Finale. Last night was the last performance show of Battle of the Blades, tonight is the results show to find our which of the final three pairs wins $100k for their charity. In a few short hours this season will be over but the inspiration of the last two months will stay with me.
Eight weeks ago I had no idea Season 3 would be anything other than a chance to see one of my favourite people, Marie-France Dubreuil, rock out with the hockey player she’d been matched up with. Instead MF and partner, Bryan Berard, have inspired me with their stories, their drive to succeed for their charity and the awareness they’re brought to an important cause – youth mental health awareness.
I only had the faintest idea that her partner, Bryan Berard, was a former leaf. I was quickly brought up to speed on his incredible story; after being blinded in one eye after being hit by a hockey stick he spent two years recovering and retraining himself to play in the NHL.
My piddly injuries pale in comparison to what he’s been through but I understand loving a sport so much you’d do anything to keep playing. Broken arms, bruised ribs and skating with a broken knee for 2.5 years couldn’t keep me off the ice. I don’t skate anymore but it will always be a part of who I am.
I also love that he’s been open to whatever Marie-France suggests. His willingness to work hard has paid off with huge improvements each week. Last week, in week 7, their performance was the first one in 3 seasons to make me forget there was a hockey player out there, it was so natural and entertaining despite a tough week of training.
Marie-France’s role in making her and Bryan a team cannot be understated. Her incredible ice dance skills and upbeat personality is a major factor behind how far this team has come. Not to mention her sincerity and open mind, she knew you couldn’t take a hockey player like Bryan and try to pass him off as a figure skater. Instead she got to know him and showed the audience who he truly is on the ice each night. Because of that myself, and the rest of the country, have fallen in love with them each week…
…but that’s MF. In the opening week the introductory clips on each skater were pretty somber, except for MF who talked with joy about being a new mom. She could have told you about skating flawlessly at the 2006 Olympics until quite literally the last second of the last lift at the end of the program when something went wrong. Instead of hitting their finishing pose MF went flying and crashed into the ice on her hip. Their (MF and Patrice’s) lifetime Olympic dream was over that fast. But MF came back. Instead of the accident tearing them apart it brought them closer and they skated wonderfully at Worlds a few weeks later and now they have an incredible family and the cutest, most happy baby ever.
After eight weeks of competition, they’ve made it to the finale, and have the chance to win $100,000 for their Charity “Do It For Daron” (D.I.F.D.), a charity started in memory of Daron Richardson who took her own life at the tender age of 14.
D.I.F.D. works to raise awareness about youth mental health issues, an issue close Bryan’s heart, his youngest brother having attempted suicide at 19. The Final shows are actually be skated on the first anniversary of Daron’s passing and MF and Bryan dedicated their final skates to her memory. The emotion in the arena last night was intense.
Now we’re at the end of the road and I catch myself wondering who knew they’d get here when they were first paired up? I can’t speak for her but it’s obvious to me that MF did. She got to know her partner and recognized the heart and determination Bryan brought to the table and how to use his life experiences to add depth to their skating. I didn’t know Bryan before the show but winning $100,000 for D.I.F.D was his goal and I’m impressed with his and Marie-France’s dedication to do anything to achieve that goal. Well done kids, well done. I could not be more proud of you, whether you win $25k or $100k you have already brought an incredible amount of awareness to an important cause that will save lives.
Power to the purple!
As I said at the beginning, I’m going to miss this season when it’s over. Marie-France and Bryan have inspired me and that will stay with me long after the winner is announced and the lights go down. Like the tattoo on Bryan’s arm says “Dream like you’ll live forever, live like you’ll die today”.
Finally, thanks for everything Marie-France. From letting me sit rink side each week to not making this shy girl feel dumb wearing puff-painted shirts with your name on it, you are simply the best. xoxo