Battle of the Blades, The
In April 2009, sports agent Kevin Albrecht and skater/choreographer Sandra Bezic figured that the success of Dancing With the Stars could mean that a similar program set on the ice rather than the dance floor might work equally well. The show they devised was Battle of the Blades, in which eight figure skaters would be teamed with eight hockey players, to dance to choreography by a star-studded group of ice dancing specialists.
Viewers would cast their votes by phone, email or text, and each week the judges would determine which of the two pairs receiving the fewest votes would be eliminated, and which would return the following week.
The skaters to be featured were Shae-Lynn Bourne, Isabelle Brasseur, Marie-
France Dubreil, Jodeyne Higgins, Christine Hough-Sweeney, Kristina Lenko, Jamie Salé and Babara Underhill. Their partners were Glenn Anderson, Tie Domi, Ron Duguay, Ken Daneyko, Bob Probert, Stéphane Richer, Craig Simpson and Claude Lemieux.
The series debuted on the CBC on October 4th 2009 at 8pm. It was hosted by
Ron MacLean and Kurt Browning. Sandra Bezic chaired the judging panel; the other permanent judge was Olympic gold medallist Dick Button, and among the guest judges were Kristi Yamaguchi, Don Cherry and Doug Gilmore.
Executive Producers were John Brunton, Barbara Bowlby and Kevin Albrecht, and the series was produced by Insight Productions in association with CBC Television.
Christine Hough Sweeney
On November 18th, after the first season had concluded four days earlier with Jamie Salé and Craig Simpson being voted the winners, the CBC announced that it had placed an order with Insight Productions for a further series of fourteen episodes.
Battle of the Blades returned in September 2010. The new series featured hockey players Patrice Brisbois, Valeri Bure, Kelly Chase, Russ Courtnall, Theo Fleury, Georges Laraque and Todd Warriner.
The skaters were Violetta Afansieva, Shae-Lynn Bourne, Isabel Brasseur, Ekaterina Gordeeva, Christine Hough-Sweeney, Kyoko Ina and Jamie Salé.
The series concluded on November 22nd 2010. In February 2011, CBC announced that a new Battle of the Blades series would be part of their 2011-2012 schedule and on June 8th it was reported that the series would launch its new season on Sunday September 18th at 8 pm.
A few weeks before the third season was due to start, the shock news came that one of the planned cast, Wade Belak, had died. But the producers and other participants felt that Wade would want the show to go on, and the hockey players line-up was Bryan Berard, Brad May, Boyd Devereaux. Curtis Leschyshyn, Carl Hulse - and female hockey star Tessa Bonhomme. Russ Courtnall as later announced as replacing Wade Belak.
The skating stars were David Pelletier, Elena Berezhnaya, Tanith Belbin, Marie-France Dubreuil, Anabelle Langlois, Violetta Afanasieva, Kim Navarro and Marcy Hinzmann-Harris.
Sandra Bezic and Jeremy Roenick returned as judges, along with hosts Ron MacLean and Kurt Browning.
On April 19th 2012 the CBC announced that, because of cuts to their funding that had been announced in the recent Federal Budget, Battle of the Blades would go on hiatus for at least a year, and would not be part of the CBC's 2012-13 season schedule.
At the CBC's announcement of their fall 2012 schedule, programming exec vp Kirstine Stewart reaffirmed that Battle of the Blades was only on hiatus, and that the CBC had every intention of bringing it back at the earliest opportunity commensurate with budget restrictions.
On April 3rd 2013 the CBC announced that Battle of the Blades would return to the CBC schedule during the 2013-14 season, with Ron MacLean and Kurt Browning continuing their roles as hosts.
On September 13th 2013 it was announced that the new season would premiere on Sunday September 22nd, with host Ron MacLean and a new judging panel featuring four-time World and Canadian Champion Kurt Browning, Olympic and World Champion pairs figure skater and Battle of the Blades season one champion Jamie Salé, and season two cast member and Hockey Night in Canada panelist P.J. Stock. Co-creator Sandra Bezic, the head judge for the first three seasons of the show, would move into an executive producer role and would act as a mentor to the eight pairs. On September 15th, former NHL players Scott Thornton and Mike Krushelnyski were named as two of the competitors who would participate in the new series.
In 2014 the CBC announced that Battle of the Blades would be "put on hiatus due to budget cuts". Five years later, on April 16th 2019, the CBC announced the return of the series for Season 5, with 8 one-hour episodes, again produced by Insight Productions.
At its Upfront presentation on May 29th 2019, the CBC announced at that Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean would be returning to his role as host for the upcoming season of Battles of the Blades, whch would consist of one 2-hour and six one-hour episodes, with Kurt Browning also joining the series once again, as head judge. Canadian Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir would be rink-side with Kurt as guest judges for select episodes. Also announced were four skaters confirmed to compete in the new iteration of the hugely popular format, including hockey players Sheldon Kennedy and Natalie Spooner, and figure skaters Vanessa James and Violetta Afanasieva. In a first for the series, James would participate in the competition while continuing her active pursuit of international titles.
Season 5 of Battle of the Blades began on September 19th 2019, and the series concluded on October 31st, with Sheldon Kennedy and his partner Kaitlyn Weaver winning the final Battle, and Weaver's professional ice dance partner Natalie Spooner coming second with her hockey partner Andrew Poje.
On May 27th 2020 the CBC announced that Battle of the Blades would be returning to the network schedule for Season Six in the fall, despite the advent of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus.
However, in September 2020 it was announced that Insight Producations had "temporarily halted production on Battle of the Blades after a member of the production team tested positive for COVID-19." All training and pre-production on the upcoming season ceased, "to ensure the health and safety of the cast and crew". As a result, CBC postponed the planned Oct. 15 live premiere of Season 6 of the competition series.
Then, on Octonber 15th, the CBC announced that the two-hour live debut of the new series had been rescheduled for October 22nd. The producers said that the case of Covid-19 among the production team had been isolated, and they were confident that it was safe to proceed. Singer, TV host and actress Keshia Cante was set to join sportscaster Ron MacLean to host the sixth season.
Written by Pip Wedge - September, 2013
Updated June 2019