Richard (Rick) Book – Athlete, Coach
Born in Labrador in 1949 and brought up in Berwick, Rick Book became the most accomplished male figure skater in the history of the Berwick and District Figure Skating Club.
Rick started his athletic career as a hockey player, but ended up having to take a year off due to a broken collar bone. “I didn’t want to play hockey anymore,” he says, “but I loved skating and I knew I wanted to be doing something on the ice.”
As fate would have it, the Berwick and District Figure Skating Club was growing, and had acquired the services of a professional coach, Mary Lou MacDonald from the Greenwood area. “She encouraged me with good basics and the thrill of both speed and the ability to lift myself off the ice,” Rick says.
A couple of the older, more experienced skaters, including Gary Travis and Eric Hempsey, also provided assistance and challenged Rick to learn what was a challenging sport.
Rick was dedicated to the sport of figure skating from the moment he first took it up at the age of eight.
“Soon, we were learning the skills of figures, which were graduated skill levels of tracing specified outlines on the ice.”
Rick worked and trained hard, passing first his Preliminary Figures test and the following year, his Preliminary Dances test, both of which were accomplished in front of judges.
Around the same time, he and his teammates started to attend regional and provincial competitions. He was successful in winning age and test level categories on several occasions, his highest achievement being a bronze medal at the Maritime championships in Saint John in 1966.
In addition to the practice for competition, the skaters also worked with the Pro and the other coaches to create ice shows for parents, friends and the community, “where we would get to show off our skills and our artistic side around a themed show.”
Rick was fortunate to be able to participate in several of these shows, as a soloist, a dance partner and a group number participant.
Everyone in the show would have special costumes to add to the program. Rick drew on these experiences years later when he created and choreographed several ice shows and skating carnivals while serving as a professional coach in Cape Breton.
In 1968, Rick was fortunate enough to be offered a tryout with the Ice Capades. He was accepted, but by then, he has began a career in banking, and he ultimately chose “work and family responsibilities” over becoming a professional skater.
Rick persevered in a sport, and in geographical areas, where hockey and softball were the primary focus. Rather than diversify, he chose to concentrate his efforts on figure skating, and devoted 100 per cent of his time to training and competing, teaching and coaching, and developing the sport.
He was an active Rotarian in every community his banking career took him, and always had a hand in community initiatives and fundraising activities.
Rick turned professional in 1971, and eventually received the CanSkate Level 1 coaching certification, which allowed him the designation of a ‘teaching professional’. While based in Sydney between 1970 and 1972, he served as teaching professional with the Sydney and Northside skating clubs.
He helped set up the latter club, with Rotary sponsorship, and played an important part in developing the sport of figure skating in industrial Cape Breton to a competitive level.
Along with organizing annual shows and skating carnivals, Rick was also responsible for the development of several young skaters of both genders, including Jody Aguinaga and Tara MacGuigan, who both went on to be provincial champions.
The Berwick Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to induct, as an athlete and builder, Rick Book.