Looking for an edge to help get his team into the playoffs in 2012-13, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has made a new hire. Barb Underhill, a 1984 world pairs champion figure skater for Canada, takes over as the organization's skating consultant.
The Maple Leafs parted company with Graeme Townshend, their skating coach who had been hired by their former coach Ron Wilson. In an email sent to the Toronto Sun newspaper, Leafs exec. Dave Nonis told Sun reporter Lance Hornby the change was in large part because of availability.
“Graeme did a very good job,” Nonis told the Sun. “We felt that we needed someone local to be available to the growing number of players that we have in Toronto over the summer as well as during the season.”
Figure Skaters teach hockey players
The 48-year-old Underhill has worked extensively with hockey players on skating and power, working with the OHL Guelph Storm, of which her husband is a part owner, since 2007. She has also worked with the Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL. Her career has also seen her in the booth for the CBC as a skate commentator.
She's not the only Canadian female figure skating champion to work with hockey players; another is Karen Magnussen, who for years taught skating to hockey players at the North Shore Winter Club in Vancouver. That program continues to be run by former-NHL player Todd Harkins.
Underhill's world championship world championship win came in pairs with skating partner Paul Martini. The two also skated for Canada at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics; they did not medal.