By Beeber, Al on October 21, 2020.
Kris Versteeg is lacing up the skates to do battle again but this time it won’t be in front of 20,000 fans at a National Hockey League game.
Instead, the retired 34-year-old Stanley Cup champion and Lethbridge native will be skating for a televised audience in the CBC series “Battle of the Blades” which premieres Thursday night with a two-hour live show.
Versteeg and his professional skating partner Carlotta Edwards are among eight teams competing in the series for a $100,000 grand prize which will go to the winner’s charity of choice.
Versteeg will be skating for Lethbridge-based Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society which helps Indigenous youth and their families.
“My best friend is Indigenous so it’s a good time to bring awareness” to First Nations issues, said the Toronto-based Versteeg in a phone interview Tuesday.
Versteeg won the Stanley Cup twice with Chicago – in 2010 and 2015 – during an 11-year NHL career that also saw him play for the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Los Angeles Kings.
He was drafted 134th overall in 2004 by the Boston Bruins who traded him to Chicago after he played parts of two seasons for that team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Providence. He also played overseas before retiring in April.
“This is going to be uncharted territory, it’s something new,” he said of “Battle of the Blades.”
Versteeg was cast after being approached by a couple of guys who had appeared previously on the series and, after several months, he signed up.
“It’s a good opportunity to raise a bit of money for charity,” said Versteeg, who now is involved with Sportsnet and Sirius XM.
Versteeg is the first Lethbridge performer to be featured on a Canadian televised competition since Tara-Jean Popowich won the second season of “So You Think You Can Dance” Canada in 2009. (Coaldale’s Theo Tams is a former Canadian Idol winner).
Versteeg grew up with Popowich and was in the studio audience at one of her televised performances, he recalled.
With different types of skate blades, figure skates are a different beast than hockey skates and Versteeg says it’s “a lot of learning” adjusting.
He has his own young sons now enrolled in figure skating classes to develop their skating skills.
While he misses the camaraderie with teammates and stepping in front of an arena full of fans, Versteeg isn’t sure if he misses hockey itself.
“My body had nothing left. The guys in my generation, our bodies got pretty mangled,” he said.
“Battle of the Blades” premieres at 8 p.m. MTN.
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