Since reigning world figure skating champion Jeff Buttle quit the competitive life, he's had no shortage of skaters seeking him out to choreograph their routines.
Buttle will design the routines for at least five skaters, including Tommy Steenberg, a 20-year-old who finished tenth at the U.S. championships this year behind Jeremy Abbott (after being seventh in the long program).
Buttle has been busy on skating tours since early January and will try to squeeze some of the work in between tours. He's currently in the midst of the U.S. tour of Stars on Ice. When it finishes, he'll be a headliner in the 12-stop Canadian arm of the tour, which starts April 23 in Halifax and finishes in Vancouver on May 12.
He's also signed up to do programs for Edbert Khong, one of the stars of the Junior Nationals in Calgary last month. Khong finished second in pre-novice men, and won the ice dancing event at the same level with his sister Edrea.
He also skated in a Japanese arm of the tour, which caused him to miss the Canadian championships in Saskatoon in January.
"It felt really weird not being at Four Continents or nationals,'' he said on Thursday, in Toronto to sign autographs at a Sears store. "In Japan, it was tough for me even to see videos on the internet.''
But he doesn't regret his decision to retire from competitive skating, even after winning his world title in spectacular fashion in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2008. "I'm having the time of my life,'' he said. "I knew right from the get-go that I'm doing what I want to be doing.''
On the Stars on Ice tour, he opens with a fun, disco number that he hopes will attract U.S. fans. He has skated seldom in the United States.
He then follows up with what was meant to be his long program this season, before he decided to retire. Performing it under spotlights, he said, is "magical.''
He says he pulls out all the stops in the long routine and performs six triple jumps. Because he's breaking in new skaters, he won't do triple Axels in the program until later in the tour. It's difficult, he says, adjusting to different ice surfaces at every pause. In Detroit, he found the ice was hockey-hard, and had to adjust his technique in the pre-event warmup.
Buttle has been living out of a suitcase this season, and hasn't been home to his Toronto loft more than 10 days in the past six months. If he has time to spare, he visits his parents in Barrie, Ont.
He says he doesn't mind being on the road, but, like everyone else on tour, gets weary of wearing the same clothes, week after week. "None of us is really impressed by any of our wardrobes any more,'' he said.