CBC today announced at its 2019-20 Upfront presentation that Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean will be returning to his role as host for the upcoming season of hit competition series BATTLE OF THE BLADES (Season 5, 1×120, 6×60), with four-time Canadian and four-time World champion figure skater Kurt Browning also joining the series’ family once again, as head judge. Beloved Canadian Olympic ice dance champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, will be rink-side with him as guest judges for select episodes. Also announced today are four skaters confirmed to compete in the new iteration of the hugely popular format, including hockey players Sheldon Kennedy and Natalie Spooner, and figure skaters Vanessa James and Violetta Afanasieva. In a first for the series, James will participate in the competition while continuing her active pursuit of international titles. BATTLE OF THE BLADES, the highest-rated original English-language Canadian format of all time* and produced by Insight Productions, returns to CBC for Season 5 this fall. Additional skaters will be announced in the coming weeks, as well as the pairings for the competition.
MacLean is a Canadian icon and a multiple award-winning sports broadcaster for three decades, known for his roles on Hockey Night in Canada and Rogers Hometown Hockey. He is a two-time George Gross Award recipient, honouring excellence in sports broadcasting, and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2015, alongside Don Cherry. MacLean has been part of the BATTLE OF THE BLADES family since the beginning, and brings his extensive knowledge of hockey and figure skating to the role of host once again, in addition to his comedic charm and ease of refereeing the pairs’ and judges’ comments.
International figure skating icon and an expert in figure skating on and off the ice, the legendary Browning also returns to the BATTLE OF THE BLADES family for the fifth time. He has been inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame, and was the first to land a quad jump in competition. Browning has contributed to CBC’s coverage of the Olympic Winter Games and World Figure Skating Championships as an analyst, and choreographed programs for dozens of skating stars, in addition to touring with Stars on Ice.
Considered to be the greatest ice dancers of all time, Virtue and Moir have won five Olympic Games medals, including gold medals in ice dance in 2010 and 2018 as well as for the team event in 2018. In addition, they are three-time World and eight-time Canadian champions. They will be joining Browning in the judges’ chairs between dates of their “Rock the Rink” tour to participate in BATTLE OF THE BLADES.
A Manitoba-born former NHL player, Kennedy played for three teams over the course of his eight-year NHL career – the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames. For his tireless work as a spokesperson and advocate for abuse survivors, Kennedy has received numerous awards, including being named a Member of The Order of Canada (2015) and a Member of The Order of Manitoba (2015), and receiving the Hockey Canada Order of Merit (2018). The charity he’s competing for is Canadian Tire Jumpstart, a national charity that works with communities to give kids from families in financial need the chance to participate in organized sports.
As part of Team Canada, Toronto-born hockey player Spooner won a gold medal at Sochi 2014 and silver medal at PyeongChang 2018. Also in 2014, she became the first woman in hockey history to claim both the Olympic Games gold medal and the Clarkson Cup for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She is a spokesperson for the importance of empowering women and encouraging girls to stay active. The charity she’s competing for is Fast and Female, a registered charity whose mission is to keep girls healthy and active in sports by introducing them to inspiring athlete role models at non-competitive, fun-filled events all over North America.
A Toronto-born pairs skater for France, James is a six-time French pairs champion, 2018 Grand Prix Final champion, 2018 World bronze medallist and the 2019 European champion, with partner Morgan Ciprès. She is the first active figure skating competitor to join BATTLE OF THE BLADES while continuing her pursuit of World and Olympic Games titles.
Russian-Canadian Afanasieva was a fan favourite in Seasons 2 to 4 of BATTLE OF THE BLADES, and she was first runner-up with partner Jason Strudwick in Season 4. She is a talented adagio performer – a form of pairs skating featuring acrobatic lifts – and has skated professionally for 25 years. She and partner Peter Dack won the first-ever World Extreme Figure Skating Championship in 2006.
Returning this fall, BATTLE OF THE BLADES combines athletes from two of Canada’s favourite sports — figure skating and hockey — as they pair up in a live, high-stakes figure skating competition for the charity of their choice. First launched in 2009, BATTLE OF THE BLADES was broadcast on CBC from 2009 – 2013 (4 seasons, 57 episodes) and remains the highest-rated original English-language Canadian format of all time.*