Stars on Ice was originally conceived as an ice show for adults, without the skating Smurfs or Disney cartoon characters typical of other commercial ice shows of the period, such as Disney on Ice. Another concept that has carried through the show from the beginning is that of a small cast of elite skaters who perform together in ensembles as well as solo numbers. In 1991, the Canadian branch of the show, Canadian Stars On Ice, began.
The tour started on a shoestring budget, playing only a few dates in small-town arenas. 1986-1987 was Stars on Ice's first year. In 1992, IMG bought out the rival "Skating" tour from Bill Graham Presents and merged its resources with that of Stars on Ice. Among the acquisitions from the "Skating" tour was Sandra Bezic, who took over as choreographer and director of Stars on Ice for several years. In recent years, Christopher Dean has taken over choreography duties for the show.
Skaters who have previously toured with the show include:
Beginning in the mid 1970's and lasting for 8 seasons, CTV Television Network in Canada produced a weekly television series called "Stars on Ice", hosted by Alex Trebek, and featuring skaters such as Toller Cranston skating in Studio 6 of CFTO TV, Channel 9, located in Scarborough, Ontario. The series was produced and directed by Michael Steele, had a regular cast of 14 world-class ice professionals, most of whom lived and taught skating locally in and around Toronto. The variety show format on ice consisted of a glitzy "show opener" by the regular cast of skaters and a bigger budget production number (usually tributes to Hollywood musicals) with elaborate set pieces in the middle of the half-hour. Rounding out the half hour were famous and novelty-act figure skaters, vaudeville-type acts, and "affordable" (on the series' modest budget) non-skating celebrities at the b-list phase of their careers, such as Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz formerly of The Monkees, Eddie Mecca, (The Big Ragu) of Laverne & Shirley and Donovan. Due to being only minimally dependent on language, and its unusual ice/variety show format, the series went on to be widely syndicated throughout the world.