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White Rock figure skaters gain experience at junior ‘B’ Whalers games

Young skaters performing routines during intermissions at Centennial Arena

Normally, the between-period intermissions at hockey games are a chance for spectators to stretch their legs, grab a hotdog or make a quick run to the bathroom.

Lately, however, fans at White Rock Whalers games have had extra incentive to stay in their seats, as the junior ‘B’ hockey team has partnered this season with the White Rock-South Surrey Skating Club, which has sent some of its young figure skaters to Whalers games, where they’ve been performing between periods.

For the figure skaters, it’s been their only opportunity to skate in front of an audience, as COVID-19 restrictions on large crowds has kept the young athletes from their usual competitions in front of larger audiences. During Whalers games, between 100 and 200 onlookers are typically in the bleachers at White Rock’s Centennial Arena.

So far, intermission participants have included Rachel Erceg and Ella Seyler, both 13; Lulu Hai and Olivia Smiley – both 11 years old – plus nine-year-old Reina Ren. Each skater has performed their three-minute short program.

Skating club head coach Julie Dunlop said the Whalers’ games have been the largest group many of her skaters have ever skated in front of, with Hai adding that “when I heard the audience clapping, I was delighted and proud.”

“When I was done, I wanted to do it again,” said Erceg. “Everyone was super nice at the game and it was neat to skate just for fun without judges.”

Erceg was signed up for the skating club by her mother, who wanted to find an activity for her daughter after a summer spent with too much screen time.

Her three minutes on the ice allowed her to learn that she had what it takes to thrive in the spotlight, without a coach.

“I learned that I can go out and skate by myself because my coaches have taught me lots,” Erceg said.

Seyler found her performance a bit nerve-wracking. However, as she eased into her program, her butterflies turned into excitement.

“It was good to overcome my fears,” she said.

Selyer learned to skate at three-and-a-half years old, and originally played hockey – starting at five years old – before choosing to give up her stick and puck for toe picks.

Meanwhile, Smiley was the first to lace up for an intermission in September of last year.

“I definitely got intimidated with how many people were there,” she acknowledged.

Ren, meanwhile, was one of the most recent to perform, having hit the ice Jan. 29 when the Whalers hosted the Grandview Steelers. Her three-minute routine – which was set to 1980s classic song, Hey Mickey by Tony Basil – received a warm ovation from fans.

“Sometimes, when I’m scared, (I) just go for it,” Ren said.

– Alistair Burns, Special to the Peace Arch News