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Rink Diary 2007 - 2008

Sunday March 16

March 16 3 p.m. -- slush at -2 C

High -1, low -10. last day of the season, and the rink actually made a semi-recovery so that people were able to skate in the morning. The rink staff put on music. By the afternoon the ice was just slush (sun) but everyone seemed to be having a good time -- tanning, playing on snow hills, and kind of sliding/stomping through the slush.

Saturday March 15

High 5, low -3. Sunny much of the day -- the rink was toast by noon. But even in the morning there were not many people skating. Everybody knows it's over.

At 9 pm there was water all over, some of it slightly frozen but not much -- many large patches of cement or almost cement, on both pads. Funny to think of the HUGE disagreements between zamboni operators and rink staff the year before last -- the zamboni guys said the ice should be good and thick in later winter, so it would withstand the sun, and the rink staff said it should be thin, so the compressors could freeze it properly. Turns out they were both wrong. Rennie Rink has thick ice and it's a big mushy pool, so no one can skate. Dufferin has thinner ice and it's down to cement, so no one can skate.

The only solution is not to try and keep the rinks open in March, when the sun is so strong.

The fact is, of the eight supposedly open rinks, most are locked. Those that still have a bit of skateable ice have very few people there. And a locked rink costs almost as much to run as an open one -- about $500 a day per double rink in power (those struggling compressors, mainly), plus over $300 a day per rink in zamboni operator wages, whether they can get out on their machine or not. Painful waste of money.

Friday March 14

High 5, low 1. It was supposed to be cloudy all day but it was only partly cloudy, and the bits of hazy sun meant that the rink had to close at 1 pm. Because the sun was hazy, the rink puddled before it got slushy, so that helped (puddles always preserve the ice a bit). At about 7.30, some skaters went out on the ice with a couple of giant squeegees, and then it was more or less skateable. At 8.30 a very grouchy zamboni operator showed up, first time on his shift, and went over the ice with the machine, removing the rest of the water. But everyone knows that tomorrow -- with sun and 5 degrees -- all skating will be over after noontime (latest).

One of the rink staff had called the zamboni operator at 7.15pm to find out when he could come to take the water off the ice. His shift starts at 2pm. He told them he was busy with something very important and not to bother him. A few minutes later the in-charge rink staff called him again, and he said he didn't have time to talk. Since he has only Dufferin Rink to look after, this was puzzling, and also rude. When the operator came around 8.30, he was steamed. He said he was angry and sick of the rink, that we had driven his supervisor into his sick bed, that we demanded far too much.

When asked what was demanded of him except to do the ice, he said he was too angry to talk, and got onto the zamboni.

The season often ends like this, with the zamboni operators genuinely aggrieved that they should have had to spend the whole season maintaining the ice. It may feel worse for the operators in the downtown rinks, each of whom has four or five ice scrapings in a shift, at several different rinks. In Etobicoke and North York, the operators can sit in their offices much of their shift, since many have only one rink to look after. And in those rinks it's clear who's in charge -- the drivers are. They seem to feel that they owe good ice to the paid permits, mainly, and there's not much public skating anyway. If there are no permits either, there's time to relax, no need to be stressed.

But at Dufferin Rink the skaters and the on-site rink staff all expect that there's a standard that the drivers have to follow, no matter which one of them is on duty. The rink needs ice maintenance, day in and day out, seven days a week, every day of the rink season, for public skating times as much as for permits. That seems almost intolerable for the zamboni operators -- although it's a standard most ordinary working people take for granted, in the non-government world. One zamboni driver told the staff this winter that if they spoke to him at all about his way of cleaning the ice (or not cleaning it), he would file a human rights complaint.

Upside down world. And there's no supervisor to complain to, no one all the way up the line. Nobody home.

Thursday March 13


High 2, low -1. Not cold, but a day's respite from sun. It was cloudy and looked menacing for the forecasted ice pellets, but they never showed up. So the rink worked fine and there were lots of people on the ice. (Not crowded, but not sparse either.) Only problem is there are two holes in the pleasure-skating side, and the pylons have to stay on there. Still, the pond hockey crew had the chance to play tonight, and so did the older neighbourhood guys. Lots of goodbye's, see you next winter. Like the last day at camp.

Wednesday March 12

High -2, low -9. Cloudy in the morning, but then the sun came out and the ice was bad by 1 pm. The rink closed then. the hockey side wasn't able to reopen until 9 pm. The pleasure-skating/pond hockey side never reopened at all -- a disappointment for the pond hockey crew who came, hoping. The zamboni driver said the rink was "de-laminating" --meaning that the ice had actually separated from the concrete, and you could see water underneath.

Tuesday March 11

High 0, low -3. Sunny a good part of the day so the rink was closed between 1 and 6 pm. Ice very thin in places -- can see the cement. But at least it wasn't chopped up by afternoon use. Busy in the morning and in the evening.

Monday March 10,

High -2, low -12. The sun shone pretty well all day and the ice began to get mushy by about 1. By 5pm it was so bad that there were pylons everywhere, and only three hockey players. there shouldn't have been any, but the zamboni guys said not to worry, the ice would be fine even if the staff let people stay on all afternoon. But it wasn't fine. There were holes right down to cement behind the net -- the first time I've ever seen that. The staff stuffed them with slush.

ice at 9 a.m.

ice at 5 p.m.

mush by the players' boxes

holes down to cement
Sunday, March 9

High -4, low -13. The rink was cleared and in good shape by 10 a.m., so the skating-lesson final party took place in the morning. It was a dress-up party:

witch, dragon, princess

Elise and friends

witch and sheep

James dragon

grouchy rabbit

marry me

Later on it was just Sunday pleasure-skating. the ice was not bad (sun and cloud) but even so, not as many people were at the rink than in the true winter months. This is despite the fact that the Star ran a whole-page article on how the poor Torontonians had been cut back to only eight rinks. People are tired of winter and the sun makes the ice bad. But in the paper it's a political question that has big resonance.

not many skaters

Sunday 2 pm

In the evening there was a group that won a shinny spot at the Wallace Rink party raffle (fundraiser for Right2Play), and on the pond side it was the regulars. The pond shinny players were happy that there were fewer players at the rink than usual -- it meant nobody had to sit out.

pond hockey

raffle prize
Saturday, March 8

High -5, low -12. Big snow day, came down in buckets. The skating-lesson final party had to be postponed.

Someone got into the rink house and stole the skate room key, while all the staff were busy shoveling. In the middle of this big snow storm, a thief stood patiently waiting until he got his chance and went into the skate room and stole last night's supper money, which was a fundraiser toward the skate sharpening machine. Nothing was even disarranged -- the guy must have known exactly where he was going, and he took the whole folder, with the grocery receipts, everything. Gross.

The zamboni driver, Roger, worked a double shift, clearing snow with another guy, using a truck and a loader, even while the snow was coming down heavy. So at the end of the evening, as the snow began to ease up, there wasn't more than about 3 inches of snow on the rink. But all around, everywhere in the park, there were huge snow dunes. Wallie came by with his dog Poochie around midnight and said some people were skating on the rink, in the snow, having fun.

Friday March 7

High 1, low -7. It looks like nobody's going to reopen any additional rinks. We've sent an invitation to Councillor Ootes to come to Dufferin Rink and see for himself that the ice is dicey and there's not much skating time. He may not answer -- the Toronto Sun never did. It seems like the outdoor rinks/March break issue is just a good excuse for arguing.

The rink was medium busy because to the Catholic School Board had a P.E. day. In late afternoon the snow started. Most skaters went home, but then around 7 the snow eased up enough that the zamboni driver was able to get the ice back. He's working hard these days. There were still a fair number of families around because of Friday Night Supper, and they took advantage of the departure of the older players to have a great parent-child shinny game.

Then at 9 pm the older guys from the Friday Night permit came, delighted that despite the weather forecast they were going to get to play. There was a quick meeting first, to address some unhappiness by this permit group during the rink season, about ice quality and access to Campbell Rinkhouse when they play over there. The meeting was amicable and it seemed that all the problems may be solved for next year -- they'll just have a key among them, and access to shovels, so they don't need extra staff. Peter Kuitenbrower, the reporter for the National Post, is part of that shinny group. He said he was very heartened by the improvements made by rink staff at Campbell Rink this past winter.

Nice to hear. It's not rocket science, just some simple stewardship of public space.

The helmet controversy continues to crackle on Spacing magazine reader blog. Who knew that risk-correctness would have such admirers at the Toronto Public Space Committee? It's a pretty mucky discourse over there, with insults flying, a little e-world far away from the ice.

Meanwhile the general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation sent a letter apologizing for the staff quoted in the Spacing article: "The comments made by this staff person are absolutely unacceptable and I am extremely disappointed by his words. This staff person did not receive authorization to conduct this interview and his comments in no way represent the views of the division. I take this matter very seriously. Please be assured that appropriate measures will be taken."

The staff guy works out of Scarborough, which has no neighborhood outdoor rinks where people can play shinny. I wrote back with an invitation for him to come by next week and find out more about how these rinks work. It would be better if he could visit the place he seems to think is so bad.

Thursday March 6

High 2, low -6. Cloudy all day and still the ice was very bad in the afternoon, very few skaters stayed. The ice is still low on the north boards. It's worrisome. The zamboni driver didn't scrape until 7, and even then he did it very lightly so he wouldn't make the ice even thinner.

In the evening the ice firmed up and the Thursday night permit (one of the "geriatric" permits of older guys from the neighborhood) said they had a great time. They had to stay away from the pylons, though, all along the north boards.

The City Councillor's office called to express their disapproval of the City's "Active Living" supervisor's quotes in a helmets-for-shinny piece in the web mag Spacing. To quote:

“[Jutta Mason has] her own thoughts on it and unfortunately she’s having influence over other people,” said Mercer. But what would happen if a shinny player at Dufferin Grove had a head injury? “Well I hope they’d sue the shit out of Jutta Mason,” said Mercer laughing.

How strange. There was some talk about the piece at the rink, although no one there had read it. A shinny player named Tony recalled the day in December when Vanessa Anderson, also from "Active Living," came onto the ice and tried to make everybody wear a helmet. There were over 20 guys there and she told them they should divide into teams and take turns playing, not be on the ice at the same time. Tony said he tried to explain to her that shinny is a game that can be played in many different ways, and that bigger games can also work well. But she just shook her head. Not that this made any difference to the shinny players -- Tony said they didn't put the helmets on and they kept on playing around her.

About the bad ice on the south-facing boards: one of the CELOS rink visitors said that a zamboni driver in Etobicoke told him they used to bring out special wheeled boards in the hockey pads in late season. In the afternoon they'd station the boards at the south-facing ice edge for shade, and it helped. We don't have wheeled boards -- maybe tarps would also work?

Dan Watson's Wednesday night shinny drop in
Click on picture to enlarge it.
Wednesday March 5

High -1, low -5. Overnight and all morning there was plenty of snow but the crew had it all cleared off and the rink opened by 1, just as the clouds dispersed and the sun came out. Not very many people at the rink until later in the afternoon, then the little kids and their parents came out in force.

Meantime the Toronto Sun is polling its readers to see if they're for or against reopening the outdoor rinks. I sent them this offer to pass on to their readers: an hour's free skate rental plus a free mug of hot chocolate and a park cookie, for anyone bringing the Sun rinks clipping to Dufferin Rink. That would be a chance to see for themselves what happens with outdoor rinks in March.

Tuesday March 4

High -2, low -4. The rink was fine this morning and there were about 20 skaters this afternoon. People are talking about some funny business going on at City Council today -- some councillors are seriously suggesting that the other 42 rinks that closed on Sunday should be re-opened until the end of March break. To think that we've been trying to put out the word for 5 years, that trying to keep outdoor rinks open in March doesn't work! Sometimes it seems like we've been talking into the void.

Still, we have to keep telling the story of the angle of the sun, so first thing this morning we sent Corey's graph around to everyone on council.

The two Chinese-Peruvian brothers who run the grocery store up the street were remembering their days playing hockey. They were talking about it tonight just before their store closed. They said they rented the rink once. But now they don't have the energy anymore, after their long days at the store, and they live in Mississauga because they couldn't afford to buy a house here. Their kids don't like skating because the lessons at the arena near their house were boring -- 30 kids to one teacher. Still, they can remember, playing hockey for Parkdale Collegiate, "we were good."

The zamboni driver came to clean the ice at 7. Most of these folks park their city truck inside the park on the snow-covered winter road that only they use, instead of out on the street like everybody else. But the park road is slippery, so when the driver stepped down from the truck, his feet went out from under him and he fell hard. He came into the rink house and sat down and looked pretty dazed, and then he went home.

So no more ice maintenance tonight, there's no other driver left (all laid off and starting on E.I.). It started snowing, anyway, and the wind came up and blew the snow around so much you couldn't see the rink very well.

Monday March 3

High 12, low 7. Light rain began early evening, but the rink had lots of meltwater on it al day because it was so warm, and there were even some sunny breaks. The ice is certainly not too thick, or rather, it's pretty thick on the south side of the hockey pad, but on the north side of the pad where the sun gets reflected, it's getting thinner. By the east hockey net, it's so thin that Sean (rink staff) said he could hear the scrape of blade on cement a couple of times. Good heavens. So the rink was closed all evening, and the compressors were running very loud.

Sunday March 2

High -1, low -8. The morning was sunny and the ice got a bit sticky but then at noon the clouds rolled in and the rink was full and functioning all afternoon and evening. There are still skaters coming who says it's their first time this year -- that winter has really just occurred to them now. Lots of comments about how stupid the city is to close most of the rinks this early. Lots of surprise when we say: no, the City is really smart to close them now, followed by an explanation of the "angle of the sun" phenomenon.

But Dufferin Rink won't close for two more weeks, along with a handful of others, mostly the destination rinks. We'll see how that goes this year.

Saturday March 1

High -1, low -8. Sun and cloud. Last night the wheels seemed to fall off the ice maintenance operation, but this morning they were back on -- the rink was all cleared and beautiful by 10 a.m.

The nets sank in a bit later in the morning and the skaters had to move them around, but the sides didn't get to mushy because the cloudy intervals cut down the sun's force. The season's last skating classes were today -- it's amazing how much improved the kids are. The noontime class played a game of frozen tag that was wild, kids racing all over and crashing into each other and into the teachers. Nobody got hurt, even with the falls -- maybe they had all learned how to fall.

Next week Eroca Nichol, the main skating teacher, is doing a dance party on the ice for all the students in the skating classes -- if the weather cooperates and the ice stays in. She's asked them to wear costumes.

The inside scene today was as friendly as usual, lots of chess and checkers and stories being read. Then at 9 pm there was a big permit group of parents and kids, including some small kids, playing shinny. Eventually you could tell it was bedtime for the younger ones. All suited up in hockey gear, but rubbing their eyes, they were taken home.

ready, set, go with Eroca

frozen tag
Friday Feb.29

High 0, low -4. Leap day. It started snowing at about 1 pm and fizzled out about 10 pm, only about 5 cm. The stand-in for the zamboni supervisor said that they'd only be able to do a few rinks because of the snow, and then around 5.30 they just stopped altogether. He said it was too hard for the zambonis, and they couldn't use the plow trucks because nobody on the shift had their ticket to use them. He wanted to send the guys home -- on full pay -- but was directed (by whom?) not to do that. So he said they were all shovelling snow at their vehicle yard. He was particularly concerned lest any of the workers might get cold or wet -- "not on my watch."

The snow was light today and it would take no time for an adult to shovel out the paths at a vehicle yard. But there was trouble in the air -- it was all too hard, everyone was worn out from driving the zamboni or the plow.

My goodness, how can rinks be run like this? Or anything?

"Ethic of Sufficiency"
Thursday Feb.28

High -11, low -14. The rink didn't get many skaters in the daytime, but in the evening the shinny players had a good turnout anyway.

The rink supervisor is off for the rest of the rink season, and so are two zamboni drivers, so the rink season will limp to a close. It feels like the air is going out of a balloon as the rink season comes to the end. But today during the market, an artist named Nicole Dextras came and added something new and unusual. She had made large ice letters that spelled "ethic of sufficiency," which she says is a phrase from Toronto's poet laureate. She and her husband Peter stuck those letters on the roof of the little oven.

The rink has been sufficient for the skaters, lots of simple joys there. It's City Hall that never seems to be still, each new plan more unsettling than the last.

Wednesday Feb.27

High -10, low -19. Coldest day of winter so far. Still, there were skaters out, and the lessons went ahead too. The news said that the rapist is in jail, so that's sort of over.

Meantime, one of the guys that was suspected of stealing Anna's purse, came to skate at the rink. The staff wouldn't lend him hockey gloves so he left the building -- only to run into Anna who just then drove up in a taxi. It turns out that this kid and his buddy had told Anna they were going to take a cab up to Yorkdale Mall, before she realized her purse had been stolen. Then the credit card company told her there were $200 charges on her card, from that mall.

Anna told the guy pretty well exactly what she thought of him, right out there on the sidewalk in front of the astonished cabbie and the other rink staff and whoever was walking by. The guy said, "I didn't take it, it was _____." That didn't make Anna any less of an enraged Italian mamma. After the kid left, the cabbie said, "I don't think he's ever going to forget that."

That's his only hope, his small chance not to keep on that downward slide that we've seen in the past three years, and which his mother can't seem to affect at all.

Over the past 13 years, so many mouthy, nasty guys have come through Dufferin Rink and grown up into pretty decent people, with little kids of their own now, and a big affection for this rink and all the staff. But there are also the other guys, who are in jail or dead.

Tuesday Feb.26

High 0, low -10. The forecast was for lots of snow, but instead it was almost rain much of the day. The only place it really accumulated was at the rink, but some school visits happened anyway. In the evening the staff heard that one of the maintenance guys had a road accident. The supervisor decided that the roads must be too dangerous to drive and told all his staff to go home. But the roads were pretty good, so he changed his mind and only sent the flying crews home. At least (and maybe most) Dufferin Rink got done, and the women's shinny was able to go on. But lots of mixup.

It turns out that there must have been a rape late Sunday night, that's why the police tape was there. A women was walking along the sidewalk on Dufferin Street and this guy pulled her into the bushes. They've now posted the information as a news release, along with a CCTV photo, looks as though it was taken inside a store.

Monday Feb.25

High 2, low -2. It started out sunny but clouded over before noon, so there was no trouble with the ice going mushy like yesterday.

Today in the afternoon the police came by the rink house to ask if anyone knew about somebody screaming into the pay phone in front of the rink house late last night. No one did. Apparently there was an assault down near Gene Threndyle's marsh fountain on the Dufferin side of the park last night.

Anna the rink staff person went outside with the police, looking down the hill where they had put up some police tape. Anna shut the office door after here, but maybe it didn't latch well, because when she got back into the building, her purse was gone, as was the snack bar change pouch. Two kids in their late teens, who have been no end of trouble all winter, had left the building before Anna noticed the theft.

Anna took more trouble over these guys than the other staff, and they may have paid her back by stealing from her. By the time she cancelled her credit card, there were about $200 of charges -- restaurant, Disney store, movie theatre. The lost boys, going out on the town.

Anna asked the police about the circumstances of the assault, but they said they couldn't tell her. Hopefully not another Jane Doe story.

Sunday Feb.24

High 1, low -8. A brilliantly sunny day, so by 1 pm the staff had to close the rink. At 2 pm, 8 young boys from Scarborough arrived, with one rec worker. They had come all the way to Dufferin on the subway because of the cheap skate rentals. Disappointment! But the staff called over to Wallace and found out it was still open. So the kids got rental skates at Dufferin, then walked/ran all the way up to Wallace. There they found the "Gas Station Islanders" with their rink party to raise money for Right2Play (sports stuff for kids in war-torn countries) and a campfire, and free hot chocolate -- all excellent.

Back at Dufferin Rink there was a birthday party with a campfire and a very unhappy hostess, when she found out there was no skating for the kids. But it was such a bright day that she couldn't stay unhappy for long. The kids went sledding and climbing ion snow-hills instead, and it looked like fun.

The rink opened again around 4, but it was very mushy along the sides. In three days the temperature is going down to -20 -- it will be really interesting to see if the rink sides STILL melt, because the angle of the sun is so much more important than the temperature.

Saturday Feb.23

High -2, low -10. We thought we might lose the rink if it was sunny all day, but clouds came in just before noon and then it was more cloudy than sunny - so the ice held up just fine.

Lots of people coming to skate, new people trying to learn, on the rental skates. Last-minute efforts. From 9pm to 11pm there was a special little-kid permit (might as well say little boys) and so many of the neighbourhood boys came out with a few fathers, and sped up and down the ice. The next generation.

Later in the evening it got cold and the compressors shut of, leaving a slightly unsettling silence.

Here's a report about another unsuccessful attempt to get help form Corporate Security:

- 3 kids at rink, were banned from rink the previous friday till monday

-Kids at rink were reminded that they are banned, they refused to leave.

- we said we would call security, still refused to leave

- kids began to swear at staff, sneak into the building when we were not looking, or on to ice surface and then began to throw things at the building windows

- Mayssan called corporate security for back up to enforce banning from rink

- Security personnel advised that since staff have banned kids, this was not a security matter but a police matter

- Mayssan said that police do not normally come quickly to these kinds of incidents.

- Security said "sure they do" and that they call them all the time - end conversation

- An hour later, kids left, no police

- Mayssan advised staff to call security and cancel call.

Corporate security currently costs the city about $11 million a year.

Friday Feb.22

High -2, low -9. Snow in the morning but it stopped around noon and then it was sunny periods with enough clouds in between to protect the ice. Today was a school visit day and then this evening during Friday night supper there was lots of little-kid hockey. They even horned in one the over-18 time, since there weren't many older guys around.

City councillor Denzil Minnnan-Wong turned up with his girlfriend Colleen, and they skated and had supper and asked lots of things about the rink. How many other city councillors actually nose around to see for themselves?

Not enough.

Thursday Feb.21

High -6, low -9. Sun and cloud, but enough cloud to keep the ice from melting along the boards. For some reason the 18-and-over time was really full tonight, in that bad old way of 25 guys on the ice at the same time. They were philosophical about it, but a smaller group is a lot more fun. Maybe they all know that the rink's days are numbered now that the end of February is approaching, so they want to come out for a few more skates....?

Wednesday Feb.20

High-6, low -13. A total eclipse of the (full) moon -- skaters could stop and look and then skate some more. Very thrilling.

Tuesday Feb.19,

High -5, low -9. An odd day with some clear skies but a lot of thick snowflurries. School classes came in the daytime, and after school there was a big group from Lawrence Heights. They're always fun visitors but one of them got his shoes stolen. Sad! There are brightly coloured "Watch out for thieves" signs all over the rink house, but the place looks so friendly that many people don't use the lockers anyway. Mistake.

When the over-eighteen shinny time began, there were only three skaters -- now, that's unusual. But more came and by 8 o'clock there was a fast, excellent shinny game with just the right number of players. This is the best time of the rink season, when the crowds have abated and there's nobody noodling around in the corners with an extra puck -- just one fast game of shinny hockey, with players who love it.

At the 9 pm ice maintenance, those players got off and once again it seemed like the rink would be mostly empty. There were only six women for women's open shinny, and two men for the pond hockey side. But once again, within fifteen minutes, both sides had the right number and the games went ahead fast and intense on both pads --under a full moon in a clear sky.

The ice is getting thicker and it's time to stop flooding, and instead to scrape slowly and well at each ice maintenance time, with a sharp blade. The question is, can the zamboni operators be persuaded to do this? Floods are so much faster, and most of the operators like to get on and off as fast as possible.

Monday Feb.18

High 4, low -6. Family Day holiday. Cloudy of much of the day, but sunny patches in the afternoon, as the temperature dropped. Lots of cheerful family activity at the rink, despite the media's predictions that this would be a failed holiday.

Sunday Feb.17 2008

High 5, low 3. Rain for much of the day, with very few skaters. The rink staff took the time to scrub things and sort through the HUGE lost and found collection (why does nobody come and get their stuff?) and chip ice on the pathways.

The ice on the rink is getting very thick, over 4 inches and growing. The zamboni driver was going to leave it because of the rain and no skaters, but then he changed his mind and took some water off. They can't afford to let the ice get a lot thicker, because Dufferin is still supposed to stay open for a month, and we're already seeing the power of the sun along the boards.

A young girl came to do a school project about energy use in a public building. She and her mother asked: "how much power does this building use?" No one could answer her question. The party line is, nobody knows. Hopefully the city staff will soon figure it out.

"Bear," a champion bike racer, and race organizer Derek
Saturday Feb.16

High - 5, low - 11. A brilliantly sunny day, and even though it was cold, the south-facing sides got mushy. The ice is probably about 4 inches thick, so the compressors can't really work on that.

One fine thing that happened was that two guys who had been banned for a week returned to the rink after the week was up, and they kept their mouths shut, doing no more of the smart-aleck trashy talk from last week. They just played shinny hockey. It's hard to know how long they can keep up the good behaviour, but it's wonderful to see the way these youth can take their medicine and then stop their stupidness. A big pleasure to say "welcome back!" and mean it.

The other fine thing was the annual bike courier race. It was packed with appreciative spectators, the rec staff had to keep making more cookies, and the mood was exhilarating. This is always a joint rec-staff/bike courier event, and it's amazing how many people come out to cheer.

spectator parking lot

bikes need lots of fixing

enthusiastic spectators

warming up by the woodstove

the old warrior

women's race
Friday Feb.15, 2008

High -6, low -10. Friday night supper inside the rink house. One of the few childless eaters looked around and said, "good God, how did there get to be so many children?" There was a lot of hubbub, for sure, and jokes about how the Europeans have to worry about their low birth rate, but we don't, at least not in this neighbourhood.

That's exactly why Friday Night suppers were started. The rink used to be ugly on Friday, early evening, with an assortment of leftover youth who didn't have a party or a date or a club to go to, all in a bad mood and making trouble. Now they're in the wrong movie -- swamped out by battalions of little kids, all babbling and eating mini-pizzas. And their parents, trying to talk to their friends above the din of the kids, shouting to make themselves heard.

Not peaceful. But high energy. And it hit the target. The tired parents don't have to cook or wash the dishes on Fridays, their kids run in and out and get lots of fresh air to sleep well later -- and the youth don't even try to assert the rink as their turf. They wouldn't stand a chance.

Nothing official yet, but it appears that 8 days after the zamboni driver hit the baker, the driver has been reassigned and will not be driving the zamboni at any rink for the rest of the season.

Thursday Feb.14, 2008

High -1, low -6. Smooth, lovely ice. Market day again, one week from the day the baker got run over by the zamboni. The other zamboni operators who come to clean the ice are honking their horns a lot, just starting today. Se there must have been some safety talk -- good.

During the little-kids and parents' time today, one of the mothers was tripping the little kids pretty often. The spectators were yelling "penalty!" (in fun). It became obvious that she was tripping kids because she wasn't very good at shinny hockey and didn't always notice where her stick was. The kids were giving her a wide berth.

Wednesday, Feb.13, 2008

High -5, low -10. The rink was cleared of snow by about 2 in the afternoon. Attendance was slow outside, but inside it was humming in the late afternoon. There had been a birthday party outside by the campfire, and most of the little guests were skating, but then I guess they got cold and they all came inside. Most of the birthday parties around here overlap with most of the other birthday parties -- they're really neighborhood parties of sorts, and there always seems to be enough cake to share around. Enough friendliness, too, and it doesn't seem mechanical, either. There's some real joyfulness in being on the rink, under the sky, or inside in front of the woodstove with a fire in it. People's joy rubs off on one another, just like the opposite does.

The opposite: the baker finally had his interview with the police today, since the city management seems to be taking no action. The police told him right off that they suspected he might be trying to do some kind of fraud, reporting this incident after so many days. He showed them the copies of the incident reports, signed by the supervisor, and they backed off a bit from their hypothesis. Then they said they'd come over and check out the location. But they never showed up. I guess almost being ground up by the augur of a zamboni doesn't quite make it.

The other thing that stays on everyone's mind is the ice maintenance supervisor's question: "do you think the driver did that on purpose?" It was a serious question, asked on two different days. Does he know something we don't know? And yet the driver is still driving the zamboni.

Back to the joy of rinks, an e-mail from a rink user: We had a blast skating in the powder yesterday, making shapes and seeing the snow part as our skates glided through, like water against the prow of a boat. And the teenagers getting to take over the empty hockey rink for races and tomfoolery; they were also having a blast. Hooray for the real world!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Low -16 this morning, then getting warmer, up to -5. But snow most of the day -- all the rinks are closed. Even so, there were people skating in the snow in the middle of the afternoon. the snow is cold so it's fluffy and not sticking.

Meeting between the baker, the union, and the supervisor of the zamboni drivers. Still no move to re-assign the driver who ran over the baker. I guess the game here is to just try to hang on until the end of the rink season -- in three weeks -- and not rock the boat. The problem is that this way of proceeding has gone on for so many years, and that's exactly why the rinks are in trouble.

The other problem rink operator went through the gate without stopping and looking yesterday. Ginger, the rec staff, asked him why he didn't stop. He said, "because I haven't been given the order from my supervisor." Ginger said she thought she could smell alcohol on his breath. Not a lot. But it's such a sad story, and there's so much of this.

E-mail from Yo Utano, the other baker on the day the zamboni ran over Sandy Gribbin: Sandy and I loaded the big oven and came back with the cart. When we came to the wood shed, I said that I was going to check the little oven and left Sandy with the cart full of empty racks and baskets. The wheels of the cart got stuck in the ice and all the racks and baskets fell on the ground.

I saw Sandy shrugging his shoulders.

I checked the temperature quickly. When I turned around again all I could see was the back of zamboni, and it was where Sandy had been a moment before.

I started running, and saw Ginger waving hard to stop the driver. Zamboni had barely stopped when I looked down to find Sandy, more than half of whose body (looked to me) was under the vehicle.

I can't be sure exactly how long, but the time between seeing Sandy with fallen baskets and Zamboni's back is, maybe 10 seconds? Or less? It doesn't take long to check the thermometer anyways, and at that time I did it even faster than usual because I knew I needed to go help Sandy pick up the baskets and three unbaked pumpkin seeds loaves.

Monday February 11, 2008

High -10, low -19. Very slow day at the rink, too cold. There was a meeting of the rink rec staff including the baker who was hit by the zamboni. He's sore but okay. No one can quite believe that management has not even taken the driver off the rinks -- there seems to be a complete head-in-the-sand approach. Lucky Boothe, the recreation manager, wrote back that he would call me to talk about community safety. But he didn't.

Sunday February 10, 2008

High -6, low -16. Windy. All the campfires had to be cancelled but lots of people came to the rink anyway. Heidrun (staff) says that the sun was so beautiful that people went out to skate and then they froze, so they came in to sit in front of the wood stove and eat chili, and then the sun looked so inviting through the window that they went out to skate again, and after 10 minutes they'd have to come back inside to warm up again....etc. Of course the quality of the ice was perfect.

February 10 2008, e-mail from Jutta Mason to acting Recreation manager Lucky Boothe, cc to Parks, Forestry and Recreation manager Brenda Librecz, Parks director Paul Ronan, Rinks manager Kevin Bowser, Rink supervisor Brian Green, Recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro.

I gather from Dufferin Rink staff that your division's sole response to dangerous driving by a zamboni driver at Dufferin Rink last Thursday has been to say that a recreation staff will be posted by one rink exit whenever the zamboni is on the ice.

This is both unrealistic and missing the point. Continued inaction on addressing this particular zamboni driver's practices may also involve your division in considerable, and needless, trouble.

The baker who came so near to being mortally injured when the zamboni hit him will have his own response. I'm not in any way speaking for him. I'm speaking on behalf of community safety.

Dufferin Rink has THREE exits that the zambonis have to use to dump snow and get on and off the rink. All three exists cross a public walkway, used at many different times of day. This is a situation common to many city rinks. Parks are used by lots of people, and in the case of the outdoor rinks, in order to do maintenance the zambonis often need to drive along or across public walkways, just like other Parks maintenance vehicles.

In the case of Dufferin Rink, having three recreation staff at three rink gates (all the gates cross frequently used walkways) four times a day is not possible. It's also not necessary. All zamboni drivers have to be trained to follow the rules of the road, as most of them do already. Crossing a public walkways is like crossing an intersection. At an intersection a moving vehicle has to stop and the driver has to make sure s/he can see whether there's anything in the way before proceeding. Simple. That did not happen on Thursday, and on many other occasions with this driver.

That's why I've gone ahead and put up three stop signs at Dufferin Rink, one at each rink gate. My other suggestions:

1. Put up stop signs at the gates of all other public rinks (cheap and quick to make, $16 for three), and train all the drivers to follow the rules of the road. I'm hoping that was already part of their training.

2. When drivers neglect to stop, as this driver did on Thursday, pull them off the ice immediately and begin retraining. Then supervise them until they are a safe operator.

3. If drivers repeat their dangerous driving, discipline them. If necessary, dismiss them.

There were several lucky coincidences on Thursday, thank heaven. But it could easily have been an older, less fit person walking along that path -- hundreds do walk there every day -- and if a rec staff hadn't come around the corner just at the right second, there would have been a terrible tragedy.

Instead there's another chance -- an opportunity to fix a problem that Dufferin Rink rec staff had tried to bring to rink maintenance management's attention for several years already.

Please let me know when and how your division plans to address community safety in this matter, in regard to my letter.

Saturday Feb.9

High 0, low -9. The Women of Winter tournament continued today, with a glitch to start out -- lots of snow on the ice at 9 a.m. Rec staff got a zamboni operator to come and the tournament went ahead, in some pretty rocky weather. The mixture of snow and rain slowed the puck and the shinny players had to shovel off the ice in between games. Toward the end of the tournament the snow/rain stopped and then the ice was lovely and they had a good time.

I put up three "stop" signs. There's one at each gate where the zamboni crosses a public walkway to dump snow. When I was putting up the third stop sign, the zamboni driver came over and pointed to the uncut ends of the cable ties I had used to tie the signs to the fence. "You better cut them off, if somebody skated into the fence they could get hurt by the ends of the plastic ties."

Here it is the third day after the baker came within two feet or two minutes of the end of his life by being crushed by a zamboni. There's still no word about a meeting with the zamboni supervisor, the baker, and the rec staff, to discuss what happened.

People take courses on how to avoid lawsuits, and the first rule is: talk to the person who was hurt, say you're sorry but also find out what they want to say, don't shush it up. But so far there seems to be a major shushing here. Instead we have a little lecture about the danger of plastic ties on the stop signs.

Friday Feb.8

Low - 5, high -2. I called the baker this morning and read him read yesterday's rink diary. He corrected one detail: he said that after the zamboni backed up and he was standing again, he yelled at the driver "you ran me over!" The driver said "I didn't see you." By then, the other three rec staff had come over. They turned to walk the baker into the building, and the driver followed them for a few steps, saying, "are you going to pick up the stuff on the ground?"


This morning the rec staff have gone out to buy three plastic stop signs and put them up at the three gates where the zamboni exits to dump snow or fill up with water. Each of the exits leads across public walkways -- it's a park! -- and several zamboni drivers need to be reminded about the rules of the road: when you come to an intersection, stop, look around, then proceed. That's what was missing yesterday.

There's going to be a meeting, and the rec staff are gathering up all the reports they sent in over the past several years, about this particular zamboni driver and his driving. They think there are about ten.

Meantime, the baker is recovering at home. For the others who work at the park, and for his friends, there's a strange mixture of thankful joy that he's all right, and troubled thoughts about how this situation unfolded.

In the evening, the Women of Winter Tournament began. Lots of cheerful people around, and they collected another $200 for a zamboni tent for Wallace Rink.

Two zamboni drivers were stationed at Dufferin Rink, with hours to sit and chat to each other between ice scrapes. Meanwhile some other rinks aren't even open yet, after the snowfall two days ago. This way of staffing is altogether mystifying.

Thursday Feb.7

Low - 8, high - 2. A day to remember, for a long time. The bakers arrived for the market baking at 6 a.m. and the rink had more than a foot of snow on it. By 9 a.m. the plows were clearing and the bakers had shovelled enough of a path to the ovens that they could get back and forth to the rink kitchen.

At about 10.30 a.m. one of the bakers dropped a tray of bread loaves into the snow, right on the main public walkway by the garage. The zamboni driver, going around and around the rink to get the snow off, suddenly drove out of the rink toward the garage. No honk, no warning, and the baker had his back turned, trying to pick up the fallen loaves.

Zambonis are very high at the front and it's hard to see ahead of you. The zamboni driver didn't see the baker, knocked him over from behind, and began to drive over him, unaware that he was there. The baker screamed at the driver to stop, but the driver didn't hear him over the engine noise and kept moving forward.

Two rec staff who had been called in specially for snow-shoveling had been sitting on a bench in front of the building for a smoke break. They had just finished, and the first staff was walking back to do some more shoveling. She rounded the corner by the garage to see the baker disappearing under the zamboni. She screamed and waved wildly at the driver, and he saw her, stopped, and backed up.

The baker crawled out, miraculously under his own steam. He could stand, and walk, and when the zamboni driver saw this, he apparently figured everything was okay. He asked the baker to move the fallen loaves of bread. Then as the baker began to walk toward the rink house doors and as the other staff came running, the zamboni driver went back out on the ice and continued to scrape the snow off the rink. He carried on for an hour until his supervisor came. The baker went off to the hospital to be checked over, and for much of the day the story made the rounds. Among the skaters, and the farmers, and the rink staff, there was a shared vision of the zamboni's big augur, that could have pulled the baker in and chewed him up, if the rec staff person hadn't happened to come around the corner right when she did. Parents of young kids spoke of all the times the kids run along that walkway, and what if at that moment the zamboni would have.....Unspeakable.

This driver was the same who had driven the zamboni into the deep snow and got it stuck a few days earlier, and who had also scared the staff often with the speed of his driving. He made no secret of his dislike of being at Dufferin Rink, and the speed made it seem like maybe he just wanted to get away from the rink as fast as possible.

Who knows where this will go?

Wednesday Feb.6

High 2, low -4. The rink the roads, the sidewalks, the bushes, are buried under deep snow.

Tuesday Feb.5

High 7, low -1. There was some rain in the morning and so the ice was wet. When the zamboni came they took off the water, but later it was wet again. The ice on all the rinks is so thick by now that the compressors can't freeze the top layer if it's wet.

Monday Feb.4

High 3, low 2. A pretty nice day but not much activity at the rink except for shinny in the evening. The zamboni driver missed doing the pleasure-skating side again. The rink supervisor says it's driving him crazy, some of the drivers are so unreliable. He says there's nothing he can do.

Sunday Feb.3

High 2, low -4. Mostly cloudy, not as many people skating as on other Sundays, but packed inside. Lots of grandparents.

Saturday Feb.2

High 0, low -5. The good news is that the compressors were running this morning. The bad news is that even though it stopped snowing soon after midnight, all the skating classes had to be cancelled because no one came to clean the ice in the morning. The supervisor had assured the rec staff last night that the rink would be ready by 9 am, because of all the skating classes. But it wasn't ready, it was covered with thick snow, and no one had even shown up by then. The zamboni crews went to Ramsden and Rosedale rinks instead. However when the two zamboni guys came to Dufferin Rink around 10.30, they saw deep tire tracks in the rink -- looks like someone with a truck came in last night and tried to clear off the rink so they could skate. The zamboni drivers were mad and accused the rec staff of letting someone in -- although the gates were left wide open (they have to be, when it snows).

The zamboni drivers took photos of the tracks in the compacted snow, with their cell phones, I guess to prove that it must have been the rec staff who somehow caused this. Then the guy in the plow-truck started clearing the ice, but when the zamboni driver tried to go onto the rink, he drove through deep snow without waiting for the truck to clear a path for him. That got the zamboni stuck and the next hour was spent rocking it, pushing it, and shoveling. They eventually got it out.

Their supervisor is out of town. All the other rinks around here are covered with snow. Nobody knows where the other crew is, or when it's doing the rinks around here. Programs and events have to be canceled. A Polish joke?

The rink finally opened a bit before 2 pm. Then it was suddenly full of cheerful people. Staff regained their cheer too. A beautiful, wintry day.

Friday Feb.1

High -2, low -4. Snow all day, more and more and more. All the rinks were closed. The rec staff shoveled with all their might and main, clearing and re-clearing paths around the rinkhouse, beside the ice, out to the bake ovens, down to Dufferin Street. The zamboni operator was out there in the horizontal snowflakes, getting snow off as more was falling. The guy driving the plough-truck came and ploughed the snow off to the side. He made a wall of snow right across the path to the oven that the rec staff had just finished hand-shoveling. But when the rec staff asked him to re-open the path, he just drove right out of the park, just left with the truck. He hadn't even told the zamboni driver, who then decided to throw in the towel, too. Their supervisor had directed them to keep clearing, but they didn't.

At midnight the rink was earily quiet, because the compressors had shut themselves off. Hopefully that's just because the blanket of snow on the ice is confusing the temperature sensors.

There were piles of snow where people had cleared little skating patches. And everything was silting in again. White and very still.

Thursday Jan.31

High -6, low -11. The farmers' market was good because the wind had died down. The ice was perfect, although on Thursdays the pond hockey is too crowded -- all nearby rinks have permits that night, so pond hockey is the only drop-in space left.

A shinny player got a stick across the nose and was bleeding from a cut there. It took him a while to clean up and he looked a little shaky, said he was going home. Then at 11 pm when the lights went off, there he was, just taking his skates off. I guess he couldn't stand to leave before -- the shinny was too sweet.

During this cold snap a lot of the rinks still sound like their compressors are running, and the steam is coming out the top. Why? We always thought that when it's well below freezing, there's no need for the compressors....

Wednesday Jan.30

Very cold, high of -11, low -13. Queen Vic school came anyway, then Kent school in the afternoon. The Queen Vic kids got the worst of the wind, and they shivered. Their nice teacher bought them all hot chocolate and a cookie, which staff sold to her at half price. In the evening it got so cold that the hockey guys and women all got free cookies -- the "free cookie rule."

Tuesday Jan.29

Low 2, high 8. Slight drizzle much of the day, but schools still came -- a zoo at times.

Monday Jan.28

Low -1, high 2 celsius. Not busy until evening.

Sunday Jan.27

the usual friendly hubbub

Low -7, high -1. Enough snow fell during the night that the park was beautiful and white, but the rink was fine too, no delay in opening it. A birthday party had a campfire beside the rink, and they let every kid who wanted, join in the toasting of marshmallows.

Inside the rink house there was the usual friendly hubbub, lots of people talking, and so many little kids.

Saturday Jan.26

High -2, low -7. Light snow a lot of the day, very pretty.

Friday Jan.25

High -4, low -10. A sunny day again, cold but hardly any wind, with perfect ice this morning -- and almost perfectly unskated-on. Then around noon people began streaming in, parents with little kids, plus lots of students. Some of the schools have exams and those kids who aren't writing them, come to play hockey. In mid-afternoon the skating classes started, and then came Friday night supper. So much lively, friendly hubbub, but then everyone went home early. The youth went to their parties or their clubs and the rink was peaceful again with just the pond hockey crew and the permit there.

One of the things that happens more and more is that young teens want to work at the rink, in exchange for food or for their school volunteer hours or in the hope that they can show the staff they're good workers. Suddenly there are three new kids washing dishes, three more picking litter, or sweeping, or making mini-pizzas, or sliding trays of cookies into the oven. The busier it gets, the more they like to be part of the effort, it's as though they get swept up and they ride along inside that speedy wave.

Thursday Jan.24

High -6, low -12. Some very light snow. Lots of talk about the order from Parks management, that the rink hours across the city will be shortened for the new stat holiday, "Family Day," on February 18. Hard to believe they would do this.

A very frequent skater came up and said he wants to donate $5000 to help with the project of spreading some of the good bits of this rink to other places. Seems like he means it -- amazing.

Wednesday Jan.23

Low -9, high -5. Lots of sun, and a full moon hanging over the rink in the evening -- beautiful. These days have a quiet period in the morning, except when a school comes, and then they seem to pick up and really get rolling in the afternoons, with lots of skaters. In the evening it was the weekly "learn to play shinny" time with Dan Watson. it was very full and Dan says the Tuesday session at Christie is full and so is the Thursday session at Wallace. Dan says he'd do more such sessions but he can't find more ice time nor more of his own time to lead them.

Tuesday Jan. 22

Low -7, high -2. Light snow from before dawn until mid-afternoon. Lots of ice-clearing, but the snow still came back. nevertheless, there were lots of school visits already planned, and they came. Late afternoon and suppertime, the rink had less than a dozen people skating, nobody inside. The staff cleaned the tiles int he washrooms, and sorted through the huge stash of lost-and-found items.

But after suppertime the shinny players returned, and at 9 there was a very big turnout for women's shinny and another big crowd on the pond hockey side.

The rink maintenance supervisor called to say that they would try to wait until 1.30 sharp on Saturday to do the ice, so as not to disrupt the parent-child shinny hockey schedule. But he emphasized that this was just as a favour, and that some of his zamboni drivers stay away from Dufferin Rink because they don't like it there. Too bossy, I'm guessing.

Monday Jan.21

Low -12 in the morning, then up to -7. Not many people, except for students from Kent school, including a few that were kicked out for bad behaviour.

Sunday Jan.20

High -10, low -12. Cold wind made it even colder, and by evening there were very few people at the rink. But in the afternoon it was pretty crowded, not only in front of the wood-stove but even outside.

Yesterday the zamboni driver told the staff he had to shorten the parents-and-little-kids time and clean the ice 15 minutes early (at 1.15) because his shift is over at 2 and he needs the final half hour to get back to the yard. It seemed like the solution was easy: next Saturday the zamboni driver could just start his shift at 6.30 am and finish at 2.30, and the parent-child hockey would keep its full ice time. But it sounds as though that might be tricky.

So today this letter went to recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro: far as I know, the Local 416 collective agreement says people need 48 hours' notice to get their shifts changed. So asking the Saturday daytime zamboni shift to start and finish half an hour later ought to be fine, yes?

However I'm a bit concerned, since in Etobicoke, when their only double pad (West Mall") went to cement on Jan 10, I heard they couldn't/didn't put on any extra staff to get it up again, so it was out of use for all of the following weekend. This is confusing!

We'll see what happens.

Saturday Jan.19

High -5, low -13. Cold wind as well, so there were fewer people than last Saturday, and not such big skate-lending lineups. It was still full in the rink house, and parents were overheard joking with each other over bowls of Mary Sylwester's dhal soup -- "every Saturday is rink time." It's interesting to see that there are so many new faces. Also the Tibetan families continue to increase, many of them taking up skating for the first time (with loaner skates). I guess people tell each other.

It's not unusual to see older siblings bringing younger brothers and sisters. A kid who looked maybe 13 rented skates for himself and his younger brother and little sister (wearing a little Muslim headscarf). They stayed until 9.30pm, then as they were about to leave, staff offered them each a free cookie (cold weather free-cookie rule). They solemnly chose their cookies from the bin, and the brother said a formal, dignified "thank you" on behalf of the three of them.

More reports of thefts, that is, wallets and shoes. Time to put up those obnoxious "be careful of thieves" signs -- someone is definitely grazing in this fertile "meadow." Will says the pond hockey folks have figured out a better place to stash their stuff while playing the late shinny game -- thieves would have to slide across the ice to get there, and they'd be much more obvious.

Nobody bothers to tell police about the thefts -- what can police do about it?

Friday Jan.18

High -3, low -5. But it feels colder. Not so cold that people aren't coming, though, in fact right after school the lineup outside of the skate rental room got longer and longer until they had to put two staff in there. Friday night supper was almost all families with little kids. There were so many babies and kindergartners that the room buzzed like a beehive. The young teens who have their social life at the rink on Friday evenings managed to squeeze in among all the little babblers. Maybe they're so recently out of grade school themselves that it doesn't seem odd to them to wade through a sea of little kids.

Earlier, in the late afternoon, a couple of guys said that little kids (translate: under 14) were selling shots of booze outside. An old-fashioned transgression, and perhaps thrilling for some even-younger kids with money to spare. However there was no sign of any drunken little skaters, so perhaps the juvenile bootleggers didn't get much business.

Thursday Jan.17

High 3, low 0. Some wet snowflurries and the farmers' market made it a much quieter day for skating. In the evening the snow changed to very light rain, but the shinny players said it was wonderful skating. One bad thing -- the pind hockey guys were so intent on their game they didn't notice a posse of four young teens (wearing hoodies) who made off with their backpacks. Will lost his wallet. He said: I've been playing here for years, and this has never happened in that whole time.

But of course there has been so much theft, often in runs. One other guy said he got his shoes stolen last week. These are not valuable shoes, but it's just a little nasty joke, the thrill of thinking that some guy or girls will have to walk home in skates.

It doesn't happen often, but it's hard to figure out why it happens at all, really.

Wednesday Jan.16

High 4, low -1. many, many more school kids. Even busy in the evening. Lots of participants in learn-to-play-shinny too.

Tuesday Jan.15

High 0, low -6. Light snow, but steady, until mid-afternoon, not enough to accumulate on the road or sidewalk, but enough to stop the puck on the ice. There were school visits all day, waves of kids. Queen Vic school is starting their yearly skating weeks. This year they arrived with really good Bauer skates, all numbered, and a helmet for everyone. The teacher said that the Queen Vic skating committee had been able to tap into a fund for skates for schools.

Queen Vic is the biggest primary school in Toronto, over 800 students, and they always look organized and calm.

Monday Jan.14

High 2, low -2. Forecast for snow or rain but it never really happened.

Sunday Jan.13

High 3, low -1. A rather dark day with fewer people at the rink than the day before. Wet snow in the evening but the family shinny program ran anyway, and so did the neighbourhood old-boys program. The zamboni garage door has been broken for 5 days -- there's a part that needs to come from far away. Finally today Anna (rec staff)figured out how to raise it manually, so the poor zamboni can spend the night inside.

Saturday Jan.12

High 4, low 0. the sun came out about ten minutes for the whole day, all the rest of the time there were low clouds with even a few minutes of semi-hail. Despite the dreary weather, the rink was incredibly full, as though half the neighbourhood had decided to go out and get some winter exercise. Two CELOS researchers toured most of the Etobicoke rinks and came back with a report: Dufferin Rink had more people skating this afternoon than all the Etobicoke rinks combined. A mystery.

Friday Jan.11

High 4, low 1. Some sun, which was good since there were lots of school classes morning and afternoon. In later afternoon there were heavy showers, but people came to skate anyway -- the rink staff gave them free hot chocolate. Good attendance again this evening, and no more rain.

Thursday Jan.10

High 4, low 0. A cloudy day and the wind was raw but no rain came until after the last permit -- around 11 pm. There were not many people at the rink compared to the other days. The market, however, was wave upon wave of people on a quest for vegetables.

Wednesday Jan.9

High 12, going down to 1. Lots of rain overnight. Very big winds, also sunshine. The sun made the nets sink in a little but otherwise the ice was fine again -- zamboni drivers got the water off early in the morning. Schools cancelled class visits because they said they thought the ice was all melted because of the weather. Those teachers need a physics lesson -- we'll give it to every class that comes, from now on. The main puzzle is -- why don't people look for themselves? The good ice was there in plain view.

Tuesday Jan.8

good ice, good hockey, 15 celsius

Low 10 high 14 celsius. Lots of rain overnight, but the ice maintenance crew took it off with the zamboni in the morning and it worked fine. Women's shinny hockey time at night was full. They said the ice was fine but they were too sweaty because it wasn't cold enough! the "pond hockey" side had extra people who came from across town. They said they'd been told all city rinks are closed, but they came anyway because they didn't believe it. The city rink information libe also said that all permits and instructional programs were cancelled. But why?

Monday Jan.7

Low 10, high 15 celsius. Some drizzle: not much. Ice maintenance crew removed water from the ice and it held well. Few people in the daytime probably partly because holidays are over, and partly because so many people think the ice melts when it's warm out. But it's not a natural ice rink!

In the evening the Dufferin Groove musician permit came and the "pond hockey" side also had a good game.

Sunday Jan.6

Low 3 celsius, high 6. Fog this morning, then a very light Scotch mist, then drizzle in the evening, and fog again. The pond hockey guys took over the shinny pad after the last permit and they were ghostly figures playing in the fog at 10 pm. But the ice was fine.

The hot line telephone rang and rang today with people asking "do you still have ice?" and the staff reassuring them that the ice is fine. Corey (rink staff) said "is your refrigerator still running in this weather?" The idea of compressor-cooled rinks seems to be hard to grasp.

Now the challenge will be: will the maintenance crew cut down the ice, or will they let it get thicker and thicker like they two years ago, when it got to be 7 inches thick and the compressors could hardly manage?

Big test.

Saturday Jan.5

Low plus 2 high plus 4. Light drizzle for much of the day but there were crowds at the rinks anyway. The rink staff are getting very tired and ready for the holidays to be over.

A 12-year-old kid fainted on the hockey rink and then vomited on the ice. Staff called 911, but meantime another kid ran across the park and fetched the sick kid's mother. She didn't want him to go to hospital, walked him home instead. However, the commotion that always accompanies emergency crews made it hard to get back to a settled rink.

Another thing: there's an older man, a truck driver, who's been bringing boys to the rink for years. The boys he brings are 8-12 year-olds who live in very poor housing not far from here. He buys them skates and sticks and food, kibitzes around with them, hugs them and pulls their hats down over their eyes.

He doesn't only bring the kids to this rink, but to a number of other outdoor rinks too, and to public skating times in indoor arenas when the outdoor ones are closed. We (rink friends and also rink staff) were suspicious of him for years, told the kids to stay away from him, told him to stay away from kids, but somehow we ran out of energy. For one thing, what would the kids he brings be doing if they weren't at the rink? Their stories are very mixed -- some have parents who are busy or tired, but others have effectively almost no parents at all.

Beyond that, if they're at the rinks for hours and hours, out in public, that means there's nothing really hidden during those hours -- if there's something to hide.

A couple of years ago, plainclothes police came to the rink and talked to the truck driver and to staff. A mother had complained to police because her son had come home with a new pair of skates, given to him by the truck driver. The truck driver was pretty adamant that he wasn't doing anything wrong, that it was no crime to give kids skates or sticks.

Tonight a mother complained to the rink staff about the guy, and asked the staff if they had made sure that the parents of all the kids that come to the rink with him, have given their consent. But the fact is, this is not a school, the rink staff are not "in loco parentis," and an older man hanging out with boys at a rink is not against the law. This is one of the many unresolved and unresolvable situations that happens in a public place, a rink without walls or admission restrictions.

Friday Jan.4

Low minus 7, high minus 3. At 9.30 a.m. it was -5 and the ice was very hard but the compressor was running. A puzzle! A new card table was donated for the old men. Many, many skate loans today. At 9 pm a permit came but they had to shovel their own ice because the zamboni driver said someone had turned off the natural gas tap going into the zamboni, so it had too little fuel. So he left without doing the ice. However, half an hour after he left, the zamboni gas pressure was 900 pounds. Confusing! It's supposed to take 8 hours to fill the zamboni, so how could it fill up so fast? The supervisor said that the zamboni had only 500 pounds pressure when the driver made his decision not to groom the ice. But even 500 pounds would be enough... what happened?

Thursday Jan.3

Low (in the morning) minus 17, then much milder as the day wore on -- minus 7 was the high. The rink was jammed full because of the farmers' market.

Wednesday January 2

High -12, low -15. Despite the cold, there were many skaters. In the morning it was -14 and the compressors were not running.

Tuesday January 1

Overnight there was snow, then rain, then snow again. In the morning it was 0 degrees and still snowing and all the rinks were closed. Rink staff shoveled the walkways while a truck with a little plow on it worked to remove the heavy snow from the rink. Under the snow the ice was awful -- bumpy and rutted.

snowy day

By late morning the rink house was filling up fast, including a large group of Muslim girls in hijabs, with a leader who wore a kind of modern burka -- eyes only. Wonderful, interesting Toronto! Outside, the snow stopped falling and the zamboni began to scrape after the plow was done. By 1.30 the rink was open on the hockey side. By 2.30 the pleasure-skating side was done too -- none too soon, because no more skaters could have fit on the one side.

The trees in the park stayed snowy long after the snow stopped falling, and the little hill near Dufferin Street had tobogganers and sledders going down. Those groups also came to the rink house, to dry off and to eat Mary Sylwester's soup. It was a very cheerful scene, with lots of "happy New Year!!!" and "isn't the snow beautiful in the trees?"

By late afternoon the temperature began to drop fast. Lots of people went home to stay warm. By 10.30 it was -7 celsius. But: the compressors were still running. That's not supposed to happen now that the City spent $10.4 million to do energy retrofits at the rinks. Central computers are supposed to regulate the individual rink compressors so they shut off when it's cold enough for ice to stay frozen. And in the rink garage, when the door opens, the big ceiling heater is supposed to shut off. But it doesn't, so if a zamboni driver forgets to shut the door, the heaters crank it out, heating the great outdoors.

Monday Dec.31

High 0 celsius, low -3. Busy all day and then came the sad part -- staff misremembered from last year that they shouldn't close early. So they closed the building at 5pm for New Year's Eve, with streams of people still coming to the rink. It got worse as the evening wore on -- extended families came hoping to rent skates, and they couldn't believe the "closed" sign. So the staff postponed their plans and rented out skates and let people come in to change, and helped families make a campfire, and changed the timer on the lights to midnight. At 11 pm there were more than a hundred people in and around the rink. So next year the schedule will have staff staying longer, instead of leaving early.

There were snow warnings on the forecast and the snow began lightly at 12.30 am.

Sunday Dec.30

High 1, low minus 1. Snow fell overnight but was removed by 9 a.m. Lots of skaters.

Saturday Dec.29

the next wave, Councillor Vaughan and son in foreground

High 4 celsius, low 0. Forecast was for sun -- there was maybe 20 minutes of it in total all day! But the rink had lots of skaters, including many, many families. 12-and-under shinny hockey was full of little kids with big ideas. Skate rental was a full-time job. Still lots of ice along the paths -- staff put down straw to make it less slippery.

In late afternoon a 12-year-old troublemaker got so mad at another kid that he hit him violently across the head with this hockey stick inside the rink house. Lots of blood -- staff called 911 and the ambulance took the kid away (he was okay, the blood stopped pretty soon). The kid who did it took off his loaner skates and ran across the street in his socks, hiding. But then he came back and started talking big again. Police talked to him but didn't charge him -- said they'd follow up with his family.

Interesting ice maintenance story: it rained in the night, so there was water on the ice, but unlike last Sunday, the air temperature never went to freezing. So instead of freezing from the top, the ice slowly froze from the bottom, making a beautiful smooth surface at all the outdoor rinks, no shell ice. The flying crew drove around in the morning but there was no ice maintenance to do.

Friday Dec.28

High 3 celsius, low 4 celsius (i.e it got warmer as night fell). Rain mixed with snow were forecast for late afternoon but they didn't come until 8 pm, so the rink was once again jammed up with families. Staff had to remove some kids who were acting too much like goofs. But on the whole the mood was very friendly, and the soup was delicious.

Thursday Dec.27

High 2 celsius, low -1. Wet snow mixed with rain for about two hours -- rink users shoveled hockey side once but then it got too thick. Shortly after noon the rain/snow stopped and the flying squad came to clean the rink. Then skating was good and the rink was packed.

Wednesday Dec.26

High 1 celsius, low - 1. Boxing Day, with the traditional crowds and then some, skating off their Christmas turkey dinners. So many families, and so many of them apparently knowing how to have a good time.

strollers on rink help young families

parent-child hockey time

family-friendly rink on Boxing Day
Tuesday Dec.25

High -1 celsius, low -3. Christmas Day. Slow pickup but then steady level of rink users all day. The earliest arrivals were the kids who "live" at the rink and who probably didn't get anything for Christmas except a hung-over parent. One of them just turned 18 last week, is still a kid though. He was in a really bad mood, swore at Heidrun when she told him not to smoke on the ice, refused to yield the ice to the 12-and-under-group when it was their time. The staff told him to leave the rink and he refused that too. So the staff tried something new -- they called "Corporate Security," a unit that helps when rules or bylaws are broken and the police don't come.

A corporate security staff person came within 10 - 15 minutes, talked to staff first, then escorted this youth off the ice and out of the building. Everybody was sad to do it to this kid in particular. But it was good to have the security people be seen by the other youth there. They know the police rarely respond to bylaw enforcement calls from the rink staff, and so they think they have the staff over a barrel. But they don't.

The hockey rink got pretty full from afternoon on because the other nearby rinks were in such rotten shape after the rain on Sunday, and the missing ice maintenance.

Monday Dec.24

High 0 celsius, low -4. Nice steady parent-and-child scene at the rink. Reports from skaters who tried Wallace, Campbell and Christie Rinks say those rinks are in nasty shape, with deep gouges. Apparently there were periods yesterday when no maintenance crew could be reached at all -- Christmas shopping? Tomorrow is Christmas Day so none of the rinks will get any ice maintenance -- and those rinks that are already in rough shape today will only get worse. Sad.

Sunday Dec.23

High 7 celsius, low -5. Lots of rain beginning early in the morning, ending mid-afternoon. A few young teens came and skated around in the water for hours, must have been cold! Most rink staff went home, a few stayed and caught up on chores. When the rain stopped, rink staff called to find out if a zamboni driver was coming to get the water off the ice. Their supervisor said that the zamboni crew were mostly at City Hall getting the water off there. How many zamboni crew does it take to run a zamboni at City Hall?

But one driver came here and began taking water off. That takes a long time but it's worth it -- the sky cleared and the temperature dropped. Before the zamboni driver was even done, big patches of shell ice began forming where the water was still puddled. In the case of this rink, the zamboni was there in time and shaved the ice down. The rink had lots of hockey players all evening. The zamboni driver was told to stay at this rink and not to drive up the street to Wallace Rink to do the ice there. But there were a couple of hours when he had nothing to do at Dufferin Rink, and just disappeared. If all other rinks didn't get any maintenance, they won't have been skateable today at all, although the weather stayed fine from mid-afternoon on. Pity, especially considering that all zamboni drivers are full-time and so no money would have been saved if they were sent home.....

However, at this point it's not possible to find out whether the zamboni crew went home and put their feet up, or sat in their trucks, or went to a coffee shop, or mended hockey nets. Their whereabouts is seldom shared with their non-zamboni colleagues. And all managers who might remotely care, are off on holiday until the new year.

Saturday Dec.22

High 5 celsius, low 2. The rink was almost empty until about 11am, then there was a lively scene on both pads until around suppertime, then almost empty again until the over-18 time began. Two injuries -- one 52-year old woman fell on her head and went to hospital to get checked out, one little guy who is very wild and reckless dislocated his knee in some way during shinny.

Another wild kid was banned for the night. Many of these kids are brought by a truck driver who spends his whole off-work time ferrying kids to and from hockey. The kids he brings are often from nearby run-down apartment buildings. If the families move, he'll go as far as Etobicoke to fetch them. He's been a fixture at all the neighbourhoods rinks for years. He lets staff know which kids are under the supervision of children's aid, which kids are on the run from alcoholic parents.

Report from parents of young kids: it's better than before, there's less rowdy stuff happening. The routine for parents is often: arrive, everyone has a mini-pizza, skates on, then out to skate, then back in for a cookie and a hot chocolate, then back out for more skating, then another cookie and maybe a story in front of the wood stove, then outside once more and then home. Seems to work.

Friday Dec.21

High 2 celsius, low -2. School classes all day, looking very pleased to be skating with the yellow loaner skates. In the evening there were two rink guards outside plus one other worker. Lots of admonishing of the kids. One help is that if the kids who are making trouble have loaner skates on, we can take them back. Three young teens were kicked out for the night, and left without a fight.

Lots of small "crimes" like skating backwards fast and bumping into people, throwing snowballs, etc., nothing really nasty. Everyone is being told to have a "zero tolerance" approach to bad behaviour. And then of course, with all the extra supervision, the scene gets a little friendlier. Still it's hard not to notice the pre-Christmas tension and irritation. Maybe everyone will be more civilized when the Big Day is over for another year.

Thursday Dec.20

Low -3, high 0. Ice is great. Lots of people playing, but it looks okay. At the margins, though, there are not only teenagers but also littler kids who behave astonishingly poorly. Also a big bunch of girls, who try to look scary, walk in and out of the rink like a silly posse. Later on I heard from one of the parents that the word is going around, don't go to the rink, there are gangs of youth making it really unpleasant.

I'm looking for an old tape player, so that we can play some gentle classical or jazz in the entryway. No luck yet. Over at Wal-mart they're open 24 hours a day until Christmas, and it's crowded at midnight, but no sign of a tape player or anything less than a ipod adapter.

Wednesday Dec.19

Low -3 celsius, high -1. Not as many people at the rink as has been the case, so there was some very good shinny. Tino the supervisor came for an hour and the goofs arrived soon after. Two of them sat on a bench with their bandanas pulled up so high, hoodies over their heads, that they looked as though they were wearing burkas. They told Tino that this is public space and they can do anything they please. But they left after 10 minutes. Then a young girl, maybe 17, came in saying she's been robbed by two girls on her way back from the mall. She seemed very scared but refused to allow the police to be called. She hid in the snack bar with the metal blinds down, while she waited for her father to come and pick her up.

She said, don't let anyone see me, there were two guys filming the robbery on their cellphones just for fun, and they might still be at the rink. And since she refused to go out and look, there was nothing the staff could do.

Kevin Sylwester from CBC radio came to interview shinny players. He likes the "pond" culture, and so do I, after 9. That's when all the younger goofs disappear.

Tuesday Dec.18

Low -1 celsius, high 0. Mild and nice. Shift workers come in the daytime and they play hard, so the ice is snowy and ready for a scrape by mid-afternoon.

In the evening the same goofs were back again. The main guy from last night pushed and pushed until he finally got himself thrown out again. Then he came back and stood inside the rink enclosure, looking defiant, with three girls beside him. Dan had discussed this with me (Jutta) last night. As as rink staff person, Dan can't grab a kid and make him leave, since (a) he's not supposed to and (b) he'd probably be punched. But a grandma type like me is much less likely to be hit, and it doesn't gain you any brownie points in that Portuguese culture to disrespect a grandma. So I went over and took his arm and began to steer him toward the gate. He and the girls exploded in outrage. "Don't touch him! Don't touch him! That's assault! He can get you charged!" I said, "please, call the police! Call them right now!" But they didn't want to. They just wanted to argue, as though they were in a court of law. "We're all witnesses that you touched him!"

The girls were incredulous when I took his arm and pulled him toward the gate again. They actually formed a protective line in front of him and shouted "Bitch! Bitch!" This was what I wanted, because it attracted a bunch of hockey players over, who are pretty protective of me. They made their disdain obvious, so that the little group was in an embarrassing situation, with a lot of unsympathetic people not much older than them, watching them. Nobody was declaring themselves for their side. The hockey players who were watching told me, "Don't listen to those people, they're no good for anything." They have a lot less time for that behaviour than the staff have to have. So the guy and his girl guards gradually got edged right out of the enclosure and the staff closed the gate.

This is a little piece of theatre that seems to be needful at the beginning of every season. It's very sad about those youth, though, who said on their way out, "bitch, when you leave the rink we'll be waiting for you." But it just sounds hollow. They're avid for argument, but to what end? It leaves them without a place to go, and empty-handed. It's hard not to wonder what their lives are like, that they are so confused about boundaries, and about consequences.

Monday Dec.17

Low -10 celsius, high -3. The rink got plowed out by about 2 pm, and then it was fuller than usual because the nearby rinks were still closed. Guys playing shinny say that they get extra skilled because of having to maneuver their way around so many other players.

The same few kids who come and sit in the corner made trouble of all sorts -- each act by itself is just annoying (burning magazines in the woodstove, swearing, having playfights with girls so they get shoved into each other, monopolizing the woodstove and acting like louts) but taken altogether they make the place unpleasant and people leave. Finally when the main guy threw an icy, hard snowball at a hockey player, Dan the rink staff told him to leave for the night. He refused, and taunted Dan -- "why can't I stay here? It's a public place. Don't you dare touch me!" Finally Dan called the police. They never came but at least the guy left.

Dan said -- the things that attract families to this rink, the nice things like the snack bar and the wood stove and the comfortable lighting -- that's exactly what attracts the youth too. But then they make trouble and spoil it all.

Sunday Dec.16

coming to the rinkhouse craft fair

High -3 celsius, low -8. It snowed steadily all day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- about 30 cm of snow. The rink was covered except for a narrow loop all around both rinks, made by some skating enthusiasts. The rinkhouse craft fair went ahead, and lots of people came anyway. A few arrived on skis.

Saturday Dec.15

High -4 celsius, although it started out at -12 and even by mid-afternoon it had only risen to -8. Low -1. There was light snow all day and everyone's talking about the Big Snow beginning tonight. Luis the zamboni operator is stationed at Dufferin for his entire shift, and he's been trying to keep clearing. Crowded despite the constant snow. Shinny players poking the puck along as the snow keeps coming down. Some parents of little kids find the concentration of youth very trying; so many youth!

Friday Dec.14

High 1 celsius, low -12. The temperature fell sharply in the evening, so there were lots of people inside. It was the third visit of a group called the "meet market" who bring single people out for dinner and an outing. They had a campfire too. Hopefully it was romantic for them.

One of the shinny hockey kids who "lives" at the rink for the winter didn't want to go back to the shelter where he's staying. He lobbied hard to be allowed to sleep at the rink house tonight. No go, though. He'd have invited his friends and they'd all have played shinny all night long.

Thursday Dec.13

High 2 celsius, low -1. Snow flurries mounted up during the day, but the rink was cleared. Busy farmers' metket indoors and around the outside of the building.A sickle moon came out in the evening -- lots of people came to skate. The zamboni ran out of natural gas in by the 7 pm scrape -- too much was used up in the extra rounds clearing the extra snow. So the 9 pm shinny permit (older guys) had to clear the ice with shovels. Then the pond hockey guys said they wanted to clear too, but staff resisted them -- the job is a lot bigger than people think. However the pond hockey guys insisted -- and they did it well. So both sides had a good game.

Wednesday Dec.12 2007

High 1 celsius, low 0. Sun and cloud. The rink was very busy all evening but for the first time there was a bit of mellow -- lots of parents were there with their kids and that helped. There was some discussion about having to hold on, be patient, remember that every year for the first 2-3 weeks people think -- this can't work. But then it gets friendlier and calms down, and the shinny players settle into their games.

In beginner's shinny hockey, one woman collided with a guy who was wearing a helmet. She got a big bang to her head -- from the helmet. That's not uncommon -- people getting banged or cut by collisions with protective hockey gear. Instead of hitting another (relatively soft) body, you hit a mobile piece of hard plastic wall.

Tuesday Dec.11, 2007

A rainy day, high 2 celsius, low -1. This morning a school class came to skate. The staff ask them to notify them of their visits ahead of thime so thet can have cookies on hand etc. But these folks didn't. Still, they were great and they had fun, and drank large amounts of hot chocolate. The Permits staff were a bit taken aback when they found out that school classes coming to Dufferin Rink don't get charged for a permit. But the classes don't have exclusive use -- they just add themselves on to whatever else is happening on the rink already. The permit person said, "The schools charge us SO MUCH to run programs there, why should we let their students skate for free?"

E-mail from Jutta Mason to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, City Rinks supervisor Brian Green, and management up the line, Dec.11, 2007

Here below are a few photos to show you that there was quite a bit of turf damage done today at Dufferin Grove Park by a Parks guy with a loader. I guess he was told by his supervisor (for Parks? or for Rinks?) to push the snow very far away from the rink, and he took a lot of earth and sod with him. Possible remedies:

loaders do a lot of damage to soil

photo caption

1. put in for funds to fix all the turf damage done by the loader's shovel and the big wheels (the ground is still soft)

2. supervise people instead of just letting them loose like that

3. Use an operator who has some understanding of park ecology

4. Don't allow heavy vehicles like that to go off the paved areas

5. alternatively -- collaborate with rink staff (Recreation) to let them know plans for moving large amounts of snow. That way they can help an equipment operator, unfamiliar with the detailed park terrain, to make a more sensible plan, staying mainly on paved areas. In the case of Dufferin Grove, the recreation staff are long-term and on site seven days a week, yet they told me they had not been contacted.

I have cc'd Recreation on this, including Kelvin, because this silo needs to to open up. I've cc'd the councillor because I think we need help.

Working solo without communicating can do a lot of damage.

Monday Dec.10

High 2 celsius, low -6. All day long there was a pretty big shinny game. People had a good time until evening, and then it got really crowded and the game fractured into taking shots. Some Spanish guys arrived about 8.15 and started a fight at the side of the rink, having to do with some girl. One of the rink staff stepped in to separate the fight. She got shoved, so she stepped back and blew her whistle as loud as she could. They stopped. They called her the "whistle bitch," but the fight didn't start up again. Big groups of youth (half of them girls) stood around outside the rink fence for half an hour longer and then they all went over to the mall. Pity poor Wal-Mart (!), next week they're starting their 24-hour Christmas shopping opening times. They may get some visitors they don't want.

This is the two-to-three-week rutting period that we always seem to get at the beginning of the rink season, when all the little turf struggles go on between/among the young people. Everyone is looking forward to having it burn itself out. Boring!

Sunday Dec.9

High -1 celsius, low -5. Crowding a bit better, because of the rink opening party at Wallace Rink 10 minutes up the road. But the rec staff say that the later afternoon, when the teenagers arrive, is like babysitting really unruly kids. Many of these kids can skate like the wind, and they do -- not always a nice experience for the slower skaters as they get cut off by them.

Inside there was a thief at work, who stole the backpack of a young girl. She had left her cell phone and her wallet inside the bag. It's cold comfort for her to have staff remind her that the lockers are there and that they only cost a quarter. The question is -- should we put up signs all over the building saying "be careful, watch out for thieves"? Then everyone can go around wondering if the kid beside them is about to pick their pocket.

Saturday Dec.8

High 0 celsius, low -5. Sunny for most of the day -- beautiful skating. Still too many people, crowded inside and out, too many teenagers all in one spot.

Friday Dec.7

High -1 celsius, low -9. Sun and cloud. Good ice, too many people, especially teenagers. Friday night at Dufferin is apparently the place to be if you're between 13 and 18, male or female, and can skate and scream and get snow on each other. Over a hundred kids.

Thursday Dec.6

High -3 celsius, low -8. Sun and cloud, not as windy as a few days ago, but not warm, that's for sure. The rink was crowded because of the market so the skaters had to change outside, like they do at many rinks all the time. But a few people were aggrieved. One of them waved his forefinger at me as though he was about to give me a detention: "this is first and foremost a rink, don't forget that." I won't.

Other than that, the mood was very friendly and neighbourly. So many people end up running into long-lost friends at the market, you hear "oh my G-o-d, Helen, I didn't expect to run into YOU!!!" and so on. Plus the skaters are still just discovering the rink is open, so that makes for joyful reunions as well, as they see hockey mates from last season.

The thing that makes it much more than a cocktail party (although sometimes it's just as crowded) is that people come to the rink with a purpose. Getting your skates on tight enough is serious, skating and shooting a puck are real skills and real adventure. So the talk is much less idle than it might be if people were just standing around yakking.

Wednesday Dec.5

High -7 celsius, low -12. Cold! But the rink was full again, inside and out, even in the daytime. The phone didn't stop ringing either.

The kid who was banned yesterday came back again, and so now the ban has extended to three weeks. It turns out that he's banned from the counselling agency in the Mall as well, don't know why. The staff gave him TTC tickets so he could go up and play at Wallace Rink. But he doesn't want to. This is where his friends are. The staff have noticed that since he's not allowed to go on the rink he's been hanging around outside with some of the kids who made huge trouble last year. Aaargh! what to do?

Tuesday Dec.4

High -3 celsius, low -9. Apart from a couple of flurries, the ice was smooth and good. Lots of new young guys are coming to the over-18 time in the evening -- too many. Staff are struggling to find out who might be under 18, just to reduce the numbers a bit. They're trying to ask everyone for i.d., but that's a big hassle.

Now that we have a new door in the chain-link, people can go directly t the cars parked on the street instead of passing through the building. The building is more peaceful but the scene around the low-slung Hondas is a little wild -- it looked like there might be a girl-fight tonight, but then it didn't happen.

The first women's-shinny time had only a trickle of women until about five minutes beforehand, then there were suddenly 16 of them. Some are new and wobbly but all seem enthusiastic.

The tough thing today was that a kid who was banned for a week yesterday came back, his balaclava over his face, to play despite the ban. That meant that the ban got lengthened to two weeks. What got him in trouble in the first place was lots of nonsense and going on the rink when the other age-groups have their time. Finally he called one of the staff a "crack addict," and that did it. But the ban is really tough on him, since he's one of the kids who sort of lives at the rink all winter.

Monday Dec.3

High: 3 celsius. Low -5 celsius. Mainly cloudy with a few flurries, ice excellent. The hockey side of the rink had so many hockey players all day that they asked if they could use the pleasure side too (no!!). Good ice maintenance but the sidewalk alongside the rink was treacherously slippery -- it had been salted bu the snow from yesterday had not been removed, and the masses of slush were very slippery. A volunteer cleared the sidewalk.

Sunday Dec.2

High: 4 celsius. Low: -2 celsius. Lots of snow from the night before, very heavy. Five rink maintenance workers came with one truck adapted with a plow. The rink was open by about 1 pm. There was a slight drizzle of rain most of the day but the rink was still very busy. Zamboni driver sat and watched rec staff chip ice on the walkways. There seems to be not much for the driver to do between ice cleaning. Sent an e-mail to the city rink maintenance manager, Kevin Bowser, asking if snow/ice removal around the building lies outside the zamboni drivers' job description.

Saturday Dec.1

High: -4 celsius. The rink opened for the season, on time, at 9 a.m. By 10.30 there were 30 people on the ice and it went up from there. The rink house was busy all day, fire in the woodstove, lots of hellos, welcome back, my-but-you've-grown, etc. Very friendly.

First "turf struggles" as well. One kid now 16 was given one warning -- "if you smoke weed in the players' box one more time, you're gone." Another kid about the same age came with a bandana half over his face, did play-fighting with a girl shoving her in the way of rink users. This was the same guy who was banned last year for insisting on wearing a balaclava so that no one could see his face. Gangster chic. Today, when rink staff Anna G. asked him to stop play-fighting, he told her she had no right to talk to him. He didn't want to listen to her at all so she asked him to leave. He said no, so Anna put her hand on his arm and said, "you have to leave." He said, "don't touch me!" She said, "I'm not using any force but I will touch your arm until you leave. All your friends will see this -- that a 37-year-old woman is standing here touching your arm. That's pretty embarrassing, so you'd better leave."

The kid was obviously embarrassed, and his friends were getting impatient, saying, "let's just leave then!" But he needed to stand his ground, until Anna asked another staff to call the police. That enabled the kid to leave without losing face. (Police were never called.)

Thursday Nov.29

High -4 celsius. Low -8 celsius. Lucky it was so cold, because no ice making began until late afternoon. It took a long time before that to get the leaves off, since they were frozen right onto the concrete.

Wednesday, Nov.28

High -2 celsius. Low -4 celsius. Compressors were turned on.

Tuesday Nov.26

High 0 celsius, low -2 celsius. The CIMCO technician was here for some more hours. Troubles?

Monday Nov.26

High 0 celsius. Low -3 celsius. The tech services guys came and opened up the header trench. Bleh! The drain was plugged and the trench was full of goop. They put ojn boots and gloves and dragged the junk out of there. When the trench was cleared, the CIMCO technician came to check over all the new work they did on the header trench ($200,000 worth) last spring.

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