Patrick Chan knows how the big, bad Boston Bruins felt when the defending Stanley Cup champions began the 2011-12 season by going a miserable 2-8.
Coming off a momentous world title performance in 2011, the Toronto figure skater kicked off the current skating campaign with a similar competitive hangover.
“This year is like the hangover year after the Stanley Cup,” said Chan, who will attempt to capture a fifth straight senior national title this weekend at the Moncton Coliseum Complex. “Some teams have trouble coming back. And that’s how I felt during the Grand Prix season. I had trouble getting back into the stride of things.
“It’s like if you haven’t driven standard for a long time and then you sit in a manual car, and it’s a sports car, and then trying to drive it again. That’s the feeling,” he added. “You have to kind of play with the clutch. You have to figure out where you are and how the gear works, how the shifting works.”
The good news for Canadian skating fans is that skating’s most celebrated Gear Head believes the hangover is behind him. Chan said sometime after a short vacation over the New Year in Las Vegas, he got his groove back and now he believes he’s on track to defend his world title, won last year in Moscow in spectacular fashion with three world records.
“For some reason, something clicked after the new year,” said the 21-year-old skating star, following a practice session on Thursday. “I went back home to Colorado after my vacation and got back to practice and everything seemed to click, everything seemed clear, which is a good sign. I’m starting to feel how I felt last year before worlds.”
Chan admitted it was frustrating getting back into training this fall when nothing seemed to click, particularly his quads. Though he feels great now, because of the slow start, there is more catching up to do with his programs than at this time last year.
“I remember when I first came back from off-season, it was like, ‘Man why is the quad so hard? My quad was never this hard last year.’ So I had that frustration level,” he said.
But he figured it out and his goal now is to win a second world title, to become the third Canadian male to win more than one world championship. Kurt Browning captured four and Elvis Stojko won three.
“That’s my biggest goal,” said Chan, while adding that there’s less pressure on him to win now that he’s already won at worlds. “Everything now is just a bonus, excluding the Olympics.”
The 2014 Sochi Olympics, of course, remain his ultimate goal. He’ll be 23 then and in his prime.
In the meantime, the outspoken skater — who angered some Canadian fans earlier this season when he made a crack (which he later said was interpreted incorrectly) about how unappreciated he felt in his home country and how much more appreciated he’d be if he skated for China — also wants to focus on inspiring the skaters coming up behind him on the Canadian scene.
Canada has had an incredible run in men’s singles skating, starting with Donald Jackson winning the world title in 1962. Donald McPherson won the year after that, and Brian Orser, Browning, Stojko and Chan have all followed suit. Chan wants to help keep that tradition alive when he eventually retires.
“That’s very important,” he said. “If you had asked me that like two years ago, I probably would have said no. But now that I’m getting more mature, and we’re getting closer to Sochi, it’s important for me to help build, or keep an eye on, how our skaters are looking, and who are the potential skaters who will represent Canada in Sochi or the next Olympics in (2018). So I feel responsible. I don’t want to just walk out of here and forget about it and just take my titles, right? I want to leave a positive mark on figure skating, especially figure skating in Canada.”
Chan emphasized that last part.