William Thompson, former Skate Canada CEO and Debbi Wilkes sure did run their mouths back in the day. I wonder what their successors will be able to imply about them. The above links to the article excerpted below, italics and bold emphasis are mine:
March 17, 2007 VANCOUVER - Not much more than a decade ago, Skate Canada was the undisputed heavyweight champion of Canadian amateur sports.
Figure skating's national governing body was The King, the wealthiest of all the federations in our constellation, the best-run ship, with the most popular sport, garnering killer TV ratings, and producing champions - world champions - with a respectable regularity.
[snip - recital of the boom days when figure skating packed Canada's sports palaces and Canada boasted more stars than in the heavens. Segue to miserable state of things recently.]
"We should be the world leader," said Debbi Wilkes, the former Olympic pairs silver medalist and longtime TV analyst who was one of the first hires by the federation's new CEO, lawyer (and former skater) William Thompson of Kitchener, Ont. Michael Slipchuk, 1992 Canadian men's champion, Thompson's other major hiring as high performance director, completes the theme of ex-skaters running the ship.
Like "The New NHL," which the National Hockey League adopted as a working title after the 2004-05 lockout, Skate Canada's [the new Skate Canada]* slogan is based more on hope than evidence, at the moment. It is no sure thing that results are going to improve immediately - or at all - but Canadian skating has a lot brighter-looking face on it. Pam Coburn, whom Thompson replaced as CEO, is destined to wear the federation's recent failings as her legacy, though some were surely beyond her control.
"In Canada, we had two issues," said Barton. "One was the perception of the sport. The other was ... if the wrong person is in the wrong job, either because they don't have the expertise or the knowledge or vision, then even though they're trying hard, it's not going to work. That, combined with what happened in 2002, was like a double avalanche. One avalanche is bad enough.
[snip Barton's claim that denying Sale & Pelletier the gold almost single-handedly turned North American figure skating fans against the sport. ]
And even as the sport was alienating its traditional fans world-wide, Skate Canada was exacerbating the problem domestically, blundering through an era of horrible decision-making, flawed programs and an alarming drop-off in skating results.
"Well, in fairness to Skate Canada, some of our problems were external,"** says Thompson. "I don't think you can overstate the impact of Salt Lake City and the scandal.***
[snip contributing factors - overexposure, lack of athlete development]
Wilkes intends to push the athletes out into the public.
Skate Canada has some kids with great potential, like Joannie Rochette and Vancouver's Mira Leung in women's singles, Christopher Mabee and 16-year-old Patrick Chan in men's, the pair of Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, the young dance couple, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. But some aren't ready yet, and it will take international results to get their names out in public.
"I think we had a lot of success for a long time, we always seemed to have a champion there," said Slipchuk, who spent most of his skating career in the shadow of the incandescent Browning. "We had Brian, we had Kurt, we had Rob and Tracy, Kurt, Elvis, Jamie and David, Herb (Eisler's nickname) and Isabelle - we always seemed to have someone up there, and maybe you get a little complacent.
"The champion up top maybe takes your focus off the fact that you're struggling below. We talked about women's skating being a problem for a long time because we only had the one woman qualifying for the worlds and she was in the 10th-to-15th area. What we forgot was that in the other disciplines, aside from that world champion, our other skaters were also in that same area. And once those (champion) athletes moved on, it showed how much work we needed to do on our depth, and that we needed to give people more opportunity to get on that world stage."
"The decisions that were made these last four years were devastating to the business of skating. And our business is judged profitable not on millions in the bank,**** but on world championships," Barton said.
So the sport has some retrenching to do, in Canada. In the boardroom, on the ice, and in the stands.
[Barton carries on some more about Salt Lake and how they lost traditional skating fans who were angry, angry, angry over what happened with Jamie and David]
"But it's funny what's happened in the United States****, because they were the most angry, they were the most against the new system, and yet they are the ones who have embraced it the quickest and responded the most. And they've had incredible success." The 2007 U.S. nationals in Spokane, Wash., drew an eye-popping 154,893 fans. For Vancouver in 2008, Skate Canada is thinking small, but hoping big.
Who persuaded Ted Barton to shut up after this and where can I send flowers?
How do you walk away from an Olympics with Olympic and World champions, boast two champions in two disciplines by 2012, and be broke ass because nobody wants to sponsor you? The USFSA doesn't have this problem but isn't running their mouths about it. Yet I can google and get enough pontificating from hot air maven Debbi Wilkes to put out a monthly Word from Wilkes newsletter. How did Skate Canada manage, thanks to Detroit and thanks to Colorado, to get (I can't really say "produce") two champions and still go broke? Sponsors that stuck around all through the years Thompson, Barton and Wilkes are bitch slapping ran for the exits after one half-cycle of doing business with Thompson and Wilkes. BMO's sponsorship arm continues to shell out the money so it's not belt-tightening.
Get somebody in there with actual relevant background (corporate lawyering and figure skating isn't relevant background, figure skating and shoving your face on camera at every opportunity isn't relevant background either). Of course the problem there is that takes money, and Skate Canada hasn't any money, so maybe they're doomed to spin in a circle of economic futility.
*Maybe the slogan should have been "The new Skate Canada, we suck differently than old Skate Canada."
**In Thompson's era, problems are internal.
***I think you can overstate Salt Lake City and the "scandal."