Patrick Chan accomplished what he set out to do this season by winning his third consecutive world championship crown, but the planet's best figure skater could still use a hug.
His off-balance, pre-Olympic season saw him uncharacteristically teeter between brilliance and the brink of disaster in competitions around the globe. The season culminated with a bad day at the office at ISU World Team Trophy in Japan earlier in April, where Canada's six-time national champion ranked just fifth for a free skate marred by three, spirit-deflating falls.
Considering that, Chan's debut tour with Investors Group Stars on Ice couldn't have come at a better time. The ovations he enjoys as he performs in 12 cities from Halifax to Victoria, including a stop at MTS Centre on Wednesday, are like a series of therapeutic hugs.
"(Performing in) Stars on Ice is perfect because it's in Canada. Every time I go out on the ice to do a show program, it's basically huge, huge waves of support," says Chan, who trains in the United States, out of the limelight.
"I can just hear it in the crowd and it's exciting and makes me feel a lot better. It completely makes me forget about how the season ended and makes me look forward to next season," Chan, 22, said in a telephone interview ahead of his first-ever performance in Winnipeg.
A psychological lift could be just what the doctor ordered as Chan looks ahead to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where he hopes to accomplish what no other Canadian male singles skater has ever managed to do -- win Olympic gold.
With that pressure-cooker of a season ahead, the feel-good, let-your-hair-down release that Stars on Ice delivers should help Chan re-balance ahead of his Olympic campaign.
"Anywhere I go in Canada, at the airport, wherever, I feel (support) everywhere. That's why it's good I'm doing this cross-Canada tour, just to get everyone together and happy and excited for the Olympic year."
The virtuoso performer, whose mastery of the blade made him untouchable in seasons past, relishes the chance to perform without judges dissecting his every move and expectations weighing on his mind.
"Competitions are quite nerve-racking in a way, because I have a lot of expectations for myself. And, also, I want to skate well for Canada. There's a lot more weight on my shoulders and a lot more of a mental process to be able to deal with it.
"There's pressure in shows because I'm excited and I want to perform well for the audience. It's kinda my way of saying thank you for being so supportive for so long. I'm nervous because of expectations I put on myself, but competing is a different kind of pressure," Chan says.
"Doing a show, you just go out and have a blast and take in all the energy from the crowd and feed off them and that's the best part. There's no rules you have to follow. You don't have to count your rotations (in the spins), make sure the edges are clean in the footwork."
Chan also gets a kick from the rare opportunity to skate group numbers in the Stars show. He especially enjoys the chemistry among the near all-Canadian cast, which includes fellow world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Kurt Browning and Jeff Buttle, Olympic medallist Joannie Rochette, fellow Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and crowd favourite Shawn Sawyer.
"I didn't mind the rehearsals at all. The last three days before the (opening) show in Halifax, it was a great process. I loved it. It was fun. We all get along really well off the ice and we all work really hard on the ice, as well. We know when we need to get work done and that's why our group numbers are so good," Chan says of routines choreographed by Buttle.
Another departure for Chan is his solo number -- I Need a Dollar -- choreographed by legendary British ice dancer Christopher Dean. Chan skates the entire number using a baseball cap as a prop.
"It's hard because hats tend to have their own mentality and once the music starts, the hat tends to take on a life of its own. It's hard to control."
Chan also performs to the Muddy Waters tune Mannish Boy, which requires him to shed his innate lyrical style of movement for something more rough-edged and sexy.
Stars on Ice
$33 to $132 at www.ticketmaster.ca