Toller Craston vents about Elvis Stojko

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

TORONTO - Figure skating legend Toller Cranston has metamorphosed into a world renowned artist, which is not hard to believe given that his skating performances were, in a way, works of art.

But he also would have done very well if he had joined a spy agency when his skating career ended a decade or so ago. The man has “spies” everywhere.

And it was one of these spies who told him that Elvis Stojko, another great Canadian skater, had imitated him in an unflattering way once at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club.

The way Cranston tells the story — and telling stories is certainly another one of his many talents — Stojko was asked one day to teach the “Morning Glories”, as the older women at the club are known, for a guest session — a big thrill for “the old bags”, as Cranston calls them.

“He apparently did a lot of unflattering things imitating me, but ended up cutting himself and being rushed to the hospital, so it served him right,” said Cranston on Thursday night, as he prepared for a showing of some of his art this weekend at Artworld at Sherway Gardens.

Perhaps it was that incident that soured Cranston on “poor Elvis” as Cranston refers to Stojko, a three-time world figure skating champion who was known for his amazing jumps and other technical elements, and not so much for his artistry — the complete opposite of Cranston.

And when another spy told Cranston that Stojko had teed off on Evan Lysacek after the American won the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Cranston did another slow burn, and apparently it had been building for nine months because on Thursday night it all exploded to the surface.

“When I first heard Elvis slam Lysacek, I thought: ‘Why do I want to jump into his imbroglio?’ But that was then, and this is now. Now I’m opening my mouth,” Cranston said. “I’m venting and spewing.”

Cranston is furious that Stojko suggested to a number of media outlets, including the Toronto Sun, that Lysacek was unworthy of the gold medal because he did not attempt a quad jump. Basically, Stojko said that Lysacek’s skating is not worthy because there are not enough difficult technical elements to it. And that freaked Cranston out. Of course, Cranston, a former Olympic and world championship medallist, is considered one of the great innovators in skating, a skater whose ground-breaking artistry set new standards to this day.

Stojko’s opinion about Lysacek’s skating style cut him to the very core.

“Elvis Stojko’s pronouncement that only real men do quads, was said because he could do them,” said Cranston. “But that said, what about all the things Elvis couldn’t do? He was the most inflexible skater in history. He was a poor spinner. He was inartistic. It didn’t really matter what music he skated to because it was either a theme from Rocky or Rambo. One or the other.

“The great skaters of history are always are the most rounded skaters,” Cranston continued. “Kurt Browning is far superior, in my opinion, to the likes of Elvis. Because Kurt really was everything you’re supposed to be. There was nothing Kurt couldn’t do.

Living in Mexico

“The other thing, is,” added Cranston, “you can push the envelope, as I did, but certainly not with quads. With other ways. There are many ways to cut the cake.”

What’s interesting, both Cranston and Stojko, two Canadian skaters who became legends by skating two extremely different styles — one cutting edge artistically and the other by performing jumps never seen before — now both live in Mexico, Cranston in San Miguel de Allende and Stojko in a small town near Guadalajara. And, no, they don’t do the ‘pop in.’

“I won’t allow him in my town,” said Cranston, with a mischievous smile. “He’s banned. As a matter of fact, the town I live in is extremely intellectual, artistic and international. And his town is dirt bikes and beer drinking. And I think people play bridge. I don’t know if he can do that, but that’s what they do there.”

Cranston confesses he respects and is even fond of Stojko for what he accomplished on the ice. But it bothers him to no end when people downplay the artistic side of skating.

One thing for sure, people do not downplay Cranston’s art.

His show this weekend at Sherway Gardens is about the 350th public showing worldwide, from Lausanne, Switzerland to Chicago, and many places in between. He estimates he has sold 70,000 paintings. But it wasn’t just the show that brought him to Toronto. He is also a guest judge on the CBC’s Battle of the Blades — the program that matches ex-NHL players with female figure skating partners in a competition with big bucks going to charity.

“I just hope the hockey players don’t beat me up,” said Cranston, who was admittedly was a little nervous about being a judge. But he’s looking forward to it now.

“I’m looking at it as an entertainment learning experience and hopefully I survive it without being assassinated by some irate fan,” he said, with a laugh.

When told that perhaps it represents another feather in his cap, Cranston replied: “A feather? A harpoon maybe.”


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