Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Canton Split

The Detroit Free Press broke the story that Igor Shpilband was fired from his position at Arctic Edge in Canton, Michigan where he and Marina Zoueva train several of the top ice dance teams in the world, including Virtue/Moir, Davis/White, Shibutani/Shibutani, Chock/Bates and Tobias/Stagniunas.  Rink management stated that the skaters were unhappy with the lack of attention they were receiving and that they would not come back to the rink as long as Shpilband was there.  Shpilband contends that the firing was a complete shock and that there has been a growing rift between himself and Zoueva as he sought to take on skaters by himself and she left him out of scheduling decisions.  

While it seems like the whole story has not been disclosed and it's unlikely we'll know the whole story of what happened in Canton, it is clear that the coaching team that led to the dominance of North American Ice Dance has gone their separate ways.

Russian officials were reportedly making offers to Shpilband to give him any resources he needs to come coach in Russia.  He defected from the Soviet Union in 1990 while on tour and became a U.S. citizen in 2000.  Shpilband's wife Adrienne Lenda is a coach at Arctic Edge but nothing has been announced regarding her position at the rink.

Shpilband announced his intentions to stay in Michigan and was reportedly seen checking out the Compuware Ice Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, about 10 miles from Canton.

Davis and White along with the Shibutanis announced today that they intend to remain with Zoueva.  Virtue and Moir along with Chock and Bates and Tobias and Stagniunas have yet to make a comment about their decision.

Davis and White's decision in particular may seem surprising as they have seemed closer to Shpilband over the years and he regularly travels with the team.  However, in light of his uncertain circumstances the safe bet is to stay at their current rink.  No one knows how quickly he'll be able to find a new rink and skaters are already working on their programs for next season.  And elite skaters need more than just a coach; they have off-ice training daily including dance classes, strength training and conditioning which they may not be able to get at a new rink.

It will be interesting to see how the remainder of the off-season plays out as Shpilband attempts to find a new rink and create a new school of skaters (one of the reported reasons for the falling out was that Shpilband had secured two teams who wanted to work exclusively with him) while Zoueva attempts to keep up with the demanding training and travel schedule of her top teams on her own.   They will likely both need partners, as Shpilband was the technical expert while Zoueva did the bulk of the teams' choreography.  With only a year and a half before Sochi, how the coaches are able to handle the transition and provide consistency for the skaters will be essential, especially with their top competition training just a few minutes down the road at Detroit Skating Club.

UPDATE 6/13: Igor Shpilband has a new rink at Novi Ice Arena in Novi, Michigan, about 20 minutes outside of Canton.  Madison Chock and Evan Bates have publicly announced that they will be joining Shpilband at his new rink.  Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir announced last week that they would be remaining in Canton with Zoueva.

Update 6/14: The Lithuanian team of Tobias/Stagniunas announced today that they will also join Shpilband in Novi.

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