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Ice Packing It In. Hamilton Says This Could Be Swan Song

Source: Ottawa Sun
Date: April 18, 2000
Author: Rob Brodie

Copyright 2000 Sun Media Corporation

FIGURE skating's showman extraordinaire admits this might be his Canadian tour swan song.

So he's going to savour every moment of it.

When Scott Hamilton steps onto the ice at the Corel Centre tonight with the rest of the Chrysler Stars On Ice cast, it will mark his first appearance before Ottawa skating fans in more than three years. He'll make them smile, maybe even laugh out loud.

Maybe for the last time.

"I don't know if I'm going to make it back to Canada again, so I'm really going to enjoy this one," said Hamilton, who's in his 16th year of professional skating. "The audiences are so great here, they're phenomenal. They've been exposed to skating at such a high level for such a long time ... they probably know the sport better than anyone else."

At 41, Hamilton knows it's time to slow down. A heroic cancer fight three years ago took a lot out of him, and an ankle that required surgery a year later still isn't right. Yet one suspects you'll find him on at least the U.S. version of the tour for a few years yet.

After all, it's his baby. A tour idea that, he admits now, "came about more out of desperation than anything."

ICE CAPADES

Hamilton had been skating with the Ice Capades for two years after his 1984 Olympic triumph in Sarajevo when an ownership change in that tour left him out of work. He got together with his IMG agent, Bob Kane, and hatched the idea for the tour that became Stars On Ice.

"We tested it out in five college towns that fall (1986) to see how they felt about the idea," he said. "It turned out we did pretty well."

Four years later, the tour made its debut in Canada, riding the popularity of its own Olympic hero, Brian Orser, who remains with the tour today.

"(Orser) was one of our biggest stars during the '88-'89 tour," said Hamilton. "So we thought we really should do something in Canada where his popularity was so huge."

The rest, as they say, is history. Skating's appeal grew stronger through the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics, and more big-name stars joined the cast. When Toronto choreographer Sandra Bezic came on board, Stars On Ice gained its seamless, production-like quality that makes it stand alone.

CANCER

Through it all, Hamilton remained the mainstay, especially south of the border. Until that day in March 1997, when a doctor told him he had testicular cancer and had to take time out to deal with it. Hamilton said it was the shock of a lifetime.

"It affects you at every level. It's pretty drastic stuff," said Hamilton. "Cancer is something that you don't think will happen to you ... you think it's something that happens to other people.

"(When I was first diagnosed), I remember thinking I can't do this right now, I'm booked, I've got a tour to finish, I've got commitments to fulfill. There just wasn't time to stop for chemotherapy ... It was a shock, it really set me back."

Hamilton has been cancer free for about 21/2 years now. Free to keep pursuing a career that has lasted about a decade longer than he ever imagined.

"I thought I'd have a six-year (pro) career. I was already planning some off-ice things in 1989," he said. "But things kept happening in skating ... something was always happening to bring more people to the sport."

AT A GLANCE

Sixteen years later, Stars On Ice remains one of those things.

- WHAT: Chrysler Stars On Ice

- WHEN: Tonight 7:30

- WHERE: Corel Centre

- STARRING: Kurt Browning, Tara Lipinski, Scott Hamilton, Brian Orser, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz

- TICKETS: Available at Corel Centre box-office or through TicketMaster 755-1111

GRAPHIC: 2 photos by Scott Dunlop, CP SHAE-LYNN Bourne and Scott Hamilton are among the Stars On Ice who will take to the ice at the Corel Centre tonight.