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Dufferin Rink 9 pm. Saturday: a replacement rink operator (ours is sick) came to service the ice but didn't have an Olympia key and left again. This problem has happened so often in the past that last year we kept a key locked in the water heater room security cupboard. But right now the operators take the key away with them after ice maintenance, as though the on-site rink staff can't be trusted with it. All Dufferin rink staff work for the city and the task at hand is to maintain the rink. There should be a key on site -- no staff will use the key to joyride -- relations should be collegial. But they're not. Ice maintenance staff work in their own world.
A FINE CHRISTMAS PRESENT FROM THE NHL PLAYERS’ ASSOCIATION.
In October, park supervisor Tino DeCastro told us that the NHL players’ association sometimes provides rinks with hockey gear (including skates and sticks) so that kids who can’t afford them can still play. Tino knew that we often have school classes and other kids coming to the rink with not even skates or sticks, but a strong desire to play hockey. Last year’s "grandmother grant" let us buy a lot of garage sale skates. But hockey skates are much less common at garage sales than figure skates are, so we’re chronically short of them. And good used sticks are really rare, as are decent hockey gloves. So Tino helped us fill out an application to the NHLPA. Just before Christmas we found out that Dufferin Rink is one of the sites they chose to donate fifty brand new sets of equipment. That was some surprise!
Here’s what it says about the NHLPA "Goals and Dreams Program" on their web site: "Launched in 1999 as a way for the players to give something back to the game they love, Goals & Dreams has donated full sets of equipment to over 7,000 children in 17 countries. In addition, over 75 ice re-surfacers and more than 110 sets of boards and glass were provided to community arenas in small towns in Europe and North America. Funds were allocated on a pro-rated basis according to the nationalities of the NHLPA’s membership. To date, the program has donated more than $15-million to grassroots hockey programs around the world making it the largest program of its kind!"
Instead of passing the hockey sets on to individual kids we’re setting up a lending service so that lots of kids can share the pleasure. Some of the pants and pads will do double duty by also being shared with the few remaining City-run hockey house leagues. We’ll have a lending library of hockey gear, in enough different sizes (also for girls!) that the effect can multiply. Our grateful thanks to the NHL Players’ Association, and to Tino DeCastro, for finding us a solution for our problem of impecunious hockey wannabees. We’ve invited the NHLPA to ask their locked-out members whether they might want to come over to our rink when the gift equipment comes, and play a bit of shinny hockey with some of our shinny regulars - including many Portuguese, Jamaican, Greek, Vietnamese -- "rink rats" from so many cultures. But the NHL guys might be too shy. Watch the bulletin board for updates on this.
BAD LANGUAGE AND OTHER SINS AT THE RINK "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." That’s how the saying goes, but at our rink there is a by-law against swearing, and another one against making threats. Here are some of the other rules: lounging around in the rink house corners trying to look like a gangster, isn’t allowed, and neither is lengthy public kissing or hugging with one’s sweetheart. People are not allowed to get into a fight, and they can’t urge other people to fight each other either, no matter how "Canadian" that kind of approach is in hockey. People can’t use the front entryway as a place to cluster with their friends and make loud jokes or say rude things to each other. On the ice, people can’t smoke (anything), or play bumper cars with the learn-to-skate chairs, or skate under the lift gate when it’s being raised for the zamboni (it can fall down if it’s unsecured, and squash a person). Groups can’t play chasing games on the pleasure-skating rink unless the rink has no other skaters at all, and older shinny hockey players are not allowed to play hockey during the younger kids’ shinny time. Above all, nobody can tell a staff person to get lost if they ask them to follow the rules.
The penalties are: for breaking one of the rules, one or two warnings, then out for the day. For refusing a staff request: out for the day right away, no warnings. For refusing a request to leave for the day: out for many days, until the person books an interview with Tino DeCastro, our area parks supervisor. If they miss the interview: out for the season. In some cases of rule-breaking, the bad guy/gal may be asked to work some community hours (picking litter or washing dishes or shovelling snow) to get back into the staff’s good graces.
And if a rink user has been banned and then comes back after the ban is over, the rule is: no hard feelings. The returning rink user starts again with a clean slate. Over the years, there have been many people who got in trouble at the rink, sometimes in a lot of trouble. Then they grew up a bit. Many came back to play hockey to their heart’s content. Some have become great friends of the rink and are a pleasure to be with. They are the deep-down reason for this rink - showing that people can surprise each other, and that ill will can turn into respect and even friendship, more often than one would think.
LATE-NIGHT HOCKEY NOISE AND WOOD FOR THE WOODSTOVE
Shortly before Christmas, some residents of the apartment building and the houses next to the rink told the park staff and the local councillor that they couldn’t stand the late-night hockey noise any more. Annick Mitchell came over one evening and laid out the problem in detail. When the rink was left unlocked all night, shinny hockey games would often happen at two or three in the morning. Then the zamboni would come to resurface the ice at six a.m. Bad news! Between the bang of the pucks on the boards and the beeping of the zamboni whenever it reversed, sleep was getting scarce. So we settled for locking the rink every night after eleven. Many people told us how disappointed they were, that the pleasure of late-night skating was no longer available. But they understood that the noise had really become a problem. The silver lining to the cloud is that Annick Mitchell, in gratitude for being able to sleep again, donated a large amount of cut-up wood (that had been stored in her back yard for two years) for the rink house wood stove. Before that we were so low in our wood supply we only had one piece left! But now we have our warm fires in the woodstove again. Rink users (and toboganners) can dry off their wet mitts there. People can read storybooks to kids there, sitting in front of the fire, on the rocking bench donated by Leemala Ragubance. As for the shinny hockey players - at least Dufferin Rink is still open until eleven every night, with shinny on both sides after nine (most city rinks close earlier). And after eleven, the neighbours can get to sleep. That’s fair.
There were lots of guys at the rink who wanted to play hockey, but it was 12 degrees and there was too much water for the puck to move. A bunch of them took the green rink shovels (long flat things) and lined up very ingeniously and basically pushed that water right out the swing gates at the end. Then they played fabulous hockey all evening. Who knew you could push water like that! They did it themselves rather than sitting and complaining about how they wanted the zamboni to come. (The hockey players have been telling us for years that they want to use the shovels, but it took another little bureaucracy battle to allow them to do that).
Great confusion reins about whether the rinks will stay open, because the weather has been so warm. The first plan was that Dufferin would stay open until March 7. Then it was decided to keep 20 rinks open until March 21, to let the kids skate through March break. Then it got warm and sunny (sun is much worse than warmth). Yesterday the order came to close all the rinks by the afternoon (for the season). Then we heard, close all the rinks by evening. Then we found out that Dufferin Rink would be allowed to stay open until March 7, as was the original plan. Then this morning the compressors had been turned off and the electricians had reset the rink lights for summer time. It turned out that the mechanics hadn't heard about us staying open until the 7th. They had gone around with lightning speed early in the morning and turned off all the rinks. So then they had to come back and turn us on again. On top of that, one of our compressors had blown a gasket and was overheating when it ran. So the mechanics came last night at midnight to work on it (they work during the night so that the ice won't melt when the comprssors are turned off for servicing). They stayed until 10.30 the next morning. A lot of overtime charges! But now the ice is perfect, although it's 6 degrees out.
Today it was 18 degrees in the afternoon. But no sun. So there was half an inch of water all over, but underneath, the ice was smooth and hard. Some people came and skated around, having fun planeing and shooting up the water with their skates when they stopped. Late at night the temperature dropped and the ice returned to normal: magic.