The skating world lost one of its brightest lights when Brian Pockar passed away from an AIDS related brain tumor on April 28, 1992. He was 32-years-old.
Those who knew him remember an articulate, talented man who had an amazing sense of humor.
Brian Orser first met Pockar in the late 1970s at a national training seminar. “I was a big fan immediately,” Orser recalled. “I was still in novice and he was just out of juniors but he was a big-wig in Canadian skating and I just wanted to be around him. He was so popular with everybody – that was what I wanted to be like.”
Pockar loved the challenge of compulsory figures and in his era was considered one of the best technicians in Canada.
In 1976 he claimed bronze at the World Junior Championships in Megève, France and went on to capture three Canadian titles (1978-1980). In a strange twist of fate, Pockar lost the 1981 and 1982 national crowns to Orser.
“He never expected to be beaten by Brian (Orser),” said long-time friend Patricia Cooke. “He was really blown away when Brian beat him the first time.”
At the 1982 World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark Pockar got his revenge when he claimed the bronze medal over Orser who placed fourth.
Pockar attributed the artistic flair that colored his programs to his passion for music. In his spare time he loved to play the piano. “I like to feel and interpret the music. I can feel the beat and know where things should be in my music,” Pockar said in an interview with Canadian Skater magazine in 1978.
“He had an understanding of choreography and movement that was really beyond me,” Orser admitted. “He was such a role model for me in those aspects of skating. He had very good teachers but he was technically artistic whereas other skaters were artistically frantic. He had a real grasp on his technique.”
Orser said it was hard not to admire Pockar. “Even though he came from Calgary he had the finesse of someone from New York or L.A.,” Orser said. “Brian was well-educated, very well spoken, very bright and witty and his skating showed that. He had class and charisma.”
Pockar became good friends with Scott Hamilton on the amateur circuit and when Hamilton founded Stars on Ice Pockar was one of the original cast members. He skated on the tour for two years.
In 1983 Pockar joined the cast of Robin Cousins “Electric Ice” production which toured England and Australia. Later that year, Cousins had to withdraw from the made-for-TV special “Romeo and Juliet on Ice” starring Dorothy Hamill and Pockar stepped in as the leading man.
“There was so much going on in the pro world at that time and Brian loved it,” Cooke said. “He had the perfect look for it.”
In 1988 Pockar was appointed the artistic director for the closing ceremonies at the 1988 Winter Olympics in his hometown of Calgary.
Pockar kept his illness a secret for a long time, but those close to him knew that something was wrong.
“Brian was ill for a very long time and never told anyone,” Cooke recalled. “I found out in August 1991. He threw me a birthday party five days before he died.”
Orser reflected on his last encounter with Pockar. “We were in Calgary for Stars in late April that year and I remember going to his house and realizing he was very sick,” Orser said. “It was sort of Brian’s way of saying goodbye by inviting us over. He died a week or two later.
“He was the only guy I knew who could rival Bobby (McCall) with his wit and right up to the end he had a sense of humor.”