By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Later this year, the Oshawa Skating Club will celebrate 80 years of a rich history that has seen thousands of young skaters learn the craft on a local level.
Mandy Klock, event coordinator for the club, says membership levels have increased significantly over the past decade due to improvements made to the CanSkate program.
Oshawa’s CanSkate programs regularly see 65 participants on the ice at a time.
“When my daughter started CanSkate, there were probably 10 skaters on the ice, so it wasn’t a very strong program,” she says.
As the City of Oshawa also offers youth skating programs, Klock says the skating club’s program has to be very “dynamic.”
“Ours is more expensive, of course, because our coaches are registered with the National Coaching Certification Program,” Klock explains, adding that while she believes the city’s programs are high quality, there “are slight differences in our overhead costs in comparison to what the city would pay.”
The club’s ranks include skaters who compete mostly in club-level, regional and provincial competitions, and a handful of competitive skaters, who are looking to excel at a higher level, such as making the Canadian Olympic team.
Klock, who has served on the club’s executive for 12 years, admits there had been some tumultuous times in the past but feels they are now in a very strong position.
“We go through peaks and valleys for sure, just as anybody does, but as our CanSkate program has grown the rest of our programs have as well.”
Acknowledging that figure skating can be costly to participate in, Klock is proud the club has not raised it member fees for the past three years.
“It has been very impressive. It makes us feel good that we’ve been able to do that and stay afloat.”
In recognition of its 80th anniversary, the club will be hosting the Skating Through The Decades Ice Show April 7 at the Tribute Communities Centre.
According to Klock, the event will pay homage to cultural trends and significant events from the past eight decades.
“It’s going to be bigger than anything we’ve ever done,” she said.
Olympic medal-winning skaters Jeffrey Buttle and Elvis Stojko will be participating in the event, something Klock believes will be very special for club members.
“It will be a very fun event for them, because how many skaters can say they are in an ice show with Elvis Stojko and Jeffrey Buttle. That in itself is a big deal.”
Oshawa skaters registered for the show will also have an opportunity to have dinner with the pair.
“One thing I’ve found about successful, famous figure skaters is they want to encourage kids into skating and encourage kids into enjoying and loving the sport because they do.”
With the tagline “A History of Success, A Future of Excellence,” Klock says the event will be a celebration of the club’s traditions and a showcase for its current achievements.
Skating Through The Decades will also feature numerous displays of collectibles from the club’s history, such as historical programs and newspaper articles from years past.
Unfortunately, when the North Oshawa Arena was demolished in the 1990s due to safety concerns, a large amount of the club’s past went with it.
However, Klock says with the help of the Oshawa Public Library and Oshawa Museum they have been able to replenish some of that lost history.
Barbara Underhill, also a Canadian Olympian and former member of the Oshawa Skating Club, has also provided some items for display her personal accumulation.
Underhill, along with Don Jackson, are likely recognized as the two most successful alumni of the club and will serve as the hosts of Skating Through The Decades.
Through his career, Jackson won numerous championships, an Olympic bronze medal in 1960, and became the first skater to perform a triple Lutz jump in competition at the 1962 World Figure Skating Championships. Underhill, along with her partner Paul Martini, captured several Canadian championships and participated in the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games.
Jackson told The Oshawa Express when he joined the local club in 1948, it was one of the largest in Canada.
After the Oshawa Arena burned down in 1953 he would move onto to other areas, but Jackson says the Oshawa Skating Club played a “significant role” in his development, and later success as a figure skater.
The club has also played a large role in bringing the Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships, set for Feb. 23 to 25, to the city.
Klock says this will be an opportunity to showcase Oshawa to the national skating community and perhaps attract other events in the future.
For more information on the Oshawa Skating Club, visit oshawaskating.com/
Tickets for Skating Through The Decades can be purchased at the Tribute Communities Centre box office, online at tributecommunitiescentre.com or by calling 1-877-436-8811.