Kicking Some Ice

Synchronized skating team includes Saco residents and John Niles Merrill

By Garrick Hoffman, Staff Writer

Maine’s only adult synchronized skating team, The DownEasters. From left to right is Clelia Sigaud (Saco), Lynne Cote (Saco), Nina Sylvia (West Bath), MinAh Kim (South Korea/Bates College), Sue Gagne- Rousseau (Lewiston), Sarah Holmes (Cumberland), John Niles Merrill, coach and skater (Augusta), Chelsea Ferk (Saco), Sarah Lawsure (Scarborough), Heidi Coffin, team manager and skater (Brunswick), Suzanne Gagne (Harpswell) and Maureen Matatall (Naples). Not pictured is Elaine Letourneau (Saco). (Courtesy Heidi Coffin) SACO – After just one competitive season, Maine’s only adult synchronized skating team, the DownEasters, has returned home with two gold medals and a bronze medal.

Composed of 11 skaters – including four from Saco – and led by Coach John Niles Merrill, the DownEasters performed in four competitions and traveled as far as Hershey, Pennsylvania – where the U.S. Figure Skating Eastern Synchronized Skating Championships took place – to compete. Merrill said the 11 skaters range from ages 19 to 63, with a median age of 43.

Clelia Sigaud, 27, of Saco is a skater for the DownEasters and has been skating since she was 13. Sigaud said she’d like to see the DownEasters expand by splitting into more competitive divisions and recruiting more skaters, saying it would be “a winwin for everyone.” (Garrick Hoffman photo) The skaters from Saco include Clelia Sigaud, Chelsea Ferk, Lynne Cote and Elaine Letourneau.

The DownEasters practice one day a week at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn because of the skaters’ tight schedules and diverse, spread-out living locations, Merrill said.

“This goes against even my better judgment,” Merrill said with a laugh, “but it has worked. To look at it on paper, or when they said it to me last year, I said we can’t do this. You’ve got to skate twice a week.”

DownEasters skaters come from towns such as Naples, Brunswick and Augusta, where Merrill lives. One skater comes from New Hampshire.

Click here to read the rest of the article



Betty Barnes – Oldest Living Ice Capades Alumni

Concord Township woman heads to Ice Capades reunion as oldest living member

By Matt Skrajner, The News-Herald, Posted: 06/08/15, 3:38 PM EDT | Updated: on 06/09/2015

When Concord Township’s Betty Barnes travels to Las Vegas later this month, she’ll be able to relive her time with one of the most popular traveling shows of the past century.

Barnes, 94, is the oldest living member of the Ice Capades and is heading out West to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee for the 75th anniversary of the Ice Capades from June 21 to 24 at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

“It was a good way to see the country and I enjoyed it,” Barnes said.

Growing up in Euclid, Barnes danced ballet and eventually fell in love with ice skating.

“Girls my age were all mesmerized by it,” she said.

From 1942 to 1953, with a short break for the birth of her first child, Barnes traveled across the country and even to England as part of the Ice Capades. The show focused on ice skating, but also occasionally featured comedians, acrobats and jugglers.

Over the years, famous skaters including Olympic gold-medalists Dorothy Hamill and Scott Hamilton were members of the cast.

The performance was most successful from the 1940s to the 1980s, when popularity finally began to fade. The company eventually went out of business in the mid-1990s.

Barnes recalled practicing for an upcoming show in a parking lot outside of an arena in California. The group was preparing for a military-themed musical number and an actual Marine sergeant was brought in to help with the performance.

As one might expect, the sergeant was a bit harsh on the skaters and demanded perfection. Once the show started, the sergeant grabbed a front row seat.

“Every girl that saw him said he was crying,” she said. “It was funny because he was so tough in the practice.”

Barnes’s son, Edwin Loeb, said about 600 people who worked on the show in different capacities are set to make the reunion in Las Vegas. He knows of two others who are in their 90s who will be attending, but that his mother is the oldest.

“The Ice Capades was a big and glamorous thing back then,” said Loeb, a Willoughby resident. “They’re going to be the belles of the ball.”

The celebration also will be a family reunion of sorts, as Barnes’ two other children and grandchildren who live out of state will be meeting up in Las Vegas as well.

“We’ll definitely take her to the craps table,” Loeb said, describing his mother as 94 going on 40.

After her years traveling with the Ice Capades, Barnes settled in Timberlake Village and instructed young ice skaters at C.E. Orr Ice Arena in Euclid for 20 years.

“When I started, there wasn’t a roof,” Barnes said.

At first Barnes was hesitant about going to the reunion, but she was told this could be the last Ice Capades reunion.   “I decided it would be fun to try to meet up with some people I knew from back then.”


Bob Turk

February 1, 2017 marked the date that a big spotlight went out we lost our beloved Bob Turk.    Even though he was bigger than life, he was a quiet man and heard that he laid down for a nap and quietly and peacefully went to sleep.   At Bob’s request, he did not want a funeral and it is unknown at the present time whether there will be a memorial service.

Over 2 year’s ago, Bob wrote a love letter to his ‘kids’ on Facebook.   Most of you have already seen it, but just in case you missed it, here it is again.  It tells how much he loved us and how we impacted his life.   He impacted ours as well and we will all remember what he did for us.  It has been left it exactly as he wrote it as it was written as if he was having a conversation with each one of us.  Click here to read his letter.  Bob Turk love letter

Here’s a speech by Bob at the 2010 Ice Capades reunion, in which he pays tribute to fellow icon, Rita Palmer, mother of FB friend Dianne Palmer Walker.  Click here to view it.

Here’s a tribute Video to Bob, showing him accepting his election into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, class of 2010!  Click here to view it.

Our Alumni in the News

A Little Look at Lifts

Did you know that our very own Dench and Stewart helped to create the lifts that we see today.  Read on.

Although we have certainly explored a wide range of topics in figure skating history to this point, it seems like pairs skating often gets the short end of the stick. I wanted to rectify that today by taking a little look into the early history of lifts in pairs skating.

In his 1959 book “Ice-Skating: A History”, figure skating historian Nigel Brown noted that “pair-skating which had been originally recognized by the International Skating Union in 1908 when the first World Championships in that event was staged in St. Petersburg, continued to be practiced for the next fifteen years along the classic lines of its inception. Three schools of influence combined in designing the classic expression of pair-skating at the beginning of the century. The English school which very early furnished world champions in this branch emphasized a pleasing choreographic structure of programme executed with a certain technical precision. The Viennese school which introduced spirals and spins into pair programmes concentrated on dance steps, speedily and gracefully executed. The German school whose representatives captured the first world pair title gave full expression to the movement of limbs producing a theatrical effect.” The introductions of ‘field figures’ (each partner performing the same school figures far apart) and shadow skating by T.D. and Mildred Richardson, were both first met with opposition but became important components of early pairs skating programs. Early forays in adding lifts to programs by The Brunet’s and Lily Scholz and Otto Kaiser (a weightlifter) were met with the same controversy shadow skating once received. Brown noted that “lifts were received with mixed feelings and regarded with distaste by many. Some looked upon lifts as acrobatics which did not belong to pure skating. There certainly was a crudity about them when first introduced, but no medium could be more adapted for expressing aerial grace than skating.”
1936 Olympian Rosemarie Stewart and her husband Robert Dench, who emigrated from Great Britain to California in 1940 and became stars of the Ice Capades, penned a 1943 book called “Pair Skating And Dancing On Ice”. It is one of the earliest books that offers any sort of concise glimpse into which elements pairs teams were including in their programs during this era. Stewart and Dench offer a clear distinction between lifts and carries: “For a lift, the man raises his partner from the ice, turning her with a continuous movement in the air, and places her back on the ice; for a carry, he picks up his partner from the ice and holds her in the air as long as he wishes before setting her down. The former is a continuous movement; the latter is sustained… Carries are not allowed in competition, as they are considered ‘strong-man stuff.’ You should therefore reserve them for exhibitions, and only use lifts in your competitive program.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.


Ice Capades – The Blade

December 18, 2016

The Jacqueline du Bief Story


“One does not take up skating; skating just takes up you.” – Jacqueline du Bief, March 23, 1954

Back in the fourth installment of “The Other World Champions” series here on the blog, we oh so briefly explored the story of one of the most enigmatic skaters to capture the world’s attention during her era. For a long time I have wanted to write at length about Jacqueline du Bief’s important contribution to the skating world… but there have been a couple of roadblocks. There’s not a wealth a video footage of her publicly available and much of the source material written about her career isn’t in the English language. That said, with a translated copy of her 1956 autobiography in hand, a wealth of English sources and what French sources I could roughly translate, I put my nose to the grindstone and was able to come up with this biographical sketch which I hope will shed some new light on just how big a deal this French star really was.

Born December 4, 1930 in Paris, France, du Bief started skating at the age of four with her older sister Raymonde at the Molitor Rink and became immediately hooked. Both sisters actually studied ballet prior to receiving high level instruction in skating, which was a complete juxtaposition to how most skaters of the era would have approached the sport in their youths. When she started taking lessons with Lucien Lemercier, she was a quick learner and by nine years of age, she was already making quite an impression. One of the first mentions of du Bief wowing crowds was around this time. The August 21, 1939 issue of the French language newspaper “Le Figaro” cites her as a star of Lè bal des Petits Lits Blancs in Cannes, an opulent summer festival where she demonstrated her skating prowess alongside other performers such as soprano Lily Pons, ballet dancer Serge Lifar and le ballet de l’Opéra-Comique.

After winning the French junior title – her first competition – du Bief moved into the senior ranks. In “Thin Ice”, she explained that in her first senior competition “the day began with a heavy air raid and I arrived at the rink with a strange feeling of discomfort and fatigue… When my turn came, I presented myself without enthusiasm and I executed a programme in which the greatest difficulties consisted of one ‘Lutz’, 3 consecutive loop jumps on the same foot, and a long spin of four turns. There were six of us and I got fourth place, but we had not left the dressing-room before the siren went, announcing another aid raid. We remained for two hours in the underground shelters of the building. There, stretched on a bench, and rolled in a blanket, I became feverish and red spots broke out over my face. When we at length got back home, my mother said to me: ‘Tomorrow I will buy you a book and some crayons, and you’ll have to stay in bed – you’ve got measles.'”

When Paris fell to the Nazis on June 14, 1940, the trajectory of du Bief’s budding career was affected greatly. During the German occupation, power plants were taken over and ice rinks were closed. With no artificial ice to be heard of, du Bief returned to where she started, practicing wherever the nearest lake froze over once she recovered from her illness. After the Liberation Of Paris in August 1944, rinks reopened and du Bief returned, training at Boulogne Billancourt and the Molitor and Rue Nesnil ice rinks with coach Jacqueline Vaudecrane.

Click here to read the complete article

October 21, 2016

Olympic Skater Scott Hamilton Facing Third Brain Tumor Diagnosis: ‘I Choose to Celebrate Life’

By Jeff Nelson@nelson_jeff,

Scott Hamilton is facing another health scare.

scott-hamiltonEarlier this year, the Olympic figure skater received a brain tumor diagnosis for what will be the third time. The diagnosis — a benign pituitary tumor — comes after Hamilton, 58, overcame testicular cancer in 1997 and battled two previous brain tumors in 2004 and 2010.

To view the accompanying video and the rest of the article, click here

“I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness,” the Stars on Ice cofounder tells PEOPLE exclusively. “It’s six years later, and it decided that it wanted an encore.”

Hamilton learned of the tumor at a routine check-up and is currently exploring all his treatment options before symptoms begin presenting.

“I’ll tell anybody that will listen: If you’re ever facing anything, get as many diagnoses as you possibly can,” he says. “The more you truly understand what you’re up against, the better decision you’re going to make.”

Since being diagnosed, Hamilton has stayed strong for his wife Tracie, 46, and his four kids: biological sons Aidan, 12, and Maxx, 8; and Jean Paul, 15, and Evelyne, 13, whom they adopted from Haiti in 2014.

“When this one came back, six years ago, I told Tracie — she was devastated. This time, I go, ‘Well, here we go again.’ She’s like, ‘Really, it’s back? … Okay, we’ll just deal with it.’ And that was it,” says Hamilton. “My 12-year-old son … came to me, and he said, ‘Is your brain tumor back?’ And I go, ‘Yeah, it is! And here we go again.’ So I set the tone.”

As he consults with specialists around the country, Hamilton is hopeful and relying on his Christian faith.

“I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest imagination; I would never even think to dream the stuff that I’ve been able to do,” he says. “Last round, in 2010, I told Tracie, ‘God doesn’t owe me a day. I’m good. Whatever’s next is next.’ The blessings keep coming because we allow them and we ask for them.”

In addition to sharing his harrowing health journey over the years, Hamilton — who lost his mother to cancer — has inspired thousands with his motivational speaking engagements and pushed for cancer research, education and survivorship with this Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation.

Ageless Protopopovs ask: ‘Where is the love?’

Posted 9/12/16 by Sarah. S Brannen, special to icenetwork

Two-time Olympic gold medalists offer critique of modern pairs rules


Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov are in their 60th year skating together. -Sherry Gao

When Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov won their second Olympic gold medals in 1968, they were already among the oldest figure skating champions in history. Forty-eight years later, they still skate every day, but they only perform in public once a year: at “An Evening with Champions” at Harvard University. On Sept. 9 and 10, they skated in the show for the 24th time.

At the ages of 80 and 84, the Protopopovs take their annual appearance very seriously, spending a good while warming up and keeping to themselves for a long time before their appearance. They traditionally open the second half of the show, on a perfectly clean sheet of ice. Last weekend, wearing royal blue costumes, they skated to a waltz they have used before called “Fascination.” Of course, the audience was spellbound.

“An Evening with Champions” benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Ludmila spoke with feeling about the cause.

“From other side, skating helps not just the people who see us but us also, because we keep our health in our hands,” she said.

The show is organized entirely by Harvard students, none of whom were born the first time the Protopopovs skated in the production in 1979. Indeed, none of the other skaters in this year’s show were born then, either. Nevertheless, current skaters appear to be universally inspired by the venerable team.

“The Protopopovs are such icons for the sport,” said two-time U.S. champion Marissa Castelli, who has skated in “An Evening with Champions” with the Protopopovs many times. “They have so much love for figure skating that they keep on going. Their drive inspires all of us to push our own skating to our limits. Every time in the past when I was with the Protopopovs at ‘An Evening with Champions,’ they were always so kind and welcoming, and really embraced the show’s spirit.”

To read the complete article, click here

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The Cold War On Ice: Peggy Fleming Visits The Soviet Union

MUST READ: The Cold War On Ice: Peggy Fleming Visits The Soviet Union. During The Cold War, 1968 Olympic Gold Medallist Peggy Fleming went behind The Iron Curtain to film a history making television special.


“We didn’t have a single appointment. We had the names of people we should see and the structure of the organization from our research. They knew of Peggy, and their interest in sports is great. They seemed to be interested in the show from the moment we first started talking,” said Dick Foster, the producer of “Peggy Fleming Visits The Soviet Union”, a revolutionary 1973 Bell System Family Theatre production that united for the first time skaters from the Soviet Union and the United States… in the middle of The Cold War.

Foster was referring to an initial meeting between himself, executive Bob Banner and members of the State Committee of The USSR Council Of Ministers For Television And Radio in November 1972. The production would mark the very first time an American film crew ever worked in the Soviet Union. The next spring, Banner, Foster and Fleming returned to Moscow and within a week got all the permission they needed. They were ready to film… and film they did. With Fleming, who was treated like a movie star, they shot sixty thousand feet of tape in twenty seven hours, contending with an extreme language barrier. Much of the communication was done in German, as crew members on both sides didn’t know each other’s language and had to find common ground. Another challenge were the extreme temperatures in the many skating scenes filmed outdoors. The average temperature was thirteen below, with one scene on The Bay Of Finland filmed in seventeen below weather with harsh winds. The July 13, 1973 issue of the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” noted that during filming, “Miss Fleming dropped her heavy overcoat, rose up on the toes of her skates and suddenly let out a piercing scream as the bitter cold closed in on her. A second or two later, however, she was gliding, twirling and leaping across the smile, smiling a bright defiance to the elements.”

The August 30, 1974 edition of “The Dispatch” noted the historical significance of this production and its countless ‘firsts’:

– the first co-production of an entertainment special by an American company and the USSR.
– the first filming of an American star performing in the Moscow Circus and with the Moscow Ice Ballet
– the first filming of the Kirov Ballet for United States television.
– the first time American and Soviet cameramen worked jointly on an entertainment production.
– the first filming for the United States TV of the Moscow Puppet Theatre.
– the first filming in a USSR recording studio.
– the first United States TV production ever scored in the USSR under the direction of an American conductor and using the Soviet Television and Radio Symphony Orchestra.
– the first such TV special to be telecast simultaneously in both the United States and the USSR (same day and local time.)
– the first TV filming within the Palace of Catherine the Great.
– the first filming of a musical production number on the frozen Bay of Finland.
– the first filming of the original Andreev Balalaika Orchestra for Western television.
– The first time Soviets have scheduled special performances for the exclusive purpose of filming portions of this special.

The production opened with a solo number by Fleming called “Midnight in Moscow” skated at the Yublani Stadium in Leningrad. She was next seen skating on a frozen reflecting pond adjacent the Palace of Catherine the Great, performing the “Festive Overture” with members of the Moscow State Ballet On Ice. Following her solos, Fleming visited Soviet soprano Lyudmila Senchina inside the Palace as she rehearsed a performance to “New Rochelle” from the Soviet version of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” at the Leningrad Musical Theatre. Ludmila then sang Cher’s “The Way Of Love” in Russian accompanied by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra while Peggy skated another solo. A fourth solo set to “Two Guitars” on a lake adjacent to the Bogoroditse-Smolensky Monastery in Moscow followed. Peggy then played guest to Sergey Obraztsov’s Puppet Theatre in Moscow where she was entertained by “Victoria Vibrato” and an all-puppet rock n’ roll band called “Pop Art”. The final two acts were an interpretation of “Swan Lake” with the Kirov Corps joining Vladimir Luzin of the Moscow Ice Ballet and Fleming on the icy Bay Of Finland near Leningrad and a duet to “Sweet Caroline” at the Moscow Circus where Fleming was paired by clown Andrei Nikolaev.

To view the video ‘Midnight in Moscow’, click here

To view the rest of the article,  click here

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Dorothy Hamill looks back on Olympic gold,her famous haircut and fight with cancer

Jul. 15, 2016 at 8:48 AM

Scott Stump


Whether it has been her dazzling Olympic performance, her famous haircut or her work with children with disabilities, figure skating legend Dorothy Hamill has always found a way to leave a lasting impression.

Forty years after she won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, Hamill, 59, looked back with Natalie Morales as part of TODAY’s “Where Are They Now?” series on Olympic greats.

Dorothy Hamill

“I just found something I loved to do, and it’s taken me to places that I never dreamt,” Hamill said.

Hamill went from skating on a pond in Riverside, Connecticut, as an 8-year-old to becoming America’s sweetheart after grabbing a pair of gold medals at 19.

She also inspired a generation of girls, including Natalie, to imitate her famous bobbed hairstyle dubbed “The Dorothy.” Natalie also fulfilled a childhood dream by getting to skate with her idol.


“It’s wonderful because I did the same thing when I was watching Peggy Fleming and Janet Lynn skate, and I’d be in my living room with socks on twirling,” Hamill said. “So it certainly means a lot.”

Click here to read the complete articles and view the videos




1960 Winter Olympics Squaw Valley

Canadian Olympic Team 1960-1

The Canadian Olympic Figure Skating Team in Squaw Valley, California. L-R: Sheldon Galbraith (coach), Barbara Wagner, Bob Paul, Wendy Griner, CFSA President Granville Mayall,  Maria and Otto Jelinek, Sandra Tewkesbury, Donald Jackson, Donald McPherson


Jeyne BrownJeyne Brown, publicist for many years seen on Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii in March, 1982. (Photo by Christie Adams)





Jeyne Brown 2010Jeyne enjoying the 2010 Reunion with Dolores Harkins & Bob Skrak






April 4, 2016

Flashback to 1972

– courtesy of Tai Babilonia

Tai & Randy & JohnIn 1972 my pair skating idols JoJo Starbuck & Ken Shelley had just turned professional & signed with the Ice Capades, that same year Mr. Nicks excepted us into his stable of champions at Santa Monica Ice Capades Chalet & everything changed ~ Two years later we made the World Team! On June 1st Mr. Nicks will be presenting us as we’re inducted into the ISI Hall Of Fame 2016 ISI/PSA Conferences & Trade Show in Las Vegas!

Photo by Sgt.Babilonia





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Bob Turk on playing music for Sonja Henie

Courtesy of Skate Guard

ABob turk fun anecdote from Ice Capades director Bob Turk, who played phonograph records for Sonja Henie when she practiced at the Polar Palace ice rink in the forties.

Click here to view the video



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Ronnie Robertson – Ice Capades of 1959

Courtesy of Carl Moseley

Ronnie RobertsonWatch Ronnie Robertson’s performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, “Pagliacci”, “Operama” production

Click here to watch Ronnie in action.



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Moments in Time

Old Smoothies, Tab Hunter, Bobbie SpechtThe Old Smoothies, Tab Hunter & Bobby Specht

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Protopopovs 1968The Protopopovs, 1968 Olympics!

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 Did you know…….

Tommy Litz is credited as being the first skater to land the triple toe loop jump, a feat he accomplished at the 1964 World Figure Skating Championships.





 75th Diamond Jubilee 2015 Celebration

 To view archived information from the reunion,

including pictures, videos etc

click on 2015 Reunion tabs to the right


 Your 2015 Celebration Committee

Disclaimer:  The Ice Capades 75th ‘Escape to Las Vegas’ Celebration

is not affiliated with the current owners of Ice Capades and is being independently operated by a non profit group of alumni volunteers.



























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