With just over a week to go until show time, the skaters are sharpening their blades and their moves. CBC today announced the pairings for the upcoming return of the hit live-competition series BATTLE OF THE BLADES (Season 5, 1×120, 6×60), including the remaining NHL veteran and Olympic hockey players who will perform with their World and Olympic figure skating partners in the hopes of winning the Season 5 championship, and a $100,000 donation to the charities of their choice. BATTLE OF THE BLADES, the highest-rated original English-language Canadian format of all time* and produced by Insight Productions, launches with a special two-hour premiere on Thursday, September 19 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC and the free CBC Gem streaming service.
The former NHL and Olympic hockey players announced today are: 18-year professional hockey veteran and former Toronto Maple Leaf, Colton Orr; Olympic Games gold and silver medal-winning hockey player for Team USA, Amanda Kessel; 13-year professional hockey player and former New York Islander Bruno Gervais; and 14-season NHL veteran and current Calgary Flames Director of Player Assistance, Brian McGrattan. Orr, Kessel, Gervais and McGrattan join previously announced fellow hockey players Natalie Spooner and Sheldon Kennedy as Season 5 competitors.
Former Toronto Maple Leaf and Montreal Canadien, and current NHL broadcast analyst, Colby Armstrong had committed to the series, but while training last week with his on-ice partner, Violetta Afanasieva, he sustained a hamstring injury that prevents him from continuing in the competition. He has been forced to withdraw, and Afanasieva will continue to train and perform with her new partner, former NHL player, current sports broadcaster, and past BATTLE OF THE BLADES competitor and judge P.J. Stock, who was also her partner in Season 2 of the hit series.
The pairs preparing to hit the ice for the live competition beginning September 19, are:
Violetta Afanasieva and P.J. Stock
World Extreme pairs champion and three-time BATTLE OF THE BLADES fan favourite Afanasieva will be performing with Quebec native Stock. He began his NHL career with the New York Rangers, before signing with the Montreal Canadiens, and continuing with the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. Stock is a hockey broadcast analyst, having appeared on Hockey Night in Canada for nearly a decade, and he currently appears on RDS. Afanasieva was also his partner when he competed on Season 2 of BATTLE OF THE BLADES, and he appeared as a judge on Season 4. He is competing this season on behalf of the Stock Fund in support of the ALS Society of Quebec, which works to provide support and referrals for people living with ALS and their loved ones, fund research, and raise awareness of the disease, while Afanasieva is competing in support of the Humane Society of Kawartha Lakes, providing protection and provision for the humane care and treatment of all animals.
Amanda Evora and Colton Orr
The Season 4 winner and an Olympian in pairs skating, Evora will be performing with Orr, a Winnipeg, Manitoba-born 18-year professional hockey veteran who played close to 500 games in the NHL. Orr played for the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, establishing himself as a top enforcer, which earned him a major contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He suffered a concussion during the 2010/2011 season but returned to the ice the following season, playing for an additional two years before his retirement. He is currently coaching youth hockey at the Colton Orr Hockey Academy as well as doing broadcast work in Toronto and New York. He is competing in support of the Smilezone Foundation, which strives to improve the lives of children receiving medical treatment at health care facilities across Canada, while Evora is competing in support of Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, which works with communities across Canada to encourage and empower children and youth, helping them set a path for success.
Ekaterina Gordeeva and Bruno Gervais
The Season 2 winner and two-time Olympic Games gold medallist in pairs skating, Gordeeva will be performing with Gervais, a Longueuil, Quebec-born 13-year professional hockey veteran. Gervais was initially drafted by the New York Islanders, where he was a strong defensive figure for years, and after achieving a career-high 19 points in 63 games, Gervais was awarded the Nassau County Athlete of the Year Award in 2009. He played with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers before shifting his hockey career to Europe, where he spent two years playing for Eisbären Berlin. He is competing in support of the Gervais-Talbot Foundation, which supports disadvantaged youth, while Gordeeva is competing in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Vanessa James and Brian McGrattan
A six-time French pairs champion, 2018 Grand Prix Final champion and 2019 European champion, James will be performing with McGrattan, a Hamilton, Ontario-born 14-year NHL veteran. McGrattan made his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators, establishing himself as the team’s top enforcer, and one of the best in the league. After being traded to the Phoenix Coyotes, his struggles with substance abuse led him to seek help, entering a program that would help him change the course of his life. He returned to the NHL with the Calgary Flames, where he was a positive influence on his team, and following his retirement, he rejoined the Flames as the team’s Director of Player Assistance. He is competing in support of the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society, which works to help homeless animals in Alberta communities, while James is competing in support of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, which works to make life better for Canadians affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and advances research to improve diagnosis, treatments and to find a cure.
Amanda Kessel and Eric Radford
A two-time World pairs champion and two-time Olympic Games medallist, Radford will be performing with Kessel, a Madison, Wisconsin-born hockey player for Team USA. At the start of her career, she played for the United States Under-18 Team, and was named the World Under-18 tournament’s most valuable forward, scoring six goals and 13 assists which led the team to a gold medal. Kessel also helped lead Team USA to a silver medal at Sochi 2014, and despite suffering a debilitating concussion in 2014, she helped them to a gold medal at PyeongChang 2018. Since then, Kessel has been playing in the National Women’s Hockey League for the Metropolitan Riveters. She graduated from college with a degree in Sports Management, and has her own clothing line, AK28 with Gongshow Gear. Kessel is competing on behalf of SickKids Foundation, in support of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, while Radford is competing in support of Egale Canada, which works to improve the lives of all LGBTQI2S people.
Natalie Spooner and Andrew Poje
A three-time World Ice Dance medallist, three-time Canadian Ice Dance champion, and two-time Olympian with Kaitlyn Weaver, Poje will be performing with Spooner, a Toronto-born hockey player with Team Canada who 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. Spooner is competing in support of Fast and Female, a charity dedicated to keeping girls healthy and active in sports by introducing them to inspiring athlete role models at non-competitive, fun-filled events all over North America, while Poje is competing in support of Right To Play, which works to protect, educate and empower children to rise above adversity using the power of play.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Sheldon Kennedy
A three-time World Ice Dance medallist, three-time Canadian Ice Dance champion, and two-time Olympian with Poje, Weaver will be performing with Kennedy, a Manitoba-born former NHL player who 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). Kennedy and Weaver are competing in support of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, a national charity dedicated to helping kids overcome financial and accessibility barriers to sport and recreation in an effort to provide inclusive play for kids of all abilities.
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. Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean will reprise his role as host, with four-time Canadian and four-time World champion figure skater Kurt Browning returning as head judge. Beloved Canadian Olympic Games ice dance champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, will be rink-side with him as guest judges for select episodes. 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.*