Stories & Skates from Yesteryear

On Friday, February 19, skating enthusiasts were delighted by stories of the evolution of skates at a presentation by Mr. Jean-Marie Leduc of Ottawa at Richmond City Hall. The presentation was part of a historical display of vintage ice-skates presented by Speed Skating Canada in partnership with Mr. Leduc and Heenan Blaikie for the duration of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Mr. Leduc described the evolution of the skate from as far back as the third century when skate blades were carved from caribou legs up to the hockey skates, figure skates, and clap skates that are prevalent today.

When Mr. Leduc speaks about skates, he is specifically referring to the blade. He described how in the 15th century someone had the idea of setting a metal blade on a wood stock and how skating was used for many purposes, including communications and getting away from danger.

Mr. Leduc took his audience on a tour of skates through the ages – from 1604, the first recording of First Nation Peoples using skates, to the 1860s when boots first went on the blade, to 1880 when stop picks were added to figure skates. He finished off the presentation by encouraging everyone to try skating.

As a historian and passionate collector of skates, Mr. Leduc’s collection includes hundreds of outstanding artefacts including a metre-long wooden clap skate known as the “river skate”. This skate, made in 1870, was the forerunner of today's somewhat shorter long-track speed skate.

Another skate, believed to be the first Canadian skate model, made in 1843, consists of a leather shoe and metal blade fused together as one piece. The exhibit also includes Mr. Leduc's personal favourite – the prototype skate specifically designed for short-track by the late Raymond Laberge.

The Great Canadian Speed Skate is a unique and historical piece of Canadian sports history on display until February 28th on the second floor at Richmond City Hall (More information)

Additional talks on the history of speed skating in Canada and at the Olympic Games are taking place in the council chambers of February 23rd and February 25th from 6:30pm to 7:30pm.