In The Beginning
Between the years of 1860 and 1865 a man called James “Stonewall” Jackson (the father of curling in Orillia), started the first curling in the town of Orillia on Lake Couchiching. It was through curling and the interest of an “ice surface”, that our Orillia Figure Skating Club came into being. A handful of people regularly cleaned off a sheet of ice on the lake at the bottom of Coldwater Street East. Back in 1867 there is a record of women taking up a subscription list and a small amount of money to find men to clear the snow off the ice. In 1867, in the small town of 1,200, Harry Slaven and Phillip Todd also shared the interest in this outdoor skating endeavour. 1869 brought about the construction of a rink house with a few long seats and a stove.
In 1871, a drill shed was to be flooded and opened every evening from 6 to 9 p.m. Only ladies holding season tickets would be admitted between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., Saturday’s excepted. 1873 saw the building of the first indoor rink built by William Todd and in 1875 the Curling and Skating rink opened. Season tickets were $2.50 for a single, $4.00 for two and $5.00 per family. This rink was constructed on the north side of Coldwater St. between Peter and Matchedash Streets. It was a building of 50’ by 160’ and it was sold shortly after to the Salvation Army and burned down in 1885. The curlers and skaters moved to several locations over the course of the next several years. They curled in the old agricultural building on West Street, just north of the present Guardian Angels’ Catholic School. There were two lines of posts down the length of the building and curlers curled between these while the skaters used the outside ice surface. This building too burned.
In the early 1890’s as part of the winter carnival activities, skaters dressed up and masqueraded in costumes. There were obstacle courses, skating races and “fancy” skating contests, which took place on the rink. After the burning of the last rink, another structure was built on Elgin Street. In 1896 this building collapsed and was again rebuilt and used by curlers until the Andrew Street curling facility was constructed in 1925. That facility was located on the east side of Andrew Street between Mississaga Street and Colborne Street. In 1899 the Orillia Curling and Skating Association began.
Until the late 1940’s, a natural ice rink inside a corrugated metal shed on West Street at Coldwater Road served as Orillia’ arena. Under the auspices of the Orillia Lion’s Club, instruction in figure skating was commenced in the winter of 1947-48 and was carried on each season thereafter until the old arena was dismantled. Unfortunately, due to lack of ice, no instruction could be given during the winter of 1950-51.
About 1947 a small group of service club representatives, led by Mac Carter and Jack Bonthron, started discussions of when, how and where to build a new arena. So it came to be in 1950 the sod was turned and more than 3,000 volunteers later, the $150,000.00 project was completed. The Town residents did most the work with the exception of laying the floor and putting in the artificial ice
The First Decade – The 1950’s
The 1951-52 season started the official organization of the Orillia Figure Skating Club (Orillia FSC) with approximately 150 members and Diane Hambly was the first club professional. With the club now in operation at the new Community Centre, it staged its first carnival in 1951. There began a growing interest in the club and the membership began a steady increase and figure skating was “on the move”. A membership fee then from November to March would cost $6.00 Men would scrape the ice with shovels, then flood with a barrel on wheels, dragging a mop did the cleaning of the ice. It wasn’t until many years later that the new “Zamboni” would flood our ice.
In 1957 Orillia hosted the Central Ontario Sectional Figure Skating Championships.
The Second Decade – The 1960’s
In a growing Industrial Town in the 1960’s with the Big Three: Dorr-Oliver-Long, Otaco and Fahralloy, the Orillia FSC grew from 150 members in 1962 to approximately 240 members in 1967. Because of the rising membership, the club had to hire three coaches to accommodate all the skaters. Diane Lynch chose to skate competitively and she and her pair partner Michael Sanders were representing Orillia at the Canadian Championships during the late 1960’s and early 70’s.
Arthur Bradford came to Orillia in 1968 eagerly wanting to skate. He signed up with the club and as a result adult skating became more popular. He kept young, doing what he liked best, taking to the ice every year until December 1999, when because of an illness, he was forced to discontinue his skating. But because of his determination that adults should have a place and time to skate too, adult skating was very active within the club for years to come.
The Third Decade – The 1970’s
In the 1970’s, figure skating exploded in the Town of Orillia. With the arrival of a young 19 year old skating professional from Huntsville, Ontario, Doug Leigh turned his dream into reality. By 1972 the Orillia FSC membership had grown to over 400 and the interest for off-season skating was rising as well.
In 1970 a well-known Orillia skater, Debbie Street, signed up with Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies and was off to join the show until 1973. Around the beginning to mid 1970’s another young lady, Colette Napier, would end her skating career in Orillia and start up another one with The Ice Capades.
In the spring and fall of ’73, a skating program was set up in the town of Coldwater, under the direction of Doug Leigh and a fellow coach, the late Tom Harrison. Orillia coaches and others in surrounding areas were able to accommodate their growing clientele. Doug also spent time with many hockey players, coaching and instructing them on the many techniques and maneuvers of power skating. The Orillia FSC offered a power skating program for many years.
Our first summer school was a four week session at the Bobby Orr Camp on the east shores of Lake Couchiching – a meek beginning. The expanding Town of Orillia was in need of another ice facility and in 1974, the Twin Lakes Arena was built. It was a community effort coordinated by the Second Arena Committee chaired by the late Dr. Tom Brandl and by Mr. Blair Ashmore in cooperation with the people of Orillia and surrounding communities. In addition Gordon Lightfoot Jr. gave a benefit concert to assist the building fund. The ice plant would produce ice all year round and the “Mariposa School of Skating” was founded. Dough Leigh and fellow coach Tom Harrison started up and directed this, today, world famous international training centre. Doug’s dream was becoming a reality. It was in the early 80’s that Tom Harrison left Orillia to put down roots in North Bay.
Then along came Brian Orser, a young boy from Penetanguishene, who also had a dream. Orser put Orillia “on the map” as far as figure skating is concerned. Coached by Doug Leigh, Brian became not only an eight time Canadian National Champion, a World Champion, but also a two time Olympic Silver Medallist. Skaters were starting to come from all over to skate at Mariposa and more coaches brought more skaters.
In 1975 Orillia owned its first triple gold medallist – Mary Rose Stanga. At this time, many of our members were competing in various competitions . In April 1977, the Orillia FSC celebrated their 25th anniversary with a skating carnival. A group of dads made a huge wooden anniversary cake that was rolled out onto the ice, decorated with sparklers to celebrate the occasion.
In 1979, our club again hosted the Central Ontario Sectional Championships.
The Fourth Decade – The 1980’s
Another aspect of figure skating arose in the early 80’s - precision skating, now called Synchronized skating. The Orillia FSC had two teams originally called “Twin Lakes Toe Picks”, then renamed “Orillia Ice Angels”. Due to rising costs, the teams unfortunately had to fold.
During this time another young lady skated her way to representing Orillia in the Canadian championships. Dark-haired Tracey Robertson won Novice Ladies in 1981, placed 5th in Junior Ladies in 1982 and placed 3rd in Junior Ladies in 1983, all Canadian competitions.
In 1984 the Canadian Figure Skating Association introduced a “learn to skate” program called Canskate and Canfigureskate. It was put into effect in all clubs in Canada and a reward system of badges became a fun way to learn to skate.
On June 23, 1984, the Twin Lakes Arena was renamed in honour of Brian Orser’s National, International and Olympic figure skating accomplishments. The arena would now be called The Brian Orser Arena.
In 1987, after 18 years in Orillia, the Mariposa School of Skating moved to Barrie. The expanding school needed an Olympic-sized ice surface which Orillia could not provide. Doug Leigh and his team of talented skaters were off to Barrie. Although it may seem a little “out of the way”, I and many other coaches thank Doug that we and our skaters could share in and be a part of his dream come true.
The Fifth Decade – The 1990’s
The mid 1990’s brought about the introduction of “skating skills” into figure skating (seven tests in all). These skills were to replace figures. With Synchronized skating still very popular and growing at the international level, some of our skaters have travelled to Barrie to join the “Ice Lightning” team. These skaters were Holly Street, Tiffany Marshall, Ashley Barnett, Kirsten Camartin, Magenta McDonald and Jillian Wager.
Through these Golden Years the Orillia FSC has also had over thirty skaters from our club proudly represent us in Sectional competitions throughout our region. We must also laud the great performances of the remaining competitive skaters who were successful in qualifying for the Canadian Championship. I refer in particular to – Ashley Poole with partners Clinton Peterson and Mark Sheppard, Kelly MacKenzie and David Annecca, Ashley Barnett and Jason Dillman, Michelle Bylow with partners Brett Dunlop, Matt Smith and Michael Pollard, Jeff Smith and Laura Currie and Ryan Smith and Brenda Key. In 1996 Jeff Smith and Laura Currie won the bronze medal in Novice Dance at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships and went on to capture the Gold Medal in Junior Dance at the Canadian Championships in 1997. That same year, Brenda Key and Ryan Smith won the Novice Canadian Championships, making history as two family members, both representing the Orillia FSC winning Canadian Gold in different events. Also, one of our coaches Donna Raeburn was awarded 1998 Coach of the Year for Central Ontario. This for the most part is somewhat of a quick review of our skaters seeking world recognition, but in no way lessens the wonderful achievements of the hundreds of skaters who have worked hard and competed in invitational and other qualifying events, nor the achievements of test stream skaters who will have gone on to take their place in professional skating shows or coaching and teaching positions.
The Sixth Decade – The 2000’s
The new century brought about a new name for the Canadian Figure Skating Association, which has become Skate Canada and sports a new logo. The Orillia club still “shone” with members and skaters being acknowledged from the Central Ontario Section with awards in various areas. Tracey Zwiers was awarded 2000 Coach of the Year and Donna Telford received the 2000 Volunteer of the Year. Two of our senior skaters did extremely well. Kevin Dawe, won the 2000 PreNovice Mens Ontario Winter Games championship and Tyler Smith and his partner Stephanie Mauthe won bronze in the 2001 Novice Sectional Dance Championships and qualified for Divisionals.
In the spring of 2001 the Orillia Figure Skating Club presented the “Celebration on Ice 2001” to commemorate 50 years of skating. At that time the club had over 300 members and employed seven coaches. Brian Orser made a return visit to Orillia and performed to a full house at the Community Centre. The entire club was commended, young and old for their hard work, dedication, volunteer hours and most of all for their “love of skating”. Without them this celebration would not have been possible.
Since 2001 the Orillia FSC has grown to over 350 members. The Club runs from September to the end of April, hosting a carnival every other year. Many challenges have been faced with the closure of the local bingo hall and rising cost of ice time. However, our membership continues to support our local fund raising efforts, in order to keep our registration fees down.
Also in 2001 Tiffany Jeremy and her partner Raymond Schultz placed 2nd in PreJuvenile Dance at Sectionals and represented Orillia at the All Ontario Championships. Laura Csumrik and her partner Michael Whitehead placed 5th at Sectionals in PreNovice Dance and qualified for Divisionals.
Joel McWatters and Chantelle Vaillancourt won silver in Juvenile Dance at the Sectional Championships and Kevin Dawe won bronze in Novice Mens Freeskate at the Sectional Championships.
In 2004 the coaches expressed interest in developing a competitive session within the club. We had several skaters competing at the StarSkate level and thought, that with more ice time they could qualify for the Sectional Championships. Guidelines were set up and any skater who skated at the StarSkate Challenge or Sectional level that year would be eligible for our competitive program. Seven skaters qualified and since then the program has grown to thirteen skaters. With very limited ice time available, all skaters in this program must maintain a full membership with the club.
Also, in 2004 Nicole Collins won the Skate Canada Central Ontario CanSkater of the Year. In 2005, Tracey Zwiers was Skate Canada Volunteer Coach of the Year. In 2007 Stacey Siddons and Devyn Slocum won bronze in Juvenile Dance at the Sectional Championships and Carlea Wilkie became Ontario Winter Games Champion in Special Olympics and also the Canadian Winter Games bronze medalist in Special Olympics.
In 2009 Elizabeth Silk received the title of Skate Canada Central Ontario CanSkater of the Year and Kaitlyn MacDonald was awarded the Skate Canada Central Ontario StarSkater of the Year.
From January 2001 to December 2009 the Orillia Figure Skating Club had more than 41 Gold Skills passed, 15 Gold Freeskate tests, 25 Gold Dance tests, 12 Gold Interpretive tests, 18 Competitive Freeskate tests and numerous competitive dance tests. We are very thankful for our dedicated coaching staff who continue to work enthusiastically with our young skaters.
With the City of Orillia growing, also grew the demand for more ice time. The aging Community Centre was closed January 2009 after an engineering report identified some major structural defects in the fifty-eight year old building. User groups were left scrambling for ice time and program space. The Orillia FSC held their skating carnival at the Rama Mask Arena due the closer of the Community Centre. In September 2009 the Community Centre reopened and the old wooden roof was reinforced with thirteen steel trusses supported by twenty-six steel columns at a considerable cost. The hockey users took advantage of this opening but not the figure skating club. Finally in the spring of 2010 the Community Centre doors were closed again for business. Presently the Community Centre is open on a limited basis for non-ice uses.
At this time I would like to say a few words of appreciation to the “City of Orillia” judges. Without judges there would be no record of progress. Thanks to Mark Scott, Nancy Reilly, Patrick Way and the late Connie Lynch and late Betty Smith.
Having 50 successful years behind us we look forward with anticipation to a great future of skating for the Orillia Figure Skating Club.
The Seventh Decade – The 2010’s
Feasibility studies were done in the early 2000s to determine the wants and needs of recreation in Orillia. A Multi Use Recreation Facility (MURF) was proposed. This facility would include a twin pad arena, an aquatics centre, gymnasium and outdoor recreation as well. For many years the site for a Multi Use Recreational Facility (MURF) project has been undergoing numerous environmental studies and to date no final decision has been made.
The closure of the Community Centre in 2009 and the pressure for additional facilities brought the sports community together in an unprecedented manner. The City was under pressure to provide an immediate remedy and out of this was born the new West Orillia Sports Complex, providing twin-pad ice surfaces, tennis courts, athletic fields with both regular and artificial turf, an accessible playground, a washroom/change room building and walking trail. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held September 17, 2010 and the following day a small ice show “Ice Extravaganza” was put on by the Orillia FSC. The Lake Country Rotary and the Rotary Club of Orillia had made financial commitments for funding to the ongoing MURF project and requested that their commitment be transferred to the new West Orillia Sports Complex. Thus the rinks were named the “Rotary Place”.
The Orillia FSC currently skates 4 days a week at the new twin pad and 1 day a week at the Brian Orser arena. Our membership sits at just under 300 skaters and both are recreational skaters and competitive skaters are thriving. The club currently employs 8 coaches and in July 2011, the club will run its first summer skating program since Doug Leigh left in 1987. The club will now operate for 11 months of the year.
Once gain the Orillia FSC has winners! In 2010 Gunnar Holmgren was 3rd in Juvenile Mens at the Sectionals and in 2011 Carlea Wilkie-Ellis became Ontario Winter Games Champion and the Canada Winter Games Champion in Special Olympics.
On November 26, 2010 the Orillia FSC received a $50,000 Trillium Grant to help fund our 60th Anniversary carnival, to purchase new equipment for our club and to help promote figure skating in Orillia.
Many thanks goes out to your volunteers who have helped our organization over the years, especially this year as we have moved into the West Orillia Sports Complex and organized our 60th Anniversary Carnival. Thanks to our coaches and local judges – Mark Scott and Nicole Murray for their dedication to the Orillia FSC.
Orillia FSC – Coaches Over the Years
Diane Hambly, Margaret Ann Nield, Russell Masters, David Mathewson, Joan Meloche, Marilyn Mutrie, Estelle Riddell
Brian Tuck Marilyn Smith, Peter Firtbrook, Carole Holliday (Forrest), Donna Raeburn, Mary Ellen LePage, Doug Leigh
Doug Leigh, Mary Ellen LePage, Donna Raeburn, Tom Harrison, Gay Armstrong (Tennant), George O’Reily, Greg Myles
Gay Tennant, Colette Napier (Robertson), Nancy Rosewarne, Mary Ellen LePage, Sundae Raeburn, Neil Carpenter, Tim White, Sherry Lukins, Michelle Simpson (Leigh), David Islam, Marion Puffer, Robert Tebby, Tracey Campbell (Zwiers), Linda Vandertass
Tracey Zwiers, Susan MacKay (Scott), Donna Raeburn, Gay Tennant, Michelle Leigh, Scott Chalmers, Lee Barkell, Sundae Raeburn (Brown), Gail Duck, Marilyn Leigh, James Callan, Brenda Goodyear, Adam Grin, Brett Dunlop, Neil Carpenter, Pavol Porac, Markus Leminen
Tracey Zwiers, Susan Scott, Gay Tennant, Gail Duck, Markus Leminen, Brett Dunlop, Pavol Porac, Stephanie Dalley, Azure Dee Perkins, Erin Csumrik-Shaw , James Callan, Lesley Hawker
Orillia FSC – Presidents Over the Years
1951-52 Mr. P. N. Flaherty
1952-53 Mr. H. B. Adams
1953-54 Mr. A. F. Mills
1954-55 Mr. H. G. McNaughton
1955-56 Mr. W. P. Bacon
1956-57 Mr. F. W. Tindell
1957-58 Mrs. Ken Blake
1958-59 Mrs. L. Temple
1959-60 Mrs. C. Hewitt
1960-61 Mr. Harry Bongard
1961-62 Mr. Ken Blake
1962-63 Mrs. Fred Phipps
1963-64 Mrs. Mowry “Betty Street
1964-65 Mr. Fred Phipps
1965-66 Mrs. Connie Lynch
1966-67 Mrs. Connie Lynch
1967-68 Mrs. (Bev) Napier
1968-69 Mr. Wally MacLean
1969-70 Mr. Wally MacLean
1970-71 Mr. Sid Couroux
1972-73 Mr. Lloyd Raymond
1973-74 Mr. Dale Lovering
1974-75 Mrs. Muriel Ashmore
1976-77 Mrs. Barb Bundy
1979-80 Mrs. Pat Adam
1980-81 Mrs. Pat Adam
1981-82 Mr. Peter Rose
1982-83 Mr. Larry Tupling
1983-84 Mr. Richard Crowder
1984-85 Mr. Richard Crowder
1985-86 Mr. Charles Penny
1986-87 Mr. Charles Penny
1987-88 Mr. Charles Penny
1988-89 Mr. Charles Penny
1989-90 Mrs. Linda Wilkie-Ellis
1990-91 Mrs. Linda Wilkie-Ellis
1991-92 Mrs. Gloria James
1992-93 Mrs. Gloria James
1993-94 Mrs. Vera Smith
1994-95 Mrs. Vera Smith
1995-96 Mrs. Vera Smith
1996-97 Mrs. Susan Voderek/Mrs. Allison Guthrie
1997-98 Mrs. Allison Guthrie
1998-99 Mrs. Allison Guthrie
1999-2000 Mark Scott
2000-2001 Mark Scott
2001-2002 Robert Lamb
2002-2003 Robert Lamb
2003-2004 Robert Lamb
2004-2005 Robert Lamb
2005-2006 Selina Lochead
2006-2007 Selina Lochead
2007-2008 Nicole Murray
2008-2009 Nicole Murray
2009-2010 Nicole Murray
2010-2011 Nicole Murray
2011-2012 Mary Collins
2012-2013 Mary Collins
2013-2014 Nicole Murray
2014-2015 Nicole Murray
Revised and re-edited in co-operation with the Orillia Figure Skating Club
Respectfully submitted by Gay Tennant
Updated September 2014 by Tracey Zwiers