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Rink Diary December 2009

Tuesday Dec.1 2009

High 7 low 0.

At women's hockey tonight the number was just right -- 15 or so. But the pond game on the other side had 38 guys jammed up trying to take turns. However a few more rinks have opened now, and soon the pressure will be less. At this point people are travelling here from all over the city.

The good news is that it now seems like school classes won't be forced to take out permits if the teachers want to bring their classes skating. Daytime school visits are lots of fun, and it would have been sad if the classes had been turned away by fees or daunting paperwork.

Wednesday Dec.2 2009

High 10, low 7

Wednesday night: shinny hockey in 15 mm of rain

A huge group from Culturelink came again, and the staff were overwhelmed by the number of people trying to rent skates. Next week some of them can be steered to other nearby rinks.

A very troubled young guy who comes here to skate (and always ends up getting banned for his behaviour) turns out to have no school that he goes to. The school we hoped was his, say they haven't seen him for months now. Too bad. That school has a really good guidance councilor, and we hoped he could help out. But maybe this guy is just going to drift downwards, with nobody to help break his fall.

Thursday Dec.3 2009

High 6 low minus 1

A busy day and a difficult one. Two more days until the other rinks open, but for now the focus for a lot of bored youth is Dufferin Rink. Having the market on Thursdays may help or hinder, it's hard to say. But there was an enormous amount of acting out, foul-mouthed attention-seeking behaviour, from after school until closing time. Security was called three times, and once the police had to come to get one troubled young guy (from yesterday) to leave the rink.

It's not possible nor good to be calling Security all the time, but having three staff out there beside the benches, effectively babysitting, is also ridiculous. Sometimes it helps to up the ante -- to make a scene that will potentially be embarrassing enough that it trumps the youth theatrics. All of them have learned (where?) to shout "don't touch me!!" if anyone tries to steer them out of the rink. It's sometimes necessary to pull them by the sleeve (this is only a good idea if an older woman does it, the younger rink staff would get punched). Then the guy yells "don't touch me, or I'm calling the police" and the older woman says "please, call the police, that's what I'm hoping you'll do" -- and then he starts with the language. There seems to be little sense of gradations among some of these young guys. Everyone no matter what their age is addressed either as "bro!!" or with layers of curses. Do they have grandmothers? Who brought them up?

Maybe nobody. The peer pressure is part of the problem, of course, and later this evening, when most of the problem youth had left, two of the quieter ones came in to buy a juice. I was talking with some of the regulars, about what the evening had been like. The two youth said, "what's so unusual about that?" I said that people don't normally behave like that at this rink. They looked confused. "That's how everybody acts at our school all the time." I asked, which school. "Ramiro."

Pity the poor teachers, and the students as well.

After tonight, some of the rink program staff were troubled and unhappy. Who wants to work in a place like this? But the push-back is going to carry the day -- it just takes a week or two.

Friday December 4 2009

High 3, low -4.

Today was a P.A. day for the primary grades; all those schools were closed. It was the last day before the other rinks are scheduled to be open. An estimated 600 to 800 people used Dufferin Rink over the course of the day, some from as far away as Woodbridge. The staff were fit to be tied. The skate rental room was pandemonium. And yet, when I asked a few people if they were fed up with the crowds, they looked puzzled. They had had a wonderful time and the kids would sleep well after all that fresh air. "What's not to like?"

trying on skates

break for lunch and chess

pleasure-skating all day

shinny hockey all day
Saturday Dec.5 2009

High 1, low -5.

A slow day at the beginning, then more and more people came, then the clubhouse gradually cleared, then it was very quiet again near the end. The crush in the middle of the day may have had to do with the fact that the long-awaited opening of other rinks fizzled a bit -- most city rinks were not ready, and it's not clear that there are enough staff in the city to do the rink ice maintenance.

Sunday Dec.6 2009

High 2, low -3

A beautiful day, with a weak pale sun and the rink full of skaters and people talking to each other. Somebody's mother calls, "is my Joey there?" so the staff go out asking "If you see Joey, can you tell him to call his mother." There are lots of familiar people at the rink and also -- today -- an enormous number of new faces and families. Close to 150 people rented skates. Many of them seem so satisfied when they're leaving. It's inspiring, to see people enjoying these simple things. And today the youth were not unreasonable -- everybody seemed to have a bit of a sense of humour. No idea why some days it works and some days it's so tricky.

Monday Dec.7 2009

High 2, low -4

Ice maintenance: pre 9am, 11:45, 3:35, 7:45 - 45 minutes late, because a new guy was training), 8.55.

The first snowflurries. Today people who work here were discouraged. There is pretty relentless pressure for "following procedure." There are new rules. The rink program staff can no longer work directly with their supervisor -- instead they have to add another guy in between, a new "rink community recreation programmer." The idea is that part-time staff can't be coordinators, of rinks or anything else. So, although the permanent full-time rec staff have plenty of other things to do, one of them is now supposed to duplicate the work of the existing rink staff too. The rink staff who actually make Dufferin Rink - and the other two nearby rinks - work so well, are supposed to check and ask permission for the day to day from an additional staff person. That's where the money is spent -- process, process, process over results. Collegial work is almost outlawed.

The zamboni staff at the various rinks were not having fun today either -- not enough vehicles to get their work done, they say. "Didn't management know the rinks would open on December 5th? Couldn't they have figured out how to get the equipment we need?"

At this point Parks and Rec is like a badly run army, like an army that's losing. Like a lost army. Why is a mystery. Good things like these lively rinks are right in front of the managers' eyes, and they can't recognize them. What a pity.

Tuesday Dec.8 2009

High 2, low -4.

Ice maintenance: before 9, 11.45, 3.15, 7, 8.55

The number of skaters is now at a much nicer level -- so the staff don't have to be so grim about making sure people are playing shinny in their exact age group.

One of the zamboni drivers was over at Ramsden Rink and he slipped on a whole bunch of plastic fasteners that had been left on the ice by the Toronto Maple Leafs event over there today. The other zamboni drivers had to take him to the hospital to get stitches on his face, and his elbow is banged up. Two of his co-workers were going to pick him up from the hospital and drive him home right after they finished cleaning Dufferin ice.

The turnout for the women's shinny time was only seven women tonight. The low numbers make a strange counterpoint for all the recent publicity about girls' hockey not getting enough arena ice time. But this could just have been the anticipation of the winter storm coming tonight. The wind was blowing the leaves around the ice earlier, gathering up into a bit of a gale. Even so, there was a good turnout for the regulars who play "pond" hockey after 9 pm -- not much would keep them away.

Wednesday Dec.9 2009

High 6, low -1.

The storm last night was snow mixed with rain, and it took until 2 pm this afternoon to get the rink skateable. All the snow removal was done by zamboni, since apparently the ploughs that are always fastened to the front of the city trucks in winter are on back order ---? It's hard to believe that zambonis are made for that, but certainly it's common practice in some sections of the city. North York rinks are all cleared like that, up and down, up and down, for hours (since zambonis can't pick up too much at once).

At any rate, the rink operator just sat in his truck between the 7 pm and 9 pm ice maintenance times, because he was unsure whether any other rink was cleared yet, with no plough available. And no radio either, maybe.

The rink was not crowded but there was steady traffic through the skate lending room. One woman was there with two kids, and they alternated between skating and eating, going in and out. The mother made the staff keep some of her change, because, she said, she's managed to feed them all dinner and still not used up a $20. Just as she was leaving, she called her husband and told him how much she liked the park's chili (cooked by Mary Sylwester). He asked her to bring some home for his dinner, but she had no container. So the staff found an empty relish jar with a lid, and filled it with chili, and that used up the rest of the $20. A simple evening of skating and reading the park storybooks with the kids, everybody eats some good food, and then home to bed.

Thursday Dec.10 2009

High -1, low -9, very cold winds. Ice maintenance 9:25am - hockey side cleaned; 10:45am - pleasure side open 11:45pm - scrape both sides, 3-3:30pm - scrape hockey, flood pleasure "because very cold" - 7pm - scrape both 8:55pm - s/f both. Not sure why no flood.

All day there were lots of hockey players, despite the cold (maybe because the other nearby rinks were not open). The market was crowded and warm and lots of people were eating soup. Sometimes it really seems like everyone is talking to each other at once. Even strangers. Bad weather makes people friendly, maybe.

One of the young guys who broke the windows repeatedly, two years ago, was sitting in the rink talking to some friends. When he was asked to leave, one of the friends became very rude and said the staff must be lying. "Can't you see he's cold?" But the young fellow made it very clear after he was caught, that he had no interest in doing community hours to work off his vandalism (it cost thousands of dollars to fix the windows). He who says "a" must also say "b." Meantime the friend may also be asked to leave for a longer period, since he's very rude generally. All these kids are so used to people forgetting, not following up. There seems only a very tenuous link to consequences.

Friday Dec.11 2009

High -6, low -10

Ice maintenance: 9am, 11:45am, 3:15 hockey side only, 7 pm, 8:55pm.

Despite the chill, there were skaters. In the morning, Carlton Village School brought two grades. The seemed to have a lovely time but there were not enough helmets to fit them all. So the kids had to take turns. The teachers said they'd look around for donations.

In the afternoon and evening there were two birthday parties. Because it was so cold, the second party moved inside, which was tough. At those times the rink can seem like a primary school, which is not fair for the rest of the people coming there to skate. A CBC crew was there from Newsworld, filming scenes of the rink, the zamboni, etc. The zamboni foreperson came and checked them out, but seemed to be satisfied that if it was just a news item, they were allowed to be there. The kids were impressed, and eager to be interviewed. They told the camera that they love the rink "especially because it's so nice to skate outdoors" and that they love the food "especially the perogies."

TV is pretty scripted -- before they even arrive they have a pretty good idea of exactly what should be in the item. Very odd, really. However, if it will help get the information out about the outdoor rinks, it will have been worth doing.

Saturday Dec.12 2009

High 2, low 0

a perfect winter day

Ice maintenance: 8 a.m., 12.15, 5.15, 8.55.

In the daytime the rink was a bit too full again, because it was perfect weather and maybe people have listened to the bad weather forecast for tomorrow. When it gets too full, people get a bit grouchy with each other. By evening it had mostly thinned out, not many youth there either.

The staff say they have resolved to be more fierce about enforcing the hockey age limits. Good, because it seems like there are a few kids who need to be banned from the rink for a week or two, so they can get the idea that no means no. One of the kids, who had been told three times (by a parent) to get off the little-kids' shinny time, actually complained to a staff person that the parent was "mouthing off."

Some kids who come to the rink are completely confused about courtesy and deference and relative standing of old versus young. They tell me that they get away with it at school, or they get suspended -- but who cares?

The staff say to the kids -- "why would you act stupid here, when that only means you won't be allowed to come to the rink? Maybe you don't care if you're suspended from school, but why would you want to be suspended from the rink? All your friends are here and then you won't be able to skate with them!"

The kids stare at them. Good question. That's one of the things they can learn in a place like this -- acting in their own interests, rather than just acting out.

In the early evening a seven-year-old girl called a nine-year-old boy a "bitch," and he punched her in the face. She was there with her older sister. She came inside and got some ice to put on her cheek. He got a stiff talking-to from various people, partly about chivalry.

Sunday Dec.13 2009

High 4, low -2. Some rain in the morning.

Ice maintenance: 8:55am, 4:55pm, 8pm.

Monday Dec.14 2009

High 4, low 0.

Tuesday Dec.15 2009

High 0, low -6.

Ice maintenance: pre-9am, 11:45am scrape only, snowing, both sides, NO 3:15 PM, NO 7PM, 7-7:30pm hand scrape ice with green shovels with help of hockey players. Nobody knew if there would be any ice maintenance, but then the flying squad arrived to do a scrape and a flood at 8:20pm. This process is the same all over the city -- no communication.

Today everybody seems to want to play hockey. The women's hockey time had 21, over 30 guys came to the "pond" side but some left.

Wednesday Dec.16

High -3, low 06, cloudy

Ice maintenance: 10 a.m. 1 pm (both flying squad); 7pm, 9pm

Thursday Dec.17

High -4, low -11

Ice maintenance: 11 am., 3.30 pm, 7 pm, 8.55 pm

Friday Dec.18

High -2, low -7.

Ice maintenance: 9.30 am, 11.30, 4.15 (delay due to frozen augur, inside garage, 7 pm, 9 pm

school's out

The rink filled up fast around noon, as soon as school let out for the holidays. It was disorienting -- suddenly like a weekend. Sometimes I have to rub my eyes, remembering how empty the pleasure-skating side used to be, so often, back about 10 years. Now there's a new arrival of youth every year. They're loud and they take up a lot of space and they throw wadded up paper towels at the trash can, and miss, and don't pick them up. But it's great to see them. The next wave.

Also some of the kids that got kicked out the first week have come back, with their act more together. This is the place to see and be seen -- so they have to be a little careful, not to get on the wrong side of the staff.

It's so enjoyable to see the better side of people who at first seemed unbearably annoying - prodigal sons (and daughters).

Census and comparison, 2 pm:

Dufferin Rink: 15 shinny hockey, 54 pleasure-skaters 27 inside

Wallace Rink: 25 shinny hockey, 21 pleasure-skaters, 7 inside

Giovanni Caboto Rink: 6 shinny hockey, no pleasure-skaters

Census and comparison, 8 pm:

Dufferin Rink: 19 shinny hockey, 34 pleasure-skaters, 28 inside

Wallace Rink: 8 shinny hockey, 0 pleasure-skaters, 6 inside

Giovanni Caboto Rink: 9 shinny hockey, 5 pleasure-skaters

Campbell Rink: 14 shinny hockey, 6 inside

Saturday Dec.19 2009

High -3, low -9

Ice maintenance: 9 am, 11.45 am, 5 pm, 9 pm.

The ice maintenance is different than at other busy double pads rinks in that Dufferin Rink is required to stay on a fixed schedule, up until now. Because there were so many skaters in the afternoon, the ice was rough and ready to be cleaned by 3 pm. But the schedule says 5, and no direct communication with the zamboni driver is permitted, to let him know the ice is rough (he is never at the rink except when he's on the zamboni, so he can;t see for himself). This won't work -- yet another thing to work out at the higher levels, in these endless skirmishes about obvious things that should be common sense.


10 am: 20 shinny hockey, 30 pleasure-skaters, 30 inside

5 pm: 22 shinny hockey, 57 pleasure-skaters, 17 inside

Sunday December 20 2009

High -2, low -8

Ice maintenance: before 9 am, again at 4.55 and final at 8 pm.

Star photographer at work

The Star is planning to do an outdoor rinks story on Boxing Day. They sent a photographer, but the family he was expecting didn't show. I went looking for another family, and found one with three little kids (it wasn't very easy, because at noon the rink was not very full -- it seems like everybody is out shopping). They said they were willing, and the photographer took multiple shots. He even lay down on the ice to photograph the kids from that angle.

It turns out that they were a family who had read the previous Star article of Nov.21. They had gone out and bought all their kids skates, and come down to Dufferin Rink, and now they were all learning to skate -- 6 year old twins and a little guy, 3 years old. The photographer was really pleased -- we'll see how it looks in the paper.

jam-up near the skate-room door

Later on everybody came. It's always inspiring to see how many parents make efforts for their kids. Instead of dragging them through the Christmas-shopping lineups at Wal-Mart, they come to the rink with a big heavy bag with skates, and tighten the laces with cold hands, and stand in the long lineup for a mini-pizza, and comfort children who cry when they fall. After all that effort and (sometimes) aggravation, they stand at the railing (at least, the many non-skater parents do) and smile with pleasure and satisfaction as their kids push off down that long ice surface. To make such efforts on behalf of the young ones: character!

Census: 12 noon: 37 people on the ice, 27 in the building. 4-5 pm: 150 people, too many to break down into activities, constant in and out.

Monday December 21, 2009

High -2, low -5 Ice maintenance: pre 9am, 11:45am, 3:15pm, 7pm, 9pm

Numbers 5pm: 43 pleasure-skaters, 19 shinny hockey, 27 inside

Numbers 5pm: 27 pleasure-skaters, 21 shinny hockey, 32 inside

Tuesday December 22, 2009

High -6 low -11

Ice maintenance: 9:15 am, 11:45 am s/f hockey, s pleasure side.

Numbers at 2.30: 58 inside, 120 outside. Staff were too busy to count any more.

Wednesday December 23 2009

High: -3, low -9

Ice maintenance: 9 am, 11.45 am, 2.45 pm, 5.15 pm, 8.55 pm.

There were times that were not congested, even a few times when there were only 8-10 people on the shinny hockey ice. In the evening, because the women's permit cancelled for the holidays, there was pickup shinny hockey on both sides.

The players come off flushed and sweaty after two hours of fast skating. They sit in the rink house too tired to take off their skates, but the cell phones come out. Some people have to share, without delay, that they just had a fantastic game under the open sky.

Census: 11am: 12 shinny hockey, 9 pleasure skaters,

12:30 25 shinny hockey, children with helmets, 15 pleasure skaters, 20 inside

5:45 15 shinny hockey (half helmets), 55 pleasure skaters, 20 inside

7:35 25 shinny hockey (3 helmets), 15 pleasure skaters, 20 inside

9pm 20 shinny hockey, 4 helmets, 10 pleasure skaters

Thursday December 24 2009

High 0, low -7

12pm (12 and under) 10 shinny hockey (7 helmets), 8 pleasure-skating, 11 inside

2pm 58 pleasure-skating, 8 shinny hockey, 27 inside

10 pm 2 pleasure skating, 13 shinny hockey (hand shoveled!)

Ice maintenance: before 9am, 11.45, 2:30 (scrape only, because there was light snow).

Friday December 25 2009

High 3, low 0. Rain starting about 2 pm

Uruguay-Australia snow shovelling group

No ice maintenance staff, so recreation staff worked with skaters (about 15 at various times) to shovel off the ice. The snow that fell overnight was all shovelled off by 1 pm.

Free box drinks, hot chocolate, and cookies are always on offer for people who help shovel. But many make it clear that they don't care -- they just like doing it, and they like their kids doing it. Two groups of dog walkers came by and helped for a few minutes too.

getting some exercise before Christmas dinner

Christmas cheer

Even before the shoveling had finished, that there was a friendly scene, until it began to rain at about 2.30. The rink had more or less emptied by 4 pm.

Saturday Dec.26 2009

High 2, low -3. There was rain overnight, continuing in the morning and stopping about noon.

Boxing Day. The schedule said that there would be ice maintenance staff between 10 and 6 (on statutory holidays the zamboni drivers earn triple-time-and-a-half, so the hours have to be shortened). It rained overnight and in the morning, so the ice was getting thicker just from the rain -- too thick! But nobody came to take the water off. By noon the rain eased off to a slight drizzle, but by 1 pm there was still no zamboni driver. The building staff pushed some of the water off with the big green rink shovels, and then tried to use a hose to pull off more water. Finally at about 1.30 and a number of phone calls, the zamboni staff came -- three men to drive one zamboni! The math is depressing: three times $90 an hour -- ouch for the rink budget.

trying to drag the water off with the black hose

the zamboni scraped twice

new goalie gear

ice high on the boards, embedded leaves

The leaves from yesterday's high winds had become embedded in the ice because of all the rain, so the zamboni driver took a couple of rounds on the ice. But the damage was done -- there was too much water, already frozen onto the ice, to get the leaves out again.

At my request, the zamboni came back at 3.45 and did another couple of rounds. That was it, for ice maintenance.

Meantime both the Star and the National Post had Dufferin Grove on their Boxing Day edition lists of "best places" today. It's often hard to see the connection between the media build-up and the never-ending frustration of witnessing sloppy ice maintenance at various rinks, as soon as it rains or snows. The year of seven-inch ice (which makes the compressors useless) is in all our memories at this rink, but does the institution have any memory of it?

Sunday December 27 2009

Ice maintenance: before 9, 5pm scrape and flood, 8 pm scrape and flood.

Monday Dec.28 2009

High minus 1, low minus 11, sun and cloud, snowflurries.

Ice maintenance: 9am scrape and flood, 11.25 scrape and flood, 5.15 scrape only, 8.55 scrape

Numbers at 2pm: 108 skaters outside, 40 inside.

Numbers at 7.55: permit on hockey side 9; 37 on the pleasure-skating side, 8 inside

Numbers, 3:30pm: 14 hockey players, 9 with helmets (restricted to 13-17 shinny); 56 pleasure skaters (9 with helmets), 77 inside. No room to move.

E-mail to Jim Gardhouse, acting Parks director for the holidays, who had sent an e-mail saying there would be ice maintenance staff until 8 pm on New Year's Eve: Great stuff about the Dec.31 staffing until 8 pm, so that means we can expect ice maintenance at Dufferin Rink (and other places with a dedicated zamboni driver) as needed if it rains/snows on Thursday evening up until 7.30, as well as on the regular ice maintenance schedule prior to that time?

I note that yesterday at Dufferin Rink, even though there was a heavy flurry at 8 pm, rink users' complaints were unable to get an extra scrape until the regularly scheduled time one hour later.

Since Dufferin Rink has this unusual situation of a dedicated staff who doesn't stay on-site, could that zamboni driver be nearby when it's likely to flurry or rain?

Tuesday Dec.29 2009
Wednesday Dec.30 2009

Cloudy with sunny breaks, high -1, low -2

Numbers at 5:15pm: 46 inside, 51 pleasure-skaters, 20 shinny hockey players (3 helmets).

The zamboni went out for ice maintenance five times -- 9 am, 11.45 am, 2.45 pm, 5.15 pm, and 8.55 pm. Each time was only a scrape, which is good to lower the ice (getting too thick). It would be even better if the scrapes were a bit more thorough, not so fast. It's likely that the zamboni driver is feeling that he ought to get off fast so people can go back on and skate some more. But it may be necessary to inconvenience them a bit, since the ice is so high already.

For the 5.15 scrape there were two men with the zamboni, and for the final scrape there were three. But one of them was the regular operator, who seems to have worked a double shift that day.

A strange discussion in the morning -- a skater was saying that people who say you don't need helmets to play shinny hockey are idiots. He said it doesn't matter that it's a non-contact sport, or that the City has never had a helmet-related (or head-injury-related) claim against it, or that the hospital statistics don't separate non-contact shinny from full-contact hockey. He said he'd seen pucks fly up, and people body-checking, and besides, it's just smarter not to take the risk.

Then he went to play -- without a helmet. I said, "wait a minute! You've been making a strenuous case for helmets and now you're not going to wear one?" He said, "that's right. I guess I'm an idiot. I just don't like them."

Thursday Dec.31 2009

High 4, low 0. Light rain much of the day.

Despite the drizzle, people came to the rink to skate. Perhaps they were desperate to get their kids out of the house. From 6 to 8 pm there was the annual New Year's Eve neighbourhood shinny hockey game, which starts out very fast and then slows down as more and more people drop out to go home and get ready for their evening's entertainment.

At about 8 pm, Dave Bidini and friends arrived to kick off the second wave of parent-child New Year's Eve shinny and pleasure-skating. In the last few years this has become such an open neighbourhood event that this year it was staffed by three people -- one to be at the campfire, one to be in the skate-lending room, and one to ladle out hot chocolate at the zamboni cafe. One little girl got a cup of hot chocolate and decided to take it outside. But the walkway by the rink was so slippery that she fell and splashed hot chocolate all over her face, burning the skin. The parents had to take her to Sick Kids, where they put lots of bandages on her, and sent her home with polysporin.

Everybody at the rink was shocked and dismayed, including the rink staff. However, new people kept coming and there was a lively shinny game that included even the little kids, and there were people around the campfire, and groups of neighbours chatting as they skated up and down the rink together. The little kids in particular looked very excited to be allowed to stay out with the grownups.

At the end when the lights went out, Dave Bidini passed the hat for donations and handed over $120 for the skate program -- to buy some badly-needed new hockey sticks.

Earlier Diary

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Content last modified on December 16, 2010, at 03:22 PM EST