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Strudwick skates for Edmonton's Inner City Children's Program

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers

CBC’s Battle of the Blades are down to the final three teams and among them, Edmonton’s Jason Strudwick is hoping to secure Canada’s votes to win $50,000 for his Edmonton-based charity, the Inner City Children’s Program.

“This past Sunday, there were three finalists in the competition. We each did two routines. One we’d done before and one new one," said Jason Strudwick Wednesday morning after a practice session with his partner Violetta Afanasieva. "Based off that, Canada’s voting — or actually, all the world can vote. The team with the most votes wins $100,000 for their charities.”

Strudwick’s two performances this past Sunday were both very impressive. He did a Lady Gaga number which included an extreme move where he spun his partner around by her ankles.

Strudwick performs the 'headbanger' manoeuvre (CBC photo)

"We did a move called a headbanger,” said Strudwick. “That’s where I grab her by the ankles and we spin around. I lifted her up and down and it looked like I bang her head off the ground. If you would have told me this summer I was going to be doing that lift with my partner I would have said that you were crazy but now it feels natural.”

They also did a reprise of The Pink Panther, a routine which earned them 6.0 from all three judges a week before.

“The Pink Panther was incredible. My partner, Violetta, she’s unbelievable. She’s such a great athlete. The way that she can manipulate her body into different positions is just incredible. With The Pink Panther she did some incredible moves.”

Strudwick and Afanasieva have improved throughout the show to the point where they performed near-flawless numbers heading into the Canada Votes session.

“We were able to establish pretty good chemistry right away. Our coach is her husband (Canadian figure skater Canadian figure skater, Pete Dack) so the three of us spend a lot of time together. We talk about what we’ve got to do and then work on the list. There’s ice time — three to four hours a day — but then there’s off-the-ice where we’re working on the routines, the list of the tricks that we do. A lot went into it.”

Strudwick said that he’s really enjoyed the performance aspect of the routines.

“I didn’t think I was going to enjoy the performance part as much as I have. I thought it would be fun to challenge myself but I was just having a good time on the ice, that was the part I didn’t expect. It’s been an absolute great experience and I’m really glad I had a chance to do it. Looking back, it’s been a long two-and-a-half months but a fulfilling one. An experience I’ll remember forever.”

It’s been a long road for Strudwick, starting with an on-ice session with friend David Pelletier. From there, it was just over three weeks of practicing routines with Violetta and the show was underway.

“The first time I got on there with skates, I got on with David Pelletier back in Edmonton. He’s a good friend and he came out and skated for about an hour and a half and worked on some stuff. Dave said I had some ability for skating and once you get out there and start doing it, the first couple weeks was a long process. I was trying to get in sync with her and trying to find some chemistry on the ice.

“And then you start doing these tricks, and spins, and lifts. Before you know it, you’re in week three and four and doing stuff that you could not imagine you were going to do."


The Edmonton Inner City Children’s Program is a registered non-profit charitable organization (Charitable Registration Number 88419 2824 RR0001). Since 1995 they have been providing quality recreational and educational programming to children and youth in the McCauley/Boyle Street community.

Recognizing the need for supervised, skill-building programming in the inner-city community, they have partnered with local schools and other organizations to provide a variety of programs and services. By focusing on asset-building and skill enhancing activities they are helping to build strength and resiliency in Edmonton's children that will aid them in becoming strong, independent adults.

For more information, visit:
Strudwick has had to do his nightly radio show from Toronto as well. Starting at 9:00 p.m. Edmonton time, that meant working from 11:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. out east. He’s also only briefly been home three times and not at all over the past two months.

“It’s a big commitment, time-wise. I’ve been in Toronto nearly the whole time since I got here in September. That was a pretty big concern but it’s such a great way to raise the profile of my charity — the Inner City Children’s Program. That’s what the skating’s for and that’s why I’m out here.”

Strudwick’s share of the winnings would go entirely to the ICCP.

“I’m screaming from the rooftops, asking people to vote for me so I can bring $50,000 back to Edmonton for my charity.”

The former Oilers defenceman has been involved with the charity now for quite some time.

“When I started playing with the Oilers six or seven years ago, I wanted to be a part of a kids charity. We found this group and they do a lot of great things at three schools right around Rexall. What they do is they provide some before- and after-school care for kids and opportunities for them to get to know talents they didn’t realize they had before.

“Things like keyboarding for kids or a young chefs program, these are great ways for them to learn skills and have a good time.

“I’m really proud with what they’ve done. We’ve done some great things with golf tournaments, we had a night where I DJed at a local bar and raised money that way. And the money we’ve raised has really done great things for areas that are right in the shadow of Rexall Place.”

That aspect of helping his charity, raising its profile and challenging himself to do things he never thought possible on the ice has made this an experience that Strudwick will never forget.

“When it’s all done and I have some time to reflect on it, I’ll think about what a steep learning curve we had. Every week you’re learning a new program and new tricks. It was a fun experience for me and one I’ll really remember for the rest of my life.”

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