By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The impact of Tom Collins is being felt by figure skaters at Parade Ice Gardens, like pediatrician Chris Williams.

“It certainly marks the end of an era,” said Williams.

He’s one of millions of skaters and fans who was inspired by the artistry and athleticism that Collins put on worldwide display. He was the mastermind of the grand figure skating show, “Champions on Ice.”

Starting in 1969 Collins began recruiting Olympic figure skating stars like Michelle Kwan, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton and Surya Bonaly to dazzle crowds everywhere.

“The jumps are nice but the artistry, the character, that’s what he had and what he brought to the ice,” added Williams.

Figure skating archivist Roy Blakey knew Tom Collins well. The two became lifelong friends when Collins began performing in the production, Holiday on Ice.

“The thing about Tom was that he loved skating himself and had a wonderful career skating in shows,” said Blakey.

In 1969, Collins began producing “Tour of World Champions,” which later was changed to “Champions on Ice.” The Edina businessman helped Minneapolis land the World Championships in 1998.

At the time, Collins told WCCO-TV, “my skating tour is a great event, but it doesn’t compare to a World Figure Skating Championship.”

Blakey looks back at that time now with a touch of sadness, but incredible pride. He credits Tom Collins with changing the sport for the better.

“There was an incredible group of skaters which will never be like that again,” said Blakey.

Collins eventually sold Champion’s on Ice in 2006. But the man who pioneered the exhibition of Olympic stars never left the hearts of those he admired most.

Services for Collins will be held Saturday, September 14 at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina.

Bill Hudson