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wood stove at Dufferin


2021 - 2022

Nov.27, 2021

Opened for the season

Rink diaries from earlier years:

2020 - 2021

COVID-RELATED RESTRICTIONS: To find out how to book a skating time, go to the city's outdoor rinks web page.
All shinny hockey has been removed except for Greenwood (and only children and youth are allowed there). The city's opening rules are described here and our rinks blog is here.

Nov.29, 2020

City Hall staff -- no rentals

CityHall change area

City Hall: fenced, and only 25 skaters allowed despite its size

At 3.30 p.m. the rink at City Hall was surrounded by fencing and was staffed by both security guards and rink staff with clipboards. The ice looked fine but apparently yesterday this rink was not allowed to open. No one knew why. There is no skate rental and the rink, although very large, is being treated as a single pad with only 25 skaters allowed.


2019 - 2020

Dec.8, 2019

The square is filled with vendors of gifts and food trucks. A Santa guy is taking wishes up on the performance stage, with a short lineup of kids waiting. The rink sound system continues to broadcast the usual radio station, its ads still booming out over the square. The lockers still use keys, and are apparently working. The doors to the washrooms continue to have their wheelchair symbols without a mechanism to actually open the doors. Of concern to the staff is the difficulty for older skaters when they have to step down to get onto the rink, or have to go up a slippery ramp to get off.

skate rentals are busy

little kids' midway by the rink
Nov.30, 2019, City news release

From December 2 to March 22, the Nathan Phillips Square rink will offer extensive weekly free programming, in addition to regular free leisure skating. New programs include:

Guide your Glide – Learn to skate from a City instructor every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m.

DJ Skate Weekends – A different DJ every Friday and Saturday night from 7 to 10 p.m.

Sunday Fun Day – Family games and songs on and off the ice from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lunchtime Skate – Weekday lunch hour skate with music from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

2018 - 2019

Opened Nov.24, 2018

Feb.8, 2019

''At 12 noon there's an out of date posting about our main civic rink on the city's website. It's been on since Wednesday afternoon and today is Friday:

Ongoing maintenance due to freezing rain and ice pellets. The Nathan Phillips Square rink will be closed on Thursday February 7 until 3:30 pm for the Toronto Maple Leafs Outdoor Practice. The public is welcome to watch the festivities, which will take place until 3 pm. The rink will be returned to normal use from 3:30 p.m. onwards.

Also note the rink will be closed from 1 to 2:30 pm on February 8 for a City Councillor vs City Staff game on February 8.

Jan.12, 2019

A busy day at the rink. The radio station that the rink staff put on the P.A. is booming an ad for Shopper's Drug Mart across the square, followed by another ad. There are four rink staff sitting inside the office. The big window has no sound access for inquiries, but two of the staff come out after my sign language inquiries. They say they just put on whatever station is available. I ask them to register a complaint, and they say they will.

This has been an issue for years -- free ads broadcast across our main civic square! Embarrassing.

The accessible door openers have not been installed. The same fake signs are up as before.

Dec.27, 2018

The lockers are all fixed. A rink guard said they were fixed yesterday (on Boxing Day). It's nice that the Star's Fixer got involved, but it's no way to run a rink. Maybe the Fixer can ask city staff about the door-opening access buttons that are just pretend.

men's washroom: broken fake sign

women's washroom: fake access button

The fake signs have been all there is (no door-opening mechanism) since the rink building was put up in 2011. Management seemed to be unaware of this problem when we talked to them in 2015 but said they'd attend to it. Three years later it's still the same!

I just called 311 and wrote to Councillor Cressy as well. If the lockers got fixed in two days, maybe there's hope for the doors.

Dec.23, 2018

A Star article by the Fixer says that all lockers at the rink at city hall are out of service.

city hall skate lending wicket [Star photo]

Chris Selley on twitter: "I mean, honestly, how does a LOCKER go "out of service"? How many freaking moving parts does it even have? But in any event, here's 45 coin-operated lockers on Kijiji for $2,985. Sorted."

Joshua Hind on twitter: "the City’s procurement is so slow and bureaucratic that PF&R could buy the lockers on a PCARD, but it would be summer before they had a vendor in place to install them."


2017 - 2018

Jan.17, 2018: amplified music

There are only a few city rinks that have music for skating. Nathan Phillips and Colonel Sam Smith both play music. And it's not unusual to hear long strings of ads booming out over city hall square, along with the music.

We assumed that the city must be getting some money to broadcasts these private radio ads over the public square, so we asked the city through Freedom of Information. It turns out that the ads are broadcast all over our main civic square for free! From the FOI response:

"City staff may play commercial radio at rinks, however there is no policy or protocol governing this, it is very much a local decision."


At Colonel Sam Smith, the rink staff like CHFI. Maybe at city hall too. And they can share their taste, and the ads, with the world at large, just as they choose.

Will the New Year's Eve Party go on despite the cold? [It didn't]

Facebook Link

Dec.8, 2017

Holiday fair at City Hall

This fair is on from Dec.1 to Dec.23. There are rides for kids including a carousel, plenty of market booths selling the usual international bounty (clothing, jewellery, art) and many warming stations -- mostly propane heaters but one area with muskoka chairs and a couple of campfire cages. There's also free wine tasting -- a surprise. And the stage is set up for music later.

Getting colder

a fire to warm up by, in city hall square

European-style propane heaters to keep drinkers warm

free wine-tasting

even mulled wine, with plenty of comfortable seating

holiday market booths

Note: despite all those nice things set up (by a private company) to make Nathan Phillips Square lively and fun, there is still -- sadly -- no automatic door into the public washrooms. During the summer the doors were simply propped open, to comply with the law. But in the winter when it's cold, that workaround is not possible.


2016 - 2017

In October 2016, the city awarded a contract for Replacement Of Refrigeration Plant, Pool Piping & Upgrades to Aplus General Contractors Corporation, for $4,240,000 (not including HST).

Dec.2, 2016

The rink has been listed as open every day since its scheduled opening on Nov.26. This website gets a fair number of inquiries for a phone number for skate lending. The company that runs the skate lending is private, not city-owned. They list this number 1-647-380-1921.


2015 - 2016

March 19, 2016

From skater Nicole Fritz: "The ice was pretty gouged, but what a beautiful day to have our last skate of the season!"

skating at city hall, March 19. Photo: Nicole Fritz

detail: even stormtroopers like to skate
March 12, 2016

At 11.30 on a mild and sunny Saturday morning, the rink is holding up well, and it looks like before too long the sun will disappear behind the hotel, so that it won't be able to lick at the ice so directly anymore. Even though the ice is good, there are only 8 skaters on the rink. There are 4 rink guards chatting at the side, making a ratio of 2 skaters per rink guard. There's another city staff person inside the office. On a day of uncertainty about ice conditions, it would certainly be possible to spare one staff person to answer a direct phone line -- if there was one -- and let a few more prospective skaters know how the ice is.

ONE of these staff could answer the phone: "how's the ice?"

fake wheelchair button still in place

The fake automatic door opener is still in place at the public washrooms -- a picture of a wheelchair, but it's not connected to a mechanism. The meeting at which we told rink management about this problem -- which they were shocked to hear about, and said they would follow up right away -- was on February 3rd.

March 9, 2016

March 9, 2016

The rink has been watery all week but a few people still come to skate, and at 8.15 pm the skate lending is open. For a change, there is actually a customer at the Heros Burger food counter, although they seem to be chatting -- maybe a friend has come by to help the time pass more agreeably. There are two rink guards standing at the side. The usual radio station is on. The ice looks quite thick at the sides, with a layer of water. There are 8 skaters on the ice, two more sitting on the side.

Feb.3, 2016

The ice has some water overtop in patches, but people seem to have a fine time skating on it.

City Hall, 11.30 a.m. Feb.3, 13 degrees
January 16, 2016

Saturday morning: The washroom has been fixed, hurray. The rink has four green skate aids, which are being used by kids and their parents, with obvious enjoyment. The radio station booming out over the rink sound system is on a talk show, interspersed with commercials. Outside and inside the washrooms, there are fake disability buttons, just little screwed-on plastic plates. Eventually the real, operating mechanism will probably come, but when?

the wheelchair button by the washrooms is a fake -- just a picture

fake disability button inside the washroom too -- a wave won't help
January 12, 2016

At 1 pm, both, the website and 311 say all Toronto/EY rinks are closed, including this one, but that's unlikely. Harbourfront shows happy skaters on their webcam, and Dufferin Rink has been open since 9 a.m., according to their staff.

January 4, 2016, email from Haroon Qureshi, to City Councillor Kristin Wong-Tam

I have been attending the city hall rink shinny games regularly for the previous 5 winters. We have over 20 people out on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

I my self travel from Etobicoke to play shinny here, 45% of the crowd drives in from either Richmond hill, Markham and Scarborough.

Over the last 4 years the lights have always been on. There are 3 over head arches directly over the rink, this has lights and also holds those ornaments. These are the lights that stay on all night.

Now since the rink was closed for that one day due to warm weather the lights have been switched off regularly after 10.

This is an inconvenience as we choose to play hockey instead of indulge in drugs, alcohol, and other non safe activities. Not to mention unsafe due to the popularity of the location as well as the brand it reflects on the city it self.

I hope we can get these turned back on as I have called 311 the last 2 weekends and they have acted oblivious.

Not sure if this is result of budget cuts but this should be a non-issue here.

From Josh Smart (Facebook post): "I have been playing at city hall after 10pm for 20 years. I have seen many different attitudes to the game there. There was a time in the early 2000's when every single light that could've turned off was , including the spotlights on the top of city hall... One thing that has remained the same though... Is the inability to get any real answers about why these things are happening."

Dec.31, 2015

Nathan Phillips Square New Year's Eve dancing and skating.

Dec.25 2015

At 10 a.m.: City Hall rink is open.

happy skaters on Christmas Day

but identical washroom danger tape is still there, 20 days later!
Dec.5 2015

The Toronto sign is the new sitting place...

...otherwise people may change into skates on the ground

There's always a lineup for the skate rental...

...but not for the food -- there's nowhere to sit and eat.

The disabled button at the washroom door doesn't work...

...but a plugged toilet gets a lot of attention.
November 28, 2015

The rink opened on time and with very good ice. In fact, skaters reported that they had been skating (and playing shinny) at night for several days already. This is despite daytime temperatures of 15 celsius, and on Wednesday overnight, the same.

November 23, 2015, 2 pm

The rink is not supposed to open until 5 days from now but it has lots of ice -- more than in some other years on opening day. The rink staff were just putting the zamboni away -- obviously they've been using it already.

ice already thick

official opening sign in office window

bits of trash frozen into the ice

still installing Christmas lights

zamboni already in use


Earlier rink diaries:

2014 - 2015

March 12, 2015

The temperature is 2 degrees, but with full sun. The rink is doing well at lunch time even though the sun is strong. By 1.45, the sun will disappear behind the Sheraton Hotel -- not to be seen on the rink again until later in the afternoon. So the rink at city hall can keep good ice, even in high-sun-March. Too bad not every outdoor rink could have a 43-storey hotel to the south.

The zamboni is painted all over with Toronto Maple Leafs images, implying that the Leafs donated the zamboni. But they didn't -- it's paid for by our taxes, same as the rest of the rink features.

March 12, 2015, 1.30 pm

zamboni: "the passion that unites us all" -- really?

the Sheraton Hotel is southwest of the rink

the sun goes behind the hotel
Jan.8 2014

A skater pointed out that there is a change room at this rink. Somehow we never noticed it, so we went today to take some photos. There was a hand-lettered sign saying "lockers and change room" on an otherwise unmarked door to the left of the staff office. And indeed, through another door there was such a room. It's pretty small, though -- looks like it might accommodate 10 people, 15 in a tight squeeze, and on New Year's Day (and many weekends), the number of skaters on the ice was more like 200. So that must be why all those young skaters were crowded into the women's washroom to get warm.

hand-lettered sign: ""lockers and change room"

signs on inner door

north side of little change room

south side of little change room
Jan.1 2015 New Year's Day: Mayor John Tory's skating party

The mayor's skating party highlighted some of the shortcomings of Toronto's main civic rink. Hopefully the mayor and his wife didn't come down with pneumonia, from the chill.

There's nowhere warm to change into skates. The mayor and his wife were surrounded by people from the moment they crossed from city hall over to the rink. Neither of them was wearing a hat, and the wind was bitter. Winter.

As long as people kept moving -- i.e. skating -- they were all right. But anyone who stopped and stood still got cold really fast. The women's washroom was full of shivering teenagers trying to shelter from the wind. Skaters had to change into their skates on an outdoor bench -- but because the rink was so packed, there were no bench spots left. Many were sitting on the cold concrete on the edge of the rink.

Presumably an aide would have been able to persuade some skaters to vacate a bench on the side of the rink, for the mayor and his wife to change into their skates -- but by the time Mayor Tory had given various media soundbites and had posed for dozens of photos with eager citizens, did he and his wife have any feeling left in their fingers, to lace up?

We can't report on this puzzle, because the CityRinks visitor got very cold too. Before the mayor and his wife got their skates on, the CityRinks visitor cycled to the Osgoode subway, got her bike onto the elevator and into the train, and had a warm ride on the TTC to Dufferin Rink. The rink clubhouse was warmer still, and filled with people catching up with their neighbours -- and eating Mary Sylwester's spicy winter soup, being sold at the rink's zamboni cafe.


New Year's Day skaters, 1.45 pm, looking from the mezzanine

warning sign at the skate rental -- the point is?

the bell chimes 2: the mayor and his wife walk over to the rink

the mayor's speech: "have a safe new year"

big crowd around the mayor: where to change into skates?

skaters sitting on the concrete, not enough benches
Dec.30, 2014

Press release

Mayor Tory invites Toronto residents to his January 1 skating party

Toronto Mayor John Tory and City councillors are inviting residents to join them at the Mayor's New Year's Day Skating Party on Thursday, January 1. The family-friendly event at Nathan Phillips Square will give residents an opportunity to mix and mingle with Mayor Tory and other members of City Council on the first day of 2015.

Date: Thursday, January 1, 2015. Time: 2 to 3:30 p.m.

– Mayor's welcoming remarks at about 2 p.m. Location: Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St. W.

In anticipation of a large public turnout, a space will be reserved for media to the east of the event stage for the Mayor's welcome message. Due to safety considerations, cabling will only be permitted in the area reserved for media.

Media availability: There will be a media availability with Mayor Tory to the east of the event stage immediately after his public remarks.

Holiday Hours: the city's rink information website/311 says that Nathan Phillips (City Hall) Rink will be open (with access to the changeroom/washroom) every day of the holidays including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Dec.15 2014

a popular place to skate

It's mild and overcast, but even so, there are lots of people skating. The ice is excellent.

Dec.7 2014

The ice is excellent now.

Nov.25 2014

At 7.30 pm the rink was unlit and empty, although there was a beautiful sheet of ice. Two staff were in the rink guard booth. One explained very politely that the ice was too soft and not thick enough, and that they needed to build it up without skaters on it. He said that if it's cold tomorrow, they can open it, but if it gets up as high as 4 degrees, it will melt again. The rink visitor explained that artificial ice rinks don't work like that. The rink guard looked exasperated and said "every rink is different." He did agree that part of the reason for building the ice up more was the upcoming "Cavalcade of lights" event on Nov.29.

After thanking him for his information, the rink visitor walked along the ice and found that it was good ice. A loudspeaker came on saying "no skating."

Nov.21, 2014

The rink looks in good shape, ready to open tomorrow.

smooth surface, ready to open

washroom has mats right into the stalls


Dec.23 2013

The rink reopened in the morning.

Dec.22 2013

The ice storm coated the city with ice, and City Hall rink was closed down. The city's website doesn't give a reason, but in the long lineup across the street at the Sheraton (people looking for hotel rooms because their homes were cold and dark), somebody said that the strings of Christmas lights on the arches above the rink were so heavy with ice that the staff were worried they'd drop down on the skaters. So they got everybody out of there.

Diary 2011 - 2012, Diary 2010 - 2011, Rink Diary 2009 - 2010 Diary 2008-2009, Diary 2007-2008, Diary 2006 - 2007, Diary 2005 - 2006, Diary 2004 - 2005

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Content last modified on November 29, 2021, at 06:30 PM EST