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Hamilton tackles last shows in Canada

Source: Slam! Skating
Date: April 16, 2001
Author: Neil Stevens

The Scott Hamilton Lovefest tour is hugging Canada.

Hamilton, one of the most popular skaters in the world, is retiring from the Stars On Ice cast, making the current swing through Canada that comes to Ottawa on Wednesday his last.

"I expect it to be a continuation of the lovefest we've been on in the United States," Canadian Kurt Browning, one of the other Stars On Ice headliners, said during a recent tour stop in Boston. "It's been the Scott Hamilton Lovefest tour.

"We'll just continue on up across the border. He's made so many people happy watching him skate. He didn't win Olympic titles or four world championships for our country but Canada adopts people pretty quickly and Canadian skating fans adopted Scott a long time ago."

Browning, 34, and Hamilton, 42, have become close friends during their post-competitive skating careers. Both are four-time world champions, and both have left indelible marks on the sport.

Hamilton says his last Stars On Ice trip into Canada will rekindle fond memories.

Foremost is his 1994 win in a competition in Edmonton against younger skaters Brian Boitano and Viktor Petrenko who also were Olympic champions.

"That was as well as I could skate at that point in my life," he said. "I didn't want to go to sleep that night it was so much fun."

The tour is in Edmonton on April 28.

Hamilton has a spot in his heart for Ottawa, too. It's where he skated in his first world meet, in 1978, and his last, in 1984, when he won his fourth straight title.

"I remember the exhibitions in Ottawa in '84 very well because I knew I'd be moving on," he said. "I remember that whole process of stepping on the ice knowing it might be the last time I'd be the reigning world champion."

He's fully recovered from a bout with testicular cancer, he says.

Two things remain for him to do in skating, he says.

He'd like to choreograph a stage show with skaters.

"That's uncharted territory in some respects," he explains. "I'd like to take professional skating in a direction that hasn't been totally explored or established."

He'd also like to get to South Dakota.

"There's only one state I haven't skated in -- South Dakota," he says. "I'll have to find a reason to go just to knock it off my list."

The skaters he's enjoyed working with most over the years?

Browning, Boitano, Brian Orser and Paul Wiley.

"What they brought to the ice was pretty phenomenal," he says.

Hamilton is not overly fond of the current competition scene. Too much emphasis on jumping, he says.

"Athletically, they're phenomenal, but there are pros and cons," he explains. "I see incredible athletic ability. What they are doing is so far beyond anything that was even thought of when I was competing.

"But as for balance, going out to be free, they are shackled. The rules are so restrictive now, and the way competitions are judged . . . they're not free to explore what is unique.

"They have to do all these jumps and by the time you're finished . . . there's not much time to be yourself or be unique. The skaters and the audiences are being cheated."

He'll be in the broadcast booth for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City next February.

For the first time for longer than he can remember, he won't be on tour.

"The only reason I'm stopping is that after 15 years with Stars On Ice, doing 77 cities a year, really doesn't make sense physically or emotionally for me anymore," he says. "I want to come up with a lifestyle that will work for me.

"It's hard skating this long every year -- five cities a week type of thing. It's really hard. Every year you add onto it, it becomes more of a challenge. I knew I could get through this year with a level of skating I could be satisfied with, because I finally figured out my ankle problem, but from now on I'll seek quality and not so much quantity. There's only so many years you can do both, and this is about the last year you can get both going."

He splits his free time between Colorado and Los Angeles.

When Browning came out of Caroline, Alta., to win his Canadian and world titles, he often was compared to Hamilton, one of his first skating idols. Like Hamilton, he was able to combine athleticism with a unique level of showmanship. Two more entertaining performers on ice have never existed.

"He's bigger than skating," Browning says of Hamilton. "Hanging out with him in the States, you can see that he's so famous.

"He doesn't need his skates on to be famous."

Hamilton is known as Scooter to his friends.

"He's fun, he's approachable," says Browning. "He's exactly the same on the ice as off the ice.

"You want to know what Scott's like? Come watch him skate."

Browning looks forward to skating in Canada again.

"The show feels great," he says. "It's not getting old for me at all.

"It feels special to have this legend skate by me."

The show has an ending designed to honour Hamilton.

"We all stay on the ice and he skates around the ice. We become part of the audience, kind of paying homage to who he is and what he's done. It's a very cool moment."