Rideau Canal brings out kid in Browning

The Kid from Caroline was sounding, well, rather kid-like over lunch at the Chateau Laurier yesterday.

Then again, talking about your first spin on the world's longest skating rink will do that to just about anyone who's had a life-long love affair with ice.

"My first time on the canal ever," Kurt Browning said as he talked about his early morning appearance yesterday with Stephanie Beaumont on Breakfast at the NewRO. "I had a blast. I felt like a kid out there, and I'm sure it looked like it on television. We had a great time."

Picture Browning's dash across "the lake of dreams" -- actually Fish Lake in his home province of Alberta -- during his acclaimed Tall in the Saddle TV special several years back and you get the idea.

Sure, the four-time world champion is 37 now and the long hair of those giddy early-'90s times are in his past, but Browning remains the same guy whose passion for what he does hasn't slipped one bit.

Even if he's cut his time on the road drastically these days.

Canadians are the lucky ones. While Browning has dropped off the U.S. Stars on Ice tour -- save for 19 guest appearances -- he'll be front and centre when HSBC Stars on Ice makes it way through 12 Canadian stops in the spring (the Ottawa show is April 17 at the Corel Centre).

It's a perfect fit for Browning. He gets to perform in front of crowds in Canada, where he's still adored, and has plenty of time for his seven-month-old son, Gabriel. But the plan to pull back from U.S. Stars was actually hatched long before fatherhood arrived.

"I made this decision four years ago," said Browning. "People say 'oh, it's because you have a baby now.' But it's just coincidence that it worked out the way."

Happy coincidence. It wasn't until Gabriel was four months old that skating duties first took Browning away from him and his wife, Sonia Rodriguez, a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.

Touring on home soil, though, will always get Browning's attention. He just completed a Celebration on Ice tour through the Maritimes -- yes, they avoided the major blast of winter that hit Halifax -- that reinforced the thought.

SMALL-TOWN THRILL

The rinks in places like Bathurst, N.B., aren't glitzy, but being a rare chance to catch stars such as Browning, Elvis Stojko and Brian Orser made the shows special in their own way.

"It's like when a band plays in a bar. You feel so connected to the audience," said Browning. "It was very exciting. They were Canadian crowds, they haven't really had much exposure to live skating, and it was a full house.

"As a performer, it was very inspiring."

Browning sees himself inspiring other skaters sometime soon. He's caught the choreography bug, and already works with world bronze medallist Takeshi Honda of Japan. Browning also had a small hand in the short program Jamie Sale and David Pelletier skated at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

Now others are beginning to call for their own piece of the creative genius Browning has always showed.

Browning is open to the possibility.

"Sometimes you know you just have to try something, because you have a need to try it," said Browning. "I have too many ideas and I love it too much. With the right skater at the right time, I think I'd have lots to offer."

Tickets for the Ottawa Stars On Ice show are available through www.capitaltickets.ca.

It'll also feature a farewell performance by longtime pair favourites Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, and the Stars solo debut of Shae-Lynn Bourne.

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