|Ron Duguay and Barb Underhill were partnered on CBC's Battle of the Blades. Photo by CBC. |
A hockey player in a figure skating routine?
At first thought it seems out of place, but it's exactly what the creators of CBC Television's Battle of the Blades aimed to do with their reality television show that concluded earlier this month.
For the show, eight former NHL players were each paired with a figure skater and competed in a competition similar to ABCs Dancing with the Stars.
Only on ice.
One of the hockey players who participated was former Los Angeles King center, Ron Duguay. A player with the Kings for two seasons (1987-89), Duguay was paired with world champion and World Skating Hall of Famer, Barb Underhill. The pair was the third pair eliminated on the show which Craig Simpson (Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, and Buffalo Sabres) and Jamie Sal eventually won.
For Duguay, it was an experience he won't soon forget.
"It was the experience of a lifetime and one I will never forget for obvious reasons," Duguay said. "A hockey player trying to figure skate and all the training that went into it."
Duguay said one of the biggest thrills for him was the friendships he made with the other former NHL players, such as Claude Lemieux. He recalled that an hour or two before each show, each hockey player was so nervous that they would all burst into laughter in order to ease some of the jitters they had.
"We were all poking fun at each other," Duguay said.
Why would hockey players be nervous for a figure skating competition when they were on skates for their own professional career?
The answer lies in the difference in the skating techniques used by each sport. Whereas in hockey where you lean forward while skating, in figure skating you need to be more on your heels and stand up straight. If you don't stand upright and have better posture, then the spikes at the front of the skates will catch the ice and you will find yourself on the ice.
It was things such as this that Duguay had to get used to during the competition. Yet he admitted the extensive training he went through was part of what made it all the more memorable.
"It was frustrating at times but it was still fun," Duguay said.
Duguay also said the dynamics of the show was much different from the one he was used to while playing on a team in the NHL.
"It was a completely different feeling than a hockey team because we were a team but we were competing against each other," Duguay said.
Duguay enjoyed a 12-year career in the NHL, playing for the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and Pittsburgh Penguins in addition to his time with the Kings.
While Duguay spent only the final two seasons of his career with the Kings, he said that he experienced both the highs and lows a team can go through.
In his first season with the Kings in 1987, the team finished in fourth place in the Smythe Division with 68 points and a record of 30-42-8.
The next season, Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings and the team finished in second place in the Smythe Division with 91 points and a record of 42-31-7. That season the Kings made it all the way to the Division Finals, yet fell to the Calgary Flames in four games.
"It was short-lived and I would have liked to play there more," Duguay said. "During my time I experienced the highs and lows. My first year was before Gretzky and we struggled. When he came everything changed. We were immediately Stanley Cup contenders. We started getting attention, celbrity attention, and had sellout crowds."
The great time he had while as a member of the Kings is one of the main reasons Duguay will be participating in the Los Angeles Kings Fantasy Camp on Jan. 14-16, 2010 at both the Toyota Sports Center and STAPLES Center.
Duguay said he is going to mainly socialize and to interact with hockey fans from throughout Southern California.
"I look forward to the camp because it's been awhile since I've done something with the Kings," Duguay said. "I like to feel like I have a connections with the Kings. They are a great organization, I love L.A. and southern California. They didn't have to twist my arm for me to go."