LONDON -- While one member of the Moir family will be front and centre on the ice at the BMO Canadian figure skating championships this week, several others from the Ilderton clan are filling major roles behind the scenes.
Scott Moir, of course, and partner Tessa Virtue of London are the prohibitive favourites to win a third straight ice dance title and officially book their trip to next month’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Scott’s mother Alma is involved with the on-ice ceremonies, dad Joseph is in transportation, aunt Carol is the volunteer recruitment assistant, uncle Paul (Carol’s husband) is with properties — converting the John Labatt Centre from a concert venue to a skating venue in less than two days is a major task — and another aunt, Marg, is in on-ice operations.
It’s become a family tradition to volunteer at the nationals, so getting them all together in one place at the same time, including Scott, is no easy feat. But it was pulled off for a few minutes Tuesday at the Western Fair Sports Centre.
“I was just saying to Paul the other day, ‘remember when we used to go to the Canadians and just buy tickets and watch?’ Carol said with a laugh. “But it’s nice being at home this time and being able to follow all of the Western Ontario skaters because we know them all.”
In an event of this scale, there’s the smooth-running portion the spectators in the arena and watching on TV see, then there’s the frantic paddling being done below the surface by organizers to keep it that way.
“The toughest thing you have to do is have your game face on, especially in stressful moments so that the public doesn’t have any idea something might be wrong,” Carol said. “You want everything to be as smooth as possible for the skaters.”
It helps, Alma said, that many of the same volunteers are at the nationals every year.
“It’s a lot of fun on a different angle,” she said. “It’s old home week with a lot of the people who volunteer. It’s an experienced crew and it’s a different kind of holiday for us. We enjoy ourselves, but there are some long days.”
Scott Moir’s brother Charlie, the middle of the three boys — Dan is the oldest — is also a volunteer this week and his resemblance to Scott is noticeable.
“I’m already getting looks in the volunteer room, like, ‘He’s not skating and volunteering this week, is he?’ ” joked Charlie, who also skated, as did Dan.
It’s clear Scott and Tessa are the main focus this week of not only his family, but also of London and Southwestern Ontario. That only doubles the enjoyment of getting involved, said Paul Moir.
“We’re here for all the skaters to make their experience worthwhile, but it’s icing on the cake to have a family member involved the way Scott is. We have confidence in Scott and confidence in Tessa. We believe in them — and we really can’t do any different,” he said, adding he “married into” the sport. “I’d be leaving for Port Huron to coach in the Silver Stick and our three girls (Leanne, Sheri and Cara) would be off to a skating competition and eventually I thought I should be supporting them.
“And once you start hanging around, people start recognizing you and ask if you want to get involved. And because so many people know you here, they always want to talk to you, which can make it tougher to get your job done. But that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a good part of this, it’s where your memories come from.”
Speaking of memories, Scott was asked about the last nationals held in London in 2005, when he and Virtue placed fourth in their first year in seniors.
“It doesn’t seem like it was five years ago,” he said, looking out at the Olympic-sized ice pad as the novice men went through their short programs. “It’s fun to look back, though. Back then, it was exciting just to be on the ice with the big names. No one knew who we were, but we had the loudest applause in the rink.”
Competing at home can be a double-edged sword given the added distractions, but Scott isn’t worried.
“We have a big skating family and I imagine it’ll get a little bigger than normal this week — look for the red shirts. And the people from the community have always been so supportive of Tess and I and we’ll definitely feel that. We know there’ll be pressure competing in front of our home town, so the big focus for us is to keep things normal. We have our program just where we want it, we just have to skate it cleanly.”
And when he and Virtue take to the ice Wednesday at the JLC for the compulsory dance at 6 p.m., the rest of the Moirs get put down their volunteer hats — for a little while at least.