Figuring Into History


Photo courtesy of Champions on ice

Minnesota has played a role in some of the greatest ice shows our country has experienced. You can trace these shows all the way back to the 1930s in St. Paul, which in years to come, sparked the vision of Twin Cities’ own Morris Chalfen and Tom Collins. These are the local links that helped shape the sport of figure skating into the star-quality entertainment we love.

Ice Follies

In the 1920s St. Paul brothers Eddie and Roy Shipstad taught themselves to skate on Como Lake and entertained crowds with their acrobatic antics. Later, they were introduced to another local skater, Oscar Johnson. Eddie and Oscar eventually formed a partnership and created comedy skating shows that they performed at club carnivals and between periods of hockey games in St. Paul.

In 1933, Eddie and Oscar joined up with the St. Paul Children’s Hospital committee to raise money for the hospital with a show called the Ice Follies. Two years later, they expanded the show and took it on the road to Tulsa, Oklahoma. As the first ice show to tour nationally, the Ice Follies performed for nearly 30 years.

Holiday on Ice

The first-ever performance of Holiday on Ice was in Toledo in 1943. It was given its name because the show was staged during the Christmas holidays. Two years later the Gilbert brothers, along with Minneapolis businessman Morris Chalfen, took over the show. Using the first portable ice rink, Holiday on Ice became a touring show and became the first American show to travel abroad. Today, under different ownership, the show is considered to be one of the largest touring figure skating productions.

Champions on Ice

Tom Collins, born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, joined the Minneapolis-based Holiday on Ice show in 1949 in Minneapolis. He eventually partnered with Morris Chalfen. Together they launched the World Champions Figure Skating Championships in 1969, featuring newly-titled champion skaters in a 15-city tour, including Canada and the U.S.

Prior to this, titled skaters had only been featured in tours throughout Europe. Collins went on to found the popular Champions on Ice, which celebrates its 30th season in 2008.

The Champions on Ice headquarters remain in Minneapolis today and is considered one of the sport’s most popular exhibition tours. Over the years the cast of Champions on Ice has been a virtual “Who’s Who†of the skating world, including Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan, Brian Boitano, Katarina Witt, Kristi Yamaguchi, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Oksana Baiul, Nancy Kerrigan, Elvis Stojko, Sasha Cohen, Sarah Hughes, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, Evgeny Plushenko, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Kimmie Meissner, Evan Lysacek, and Johnny Weir.

Photo courtesy of
Champions on ice


Tom Collins

founder and president of Champions on Ice

In 2008, Champions on Ice will celebrate its 30th anniversary. In a recent chat with Tom Collins, we asked what he saw as a benchmark moment for the sport. “The singular event that launched the popularity of figure skating was the Kerrigan/Harding debacle in 1994,†was his immediate reply. “Everyone in the world began watching the sport.â€

Tom is looking forward to the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul. “I moved here in 1971 because of skating. I love the sport and I love the Twin Cities. It’s a coupe for our cities to host this prestigious competition once again.â€