The 1970 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

Program from the 1970 Canadian Championships. Courtesy Sandra Bezic.

B.J. Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" topped the music charts, Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister and a head of lettuce cost a dime. The year was 1970, and from January 26 to February 1, Canada's best figure skaters flocked to the Royal Glenora Club and Edmonton Gardens in Edmonton, Alberta to compete in that year's Canadian Figure Skating Championships.


The last time the city had played host to the Championships in 1963, Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell had won their first Canadian title and Wendy Griner her last. The man largely behind the organization of the 1970 event was Edmonton's John Flint. The competition was broadcast on CTV with commentary by Johnny Esaw and Otto Jelinek, and featured a scores of skaters hailing from everywhere from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia. Let's take a look back at all of the stories and skaters that made this event so memorable!


The 1970 Canadian World team. Photos courtesy Mary Petrie McGillvray.

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS

Patrick McKilligan, Barbara Berezowski and Stan Bohonek. Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller.

The Granite Club's Stan Bohonek bested future well-known names in Canadian skating like Ted Barton and Frank Nowosad to take top honours in the novice men's event. Nowosad also finished off the podium in the novice pairs event with his partner Susie Zonda. The winners of that event were Daria Prychun and Roger Uuemae. Both Daria and Roger medalled in their respective junior singles events, won by the Granite Club's Julie Hall and the Cricket Club's Robert Rubens. A young Lynn Nightingale finished off the podium. Marian and Glen Moore of the North Shore Winter Club claimed the junior pairs title; Linda Roe and Kevin Cottam of the Victoria Figure Skating Club the junior dance. Shauna McCann and Robert Weiss delighted 'the home team' by besting thirteen other teams on their way to winning the novice dance title. The novice women's champion, young Rea Kraisosky, also represented the Royal Glenora Club.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION


Sonia Burling, Ron Shaver, Robert Rubens, Judy Williams, Debbi Jones and Michael Bradley and Mary Petrie

In contrast to the novice and junior pairs events which featured at least five entries each, the senior pairs event was a two-way battle between the previous year's silver and bronze medallists Mary Petrie and Bob McAvoy and Sandra and Val Bezic. 1969 Canadian Champions Anna Forder and Richard Stephens had announced their retirement the October prior. In a close contest, Sandra and Val claimed their first national title. After their win, their mother sat them down and said, "You've fulfilled every dream I ever had. If you do nothing more I'd still be happy." As we all know, it was just the beginning for the talented Bezic's.

The Bezic's enroute to the 1970 World Championships in YugoslaviaPhoto courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Cathy Lee Irwin, Paul Fisher, Sandra and Val Bezic, Diane Hall, Toller Cranston and Karen (Grobba) Cahill

The retirement of two time Canadian Champion Jay Humphry really opened the door for the Cricket Club's David McGillvray. Despite delivering strong free skating performances the previous two years at the Canadian Championships, David had consistently played second fiddle to Jay. He finally managed to climb to the top of the podium in 1970, besting Toller Cranston (who had just started training with Mrs. Ellen Burka the autumn prior), Hamilton's Ron Shaver and seven others.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION 


John MacWilliams, Alana Wilson, Hazel Pike and Phillip Boskill, David McGillvray, Barbara Walls and Bill Marchyshyn

In the months after the 1969 Canadian Championships, both Donna Taylor and Bruce Lennie and Mary Church and Tom Falls had announced their retirements. Reigning Canadian bronze medallists Hazel Pike and Phillip Boskill appeared the logical heirs to the throne... that was, until Mary Church decided she hadn't had enough of competition and returned with a new partner, David Sutton of the Guelph Figure Skating Club. Despite only sixth months of training with U.S. coach Ron Ludington, Mary and David took a narrow lead in the compulsories. Their free dance, a medley of jazz and ballet music, was enough to cinch them the title over Hazel and Phillip and Louise (Lind) and Barry Soper. Brenda Sandys and James Holden of the Granite Club and Patricia and Derry Allen of the Hollyburn Country Club rounded out the five team field.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION


Kenneth Polk, Karen Magnussen, Mary McCaffrey, Heather Fraser, Ruth Hutchinson and Brenda Sandys and James Holden

The close contest between Karen Magnussen and Linda Carbonetto at the previous year's Canadian Championships in Toronto had garnered strong television ratings. Though Linda had since turned professional, Karen still had a strong competitor in Cathy Lee Irwin, now skating out of the Cricket Club. The media played up the rivalry between the two young women, hoping to recreate the drama of the year prior and drive up television ratings and newspaper readership. The previous year, Cathy had actually led Karen after the first several figures. This time, Karen unanimously won the first figure on her way to an almost twenty one point lead. Her North Shore teammate Mary McCaffrey finished second and Cathy was fourth.

Urs Steinbrecher, Patricia and Derry Allen, Louise (Lind) and Barry Soper, Lynda Catrano, Paul Bonenfant and Mary Church and David Sutton.

In the warm-up for the free skate, Karen fell twice while attempting her most difficult jump, the double Axel. She went for it a third time and missed again. Unnerved, she then spotted an errant bobby pin on the ice and brought it to the judges attention. Last to skate and with enough time after the warm-up to shake off her warm-up jitters, she went out and skated a flawless free skate, replete with a textbook double Axel. Karen unanimously won the free skate and regained the national title she'd lost the year prior in stunning fashion. Cathy Lee Irwin moved up to second with an equally impressive effort, and the bronze went to Karen (Grobba) Cahill, a Canadian born Californian who trained at the Granite Club.

Toller Cranston and Sandra Bezic. Photo courtesy Cynthia Miller.

In his book "When Hell Freezes Over", Toller Cranston recalled Karen thusly: "Karen came out of nowhere to place third as a senior lady... In that era, a skater was required to pay her dues: develop a following gradually as the judges watched her climb the ladder. It was next to impossible to enter a competition unknown and leave with a medal. Karen managed to do so." Though Karen trained with Osborne Colson at the time of her 'come from nowhere' medal win in 1970, it was her prior coach Nancy Rush who introduced Toller to the magical world of strawberries... hence "Strawberry Ice".

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