Ahead of the season 6 finale of Battle of the Blades, I gathered three of Jessica Campbell's friends and teammates to discuss her run on the show.
Before we get into it, what's your level of knowledge/familiarity with figure skating?
Bailey Bram: Literally none.
Blayre Turnbull: I don't know too much about the sport of figure skating other than that it takes a lot more finesse and gracefulness to be a figure skater than it does to be a hockey player. My high school had a figure skating center of excellence so I often got to watch those student athletes practice and I remember being very impressed with their skills, and the next time I watched live figure skating was at the 2018 Olympics and I was completely shocked at how amazing those athletes were.
Jill Saulnier: With figure skating? I don't know it super well. I'm much more comfortable with a stick in my hand for sure, but I do know a lot of the figure skaters just because of the Olympic process. Last time we were at the Olympics they were in the same village as us, so we got to know them and watch them compete. So I slowly learned a little bit, but I would give myself maybe a five out of 10 on the knowledge scale.
How long have you known Jessica?
Jill: I've known Jess for probably close to 10, 11 years, I'd say. I think we met in 2009 at a Hockey Canada camp.
Blayre: I have known Jess since 2013 or 2014 but we didn't become good friends until 2015 when we started playing hockey together on the Calgary Inferno.
Bailey: We've probably known each other for 10 years; we've probably been really close friends for six or seven.
Going into Battle of the Blades, what did you expect from her? What did you think her strengths/weaknesses might be?
Blayre: I knew that we could expect her to show us how strong of a skater she is and how well she can use her edges. She was actually my power skating coach this spring and summer so seeing as she has made a career out of skating, I knew she would do super well on this show despite the fact that she is using figure skates, and I think she has done a great job of showcasing her strengths so far. Her balance and strength on her edges is very impressive but what has actually impressed me the most is the fact that she is actually showing us some rhythm when she dances! If I had to pick one area of concern for her heading into this show it would be that she dances very similarly to me and I am not a great dancer. Sorry Jess.
Jill: I was super excited ― she told me a while back that she was going on the show, and I was so excited because Jess is notoriously known for her high spirit and especially her dance moves. So when she told me that she was going on the show I was so excited. I knew her spirit was just going to really shine on the show and especially with the partner that she's been teamed up with, they've just been so incredible. They're absolutely killing it, so I didn't expect anything less.
Bailey: Literally from day one when she told me, I was laughing, I was like "Jess, you're going to win this." Coming from the hockey perspective, she is someone who is always the best skater on the team. Just her stride mechanics, her power in her stride. Obviously she teaches power skating for a living, and it just shows in her work. So when she told me I was like, "Well Jess, there's no one that's going to be able to learn this better or faster than you. This is literally what you do every day is teach edge work and all these different things." But she was definitely nervous and obviously it's a whole 'nother ballgame in figure skates. But every week it just makes me smile because she's just killing it out there. Jess is someone who's usually very shy at first, but once you get her out of her shell ― it's just a matter of time before that happens, usually ― she is the life of the party and she is someone who just makes everyone smile and brings out the best in everyone. Right from week one, it was amazing to see her out of her shell right away and just performing like literally a natural out there. I thought it might take week one or week two to come, but right from the bat she's just been incredible.
What have you been most impressed by from her? Has anything surprised you?
Blayre: Her dance moves and rhythm have surprised me in the best way possible. She has been absolutely crushing it!
Jill: I think the perfection of her technique has impressed me most, to be honest. Like I said earlier, I don't know much about figure skating, but she seems to be hitting the right moves and she looks like a figure skater out there. She's very flawless and she is one of the best skaters in the world ― one of the best skaters I've ever had the pleasure of playing with. But it really does show in the figure skating world and I'm so incredibly proud of her. I knew Jess was gonna kill it, I really did, but it really is surprising me how much she's killing it, to be honest. Not that I ever thought she wasn't going to be exceptional, but she looks like a figure skater out there. She looks like she's enjoying what she's doing, and that's one of the best things about Jess, is she's such a live-in-the-moment girl. You can totally tell she's having the time of her life out there and I think it's going to bring them all the way.
Bailey: I think just her determination and her positivity through it all. I've been talking to her behind the scenes and Facetiming here and there, and it's hard mentally for her. There's a lot that comes with being on the show right now, and the way that she's managing that and the way that she's overcoming some of the obstacles is just incredible. She's showing up every single day with a smile on her face ready to just work, work, work, and not say no to any new tricks or any obstacles, which I think is really cool because at first she said she might be a little bit nervous. She's had a history of shoulder issues and she goes, "I don't know how well I'll be able to do stuff," but she literally is there and she says "I'm all in. I want to win this thing." So just her determination and willingness to basically just push past her comfort zone in any situation has been incredible.
Which of her routines has been your personal favourite?
Jill: I always ask myself that question every week that comes by, because they have just been nailing every routine. I loved their last routine, "Honey, I'm Good," and I thought the first one, they absolutely killed that. Obviously coming out with a bang was huge and that, I think, was the most surprising, because I just knew they set the bar so high for themselves for the season and they've surpassed that every single time. It's tough to nail down just one, for sure, because they're just rocking it.
Blayre: I think she has gotten better every week but I think my favourite has to be the "Got Your Number" routine. I think her personality was really showcased in that performance and the fact that she lifted Asher was awesome.
Bailey: I loved "Purple Hat," but I don't know if that was just because it was Week 1. And then I loved this past week, that performance was awesome.
If you could pick her song for the finale, what would you want her to skate to?
Blayre: If I could pick a song for her to skate to in the finale I would pick "Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)" by Omi for no reason other than that I think she could put down a great routine with that beat blasting in the background.
Bailey: I don't even know... something slower, I think, and just something elegant for her. Every week has been so upbeat and so intense and fun and energetic, so I think just to be able to slow it down and bring out that really, really feminine side that she has, and just see her slow it down and really sink into that role.
Jill: It's so funny, Jess actually sent me a text with one of our first songs from U18s this morning ― which I thought it was going to be another song she sent me ― but I would be really surprised if they didn't dance to a song that really got them upbeat and excited and dancing. Maybe a song like "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" ― that's a song that Jess and I used to rock out to in the dressing rooms growing up and in college, so that would definitely be a song that I know they would absolutely nail.
Why does she deserve to win this season?
Jill: I think their skating honestly answers that for itself. They come out every day and you're excited to watch them, because you know they're going to bring you something incredible and something exciting. I think in the crazy world that we're living right now, it's important to try to find the joy in things and the excitement. That's something that I look forward to every week because I know that's two minutes of my life that I'm going to get to watch and have a big smile on my face, to be proud of one of my best friends.
Blayre: Jess deserves to win for many reasons. The first is that she has gotten way out of her comfort zone and fully embraced the challenge. I think she has done a great job of showcasing her personality throughout the competition and she has allowed the fans at home watching to really get a good idea of who she is as a person. She has also done so many great things for the DIFD charity in the past, so her going on this show with the goal to raise more awareness around youth mental health and the DIFD foundation just goes to show how much it all means to her. Winning this competition would be a huge accomplishment and something that I know she would be extremely proud of!
Bailey: Jess is literally the most empathetic, emotional, compassionate person and kindest person I think I've ever met. Not only is she skating for Do It For Daron, which is a charity that is close to her heart, but she's already been raising money and raising awareness for this charity for the last four or five years. So I think for her it goes further than "it's just a TV show" and "it's just raising money for this." It's more the personal connection that she has with the charity and the fact that she's already been doing it for so long. I think she genuinely just wants this more than anything, because her heart is just so in it to win right now.
If you could pick any teammate from any team you've played on, who would you want to see on the show and why?
Bailey: Gillian Apps, that would be fun. Gillian Apps or maybe Emily Clark. They would just be so much fun to watch and I think they would truly embrace it. Appsy is a very tall girl ― she's kind of like Nat Spooner ― but she's very dynamic and flexible, so I think she would be able to embrace it and just have so much fun with it. And Emily is, just like Jess, a natural skater and just a fun personality.
Jill: I know this person would be really mad if I said them, but I think Blayre Turnbull would be a good one to pick. Just because she's one of my best buddies and she would kill me for telling you that, and I think that's also partially the reason, but I think she'd be a good one to watch and pretty funny. Honestly, I think just because she would surprise people, too. She definitely is a shark playing on the ice, but I think she's got a little bit of a flawless side too, and I think she would be a fun one to watch compete.
Blayre: I would pick Jill Saulnier because she is a great skater and has some of the best rhythm I've seen in a hockey player.
For the nominees, any response?
Blayre: Hahaha never in a million years.
Jill: I'm not surprised one bit ― it's actually on my bucket list to be on that show! I love dancing any chance I get so I'm not surprised Blayre named me.
The season 6 finale of Battle of the Blades airs at 8:00 PM Eastern Thursday, November 26 on CBC.
(Header photo courtesy of CBC; embedded photo courtesy of an ancient tweet by Tessa Bonhomme)