For 2 months, we travelled across our beautiful country, performing in arenas jam packed with passion, energy and Canadian Pride. We had a blast every single night, skating our hearts out and savouring the magical experience that was this group of individuals. Tessa, Scott, Patrick, Kaetlyn, Kaitlyn, Andrew, Eric and I. We grew up together, watching and admiring icons such as Elvis Stojko. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine what lay ahead of us when we all started this journey.
Just a little look back in our skating history as a group. In 2001, Tessa, Scott, Andrew, Eric and I, all competed at our first “international” event together. The North American Challenge competition in Chicago. In 2002 at a Skate Canada Development Camp I remember meeting this 11-year-old kid named Patrick Chan. Everyone was already saying that Patrick is the future, but all I saw was a bratty little kid, rebelling in the few moments he had free of his parents supervision. In 2003, Tessa and I met again, as we were roommates at the Junior Grand Prix event in Bratislava. In 2004, I remember arriving at a Junior Grand Prix event in Belgrade and meeting the Canadian Team. There was a kid named Patrick Chan that was supposed to attend the event, but we were told by Canadian officials that Patrick’s coach, Mr. Osborne Colson, wouldn’t allow him to come to this event because he hadn’t learned the triple axel yet. In 2007 at my very first Grand Prix event, I roomed with Kaitlyn Weaver and I’ll never forget the amazing memory of rooming with her at the Grand Prix Final in 2014 when she won the gold medal. I made artwork proudly proclaiming “PERSONAL BEST” and put it on our door for her to see when she returned to bed that night. Then, there was Scott Moir, in the summer of 2017, sitting at the gym telling me and Eric that Canada will win gold in Pyeongchang and we won’t accept anything less. And that we will ALL have each others back on the path to get there.
You see, our memories as a group go so much deeper then standing on the podium at the Olympics together. Our skating and careers are intertwined to each other. I don’t remember a moment in my career that one of these 8 individuals wasn’t there on the journey with me.
We gathered as a group in September for rehearsals in Montreal, and the excitement and buzz had already begun. As I sat in the change room, and heard Elvis’s “Dragon” music playing, my heart started racing as I ran out to the ice to see what was happening. Elvis was practicing his 1994 free skate. The one which, as a child, I watched over and over and over again. I knew every step, every musical note, I even remembered the commentary. Chills ran through my body. I couldn’t believe I was seeing this live.
One of my favourite memories on the tour was on opening night in Abbotsford. We stood at centre ice, wrapped in our Canadian flags, and sang Oh Canada, with the entire audience singing along. It was so powerful and it gave me a very small glimpse into the future of this tour, and the magic that was about to happen.
We drove across Canada by bus. Sleeping in bunk beds, waking up in arena parking lots. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, but we made it fun. I spent my days finding coffee shops, yoga classes and vegan restaurants in every city we went to. Than at night, we would perform a show for an energetic audience. After our evening was finished, we would pack up our stuff, get on to the bus and head off to the next city throughout the night.
One of the most surprising parts of the tour for me was meeting the fans that had travelled far and wide to come to Canada to watch our show. Maybe I was naïve, thinking only Canadians would enjoy our show. But during the meet and greets, we’d talk to fans and learn where they came from. We had American’s in Grand Prairie. Australian’s in Sydney, Nova Scotia. British in Kitchener. We met people from Uruguay, Singapore, Japan, Germany and France, that had all come to Canada, to support The Thank You Canada tour. They all sang along to Oh Canada, and wore their red and white. Many of them bought Canadian Flags and they all became honourary Canadians for a night. That was one of the most beautiful things about the tour for me. The fact that so many people gathered together to become one.
We also had an amazing group of fans from many cities and countries as well, called We The North. They were a group of girls and young ladies that met online, and gathered together at different Thank You Canada Tour stops. Their enthusiasm was contagious during every show.
There were some amazing audiences, but when the tour finished, and we reminisced about the best crowds on the tour, everyone agreed that our best tour stop was Sudbury. Being my hometown, we were hoping for a big crowd to gather for the show. But sometimes it’s hard to know in advance how enthusiastic they will be. I was shocked and honoured when I received such love and support from the audience.
That night in Sudbury seemed to be standing ovation, after standing ovation, after standing ovation. Supporting all of us, like we were all hometown heroes.
One of the only low points of the tour as when we had to cancel a spot in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The weather got bad on the east coast and going to Prince Edward Island involves crossing the confederation bridge. It often has to close down because of strong winds, and the local police said our buses and trucks would not be able to make it across on the day we were due to travel. To make that adventure even more dramatic, we were supposed to fly to Nashville (For another skating show) after the show in Prince Edward Island but since we couldn’t get there, we wouldn’t make our flights to Nashville. With the airlines charging an arm and a leg to rebook flights, it was decided that we would take our tour bus from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Nashville, an estimated 25-hour journey. And so that began as we left the parking lot of the arena in Sydney …..
I went to bed that night and awoke early in the morning as the bus was stopped at the bridge to leave Cape Breton Island. We had been stuck for hours as the bridge was closed due to the storm. After waiting for over 4 hours, our bus was finally on it’s way. We picked up a second bus driver in Maine and continued our path until we hit more snow storms on the east coast of the USA. We eventually had to reroute and spent a total of 45 hours on the bus driving to Nashville! Surprisingly, it didn’t feel that terrible. A marathon of Gilmore Girls on TV, some bus yoga, books and crossword puzzles occupied me long enough to keep me from going crazy.
After our show in Nashville, we gladly jumped on airlines and ventured back to Canada and St. John’s, Newfoundland for the tours final stop.
What a journey it was, going coast to coast across our beautiful nation, meeting great people, (hopefully) inspiring a future generation of figure skaters and making memories to last a lifetime. Eric and I had to incredible opportunity to perform our “With or Without You” short program every night, and the singer, April Meservy had to chance to see the show twice as well. It’s funny to imagine when we choreographed that program back in June 2017, that we would still be performing that program now, in a completely different capacity. It went from an emotional piece of music for us, to a fun creative process with John and Julie choreographing it, to the stressful daily task of training it, to the stressful task of competing it and by touring with it, we let it evolve into a beautiful sense of freedom. What an evolution to look back on with one single program.
And so with that, I thank you all for being part of our journey with The Thank You Canada Tour. Whether you saw a show live, or you followed along on social media, we felt your energy and support.
“I’ll remember our adventure forever. But now, it’s time for a new one”.