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Ex-NHLers don tights for 'Battle of the Blades' ice dancing contest on CBC-TV @NHL

TORONTO - Forget Bourne and Kraatz, Sale and Pelletier, Underhill and Martini. The new ice dance pairs to watch are Bourne and Lemieux, Sale and Simpson, Underhill and Duguay.

The CBC has revealed the eight teams of figure skaters and ex-hockey heroes that will compete on its upcoming series "Battle of the Blades," an elimination-style contest that pits unconventional duos against each other in weekly routines.

The pairings include Shae-Lynn Bourne with Claude Lemieux, Jamie Sale with Craig Simpson, and Barb Underhill with Ron Duguay. Other teams include Isabelle Brasseur with Glenn Anderson, Christine (Tuffy) Hough-Sweeney with Tie Domi, and Kristina Lenko with Bob Probert.

Two of the NHL's biggest tough guys stoked a budding rivalry Wednesday as they promoted the show at a CBC event launching the fall TV season.

"The reason that I signed up for this was so I could beat Tie Domi," declared Probert, a former Detroit Red Wing who amassed 3,300 penalty minutes in his career.

"Listen, I know I'm a way better figure skater than you," countered a confident Domi, the former Maple Leaf enforcer.

Sale joked that Domi was just nervous "because he's the same size as me."

Putting the posturing aside, Sale said later that she was amazed by how quickly the hockey players picked up ice dancing techniques in a pre-production boot camp.

"There were some tumbles and falls but I was actually pretty impressed the first day out," said Sale, an Olympic gold medallist paired with Simpson, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and analyst for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

"They're totally and completely out of their element because the blades, number 1, are different. They go from being in hockey skates and equipment to no equipment, figure skating in blades to skating with a partner, having to have rhythm and keep timing and everything, and lifting and looking good at the same time."

"I know with Craig I'm constantly reminding him 'Stand up!' because he starts skating like a hockey player, and that's hard for him."

Domi, who admitted he'll be donning tights for the competition, said he's had to switch back to hockey skates after taking a bad spill on figure skates last Thursday.

"The start of a routine, I had to chase my partner right off the hop and I toe-picked and I almost crushed my face on the ice," said Domi.

"I was pretty upset about it, I really went down hard. I was all worried about it and they told me I have the option to go back to hockey skates, and I did."

Series co-host Kurt Browning said the guys will be cut some slack for the first episode, which features an "arena rock" theme that requires a macho, tough-guy persona that some competitors are finding difficult to pull off on figure skates.

"So we threw a few of them back into their hockey skates and all of a sudden the program started to look right," said Browning, who will host the series alongside "Hockey Night in Canada"'s Ron MacLean.

"It's the first week ... there's no rules, some of them might stay (with hockey skates), some might go, 'OK, cool, I'm switching back.' "

The teams are rounded out by Marie-France Dubreuil paired with Stephane Richer, and Jodeyne Higgins with Ken Daneyko. The series will be shot in front of a live audience at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens.

"Battle of the Blades" kicks off Oct. 4. It joins returning CBC series that include "Being Erica," "The Border" and "The Rick Mercer Report," and the new comedy "The Ron James Show."

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