the competition, Toller wowed the crowd with an exhibition in the Parade Of Champions to Engelbert Humperdinck's "Too Beautiful To Last".

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":