Review -- To Catch a Dream (Macmillan Canada, 1996) and Brasseur & Eisler: The Professional Years (Macmillan Canada, 1999)
by Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler as told to Lynda D. Prouse

by Lorrie Kim
Originally posted to on September 18, 2000

I just read "To Catch a Dream" and "The Professional Years," the two Brasseur and Eisler books by Lynda Prouse. Interesting. The second book is more disjointed, which makes sense since amateur skating follows a distinct plot and pro skating is badly disorganized, but I found it also more interesting. So many books about amateur skaters have the same lives: sacrifice. Financial strain. Injury. Stories from behind the scenes. Coaching changes. Success. But this is the first skating book I've read that really gets across the flavor of the hectic pro world after 1994.

The most annoying thing about the first book was how Eisler seems to think the eligible judges consider every petty detail in the world _except_ the skating, when giving their scores. This made me give up on him. But then, oddly, in the second book he had such accurate complaints about the shortcomings of pro competitions and pro judging that I start to reconsider. Perhaps it is just that he and Brasseur grew up once they went pro. I respect so many of their principles. They object to pro competitions which do not concern themselves with the well-being of the athletes (for example, not fixing bad ice), when eligible competitions will come to a halt until safety is assured. They utterly refuse to skate in competitions or shows unless they feel they are prepared and can give their best. They will do everything they can to skate in small Canadian club carnivals, for whatever small amount of money the clubs can afford to pay them, in order to reconnect with their own roots and mingle with the children. They really work as a team; they live the art of negotiation and compromise.

Yes, the first book does cover Eisler's earlier career training with Kerry Leitch. Eisler's intrinsic loyalty does cover for Leitch somewhat, but it is clear that at least in one aspect -- demanding excessive exercise as punishment -- falls well within the definition of abuse by a coach (at least under the new abuse policy adopted by the USFSA). Eisler recalls one time that Leitch had him run 25 miles for punishment. The second book mentions Leitch very little, even though people who know pro skating will realize that Leitch is in charge of the pro judging that Eisler understandably ridicules.

The most magical part was in the second book, when Eisler discusses with unbelievable and endearing frankness how difficult it was to adjust to Brasseur's marriage with Rocky Marval. He says he never stopped assuming that he and Brasseur might continue the romance they once had, and that it was a great loss to him to become Brasseur's #2 man and watch her turn to her husband for her richest emotional life. This part is worth reading, both for its insight into the powerful bond between pair skaters, and for its demonstration of how openly and maturely they all dealt with each other's feelings.

These aren't name-dropping celebrity books. They're about personalities and process. The first book will be fun for Brasseur and Eisler fans, but I especially recommend the second for its insight into the emotions within pairs, and how it feels to be a pro skater.

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