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Bezic ready for season of 'Battle of the Blades'

Show's co-creator expects another entertaining season

Sandra Bezic is excited for season three of <i>Battle of the Blades</i>.
Sandra Bezic is excited for season three of Battle of the Blades. (courtesy of Insight Productions and CBC)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(09/13/2011) - This Sunday the pairings for season three of Battle of the Blades will be revealed on "Game On," which will also include behind-the-scenes footage of training for the hit Canadian competition show that pairs hockey players with figure skaters. On the eve of rehearsals, the show's co-creator/senior producer Sandra Bezic says she emailed the cast of season two.

"I wrote, 'Whatever new heights this cast reaches this year are because of what you did last year,'" Bezic said. "They are the reason we have a third season."

There are five new figure skaters in the cast this season: Tanith Belbin, Elena Berezhnaya, Marcy Hinzmann-Harris, Kim Navarro and David Pelletier, who served as a coach for the show's first two seasons. Bezic says the skaters of seasons past are missed, but she and her fellow producers are celebrating the new cast.

"They're already proving to be equally passionate, fabulous and excited to be here," she said.

Part of the story on "Game On" will be about how each of the competitors -- both figure skating and hockey -- got started on the ice.

This season was dealt a tragic blow before the first show. Hockey player Wade Belak, who had been paired with two-time U.S. ice dancing bronze medalist Navarro, was found dead Aug. 31. At the time of this interview, Bezic was hoping another hockey player would step forward to partner with Navarro.

"In a way, we've lost our innocence, and it's pulled everybody closer together," Bezic said. "It's changed the tone for sure. There are so many mixed emotions and shared emotions. Everybody is on a different pace toward recovery. Everybody is individual. That's going to come into play as well.

"It makes you stop in your tracks, of course, and reassess your own life. That's what tragedies do to us in general."

The first season of Battle of the Blades featured an all Canadian cast. Last year, the cast took on an international look with the addition of Russian-born figure skaters Violetta Afanasieva and Ekaterina Gordeeva and hockey player Valeri Bure (Gordeeva and Bure won) and American Kyoko Ina. This year's cast is even more international, but they all have ties to Canada.

"What's so Canadian about us is our love affair with hockey and figure skating," Bezic noted. "There are people internationally who have that love affair, so we've invited them to be Canadian for three months. They're all doing this for Canadian charities."

A powerful part of the show is that every competitor receives $12,500 (Canadian) to give to the Canadian charity of his or her choice. The winning team receives $50,000 each. The charities are mentioned on every show, which all the competitors say provides motivation. A total of $290,000 will be donated to charities throughout the eight-week series.

Season three features the show's first female hockey player, Olympian Tessa Bonhomme. Bezic says having a female hockey player was in the original concept, but she and co-creator Kevin Albrecht held off in the first two seasons because they wanted to see how the show was received.

"The public has asked for it," Bezic said. "We never wanted to put anyone out there who would look silly. If the girls were too tall for the guys, we didn't want to embarrass anybody.

"If we were to have women involved, we wanted to honor them just as much as we've honored the guys," she added. "When we decided this year to give it a shot and we approached Tessa, it was just the perfect fit. She's proven to be remarkable."

Bezic says Bonhomme was a bit taken aback by how the female skaters immediately helped her during boot camp.

"They told her, 'Why wouldn't we help you? Welcome to our dressing room,'" Bezic said. While every season has a life of its own, Bezic knows that last year's competitors -- particularly the three teams to make the final -- set a very high bar.

"This group feels a pressure because of the heights the final three reached last year," Bezic said. "I know they feel pressure that I wish they didn't. I wish that they just took this on their own path and took it as far as they can and not try to compare themselves to last year or the year before. They're competitive beings and they want to do more and do better, but we don't know what more and better mean."

Every now and then Bezic pops into the training rink, where she instantly feels the energy.

"It's inspiring when you go to the rink," she said. "It's fun. There's a lot of laughter.

"I'm surrounded by amazing people."