DAVID Pelletier has never felt more eager to make a run for the border.
There\'s no place like home, indeed.
\"You don\'t have enough words in your story for me to tell you how I feel (about returning to Canada),\" said Pelletier from Florida a few weeks back, as the 61-city U.S. Stars On Ice tour neared its conclusion. \"It will be such an enjoyable feeling ... I can\'t wait to cross that border.\"
Pelletier and his Olympic gold medal-winning partner, Jamie Sale, are home at last. HSBC Stars On Ice launched Wednesday night in Halifax, and hits the Corel Centre tomorrow (7:30 p.m.) for Stop 2 on the 11-city Canadian tour.
For Sale and Pelletier, much of the whirlwind and frenzy that accompanied them at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games -- the pairs scandal, the media frenzy, the gold medals they eventually received after the worldwide uproar -- is behind them now. While Sale admits she still gets recognized on the street, she and Pelletier have settled into the touring life quite nicely.
\"We\'re really enjoying ourselves,\" she said. \"We didn\'t know what to expect at first ... I can\'t say it\'s less stressful because touring is very demanding. But we like to perform, we\'re in a different city every night and we love that.
\"We\'re not celebrities like Scott Hamilton, but we do get recognized a bit. In Canada, that\'s more normal for us.\"
Also new to the tour this year, as it turns out, are the Russians who shared the gold medals -- and the centre of the storm -- with them in Salt Lake.
Sorry if you\'re hoping to hear tales of behind-the-scenes hissing and fighting: Sale, Pelletier, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze have become the four amigos in this group.
\"People always want to know, do they get along?\" said Kurt Browning, who\'s been a mentor to the four tour newcomers. \"But they don\'t have a choice. In the States, Stars On Ice needed them so much more than any other (cast members) to promote the shows ... they\'re getting along and enjoying each other\'s company.
Jamie and David are working so hard to sell this tour. The only reason they\'re
getting through this is they\'re in the best shape of their lives and they\'re incredible athletes.\"
The sell job was necessary more than ever: With the stench of the Salt Lake scandal still in the air -- not to mention war in Iraq -- it\'s been a tough year for the skating business. Stars On Ice, not used to seeing plenty of empty seats, averaged only 6,000 a night south of the border.
\'GREAT SUPPORT IN CANADA\'
That all should change in the next few weeks.
\"We\'ve heard quite a few of the Canadian venues are sold out,\" said Sale. \"We\'ve always had great support in Canada.\"
They\'re in this for the long haul, too. With the door closed firmly on their competitive careers.
\"This is the right place for us to be right now,\" said Pelletier. \"We did what we had to do, and we\'re at peace with our decision. I knew I couldn\'t have turned the page like that if I thought I was going to have any regrets. I knew once we turned that page, we\'d never look back.\"