In a year where almost nothing has gone right, CBC is here to save the day, with the return of their extremely Canadian reality TV show Battle of the Blades.
And yes, when I say “we can’t wait for this show,” I mostly mean “I can’t wait,” but, you know, there’s still time to win over the other writers.
If you’ve never heard of Battle of the Blades before, think Dancing With The Stars, but on figure skates, and with hockey players. The show pairs up professional hockey players with ice dancers and pairs figure skaters, and has them perform figure skating routines. It’s hilarious, and part of the fun is that the hockey players actually end up getting very good at it by the end of the show.
Last year, the Battle returned after a long hiatus, bringing in more female hockey players than ever, and also introducing the world to the wonder that is Sheldon Kennedy’s ice dancing skills.
There was some doubt about whether they’d be able to put a show together this year considering… you know… but it looks like they’ve figured it out, because this week, CBC announced the pairs for their upcoming 6th season!
Let’s take a look at some of this year’s competitors.
Jessica Campbell and Asher Hill
Asher is a new addition to Battle of the Blades, and I cannot wait to see what he brings to the table. He’s also skating for the Black Legal Action Centre, which is awesome. I’m especially excited to see how Jessica Campbell does, because I used to watch her when she played for the Calgary Inferno, and she was a lot of fun to watch. I’m already rooting for these two.
Violetta Afanasieva and Anthony Stewart
Violetta is my love. This will be her fifth season competing on the show, and at this point I’m pretty sure I’m just obligated to cheer for her. She is a joy to watch.
As for Anthony Stewart, I just hope he’s better than P.J. Stock. I still can’t believe I had to cheer for that guy twice.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Bryan Bickell
Last year’s champion returns! Kaitlyn Weaver won Battle of the Blades season 5 alongside Sheldon Kennedy, and I cannot wait to see what she does with a new partner.
It’s hard to say how any of these hockey players will do on figure skates, of course, but I will say that Bryan Bickell is one of the few men’s hockey players who have competed on BOTB that I’ve actually recognized, because I am a baby and unfortunately don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of retired fourth liners. Bickell, of course, spent a decade with the Chicago Blackhawks before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and retiring. He’s pretty well-liked around the league, so I’m guessing this pair will be a fan favourite.
Megan Agosta and Andrew Poje
Andrew Poje is absolutely delightful – he and Kaitlyn Weaver are one of my favourite figure skating duos, and the routines he and Natalie Spooner came up with last year are still some of my all-time favourite Battle of the Blades routines.
And Megan Agosta? A legend. This woman has won four Olympic medals – three gold and one silver – with the Canadian National Team. She also spent several seasons with Les Canadiennes de Montreal
She also technically has a figure skating background, but she quit when she was six, so we’ll have to see if that actually gives her an edge over the competition.
Vanessa James and Akim Aliu
I am. So. Excited. To see what these two end up doing.
Akim Aliu is best known as one of the founders of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, an organization dedicated to eradicating racism in hockey. He also penned a powerful Player’s Tribune piece back in May called “Hockey Is Not For Everyone,” calling out systemic racism in Canadian hockey. This happened before the NHL had made any kind of statement about Black Lives Matter, and definitely took a lot of courage on his part.
As for Vanessa James, she’s a decorated pairs skater returning for her second year on Battle of the Blades. She and Brian McGrattan were the second pair eliminated last year.
Carlotta Edwards and Kris Versteeg
I don’t know much about Carlotta Edwards, aside from the fact that she used to compete on Dancing On Ice. Kris Versteeg is a former Leaf, which automatically makes me dislike him, but they’re skating for an Indigenous charity, so I guess they’re okay.
Jennifer Botterill and Eric Radford
I am a little bit too young to remember much about Jennifer Botterill, but she’s a CWHL and Hockey Canada veteran, so I can’t wait to see what she does. I wasn’t super impressed with Eric Radford last year, but I don’t know how much of that was him and how much was Amanda Kessel, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does this season.
Megan Duhamel and Wojtek Wolski
I have never heard of Wojtek Wolski before, so I have nothing to say about him, but Megan Duamel is Eric Radford’s pairs skating partner, which means that we now have two iconic Canadian pairs competing against each other: Duhamel and Radford, and Weaver and Poje. I am so here for this.
Battle of the Blades premieres October 15th on CBC.