Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

Skate! Skate! Skate! Legendary coach reflects on impactful career

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

Carol MacPherson was just 16 when she stepped in to teach a figure skating practice to her peers in Point Edward while the club’s professionals were away.

“I was still an amateur myself, but I thought, ‘I kind of like this,’” she says, holding a letter from the club’s president, dated January 1976, thanking her for filling in.

Carol MacPherson has a laugh during one of her power skating classes at the Moore Sports Complex. Tara Jeffrey

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The mother of six, now 57, is easily the best-known power-skating coach in the region, with no signs of slowing down. Clad in her trademark white figure skates, bright orange coat and long red hair, MacPherson’s coarse, loud bellows of “Skate! Skate! Skate!” can be recited by thousands of men, women, boys and girls who have passed through her classes and camps over the past 36 years — some who have climbed the ranks of pro hockey, and others who are now bringing their kids to her legendary classes.

MacPherson was born and raised in Point Edward — daughter of Donald Carson, a hockey player from Shawville, Quebec, and Norma Sullivan, a former figure skater.

“I started skating with my dad when I was four — he was a beautiful skater,” McPherson recalls, settling in for a chat at her Mooretown home. “My mother spent a lot of late nights sewing my outfits for competitions and shows, and I’m really grateful for that.

“But I was always drawn to the hockey side of things, even though I wasn’t a hockey player.”

She recalls spending countless hours at the local arena watching the Point Edward Supremes hockey team, led by the late Lenora Dunham.

“I would sit on the edge and just watch her by the hour. She was so good.”

After getting married and moving downriver, MacPherson launched her power skating career at the Moore Sports Complex — in addition to 32-years at Dow Chemical.

“I just never stopped,” she says. “As time went on, lots of doors and opportunities opened.”

MacPherson leads one of her young charges through a skating drill.
Tara Jeffrey

Word of mouth spread quickly; kids from all over southwestern Ontario and Michigan were flocking to Mooretown. MacPherson caught the attention of former NHLers-turned-coaches Dale and Mark Hunter, Bobby Gould, and the late Bob McCaig, who hired her for summer camps, team practices, and even private skate lessons for their own children.

“They really put me on the map,” said MacPherson, who was also a secret weapon for longtime minor hockey coach and current Sarnia Sting president Bill Abercrombie.

“She’d walk in and a lot of the guys would say, ‘Oh, here’s a woman; we’ll take advantage of her,’” he recalls. “But she was a no-nonsense girl, and she got everybody’s attention. I’ll always remember her yelling, ‘Move it! Move it!’

“By the time she was done with them, they were wanting to come back to practice with me,” he says with a laugh. “I coached a lot of years and I know she had a big role in developing a lot of local hockey players, that’s for sure.”

MacPherson’s classes highlight the basics of skating — stops, starts, turns, rotations, etc.

“The coaches are so busy teaching kids the dynamics of the game, so this gives that child a bit of extra time on the ice to really work at the skating part,” she says.

When asked what sets her apart from other power skating pros, she pauses, then credits motherhood.

“I had six hockey players of my own; I’ve seen the heartbreak, the broken bones, I’ve seen my kids get benched, get cut from the team…”

She also credits her focus on sensory training — adapted from a course she took while working at Dow. She’s been known to blindfold students, conduct vertigo balance drills, and has even taught players who are completely deaf.

“It’s all about learning to use your other senses, and getting the best out of them,” she says. “I train my kids to hear that tap on the ice; hear that teammate.”

But her real passion is rehabilitating kids who’ve been injured and want to come back to the game; promising players like Jesse Ferguson who broke both his ankles in an accident and was wheelchair-bound for months.

“He was one of those kids whose hands and feet matched perfectly; such a skilled skater,” she said. “After the accident, I called his dad and asked if I could do his rehab as a gift.”

Ferguson, who was 16 at the time, needed to learn to skate all over again.

“We spent countless early morning hours together,” he said. “A few tears were shed as it was painful to have my feet in skates, and I was frustrated that I no longer had the skating skills I’d been used to.

“Carol kept me grounded; without her, I would not get to smile every time I am lacing up my skates and for that, I am beyond grateful.”

After Ferguson’s recovery, MacPherson proudly sat in the stands for his first game with the Petrolia Oilers.

“It was September 26, 2009,” she recalls.

That’s when she decided to launch her own company, PowerEdgesExtreme.

MacPherson follows her former students and remembers every game, every stat — from TJ Brodie’s first NHL game to Dustin Jeffrey’s first NHL goal.

She may have softened up a bit over the years (“I’m not anyone’s babysitter out there,” she scoffs) but still teaches 10 to 25 classes a week throughout the year, from three-year-olds to Junior level.

She had never given an interview until now, and doesn’t care much for the attention; she lists a slew of names — too many to include here — of people who have had an impact on her career, to arena Zamboni drivers to the up-and-coming players who volunteer to help with her youth classes.

“I have a lot of treasured memories, and it took a whole family of many people and good places,” she says, through tears. “Back then, it was exciting and I was getting a lot of exposure. But now, I’m close to 60, so every chance I get to go out and see those kids, I appreciate it way more.

“I always bend down, kiss the ice and say, ‘I hope I see you tomorrow.’”

Carol MacPherson (back, right) poses for a photo with her Thursday night power-skating class at the Moore Sports Complex. Tara Jeffrey

More like this