Toller Cranston 1949 - 2015
Canadian Figure Skater and Artist
(Plaque to be installed in 2017 at 3 Metcalfe Street)
Legendary figure skater Toller Cranston was born in Hamilton, Ontario. He spent his young years in Kirkland Lake and, at the age of 11, his family moved to Montréal.
At the age of seven, his parents bought him hockey skates. He, in turn, tried to dance on the ice. And so began his love of figure skating. He met Eva Vasak when he was 11 and she coached him for eight years.
In 1968, he met Ellen Burka, a renowned skating coach. She invited him to stay in her home for seven days; he ended up staying for seven years. Toller, a clockwise spinner and jumper, brought new artistry to the sport. In no time, he became known for his creative free-skating style, dazzling crowds while accumulating medals.
During competitions and championships, it was very clear that Toller was an original: radical in his approach to skating and unlike anything that the public had ever seen. Millions were glued to their televisions to watch his spectacular flamboyant performances.
It has been said that the face of men’s figure skating was changed by Toller Cranston and Ellen Burka. Cranston became one of the most sought after choreographers. He inspired future generations of champion skaters who became “tollerized” by wanting to imitate his style.
After the 1976 competitive season, Cranston, who always wanted to develop “theatre on ice,” performed and starred in the Broadway show The Ice Show. He then went on to tour Europe with Holiday on Ice.
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, he made a series of skating specials for CBC television. In 1997, he left the skating world to work exclusively on painting and art.
Although we know him as a skater, all the while he was also an accomplished painter. Toller’s interest in art began at an early age. His mother was a painter and he too always wanted to paint. He went to the École des beaux-arts de Montréal and, by his third year, it was suggested that the school had little more to teach him. At this point, he turned his attention to becoming a professional artist.
After selling his Cabbagetown home in Toronto in the early 1990s, he bought a home in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico where his main focus became painting. In an interview, he said that San Miguel seduced him. He loved the fact that it was so cosmopolitan. He became very involved in the well-being of the local community and a most generous philanthropist.
Toller Cranston died in his beloved San Miguel in 2015 at the age of 65.
Many paintings, drawings, and objets d’art from the Toller Cranston Estate Collection are being made available through the Artworld Fine Art Gallery in Toronto.
Cranston lived a unique yet complex cutting-edge life. He was a colourful character, known for his sense of humour, his energetic manner and his enormous generosity. In 2003, the Globe and Mail wrote that he was “his own work of art.” Critics have said that he will be remembered as larger than life, the figure skating champion who revolutionized the sport and brought colour and panache to the world.
Click HERE to see Toller Cranston Remembered – Video Presentation for Memorial (2015)
Awards and Honours
1976 Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame
1977 Officer of the Order of Canada
1995 Special Olympic Order from The Canadian Olympic Association
1996 Ontario Sports Hall of Fame
1997 Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
2003 Canada’s Walk of Fame
2004 World Figure skating Hall of Fame
1971-1976 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships – gold
1974 World Figure Skating Championships – bronze
1976 Winter Olympic, Figure Skating – bronze