Figure skaters Olivia Smiley (left) Reina Ren, Ella Seyler and Rachel Erceg in Centennial Arena. Smiley, 11, was the first to perform at a Whalers game in Sept. 2021. | Photo courtesy of of WRSSSC.
During pandemic, Whalers offer crowd for skating club
CENTENNIAL ARENA – While the Whalers sharpen skates during the first intermission, fans are treated to a completely different form of on-ice prowess – axels, spins and twirls.
Lulu Hai (left) and Reina Ren in Centennial Arena. Hai skates twice a day for practice, goes to school, and even ballroom dances.
Throughout the 2021-2022 hockey season, young figure skaters from the White Rock / South Surrey Skating Club (WRSSSC) have performed during the first intermission of Whalers games.
The participants include: 13-year-olds Rachel Erceg and Ella Seyler; 11-year-olds Lulu Hai and Olivia Smiley; and nine-year-old Reina Ren. Each skater has performed a short program of approximately three minutes for the Centennial faithful.
“When I was done, I wanted to do it again!” exclaimed Rachel Erceg. “Everyone was super nice at the game and it was neat to skate just for fun without judges.”
A slow summer with too much screen time led Erceg’s mother to covertly sign her up for skating lessons. Now, the 13-year-old enjoys the ongoing challenge of practice and competitions.
She also learned a valuable lesson from the intermission. Those three minutes were the first time she had the spotlight on her own, without a coach.
“I learned that I can go out and skate by myself because my coaches have taught me lots,” Erceg remarked.
‘Delighted’ skaters gain valuable experience
The ongoing pandemic restrictions on large crowds has led to an unexpected bonus for the WRSSSC. The skaters use the intermission time to learn how to perform in front of 150 to 200 hockey fans.
WRSSSC head coach Julie Dunlop said the fanbase was the largest group some of her skaters had ever been in front of.
Ella Seyler performed during the first intermission on October 31.
“When I heard the audience clapping, I was delighted and proud,” recalled Lulu Hai. She realized that the Whaler fanbase will pay “attention and appreciate you if you actually step out there and show your best.”
The skaters spend more ice time practising than the Whalers. Hai skates twice a day, goes to school, and also attends ballroom dancing lessons.
Pucks to toe picks
Ella Seyler found her performance a bit nerve wracking. However, as she eased into her program, her butterflies turned into excitement.
“It was good to overcome my fears,” she added. Selyer learned to skate at three-and-a-half. She turned to hockey at five and then decided to give up her stick and pucks for toe picks.
Meanwhile, Olivia Smiley was the first to lace up for an intermission in September 2021. “I definitely got intimidated with how many people were there,” she acknowledged.
However, she came off the ice with newfound confidence. Regardless of the pressure to perform, Smiley will “always feel that it’s just me doing what I love.”
Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns, White Rock Whalers
Nine-year-old Reina Ren received a warm ovation from the Pod's fans. “Sometimes, when I’m scared, I just go for it," she said.
Reina Ren poses with her brand-new Whalers pin. Each skater receives a 'W' crest pin in appreciation for their performance.
The youngest skater, Reina Ren, came to Centennial on Jan. 29. Her energetic performance – complete with a cheerleading uniform and set to the 1980s classic Hey Mickey from Toni Basil – received a warm ovation from fans.
Ren began to skate four years ago at the age of five. “Sometimes, when I’m scared, [I] just go for it. It will turn out to be an awesome experience!”
We thank head coach Julie Dunlop and the White Rock / South Surrey Skating Club figure skaters for performing during the first period intermissions.
You can find Whalers pins even on figure skates.
Photos courtesy of WRSSSC and Alistair Burns, White Rock Whalers