Battle of the Blades eyes franchise possibilities

CBC’s skating hit “Battle of the Blades” is heating up off the ice, with talks underway to mount the elimination-style reality series in other countries, executive producer John Brunton said Wednesday.

Jamie Sale and Craig Simpson perform a tribute to Austin Powers for the an episode of CBC Television's Battle of the Blades.

Jamie Sale and Craig Simpson perform a tribute to Austin Powers for the an episode of CBC Television's Battle of the Blades.

CBC’s skating hit “Battle of the Blades” is heating up off the ice, with talks underway to mount the elimination-style reality series in other countries, executive producer John Brunton said Wednesday.

“Right now we’re fielding many, many, many emails and phone calls about the program,” said Brunton, co-executive producer alongside Barbara Bowlby and Kevin Albrecht.

“There’s enormous interest in the show and we’ve had so much press, not just here in Canada but in Los Angeles, in New York City and throughout Europe. … We’re in discussions right now about people buying our Canadian version of the show, as well as doing their own local format.”

Such a deal would be a rare coup for an original Canadian-made series, Brunton says, noting that many recent homegrown reality hits are in fact adaptations of foreign formats. That includes his own series — “Canadian Idol,” “Project Runway Canada” and “Deal or No Deal Canada.”

“Battle of the Blades” pits pairs of former NHLers and veteran figure skaters against each other in weekly routines. It’s the brainchild of Albrecht, a sports agent, with development by choreographer Sandra Bezic, also a judge on the weekly show, and is produced by Insight Productions in association with CBC-TV.

“In Russia there’s enough dance and pairs skaters and famous hockey players they could replicate it easily,” said Brunton, adding that the United States and Scandinavian countries also offer likely audiences.

But while some countries have the hockey players, they may not have the depth of pairs skaters, and vice versa, he notes. In those cases, the show might have to bring in contestants from other fields — such as speed skating or women’s hockey.

Alternatively, athletes from different countries could be pitted against each other, such as pairing Asian skating stars with Swedish hockey phenoms.

“There are so many possibilities — could we do Canada versus the United States as a competition? Or Canada versus Russia, which would capture people’s imagination,” says Brunton, referring to the legendary 1972 Summit Series hockey game.

“Could we do our version of ’World Battle of the Blades’ where people could come from all over the world and compete? There’s many, many, many ways we could play around and evolve ‘Battle and the Blades.’ ”

The show’s first season wraps up Sunday and Monday with a three-way fight for the title of best on ice. The winning pair gets $100,000 for the charity of their choice.

Monday’s results show will feature a special performance from skating legends Barb Underhill and Paul Martini, with a routine dedicated to Underhill’s daughter Stephanie, who died as a baby when she fell into a backyard pool.

Brunton says that Underhill and Martini, who claimed the world champion title in 1984, will skate to a song performed by Stephanie’s twin sister, Samantha.

“They’re reuniting for what I believe to be an incredibly special and moving heart-and-soul skating number that I think is going to really bring the house down,” said Brunton.

Also performing Monday will be Olympic gold medallists Jame Sale and David Pelletier, and former Olympians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.

Sunday’s show will include an all-men’s routine featuring the five previously eliminated NHLers — Ron Duguay, Bob Probert, Ken Daneyko, Glenn Anderson and Tie Domi.

The judges decided that three teams, instead of just two, would advance to Sunday’s final performance after Dubreuil suffered a back injury earlier this week. It prevented her from performing in last Monday’s elimination skateoff, but Brunton says she’s intent on returning to the ice this weekend with partner Stephane Richer.

“It’ll take chains to keep her off the ice, in my opinion. She’s extremely competitive and she wants to give it the best go she can and she is planning to skate.”

Dubreuil and Richer face off against fellow finalists Sale and Craig Simpson, and Shae-Lynn Bourne and Claude Lemieux.

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