From now on, whenever Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" comes on the radio, it will take me back to the Izod Center in New Jersey for the Legends of the Ice show. While Agnes Zawadzki was skating to it, the thirty or so kids from the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club sitting around me started to sing along, charmingly off-key.
The dictionary defines kismet as destiny or fate and that's certainly what it was when I was invited to the event as a guest of the sponsors, Procter & Gamble and Walmart. Be sure to catch it (and maybe me in bright pink) when it airs on NBC, February 1 at 2:30 EST (but check your local listings). Sarah, my friend in PR mentioned it to me, not knowing that I skated, thinking since I usually blog about food, it probably wouldn't interest me. She was surprised when I jumped at the chance to go and write about our Olympic hopefuls, but I knew it would be fantastic to see them, and the stars of previous games, skate live from my perch on center ice! The fact that being the sponsor's guest included an after-party and a chance to meet and skate with Kristi Yamaguchi at the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club the following day was just icing on the cake (I'll tell you more about that fun afternoon in another blog)!
We all met at the Izod Center, where the kids (and I) were fed a typical arena dinner of popcorn and hot dogs (it's Christie country, not Bloomberg's). Taking our seats, the event began with the introduction of America's skating legends. With the current crop of Olympic hopefuls skating an ensemble number, the legends were introduced. And many of them truly are legends. From Dick Button, (who you may remember as the voice of skating for so many years; they even created a drinking game in his honor) and Tenley Albright, the first Americans to win Olympic gold (1948 and '56, respectively), to our most recent gold medalists, Sarah Hughes and Evan Lysacek.
What was great to see were skaters like Paul Wylie and Nancy Kerrigan, who skated their original Olympic short programs and skated them terrifically! Nancy looked and skated better than she has in ages and so did Paul! It's interesting to compare those programs, which were done under the old scoring system (where a "perfect" score was a 6.0), to that of Gracie Gold, skating her short program designed to take advantage of today's scoring, where every move has a base number of points given to it and skaters can add or subtract to that by beautifully executing or blowing the move. Some call it skating by numbers, because all programs are constructed to get the maximum number of points, and it has definitely reduced the ability of the skaters to elongate a move. In other words, the days of Michelle Kwan or Sasha Cohen beautifully stretched into a rink-long how-does-she-do-that spiral or Charlotte are sadly gone.
Along with the live skating, there was also a singer, this time hanging with the kids, the winner of American Idol, Scotty McCreery. He was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed him and warmed up for aforementioned Whitney Houston sing-along by accompanying him on a couple of numbers. And I'm not sure if Ashley Wagner realizes she has an admirer but Scotty was heard saying she was "pretty cool."
Another big surprise was how well former pairs skaters (and brother and sister) Peter and Kitty Carruthers did, skating together for the first time in a long time. Check out their death spiral on the show and tell me you're not impressed!
After the show, we met the cast and crew downstairs for cake. It was a great chance to get to meet skaters I've admired for many years and a chance to get to talk to rising stars like Gracie Gold (who I recently saw win Nationals), Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon, among others.
I can't wait to see the show on February 1st and then later, to see how they do at the Olympics. Who will you be rooting for?
Spoiler alert: After the show was over, the producer called for some of the skaters to come back and repeat moves that weren't done to perfection. For someone used to seeing live skating only in competitions, this was pretty surprising and in the case of one of the ice dancers, you'd really have to be a fan to know that she blew her move. To the audience, this was just more skating to enjoy. Max Aaron was the first, repeating a triple lutz. His first redo was the same as his original -- decent but not perfectly landed. Second attempt, the same, third attempt was better but still not perfect. The producers asked if he wanted to try a fourth time and spurred on by us, he did and nailed it! So when you watch the show, see if you can spot the edit. If you comment and I can remember, I'll try to tell you who else did retakes.