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This article was published 12/5/2015 (717 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Kurt Browning was rocking a mullet when he performed in the first cross-Canada Stars on Ice tour almost a quarter-century ago. He was already a three-time world men's figure skating champion (his fourth win came in 1993), and had female fans screaming, "We love you, Kurt!" whenever he sashayed into the spotlight. They still do.
The seemingly ageless Browning is in the midst of his 25th consecutive tour with Stars on Ice, which stops at the MTS Centre Wednesday night. Over the years, he has performed alongside dozens of other luminaries of the sport who have come and gone while he has skated on.
With his 49th birthday just a month away, to say Browning has staying power would be an understatement.
The "bad hockey hair," as he describes it, may be a distant memory but the mastery of the blade and intricacies of movement that made Browning one of the all-time greats have only improved with age.
By his count, he has performed in some 800 Stars on Ice shows in Canada and the United States and has 10 more years on the show than his show-skating mentor Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic champion who launched the Stars on Ice concept.
Next in that Stars longevity line are three Canadian Olympic medallists -- Brian Orser (13 seasons) and current cast members Joannie Rochette and Jeff Buttle (11 seasons).
Browning was one of the first cast members to tour while still a competitor in the international arena. The kid from Caroline, Alta., spent his first tour alongside Hamilton, Orser and Toller Cranston and "trying to figure out what happened."
"I came up (the ranks) quite quickly in skating and then all of a sudden, I'm doing double axels beside my hero Brian Orser. How is this happening? It was a busy, busy time, an exciting time. Back then, we were selling out Maple Leaf Gardens two nights in a row -- 15, 16,000 people... we were rock stars on ice."
Browning admits to not remembering every tour after that, but he believes the 25th-anniversary one will prove to be his most memorable.
"That's not a cop-out trying to sell this show, but it's because I'm at that point in my life where I have perspective of my career and have perspective of my skating, and how much I love it and how much it has given to me, but I'm also in control of the tour now. I'm the director, the choreographer and have access to the celebration of 25 years.
"We're also doing something I have wanted to do since about 1995, a group number to Supertramp. It's a 20-minute-long, story-driven number with props and costumes that we have very rarely tried to do in past Stars on Ice."
The first half of the 2015 show is a look back at Stars on Ice history through the eyes of today's cast.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, 2010 Olympic ice-dance champions, pay tribute to their Canadian predecessors, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, while three-time world champion Patrick Chan salutes the men of Stars on Ice.
Chan considered them his "superheroes for skating" as he climbed the sport's ladder. "They would do all these really cool, intricate numbers and I said to myself, 'One day I want to do that.'"
The legendary Cranston, who died in January, is recalled by Shawn Sawyer. Sawyer's avant-garde skating style and artistic flair have often been compared to that of the iconic showman. When Cranston retired from performing, he invited Sawyer, then only a pre-teen, to be part of his tribute show. Video from that gala complements Sawyer's Stars performance.
Browning chose to tip his hat to Hamilton by recreating, with help from choreographer Sandra Bezic, a favourite from the American skater's repertoire set to Sinatra's One for My Baby.
"This is my way of saying thank you to both of them. Scott helped influence my humour (in show routines) and my footwork and Sandra was a huge factor in my happiness as a skater and my success as a skater."
Another blast from the past is a reimagining of one of Browning's most popular programs from 2006, set to the Commodores' Brick House.
"It's a boys' number. We're taking some of my old choreography, doing it as a group and redoing it in a new way."
The show's second half features a quartet with two couples who set the competitive world on fire this past season -- newly crowned world pair champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and world medallist ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
The combination of the current generation of competitive skaters plus his own contributions on the ice has Browning fired up for the Stars tour.
"The show is everything I've got," Browning says. "I'm going to the bottom of the barrel with my imagination and my talent as creator and skater. I'm proud of it. I'm not afraid to say it."
Asked if this 25th anniversary tour will be his last as a performer, Browning whispers, "I don't know."