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A celebration eighty years in the making

Trish Kozachanko (then Houley) was but three years old when she first stepped out on to the ice of the Stanley Stadium in Copper Cliff, a precocious member of the "Morning Glories" (now Can Skate program).

The fact that Stanley Stadium has not existed in our community since 1976, at which time the building was torn down and replaced by McClelland Arena, provides a little perspective on just how deeply-linked Kozachanko is to the Copper Cliff Skating Club (CCSC).

So one can easily understand the pride she holds near and dear as the Club, to which she has belonged since 1967, either as a skater or skating instructor, prepares to not only host the annaul Rainbow Country Interclub Figure Skating Competition this weekend, but also celebrates the 80th anniversary of the CCSC.

"I remember Stanley Stadium," Kozachanko acknowledged after practice earlier this week. "We were a family. We're still trying to keep it as close to a family environment as possible."

"When the city took over the arena, they said that Stanley Stadium was condemned, but I really find that hard to believe. The curling rink (Copper Cliff Curling Club) was built one year after Stanley Stadium, and it's still there. It's kind of sad, because it was ours."

If the building did not last, the same could not be said about the skating club itself, currently enjoying an upswing in participation, especially at the younger levels. It's not been easy, but Kozachanko and countless CCSC volunteers have persevered, all while the sport has changed substantially over the six decades of her involvement.

"The kids of today, we have a hard time teaching them certain skating skills," admitted Kozachanko. "When I was skating, figures and turns were engrained in us. Things that I do instinctively, they have no concept. It's hard to teach kids when they have no concept of turns."

That said, there is an emotional nostalgia, a deeply-rooted love of those same pupils that keeps her coming back to Copper Cliff, year after year. "I'm teaching the children of my original students now," she said. "It's surreal. I'm staring at the same child I taught thirty years ago."

Hundreds of hours, spent together on the ice, can form quite the indelible bond. "When I'm at home, I have my two children, and they're both grown now. But when I come to the rink, I have fifty children. I want the kids to do as well as they can, to have fun, and enjoy the sport."

"When I'm off for a couple of days, I go stir crazy." This coming weekend, the craziness comes as part and parcel of the work involved in being the host club, a small portion of which included devoting an entire day merely to the preparation of stickers needed for every one of the skaters, each participant typically requiring three stickers or so.

But memories will be created, accomplishments feted, as athletes from a whole slew of local clubs take to the ice at McClelland. Boys and girls will leave with those cherished feelings that are part of the reward one feels with attaining a challenging goal, just as their teachers had before them.

"I think it was an accomplishment, back in the seventies, when I got my gold tests, that I got them so young," said Kozachanko. "By 1978 (14 years old), I had all my gold tests, and that was rare."

Yes, there is plenty to celebrate - the 1940's excellence of the pairs team of Gladys Lennie and Elphio Grottoli, the 1977 Canadian pairs championship claimed by Olympians Eric Gillies and Copper Cliff product Susan Cascallen, the 1983 Canadian Jr Men's title claimed by Patrick Greasley, and, of course, the life-long link that Kozachanko enjoys with the Club.

That happens when you can draw on eighty years worth of figure skating history.

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