See also Site Map
875 Dufferin St., across from the Dufferin Mall, south of Bloor. Double pad. For ice conditions, call the rink at 416-392-0913. For our current rink schedule: Read more
There’s trouble at the rink. Last year’s excellent City rink foreperson finally left employment with the city, for a better job. It seems like he had the impression that his skills were not valued in any way that would lead to more responsibility. He was probably quite right.
One thing that this foreman admitted last year (and that was the case in certain other years as well) is that our rink (and the other rinks, too) didn't get enough of a base put down before opening day. So last year again, the rink couldn't open on the hockey side, on our official opening day. Our records show that the weather was cold but there were only two nights of flooding activity. The rinks need to have at least three nights of floods, four are even better. Two nights will absolutely not do.
Scrimping on flooding times is a false economy since it means that rink staff are reporting for work on opening day anyway and if they don't have rinks to run, because they have to stay closed, they just sit around. This year we asked the manager to let us know if they haven’t got the staff to start flooding. Then we can line up some rink users who can put the base down by tonight. A group of local folks staying up all night is better than thin ice on opening day.
But the City Rinks manager is away on a course. The rinks supervisor isn’t returning calls. He assured the manager before he left that he would begin the flood for the rink today. Despite those promises, there was no flooding today at all, and no word of explanation either. Frustration, year after year.
DUFFERIN RINK OPENS SATURDAY NOV. 29 AT 9AM Same story as last year and every year: pleasure skating all the time (the gate is never closed), shinny hockey on the hockey side Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., some shinny permits 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., fire in the wood stove inside, chess and checkers, some toys for the little kids, organic coffee and hot chocolate and mini-pizzas and slices of fresh park bread, snow hills for climbing and sliding outside, and free skating under the sky in the bracing Canadian winter. Fun!
BEGINNERS' SHINNY FOR ADULTS with Lawrence Barichello. Starts SUNDAY NOV.30, 7-8.30 P.M. This was a hit last year and it filled up really fast. If you want to get started playing shinny hockey this year, get your place early. Lawrence is taking calls for registration now. The class costs about $70 for 12 weeks, and you need skates and preferably a helmet and a stick if you have one. Otherwise Lawrence has extra. Men and women are both welcome. Call Lawrence at 416/530-4810, e-mail [email protected]
SKATING LESSONS: last year we had none but this year we've found a terrific teacher. If you want to enroll your child, call the rink (416 392-0913) and leave your number and the age of the child. We'll call you back within a week and let you know the time (Sunday mornings for sure) and the cost.
We have no adult skating lessons. However, for some years we have had a "skating practice" time on Sunday mornings between 10-12.30. That means that, to protect learners, we don't allow fast skaters or wild kids on the ice, and we have two rink staff on the ice as resource people -- i.e. if an adult (or child) wants to be out on the ice learning to skate (with a chair or without), the resource person will help them. It actually works very well, and it's free. It's also possible to arrange for a private lesson (for $20 an hour) with one of those resource rink staff after their shift, i.e. after 12.30. Usually people don't need such a thing more than a few times -- skating, like walking, is mainly learned through practice. We try to make the rink a friendly place to practice.
From Jutta: There are only two rinks open in the whole city. So many guys have been coming to skate at Dufferin Rink that they can hardly move on the ice – it looks more like a cocktail party than a hockey game out there.
We had two zamboni drivers today. One of them is a guy new to this rink, whom I haven't met before. He told me that he’d heard all about me and my bossiness, and that there was going to be a new regime, now that he had arrived. All evening he went around saying to the skaters, who the hell is she? She doesn’t run this place, the staff do, don’t listen to her.
A lot of them didn’t say anything. When it came time to clean the ice, the new zamboni driver raised the lift gate, and I went out with the two rink guards to clear this mass of humanity off so the zamboni could go on. The new zamboni guy saw me, and something weird must have gone off in his brain. He said to the skaters, I told you, don’t listen to her.
The frustration of the crowding must have kicked in, even more so for all those guys who don’t normally come here except when no other rinks are open, and so have no attachment to the way things go at this rink. Lots of skaters decided to stay on the ice and not go off for the zamboni. As the zamboni driver was still raising the lift gate, they skated underneath and started shooting the puck around on the pleasure-skating side too. Pucks were flying, and the rink guards were yelling at people to get off. Lots of skaters ignored them and started to shove each other and play-fight and yank each others’ shirts off. I blew my whistle, but the new zamboni driver shouted, “don’t listen to her, she doesn’t work here!” So the melee got even crazier.
The rink guards couldn’t get anybody to get off the ice. Guys came out of the rink house and back onto the ice to join the fun. Half-undressed skaters were lying on the ice, pucks were flying, the lift gate was half up and the big iron pegs weren’t in to secure it, the regular zamboni driver was yelling at the kids but you couldn’t even hear what he was saying. The new zamboni driver was in some kind of hang – even though things were clearly out of hand, he recited his mantra: “don’t listen to her!!!!”
And they didn’t, nor did they listen to anyone else. I tried to pull some of the fighters apart and off the ice. One guy shoved me against the railing. That made a little shock in the melee – you’re not supposed to shove a matronly lady. I tried to take the moment to wake people up. The rink guards got some of the guys off the ice, and the other ones just stood there. Bless my soul if the new zamboni driver didn’t come over and start his campaign again. The regular zamboni driver tried to pull him away, but I guess this guy was just as excited by the thrill of the battle as the skaters who remained. “Don’t listen to her….”
Three of the skaters began to taunt the rink guards, and me. They lit cigarettes and smoked them very ostentatiously on the ice surface. They stood under the lift gate, still not secured with their pegs. Since they could see that this got the rink guards very agitated, they skated back and forth underneath. When I tried to pull one of them off the ice, I got another shove. I said to the regular zamboni driver: call your supervisor and tell him we need him here now! And one of the rink guards called the police.
The driver got the supervisor on his radio, talked for a couple of minutes and then said, “okay.” He said that the supervisor had ordered him and his partner to leave the building, on the grounds of health and safety. If there was a riot, the zamboni workers’ safety would be endangered.
So they left. I didn’t expect the police to show up anytime soon. What to do? The rink was chaos. Some skaters took off their skates and left, others stayed at the margins just watching, a few skated around trying to settle things down, and the three ringleaders kept the rest of the crowd pumped up. Nobody was listening to anybody; everybody was yelling.
The two rink guards, a few older hockey players and I formed a plan. We walked around telling everyone who could hear us: everyone off the ice. If this rink is not cleared in five minutes, we’re shutting down the lights and closing the place for the rest of the night.
A gamble – would the craziest skaters rampage around and break all the windows if we did that? But there was no other way to get back the authority, and I was quite sure that if we were seen as too weak to control the crowd, we’d pay, for weeks or longer.
A few skaters who would much rather play hockey than have a riot, skated around urging the crowd to cooperate. But most didn’t. So after about ten minutes, I went into the electrical room and shut off the main rink lights power switch.
That had an effect. There was silence, then shouts. “What are you doing? We want to play hockey!” I said, “I won’t turn the lights back on until everyone clears off the ice. Those three guys have to leave the building. The rest of you can get back on when those three are gone.”
The game was getting tedious. Everyone filed off. The three dopes sat down on a bench and started talking big. “We’re not leaving.”
I said that the police had been called and that no lights would go back on until the three of them were gone. They made a short try at bargaining, then threatening us again, while their peanut gallery faded away. Finally the three of them left, cursing about the injustice of it all. I switched on the lights and the rink guard started to lower the gate back down.
That’s when the chain that holds up the heavy lift gate derailed. The lift gate came crashing down. The look, the sound, was worth a thousand words. The gate must have already been partway off the chain when it was lifted. If it had come off all the way when that zamboni driver was letting the skaters go back and forth underneath with no pegs securing it, somebody would most likely have been killed.
Two police came about an hour later, and went away again, because there was obviously nothing wrong – just a bunch of hockey players trying to play hockey on snowy ice. The zamboni had never got on the ice because of the riot, and the drivers never returned.
E-mail to the City rinks manager from shinny hockey player Veronica Pochmursky, cc’d to the "City rinks" web address"
E-mail response from us:
As soon as people found out about Dufferin Rink's real-people telephone, they started calling from all over the city. That’s okay except when the staff can’t get hold of the forepersons for the different regions. Hopefully they'll get better internal cooperation this winter, and then rink rats and others can go to their various outdoor rinks with confidence.
The other double-pad rinks opened today. The single pads will still stay closed for another week. But the double pad at Wallace Rink is only ten minutes from here, and the crowds are getting smaller.
The zamboni driver who caused the rink riot three days ago has been relocated to another rink, without being disciplined. The problem is that the guy was in the right – staff are not to be taking direction from volunteers. If he had been disciplined for his actions that night, the union would have backed him.
The three riot enthusiasts, when they tried to come back a few days later, were given letters of trespass. They can’t come back until they meet with Tino. When they found out that we’re following up, that we’ve got a memory, their language was obscene.
A lot of the troublemakers of other years are back, older now. Some of them complained tonight that it’s still too crowded on the ice. They’re right. We told them: “so go up to Wallace Rink, it’s open now.”
“No way. Wallace is dangerous.”
“It’s dangerous because of troublemakers like you!”
They laughed. “Maybe. But we’re staying here. This rink is the best.”
We’re allowed to say stuff like that to them because they know we like them so much by now, their spirit, their love of shinny hockey, their Portuguese sense of humour. We’ve been through the war together and the scars have healed now.
Our census Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 1,227 visits.
Out of eight west-central rinks scheduled to be open on Saturday, four were closed or barely open. As far as we know, none of the rinks got the three nights (minimum) of flooding they need to put down an adequate base. Dufferin Rink also got only two nights, but we and Rennie Rink were started up in time to catch the rain. That's not good planning, that's just good luck -- but for 4 of the 6 rinks scheduled to open next, the luck ran out.
From Jutta: I was astonished to hear from the City Rinks manager that he will be away again – at a First Aid course for two full days this week. I e-mailed the Parks and Recreation director:
No reply from the director.
Today the City rinks supervisor came to the rink to check on the zamboni, which has been giving trouble again. They cleared the ice for the zamboni and the supervisor watched while it went around. There was a big crowd of skaters jammed in behind the railing, waiting to go on again. The supervisor put on skates – something I’ve never seen him do before. When the driver was done cleaning the ice, he told him to stop the machine right there on the ice surface. He and the driver started fiddling with the blade, took it right off, and then the driver tried to re-instal it.
Meantime the supervisor skated around the ice in figures of eight, around and around, talking on his cell phone. Some of the skaters tried to come back onto the ice, but the supervisor waved them off (still talking) pointing to the zamboni standing there. So all the skaters had to stand behind the railing for another ten minutes, and watch the guy skating. There was a kind of rising rumble of anger in the crowd. No explanations from the supervisor or the zamboni driver, of what was happening or why the zamboni wasn’t moving off the ice.
E-mail from Jutta to the City rinks supervisor:
E-mail back from the rinks supervisor:
E-mail back from Jutta to the rinks supervisor:
Rink romances: A man named Mike came into the rink tonight and was showing his wife all around. They said they live in Thornhill, and they had intended to go to Niagara Falls. But the traffic was so bad that they bailed out of their trip and decided to look around Mike's old neighbourhood instead. Mike lived in this area from 1958 to 1971, and he said he used to come to Dufferin Rink all the time. He remembered the usual fights and ruckus, but also the Saturday evening skating. There was pleasure skating on both sides, there was organ music on the loudspeakers, and the boys would ask the girls to skate in the same way you'd ask girls to dance. Mike said, when a boy would go up to a girl and ask her to skate, all his friends would watch to see if he was accepted or rejected. Everybody went skating on Saturday night, he said. That was where romances started.
On Sunday, with 10 cm of snow, as far as we know only two rinks opened -- ours and city hall. How many staff were paid on that day to open only two city rinks? How was it that we were able to keep our own rink open all day (sometimes just with a huge skating track -- LOTS of fun) by hand-shovelling and a bit of mechanical help and all those other rinks had to stay closed? How many rink operators were just sitting in their offices waiting for their shift to end?
From Jutta: Today was the last farmers’ market before Christmas. About an hour before it started, two men in identical dark blue windbreakers came to the rink house and started walking around with clipboards, staring at the ceiling and the walls and making notes. They looked so grim that I went over to see what the problem was. It turned out they were Occupational Health and Safety inspectors who work for the city’s Corporate Services. At first they said they wouldn’t talk to me, they wanted to talk to staff, so Lea came over and joined us. They walked into the garage, shaking their heads and taking digital photographs, with Lea and I following them. The farmers were trying to set up their tables, but the zamboni was still in there. The foreman came in just about the time the inspectors entered, to drive the zamboni out so the rest of the farmers’ tables could be set up. The inspectors said, can we see your propane ticket? The foreman dug around in his wallet, looking worried.
They told him his propane ticket was out of date and he wasn’t allowed to drive the zamboni out of the garage. I started getting impatient. “Please call the supervisor and ask him to move the machine. We need the garage for the market.”
But the supervisor walked in just then, so he drove the zamboni out and the farmers set up as people were already waiting to shop.
While the zamboni was being driven out, the inspectors told us that they had just come from shutting down two rinks in the west end, because of employee-health-and-safety violations, and that they were very unimpressed by what they saw at our rink.
It got worse from there. When they saw the Clay and Paper Theatre giant puppets suspended by their ropes and pulleys, high up in the rafters of the garage, they were appalled. Next came the city’s large gas space heater, also suspended from the two-story-high ceiling, which they said should never have been installed there. Then when they saw our new community kitchen through the glass sliding doors, they said that this was the worst rink they had ever seen, and that they might have to shut us down immediately.
I said, “tell us what we can do to fix what bothers you.” They said: “if you’re not staff, we don’t even want to talk to you.”
So I called the City rinks manager. He groaned. “This is the visit I was hoping you would never get.” He got here within twenty minutes. He walked around with the inspectors for an hour or more, and wrote down everything they told him. After they left, he said he had three pages of employee-health-and-safety infractions, some so urgent they must be taken care of by the next day (Friday) to prevent the rink from being shut down. That period of grace was then extended until Monday at the latest.
So as the Christmas market got underway, and the shinny games continued on the rink, we had a new crisis. Our rink is not one of the winter treasures of our neighborhood. It’s a mass of employee safety violations.
I went home and wrote an e-mail to Claire Tucker Reid, the general manager of Parks and Recreation, cc’ing every person on my rink friends list, on my summer parks list, plus the list serve and the press and the City Councillor.
The letters have been flooding in.
Group e-mail response from the City Rinks manager:
Group e-mail from the Councillor’s assistant:
Group e-mail from the general manager:
Group e-mail from Carmen Smith, the Mayor’s office:
Group e-mail from Jutta Mason
James Creighton (title: Corporate Services senior consultant) came to the rink at ten this morning. The two inspectors came too, but they stayed standing against the back wall, their arms folded, stonefaced. Four park staff were there, plus Jane Price and I and the rinks manager.
Mr.Creighton started off by telling us about his innovations in Health and Safety: under his direction, worker accident claims (or reports, I can't remember which) have been reduced by 85%, which he says makes the city very proud and puts them ahead of almost any other similar unit in North America. Although he’s on City staff, his title is ‘consultant’ because it’s his job to consult with every section of Parks and Rec and make sure they know the rules.
Park management staff, and city councillors, can be fined and even jailed if they do not ensure that the city is "in compliance." It’s Mr.Creighton’s job to help them avoid that.
He laid out the main points of what he’s going to recommend:
1. Parks and Rec must remove the "home-made kitchen" (i.e. our city-funded community kitchen)
2. Parks and Rec must change the locks so we can't use the south room of the building (i.e. as a mixed-use garage/storage/farmers' market area)
3. Everything must be out of the garage except what's directly related to flooding the ice.
The detailed document, giving the relevant regulations to justify these suggestions, is still not ready and will not be ready until "the end of the week" -- that may mean after New Year's.
The zamboni has been put back inside and Mr.Creighton now says it must not be left outside, unprotected. No kidding.
After dropping these bombshells, he left, flanked by the two inspectors. The manager stayed at the rink another ten minutes. He said, “Mr. Creighton is supposed to work for Parks and Rec, and the director doesn’t have to take any of these recommendations from Mr. Creighton if he doesn’t want to.”
You sure wouldn’t know that. Mr. Creighton talked as though he was simply conveying the inevitable.
Just before supper i got a one-liner e-mail from the Mayor himself:
I wrote back:
This morning the blue propane Olympia ice-resurfacer is gone and we have a shiny white gas-powered zamboni instead. So the propane rules no longer apply. The manager says that propane rules were really the main sticking point on combination uses of a building.
I sent around Mr. Creighton’s most recent pronouncements to the rink friends, plus the Municipal Health and Safety Association Newsletter description of his achievements.
- From a park friend who works at a large corporation:
- From a park friend who’s a journalist:
- From a park friend who’s an aspiring politician:
Joe Adelaars, our web master, looked up the Occupational Health and Safety Act on the internet. The regulations aren’t on the web, but the general approach of the Act seems to bear out the inspectors’ vision. Not only at construction sites, mines, and logging operations, but in all workplaces, there are only two parties which have standing: the workers (represented by the Act), and the employers. Seen through this lens, the third element that’s always present in public space – the citizens – are invisible.
The inspectors’ visit has brought the problem with this legislation into clear relief for us, but it’s always been in the background anyway. The tricky question our neighborhood park poses is – what is our rightful power as citizens in shaping the use of our public space?
Today the city carpenters came and built us some much nicer storage shelves in the garage. The public health inspector still has to come and so does the fire department.
We’re still waiting to see the inspectors’ written report. The outcry that followed that first alarming day got responses from park management and the councillor and even the mayor. But the friends of the park are not at the discussion table, and neither are the actual park workers on whose behalf the safety claims are being made. While the city hall folks are pondering what to do, without us, the rink staff and the friends of the park have basically gone back to trying to make the rink work.
HOCKEY NOISE: Since the rink season lasts only three months, the staff try to let people use the rink at every possible moment. That means they keep the hockey rink open 14 hours a day, and they never lock the pleasure-skating side at all. The lights go off after 11 p.m. but some folks even play hockey in the half-dark afterwards, using their shoes to mark the goal. But late-night hockey makes a hardship for the people living nearby: the sound of the puck keeps people awake when they want to sleep. So, if you play hockey late at night, shhhh! Don’t hit the puck against the boards and don’t shout to your friends. There was a very unhappy anonymous phone call on the park voice mail a few days after Christmas, suggesting that the caller intended to start a neighbourhood petition to stop late-night skating. Oh dear! Please, late-night skaters, remind each other to be quiet. And please, neighbours who suffer from the noise – leave your name and phone number at the park so the staff can get details from you, and go after the noisy folks and tell them to put a sock in it.
HOCKEY TOURISTS: Just after Christmas a big group of hockey players and their families showed up at the rink: seven families, mothers, fathers, and kids (26 people in all) from Sheffield, England. This was their second winter-time visit to Canada, looking for snow and good ice. They didn’t find any snow, but they found us, and here’s how: on Boxing Day some of them they were standing in an endless line-up at Wal-mart across the street, waiting to pay. Because people in the lineup had plenty of time to talk, somebody told them about our rink.
So they all came over and checked us out, and then they played at our rink many times in the five days that followed. They told us that Sheffield is the fourth biggest city in England, with over a million people, but that they don’t have any rinks like ours. David Garrity and his wife Michelle said that if such a rink were to be built in their city, it would be vandalized immediately: the nets would be stolen, the fences slashed, the windows broken. They have to rent indoor ice time back home, and it costs a lot. They said they couldn’t believe their good fortune in stumbling across our free rink, and to show their appreciation they gave us some quality kids’ hockey gear for our loan box, when they left.
The pleasure these folks took in playing hockey (and having many cups of tea in the rink house) was lovely to see. But we hope they’re wrong about vandals. Maybe if they made a rink in Sheffield that was well looked after with lots of free hours and skate loans (and cookies and tea), they’d find out, as we have, that vandalism can almost disappear.
HOW MUCH YOUTH WANT TO PLAY HOCKEY: Our rink was one of the first two neighbourhood rinks in the city to open this year. So it was even fuller than usual in the first week. Often there were over 50 shinny hockey players on the ice, with several different games going on at the same time. Permits for the 9-11 period filled up fast (those for youth are free), and after the building closed, there was usually a crowd of shinny hockey players on the pleasure-skating side as well. After eleven when the lights go out and the hockey side is locked, hockey players would jump the fence, and another whole game would take place in the moonlight. The players would try to play as quietly as they could so as not to bother the apartment building next door. - That's how much youth want to play hockey.
The Globe piece ran today. The reporter quotes the general manager: "I'm a huge fan. . . . This is a park that is clearly alive, during the day, in the evenings, on weekends," Ms. Tucker-Reid said. She said she was confident the city and Ms. Mason will sit down soon and sort out the issues raised by the safety inspectors, but warned that rules will have to be followed. "We won't compromise on health and safety."
I have had no invitation from Claire to “sit down and sort out the issues.” Who does that?
Park friend Veronica is not only a shinny hockey player, she also works for the Ministry of the Environment. It turns out she used to be a health and safety inspector herself, until her job changed again. When she heard that the kitchen is supposed to be torn out and the locks changed in the zamboni garage because that space is deignated for the zamboni, she wrote:
The park staff have been asking everybody to put them in touch with the Health and Safety Committee, but so far no luck. Its membership is a bit fluid, maybe. The City rinks manager says he’ll try to get them a copy of Mr.Creighton’s final report on the rink infractions, but it’s still not ready. From Jutta:
From James Creighton:
HEALTH AND SAFETY INSPECTORS AT THE RINK: THE SEQUEL. The outcry that followed the threat to shut down Dufferin Rink just before Christmas, the newspaper coverage, the intervention of our new councillor, Adam Giambrone, and the thoughtful e-mails sent by so many people, all contributed to producing a silver lining that at times seemed to engulf the black cloud almost entirely.
The inspectors emphasized that the lack of clear boundaries between staff and friends of the park at our park were too risky. But Parks director Don Boyle said: “we have to work closely with volunteers, all over the city. In each neighbourhood, the boundaries are worked out differently. If a collaboration with community people works well, we’ll support it – that’s the point of parks and recreation.” That’s his decision, and he’s sticking to it.
As it stands now, it seems that all our clubhouse activities are within range of what the regulations require. We don’t know how many other inspectors are still to come and what they will identify. But maybe the storm is coming to its end, and it’s time to celebrate……..
“MY FUNNY VALENTINE" ZAMBONI FESTIVAL Saturday February 14. Cavan Young, who used to arrange outdoor concerts at the park when we started all our activities ten years ago, and David Anderson of Clay and Paper Theatre, have devised a St.Valentine's Day festival when the zamboni will be officially invited to become part of our community.
To show that we are serious about our attachment to the zamboni, we are renaming the rink snack bar the "Zamboni Cafe" and the new community kitchen has already been renamed the "zamboni kitchen." The giant puppets will return on that day, from the places they were evacuated to.
It may be that the inspectors think health and safety is NOT FUNNY. Whereas Cavan Young and David Anderson say that our mental health and safety depends on seeing the fun in almost everything, at least for a moment.
Cavan got a National Film Board contract to do a 10-minute movie of this Zamboni Valentine, so his crew will be filming on that day. Cavan is also holding a nicknaming ceremony, to cement the zamboni’s position as one element in our community. Zack? Zoe? Zorra? Zed? (One of our rink staff will officiate at the christening – his name is Zio.)
This festival will have the additional purpose of celebrating the saving of our community kitchen. Cavan will be requesting comments on-camera from anyone who is willing, but it doesn’t matter if you’re camera-shy; the festival will be a celebration of coming through this latest storm, and that’s the heart of the matter. Food, music, beautiful skating, a campfire, snow hills, and neighbours: Happy Valentine’s Day. And remember to wear something red.
Lots of snow yesterday. Mark Culligan is the park maintenance worker who often drives the big case loader that moves the snow off the rink after a snowstorm. He must have come in really early this morning. The rink was all ready for skating, but also Mark has made a snow road along the main walkway through the park, so people will have an easier time going through there.
Then Mark ploughed away the big snow “mountains” that are near the rink and the wood ovens. Otherwise, when the weather turns warm and all that snow starts the melt, the whole oven area changes into a giant muddy bog. He used the loader’s huge bucket to carry the biggest snow mountain away by the giant shovel-load. With this snow he created a long snow climbing-wall to the west of the park oven, where the hill slopes toward the street and the melt-water can drain away. Since then the kids (and dogs!) swarm all over the climbing wall and the bakers get to walk around with dry feet.
Mark, who rides a Harley-Davidson motorbike in his off hours, says he has so much fun using the case loader, that he can’t believe the city actually pays him to operate it.
Great confusion reins about whether the rinks will stay open, because the weather has been so warm. The first plan was that Dufferin would stay open until March 7. Then it was decided to keep 20 rinks open until March 21, to let the kids skate through March break. Then it got warm and sunny (sun is much worse than warmth). Yesterday the order came to close all the rinks by the afternoon (for the season). Then we heard, close all the rinks by evening. Then we found out that Dufferin Rink would be allowed to stay open until March 7, as was the original plan.
But the message didn’t get passed to the Tech Services staff. So this morning the compressors had been turned off and the electricians had reset the rink lights for summertime. Sigh. Then they had to come back and turn us on again. On top of that, one of the compressors had blown a gasket and was overheating. So the mechanics came last night at midnight to work on it (they work during the night so that the ice won't melt when the compressors are turned off for servicing). They stayed until 10.30 the next morning. A lot of overtime charges! But now the ice is perfect, although it's 6 degrees out.
Today it was 18 degrees in the afternoon. But no sun. So there was half an inch of water all over, but underneath, the ice was smooth and hard. Some people came and skated around, having fun shooting up the water with their skates when they stopped. Late at night the temperature dropped and the ice returned to normal: magic. And then we heard that five rinks - including us - would stay open to the end of March break.
March 10: The ice has been good most of the time, but even so, the rink has often been fairly empty. People walk in and say: What? You're open? We had no idea!
Everyone still thinks the rinks all closed at the end of February, as they did last year and the year before. And the city's rink "hot line" didn't carry the news of the extended season until the end of the second week. However, people will catch on.
A couple of pucks went through the compressor-room windows this winter, now that people have started playing shinny hockey on the pleasure-skating side after dark. Tino put in a work order for protective screens on the windows. They put them up at the rink today. The city welder put crossed metal “hockey sticks” as the screens' reinforcement. The foreman said he didn’t want to just have ugly bars to strengthen the screens, so he and the welder decided on a hockey theme. The screens look wonderful – random acts of nice design, by city trades staff. We called the foreman to thank him, and he sounded pretty pleased.
TINY DRILL HOLE CAUSED RINK TO SHUT DOWN EARLY The two giant vats of brownish liquid temporarily located outside the zamboni garage are brine vats. Brine is what circulates in the pipes underneath the concrete surface of the rink, and keeps the ice frozen in the wintertime. The city technical services staff noticed this past winter that there must be leak in one of the pipes, since the brine (salt and water) needed more topping up than it should. They finally had to shut down the rink at the beginning of March break (to the great disappointment of the kids), even though the ice was in excellent condition, because they were concerned about the salt pollution happening under the rink, with the brine leak. (It's illegal to leak salt into the ground except on roads and sidewalks.)
Soon after the rink was shut down, the technical services people came and drained all the brine that hadn't leaked out already, into the two big vats, so they could try and find the source of the leak. Then an expert in brine leaks came. He discovered a drill hole in the concrete near the tennis practice board. No one knows who might have drilled that tiny hole, although the city workers are wondering if the community might have done it, since they're sure they didn't, and that only leaves us (?) Two more drill holes were also discovered. Sabotage? Concrete worms?
This past rink season the intermittent brine leak was a cliff-hanger, and other equipment breakdowns added to the suspense. One night there was an ammonia leak at midnight. It’s was discovered by chance – somebody walking by there smelled it. That's how we found out that the rink's flashing ammonia-leak sign is not connected to any central alarm, and therefore it alarms nobody.
Here's a puzzle: the technical services mechanics tell us that on many days during the rink season, the rink lost 80 gallons of brine most days, out of this little drill-hole. That's a lot of water. It didn't come out the top like a geyser, or we would have seen it. Did all this water hollow out a cave under the concrete pad of the rink, so that the concrete is just hanging in mid-air the way the ammonia tank was? As of now, there are no plans by the city to find out.
Letter from Barbara Shulman, City of Toronto Director of Human Resources, to Jutta Mason:
Reply from Jutta:
The drill holes in the rink surface that made the brine leak out all last winter were clumsily camouflaged with some kind of blue-gray putty. Is it possible that the sad and angry zamboni driver from the previous rink season came back after the ice was out and tried to wreck the rink even more? There’s no way of knowing. The hole is patched now. But there might be bigger rink problems. The concrete rink surface is full of cracks.
It's not only Dufferin Rink that has cracks. The newer city rinks -- Campbell, Trinity, and Christie -- all have them. The older ones: Wallace, Scadding, and Ramsden -- have no cracks. Dufferin Rink is the first-rebuilt rink of the new series, and our cracks are the biggest. At all the new rinks, the cracks show yellow stains.
Our new rink surface and machinery cost about $1 million to build in 1993. It's supposed to last much longer. Something strange is going on here, and we wrote to the City Councillor that the rink needs to have an inspection by CIMCO, the company that installed the compressors and builds rinks too.
Big mistakes were already made at this rink, and were then mended. This may be the biggest problem yet, or it may be relatively easy to fix. Now is the time to find out.
The manager of Technical Services wrote to the Councillor that three years ago the City hired consultants to check out all the Parks and Recreation facilities, and they found nothing wrong with the rinks. The City has now hired another consultant to do an even more detailed inventory later this year. They’ll let them “know of our concerns” and tell us more then.
Another “don’t worry.” But the consultants who work with the City all have the same complaint – when they go around to do the inspections, they can’t get into the buildings, they can’t find anyone who knows anything, and so on. We've asked them for a copy of the first consultants' report from three years ago.
The "state of good repair" consultants' audits, on this rink and a few others in the neighborhood, done three years ago, arrived in the mail today. The technical services manager must have sent them off right away. He went to some trouble to explain his spreadsheets. He says the first consultant was doing a “visual audit” or a “snapshot” so that may mean somebody went around and looked at what was rusting and said, “that needs fixing.” Plus they looked at the life expectancy of machinery and building materials according to their dates of purchase, and estimated when they’d need to be replaced.
The kicker is that the manager says none of either this “visual audit” or the “in-depth” audit can be done by staff. The electricians, the plumbers, the machinists and the carpenters who have been working around Parks for years or even decades, and who are often being called to fix things, are not part of this loop.
The City trades have occasionally shared how they feel about this state of affairs. They hate it. It means that year after year, there are lists of what needs to be done, prepared by visiting consultants. And year after year, there’s little money to do it.
The manager’s letter ended with a reminder:
If only we had the same understanding of how one cares for public resources.
The rink audits that the tech services manager sent have some problems with dates. The consultant is one year off for the year Dufferin was rebuilt, 34 years off for Trinity, and 19 years off for Campbell. It’s the communication problem that people keep talking about, with consultants – there’s nobody from the City assigned to do fact-checking.
The audit says that none of the rinks show any cracks. That either means the consultants were blind-folded or this problem has come up very fast.
From Jutta to the technical services manager:
The manager e-mailed back:
The manager went through each of the items on the consultant’s replacement list, and explained that it had not been necessary to fix them yet.
From the manager:
From Jutta: I sent the manager my conclusion:
From the manager of technical services:
So if the rain dance didn’t work right the first time, dance harder.
The Health and Safety Inspectors’ report on their visit to Dufferin Rink on Dec.18 2003 arrived in the mail a couple of days ago, at long last. It runs to five pages, with lots of annotations about the relevant regulations. It was lively reading for a whole bunch of people.
Letter from Friends of Dufferin Grove Park to Human Resources Director Barbara Shulman:
Not a word of response from Barbara Shulman, to any of the questions we sent her a month ago today. Perhaps there will never be a response.
RINK CRACKS NO PROBLEM: As this newsletter was ready to print, City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s assistant Kevin Beaulieu called to say that a concrete expert from CIMCO (the rink company) called him to say that he had dropped in at our rink on his way by and he’s pleased to tell him that the many cracks in our rink are no problem at all. Also, Councillor Giambrone wrote to let us know that the technical services manager has assured him that all our concerns have been flagged for follow-up during the Dufferin Grove inspection, including the cracks in the cement, the reinforced sinking floor, the rust and the leaking of brine last season. He expects that a city-wide rink inspection will come to our rink in late summer.