That’s (finally) a Wrap! – Blog #4
by Melanie Hoyt 
Thursday, 09 February 2012 05:49

It took 16 days after arriving back in Chicago to get everything posted from Canadians. This might seem like an excessive amount of time, but it makes me kind of proud, only because I know how hard I worked in those 16 days. That means I must have done a lot, perhaps even enough, to give the ice dancers the coverage that they deserve to have. It’s been nice to see the links and photos pop up on Facebook. Someday, maybe IDC will have a dedicated staff to follow me around at events, making sure that things get posted within minutes after the event concludes…or maybe I will turn into bionic woman. But until then, I do what I can, and I do it because I love it.

Canadians is the best family reunion in skating. Of course, I’m a little biased, and I’m sure that other national events have that feeling as well, but Canadians is the event that I attend and the event that I love most. I love reconnecting with people that I haven’t seen in a year, and I love seeing others connect with their friends. I love the domino effect when two friends find each other and share a reunion hug, then others see them, and come over for more hugs, and more hugs. Obviously, I’d love to see the sport thriving and I’d love to see us pack an arena like GM Place in Vancouver again, but the cozy reunion feel is a little more prevalent in small arenas like the Moncton Coliseum.

The Maritimers are known for their hospitality, and I had plenty of encounters with that. Volunteers in the press room were eager to chat, to listen to my story and to share their own. The media room wasn’t scheduled to have catered meals until the senior events began on Friday, but when the hospitality team noticed that some of us were spending full days in the media room from day one, they brought in extra evening snacks and kept a closer eye on the coffee pot. I felt a little guilty because early in the week, I know that the coffee pot maintenance was mainly for my personal benefit. And I have to give a shout-out to Carly, a volunteer who was in the press centre every evening, because several of my articles would not have had quotes if she hadn’t been happy to take my recorder into the mixed zone during events when I couldn’t feasibly run back and forth between my photo position and the press area (on opposite sides of the arena, of course). The arena security workers were a little less easygoing—I had my credential checked five times in the first 30 minutes on Monday—but by the end of the week, they got used to us, running back and forth, up and down stairs, with arms full of cameras and laptops.

All in all, it was a great week, and perhaps that’s why Saturday’s scheduling is still bugging me, two and a half weeks later. It was the main blemish on a great week, and one that I will delve into in a future Northern Lights post. I have collected impressions from a few of the competitors, but if anyone else wants to offer an opinion, feel free to message me on Facebook or email me at [email protected] You will have the option to keep your comments anonymous.

Beyond the scheduling, though, the senior competition was exciting and extremely well-skated. The top seven teams proved once again that they were all worthy international competitors, and the free dance was a clean and entertaining event, all the way through the ranks. Closing the event with back-to-back flawless free dances from Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje and Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir was absolutely thrilling. The best part was that I knew that would happen. I didn’t worry about either of them making a mistake, not even for a second. I always feel that way when Tessa & Scott skate, but Kaitlyn & Andrew have really grown into that security and confidence within the past year. It wasn’t so long ago that they dipped in and out of consistency and often struggled with getting high levels on footwork. They have improved so much and they are a new version of themselves now. Dance in Canada has never been stronger, through the developmental levels, too. It’s an exciting time to be involved with it, even if my involvement is limited to the other side of the boards.

I always dislike the spring and the changes that it brings—splits, retirements, and general worry. I hope for new beginnings for those of you that seek them, and productive, healthy off-seasons for those of you that will carry on, and best wishes for those of you heading to ISU championships. As always, it’s been a pleasure to photograph all of you and may our paths cross again next season!

Finally, a big thank you to a large support team that fed me, caffeinated me, helped fund me, gave me rides, sent thoughtful messages, came through with a smile or a hug, and in general, helped me stay on this side of sanity. You are why the skating world feels so small, even to a girl who can’t do a three-turn. You are why I can’t bear the thought of missing Canadians, even if it means staying in a hostel and spending a week surviving mainly on protein bars and a canister of mixed nuts. You are why I am exhilarated and inspired, instead of suicidal, when I come home from a week of averaging four hours of sleep per night.You are why I am already waiting impatiently for next year’s announcement. Thank you!

Required Reading for Junior Dancers – Blog #3
by Melanie Hoyt
Monday, 30 January 2012 04:09

“I don’t get as nervous as you do,” I said to a parent at junior free dance warm-ups, “but I’m nervous for a lot longer, for every single team. I just want everyone to skate their absolute best.”

Nerves and all, junior free dance day at Canadians was the day that I was most excited to experience. It was also the toughest, when things started going downhill. I had been up late, writing articles for Golden Skate, but I was still determined to get to the arena for early senior dance practice, so I jammed my left contact in my eye, figuring that the pain and redness were just signs of being overtired. After junior free dance warm-ups, though, one of the parents realized that my eye was turning yellow, and whisked me off to a pharmacy for antibiotic eye drops. Great. I was already behind and exhausted, and now I had an infected eye. To make matters worse, I had to resort to glasses and stop wearing eye makeup for the rest of the week, which makes me terribly self-conscious when I am surrounded by beautiful figure skaters. And of course, the media room was still half-empty and hadn’t started serving meals yet, so I hadn’t eaten much besides a few handfuls of cashews and a lot of Nutella.

But of course, the day wasn’t about me. I had butterflies in my stomach all afternoon, waiting for the juniors to take the ice for free dances. They absolutely lived up to my high expectations, creating the most exciting competition of the event. And all too quickly, it was over. The season ended for 14 teams, and once again, the day that I’d been looking forward to for months was gone in a flash.

Over a week later, I still can’t believe how excellent of a competition it was, and I’m thrilled that I was there. I wish the Canada gave out pewter medals, like the U.S., and maybe a few more, too…chrome, nickel, aluminum? But regardless of the medals and the final standings, I’m going on record to say that the junior dance event at the 2012 Canadian Championships was one of my favourite competitions ever.

And I have some things to say to the junior dancers:

I know that my articles are full of points and rankings, but honestly, I have already forgotten the numbers. The junior dance event was not about numbers, impressive as they were; it was about incredible performances. When I ran downstairs after photographing the last junior free dance to do interviews for my article, I didn’t even know the standings. It already didn’t matter to me—what mattered was the fantastic level of skating that you all displayed.

I hope you realize how lucky you are. Yes, it’s tough when the results are so close, but in the long run, this is the best kind of problem to have. No other country in the world has the depth all the way through the junior ranks that Canada does. Having this level of competition all season made these championships limitless. I am not surprised by the percentage of clean performances this year. You have been pushed all year to skate better, train harder, perform bigger, edge deeper. It was simply time for everything to come together, for all the hard work to pay off, for fists to fly (in celebration, not violence).

I saw the first competition of this season for every one of you. I watched your JGP events, saw your scores dip and soar, and read your protocols. I hated that I had to skip Challenge, so I requested off of work to stay home and watch it on SkateBuzz, wearing a toque and wrapped in a flannel blanket on my couch, because I can’t get a good signal from my satellite modem unless I open the patio door and stick the device outside. I know where you have been this year, what you were capable of doing in Moncton, and what you can still achieve.

Next year, it won’t be the same. Some of you have to move up, some of you will move on, and some of you will inevitably be skating in different partnerships. Whatever happens, I know that each of you will build on your experience in Moncton; I know that this isn’t your peak. I’m a nostalgic sap, though, and from the other side of the boards, I think that I will always look back fondly on the Junior Class of 2012.

I realize that this was a tough year for qualifications, as only three teams were cut at Challenge, and I do not want the teams not in Moncton to think that I forgot about them. So to all 36 of you, to Abby, Andréanne, Benjamin, Benjamin, Caelen, Carolane, Catherine, Courtney, Christopher, Connor, Élisabeth, François-Xavier, Garrett, Jordan, Josyane, Laurence, Mackenzie, Madeline, Marc-André, Mariève, Nicholas, Nicole, Noa, Rachel, Rebecca, Sarah, Shane, Simon, Simon, Simon, Steven, Steven, Timothy, Victoria, Yoan, and ZhaoKai: thank you. Thank you for the time and dedication that you have given to your training this season, for your motivation to push yourselves, for your fantastic performances, and for putting up with the click-click-click of my camera for years now. Don’t stop dreaming, and on to 2013! I can’t wait to see what the new season brings.

What I Should Have Written Last Tuesday – Blog #2
by Melanie Hoyt
Tuesday, 24 January 2012 23:47

Today is Tuesday, and unfortunately, this means that I went all week at Canadians without writing another blog. I am sure that everyone really missed hearing about my days, so I will recap: shoot, write, shoot, write, shoot and write at the same time, run to mixed zone, record quotes, run back upstairs, shoot, transcribe quotes, shoot, write, shoot, realize that I’ve been hungry for 5 hours at least, eat a handful of nuts, shoot and write, write, write, fall asleep writing. Repeat. Somewhere in there, I usually found someone I hadn’t seen in months, so I said hello and promised to catch up later in the week, and that mostly didn’t happen. The schedule at Canadians is grueling, let me tell you, and it’s worse when the event is on the East Coast, because late nights are better for nationwide television broadcasts.

I’m not complaining, though. Well, I have a few complaints about the schedule, but that’s a topic for another time. I can’t complain about the amount of work, because I consider myself lucky to be in the position of photographing and writing about the athletes at Canadians. When Moncton was announced as the host, I was worried that I would have to skip this year. I understand Skate Canada’s reasoning for moving to smaller venues, but the cost of getting to those smaller venues can be overwhelming.Fortunately, I was able to pick up some extra freelance work just before I needed to buy a plane ticket, and plans started to fall into place.

It always takes me a few days to decompress after Canadians, because the action is non-stop and the pace is overwhelming. In this year’s case, I decompressed yesterday by sleeping for about 15 of the first 18 hours that I spent at home. And I’m still tired!

I photographed and wrote about all of the events for Golden Skate, and while I enjoy and respect any athlete who has the courage to perform under the pressure of Nationals, of course dance is the closest to my heart. And dance started this week with the novices, who never fail to make me smile.

I love the unpredictability of the novice event, the way that some teams always show up and skate like they have nothing to lose, the way the expected standings can shift in an instant. I have followed the Canadian novices pretty closely this season, but even I had no idea that Lauren Collins & Danny Seymour could win the title, and neither did they! Their surprise in the kiss & cry (when they only knew that they were at least 3rd!) is one of the lasting moments from the week for me. Afterwards, Aaron Chapplain told me that he was the one who got to tell Danny that he’d actually won, and I wish I could have been in two places at once, so I could have photographed that moment, too.

I had such a wonderful time talking with some of the novice competitors after they competed, and I only wish that I had time to speak with everyone. The media room was awfully quiet early in the week, and I think it’s important that developing levels get recognition, too. So to all the novice dancers, thank you. Thank you for the beautifully photogenic moments, for the smiles, for the suspense of a great competition. Some of you exceeded your goals, and some of you didn’t quite reach them, and that’s okay. I hope that none of you ever stop dreaming, and I hope that you made fantastic memories that will carry you through next season. I hope to see you again soon!

And for a little status update: I will do my best to get caught up this week! The first event article will be posted tonight or tomorrow and the photos will continue to roll in. The IDC team is busy with U.S. Nationals and Europeans as well, but we’ll keep posting on Facebook and Twitter when new Canadians content is published. Thanks for your patience!

Things I Do Not Recommend – Canadians Blog #1
by Melanie Hoyt 
Sunday, 15 January 2012 20:15

Things I Do Not Recommend

I.  Arriving at Greater Moncton International Airport at 1am
            A.  Especially when you do not have a hotel reservation
            B.  Especially when you are do not have a hotel reservation, you are on a budget, and a major sporting event is in town

II.  Trying to survive the following day on 6 ounces of free coffee from the hotel breakfast bar
            A.  Especially when you are a known coffee addict
            B.  Especially when you are trying to get over being sick before Manic Monday at Canadians

III.  Attempting to walk from the Moncton Coliseum to the Red Ball Internet Centre
            A.  Especially when you do not know the location of fences, snowbanks, ditches, and other things not marked on Google Maps
            B.  Especially when it is -15 degrees Celsius
            C.  Especially when the Moncton Coliseum does not salt its sidewalk

So despite setting out from my hotel over an hour before they started, I still managed to miss the first two groups of novice at the practice rink this morning. I arrived in time for the third group, but hockey glass was up all the way around and my fingers hadn’t quite thawed yet, so I just sat and watched. The juniors are on this afternoon, and I’ll see if I can find a viewpoint that gets my lens over the glass.

Other than the usual travel woes, I have no complaints about Moncton! The sky is a pretty shade of blue with wispy bits of white cloud, the snow is a crisp shade of white, and since I have no more plans to try to walk between rinks, I don’t even mind the cold so much. Especially not with a large coffee in my hand.