In the wake of the Sale-Pelletier judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, if the IOC was less than impressed, figure skating fans around the world were outraged. Something dramatic had to be done to restore the credibility of the sport. Something was.

Enter Mr. Ted Barton. In the sport’s dire hour, a British Columbian was chosen as a critical part of the International Skating Union effort that operated on the heart of the problem. It resulted in one of the most important changes figure skating has seen in nearly a century.

West Vancouver’s Barton, who was born in New Zealand, but relocated and lived in British Columbia for most of his life, was at one time an elite international figure skater. The 1973 Canadian junior men’s champion, Barton won the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany in 1975 and represented Canada at the 1976 World Championships where he finished 16th. Barton then turned professional and toured North and South America for the next four years with Ice Follies.

In 1980, Barton began over 20 years of coaching in which 12 of his athletes would end up on the Canadian national team. In 1983, he was hired as a part-time Technical Director of the BC Section of the Canadian Figure Skating Association, now known as Skate Canada. The position soon became full-time and he served until 1991, at that time becoming Executive Director of the Skate Canada BC Section.

Over the next 14 years, Barton would radically change the figure skating landscape in British Columbia. Partnering with Burnaby 8-Rinks, he created a figure skating-specific training facility that would officially become recognized as the Skate Canada Centre of Excellence. With the PSO office re-located into the rink complex as well—a first, believe it or not, for a Canadian skating organization—the Centre of Excellence became the sport’s central hub in BC keeping many native skaters here to train at a high level.

By the time Vancouver played host to the 2001 World Figure Skating Championships, Barton raised over $1 million in sponsorships that allowed him to pursue Joanne McLeod as coach to direct the Centre of Excellence. Later, he brought in directors for pairs and ice dance as well—Bruno Marcotte and Victor Kraatz respectively.

Barton’s other area of expertise lays in video production, so it’s no surprise this was combined with his passion for figure skating. With Bob Moir, formerly of CBC Sports, he developed an instant replay system for judging panels and operated this system for the ISU from 1997-2002. He produced an instructional ‘how-to’ video series entitled “ISU Skating Elements” that garnered a silver at the 2003 Summit International Awards, beating over 3000 worldwide applicants.

For years, there were whispers of bloc judging conspiracies and pre-determined placings in competitions. Then came the fall-out from Salt Lake and an opportunity to cleanse the sport of unfair judging practices. ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta appointed Barton to the ad-hoc commission, which developed the Direct Detail Scoring System. Essentially, the new system eliminated the old 6.0 judging method that deducted for mistakes and replaced it with the premise that skaters are awarded a base score and receive extra points depending on the elements completed. It allowed for more movement in skater placings, while also relieving the pressure that could be exerted on judges to vote a certain way by national bodies. After years of development, testing, and training officials by Barton and others, the new system was adopted resulting in a fairer, more quantifiable sport.

Building from scratch is one thing, but to re-build a foundation cornerstone with an existing structure already in place is perhaps even more difficult. If handled clumsily, everything comes crashing down. With his sport on the brink of disaster, Ted Barton answered the call and the figure skating world has a revitalized health to thank him for as a result.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.