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Rink Diary December 2011

Friday Dec.2 2011

high 3, low -2

The usual size crowds, compounded by Friday Night date night and Friday Night supper. The ice is pretty thick already, a bit rough in places but most people seem satisfied with it. Tomorrow all the other city rinks are supposed to open and that will take some of the pressure off this one.

Sometimes, especially at the beginning of the season, the staff feel like they're babysitting -- only that the "kids" are between 10 and 16. And there are always a handful of youth who want to see how far they can go -- openly smoking weed and drinking beer, and then getting chased away and arguing: "what'd I do? what'd I do?" over and over again. It's amazingly boring for those staff and rink friends who have been around for a while.

When one of those guys comes back to visit years later, holding their own kids by the hand, the kid wearing new skates on their little feet, it all feels better. Or even when a mouthy youth from other years announces that this year he's grown up -- and proves it by being more calm and quiet.

Few and far between, so far this year, though.

Saturday Dec.3 2011

high 6, low -4

Much less crowded today, since at least some of the other nearby rinks have opened.

Dec.5 2011

Two of the main problem kids from last year are both working now. The staff say that last week they were flashing literally hundreds of dollars in cash and them to change a fifty for them.

Dec.7 2011

Rink coordinator:

Many kids were inside. At one point two kids started a little fight for which one of them took off his belt and threatened to hit the other kid with it.

The same kid sat at the computer box, opened it, saw some pucks laying around and took one or two. I asked him to leave that chair so I could close the computer box, and he finally did it after I tried to take his chair away.

Then he was asked to leave, it was 9pm and the Zamboni finished the permit ice. He went onto the women's permit ice. When the permit holder asked him to leave he at first refused. She told him she could get him banned and he told her to fuck off.

Thursday Dec.8 2011

Pretty crowded again, with many troubled youth. Some have been banned for a day already -- soon to be banned for longer. More and more kids playing hookey from school, or being expelled and then coming to the rink. Some of them work off their bad behaviour penalties with picking trash or doing dishes. Others seem to actually be incapable of doing any work.

Friday Dec.9 2011

From staff notes:

8:30 -9 pm: some kids were scraping ice off the rink with the their hockey sticks and throwing it at each other, lacrosse style. I asked them to stop and they did. Then one of them went on the shinny pad and kept throwing ice through the fence by banging his ice-loaded stick against the fence. I talked to him through the fence and said he had to stop, at which point he banged his ice-loaded stick into the fence in front of my face, so I got ice in my face.

A couple of minutes later the same kid was doing it again on the pleasure-skating while the zamboni cleaned the hockey side.I asked him to stop but he skated away from me with his stick loaded with ice. I went after him telling him to stop, he ignored me. I put my hand on his shoulder, so he turned around and said "don't fucking touch me, you can't fucking touch me" and something about how he would have me sued, and his friend said his mom was a lawyer. I said "sure, you're right, I'm sorry I touched you but you were walking away from me as I talked to you and I need you to stop throwing ice." He just walked away.

There was a permit after the maintenance. The people with the permit started their game. Next thing I know, the same kid is on there stealing the puck from them and they are getting angry. Ginger yelled to him from outside the rink, but he ignored her. She went on the ice to talk him, and he left.

Saturday Dec.10 2011

from daytime coordinator: There are four Hungarian kids who were skating on Sunday and harassed all the girls on the ice. Just before they left (at the staff's request), one of the brothers groped a girl with her mother there and ran off. The mom wanted to call the cops. They came in today, they were given the option of working for an hour before getting skates. They refused twice. But they came back because they really wanted to skate - note to all staff: Please don't lend them skates.

Do we start the code of conduct process with them, and start getting in touch with parents?

One of the other kids who was smoking pot in front of the rink doors is suspended from school, not sure how well the two-day rink suspension we gave him will go with him. He doesn't always smoke pot, but when he does he gets incredibly stupid and ignorant.

It looks like incidents are escalating, it's time to apply the strict code of conduct that we've used in the past, along with 1-day, 1-week suspensions, and in some cases vary rare, trespass letters. And in a lot of cases, we should offer trades, where they can do an hour's work to get back in.

There will always be slippage at the beginning of the season, until we get caught up with each other and have a chance to check emails. Is there time for us all to get together?

From evening coordinator: Around 7-7:30 pm six youth were throwing around a soccer ball in the change room. I asked them a couple of times to stop, but one kid continued (there were a lot of people changing- it was busy). Some rink users also came over and asked him to stop. He wouldn't even though a few of his friends urged him to stop.

I took the soccer ball away, the kid swore and threatened etc. when asked to leave, was told that the police would be called, he was yelling, swearing. They eventually left after the soccer ball was returned to the office. Outside they threw garbage around on the west side of the building.

Monday Dec.12 2011

The rink keys were stolen tonight. Four of the usual troublemakers were getting a stick at the skate room counter, and when the lending staff left the room and the door locked behind her, she realized she didn't have the keys. She got somebody to let her back in, thinking that she had left the keys on the skate return counter. But there were no keys. She searched the whole room without success. Two of the kids watched her, and then they went away.

The staff stayed very late, padlocking various rooms with chains, so we wouldn't lose skates if the thieves came back in the night. Aargh.

Tuesday Dec.13, 2011

The skate room was re-keyed, so that the skates are safe. The lending-staff thinks there's a very strong chance that one of the youth who were borrowing a stick took the keys. She just turned around for an instant, and that would have given the opportunity. The coordinator has asked the youth to come for a meeting, and bring their mothers.

Wednesday Dec.14 2011

One of the youth suspected in the loss of the keys was at the rink today. he was asked about the keys, and said it was none of his affair. He talks as though he might know who took them, but that it wasn't him and he won't say anything. The staff said that if he was there, he has to tell. He got very angry, was asked to leave, and got even angrier. He did eventually leave.

Thursday December 15 2011

From the lead staff: Two of the four youths suspected of taking the rink keys reappeared tonight. We had talked to one of the youth on Wednesday and advised him to set up a get-together with us and management to discuss the issue, and a series of altercations that we've logged previously. Two of the four came this evening, without a pre-arranged meeting time. One of them brought his mother. We sat down to discuss the issue. At a certain point in the conversation, I suggested a follow-up meeting with the staff who were actually there at the time when the keys were taken. The mother felt that this was unfair and she became quite angry.

I said she would need to talk to management and that we would follow up with the police. At this point she asked if her kids could stay and play shinny hockey. However, the age group was 18 and over, and the two youth are not 18. The youth got even more angry at being prevented from playing, as did the mom. She wanted to talk to management immediately. I contacted the on-call supervisor, who advised me to call the police and/ or corporate security since the situation was stating to feel unsafe.

The mother called me a liar, the youth knocked over some boxes of our rink supplies, and started swearing loudly. I asked them to leave the facility, but she wanted to talk to the on-call supervisor herself. After talking for a long time to the on-call supervisor (on the phone), they left.

City of Toronto trespass policy document #1.

City of Toronto trespass policy #2.

Friday Dec.16 2011

the end of the big sugar maple near the rink

The Forestry crews came today and took down the giant sugar maple beside the big oven, near the rink. People have been watching that tree die over the past five years -- maybe from all the compaction of the soil around the Friday Night Suppers, or maybe because many sugar maples don't seem to like the smog and the heat in a big city. Sad to see it go -- but there's wonderful firewood for the rink next year. (If the rink is still going then, and if there are staff to light the woodstove inside).

December 17 2011

From Saturday rink coordinator:

The kid who gets free skates, gloves, is getting in too much trouble. He does normal trouble making things but when asked to not do them he does the bad things more (also normal). He talks about how he doesn't know me and and only respects Matt and Anna and how I don't 'get' his position or situation. Furthermore his disruptive behaviour is "clownish" and enjoys an audience and today he gathered 3 different groups of boys into his bad behaviour. Normally I find that kids who are using our equipment can be brought down to earth by the idea that I can take away that privilege. That doesn't work with this kid.

Whether he is only a problem for me for me some reason (maybe I am tougher on the behaviour or maybe he dislikes me and won't obey me), I don't know.

From staff lead:

A week ago some of the other staff and I talked about this too. I wondered if it was important to be proactive about it and escalate the issue. I settled with just talking to him in front of Anna, saying I was worried about him, and that I didn't need him to be the "don" of Dufferin. I said I keep hearing from other staff that he is trouble - and its not okay to be nice only in front of me or select staff.

This kid seems to have a lot of troubles at home and I give him free food often (not hotdogs). Today, he asked me for bus fare for him and his friend. He wanted to work for it. I said half an hour. He said "you don't know all the fucking things I do for this place." I told him I didn't need him to be that person. It wasn't very pleasant - and grounds for a bigger thing.

So I'm happy to be called in from home when and if he acts up - I do think that escalating this is the way to go now - it would be up to him, and how he responds, whether that means a sit down with his older brother and a few of us, or with community people, or the police.

From weekday rink coordinator:

I think we need to be explicit about who gets what privileges and why - I know when I work at Wallace Rink from time to time there are kids that I don't know who ask for free stuff. When I don't know the situation I usually give people what they ask for because I'm afraid the mini pizza I give them may be the only food they get that day and I can't decide to deny them, if there's even a chance of that.

But in terms of this hard-up kid at Dufferin Rink - I think he's milking it and taking it too far. And we need to readjust the boundaries rather than punishing him for making it work for him in the best way he knows how.

Dec.18 2011

There's been lots of back and forth about the City's permission to a film company, to close the rink this morning until 2 pm, so they can make a margarine commercial. Despite lots of objections, the decision was made to let the filming go ahead.

trucks full of filming gear

scaffolding on pleasure-skating side

only the child actors get to play shinny

actors watching the filming on a screen inside

In the end, the film shoot lasted until almost 5 p.m. Shinny players were really mad, and they said they'd be calling the city councillor to complain. But they probably won't. People rarely make their voices heard; they find it too frustrating, and nobody wants to get angry.

Film permits are free in Toronto, so the City doesn't make income off them -- but they encourage film production because it boosts jobs. The reasoning is smart (and ought to be applied to other community-building permits as well, ask the real estate people). But it makes no sense to use one of the busiest rinks in the city, displacing so many skaters -- when the city (sadly) has so many "orphan rinks" where a film company would displace very few people, filming in the daytime.

Dec.21 2011

There was a big meeting about the key theft. The kids said they knew nothing about it, but after the meeting ended, the keys turned up at the front desk -- surprise!

But of course it wasn't a surprise. There had already been some hints dropped. The good news is that the City doesn't have to spend the $3600 that it would have cost to re-key the entire building with the special city keys. The bad news is that the four kids are still a big problem, and up to this point none have accepted responsibility. So now we start with the arduous meetings, separately and together, the monitoring of the community hours, etc. The standard way of treating this kind of thing is to push it under the rug. But then everybody else learns that you can get away with really bad stuff. So the kids will have to go through the steps. Maybe it will help them in the long run, who knows.

Dec.22 2011

The recreation manager came to a meeting to talk about holiday hours. Most of the rinks are scheduled to be closed on Christmas Day and at shorter hours for Boxing Day and New Year's. We asked David Rothberg if we could use some of his donation to keep the rink open on some of those hours, and he said yes. The manager had to check with her boss, at 7 a.m. this morning. Then she came to the meeting and said, "it's all good" (her signature phrase). So in this neighbourhood, the kids with new skates get to try them out on Christmas Day, and nobody will have to leave the rink early on Boxing Day or New Year's. It's good.

December 23 2011

The rink was full of school classes in the morning and kids out of school in the afternoon. The group in the photo were from Etobicoke School of the Arts -- they said that almost all the students had stayed off school today, and most of the teachers stayed away too. There was also a big group from a foreign students' language school. Many of them were first-time skaters, looking a little nervous but willing to try.

school's out -- time to go skating

first woodstove fire of this season

It was cold enough outside to make a fire in the woodstove. A very nice scene.

people sit in a long row and eat soup

"zamboni cafe" -- still PWYC
Saturday Dec.24 2011

The rink was very busy today, which is a bit unusual on Christmas Eve. In this part of town, Christmas Eve is as big as Christmas Day, and people are often too busy to come skating. The Star article about David Rothberg's donation (to let the three Ward 18 rinks open on Christmas Day) may have attracted more people today. Global TV came and did a news item, too, for the 6 o'clock news.

One of the staff noticed that a kid who is currently banned from the rink is in the Star photo -- it's hard to keep track of all the people on the ice!

Sunday Dec.25 2011

Today's the day the rink was meant to be closed. But thanks to David Rothberg's agreement, the doors were open from 10 in the morning until 6. It was slow at first, and then more and more people came. The mood was pretty good -- shopping is over, and there's time to enjoy semi-winter.

Christmas Day campfire with skates on

early birds (morning skaters)

the right hat for the occasion

family visitors from out of town, watching out the window

By early afternoon, there was a constant lineup of people wanting to borrow skates. About $380 was taken in skate donations -- at $2 a loan, and some people who didn't have money to donate, that's a lot of skates. The loans work particularly well for visitors from out of town. And -- always -- for the big groups of newcomers. Lately it's been Tibetans -- sometimes they make up a third of the pleasure-skaters. Shinny hockey, not so much.

The staff said it was painful shutting down the rink at 6 -- there were still a lot of people on the rink, clearly reluctant to give back the skates and go.

skate loans and visitors, Christmas Day
Monday Dec.26 2011

City TV guy trying to get his shot

kitchen work in exchange for snacks

Boxing Day. The weather was nice, and from the afternoon onward the rink was very crowded until about 8 p.m. City TV came to do a story on David Rothberg's rink donation. He doesn't much like doing these interviews, but says he wants to tough it out because maybe other people will donate to keep a rink open that's currently scheduled to close on New Year's. Nobody likes this media stuff very much but it's important to remember that 15 minutes after the broadcast it will be the video equivalent of fishwrap.

Watching the cameraman was interesting for people. The reporter asked a couple of Tibetan boys to skate up to the camera, fast and close, and they did. They had to repeat the "take" at least a dozen times. They wore yellow loaner skates from the park, and they looked pretty proud -- would the Olympics be next?

Later on, they did dishes and other chores to earn some snacks. A good day all around.

Thursday January 5 2012

From a staff report:

On Thursday market day, a mother of three wanted to take a picture of her kids using her Christmas gift I-phone, holding it up and was about to take a picture when 4 youth came by, took the phone out of her hand and ran. At first she didn't want to call the police because she didn't think they would be able to recover her phone. We explained that we wanted to call the police because she saw them, could give a somewhat description of one of them and there was a witness.

With the trigger word 'mugging' the police showed up quickly.

Of course it took a while to go through the report of the incident, at least an hour, but in the end she was glad to have done it.

Watch out for a youth having a red leather jacket with a white circle applied to the back.

Friday January 6 2012

From staff notes:

When I asked one of the main Dufferin Rink troublemakers and his friends about what seemed to me like suspicious behaviour on market day, his friends implied they were ready to beat me up. The main kid stood by laughing while one of his friends said to me, "You're an old man and that's the only reason I haven't cracked your skull in." Since then I have caught that kid lying to me twice. He lied to me at Wallace about wanting to sit inside for five minutes while waiting for his mother to pick him up. Instead he went inside and hooked up with three suspicious guys who always come to the rink but never skate. This Wednesday he told me he had permission to be at Dufferin when he didn't. Both times he apologized to me about his behaviour on market day. Those apologies were lies.

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Content last modified on January 07, 2012, at 04:33 PM EST