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Rink Diary 2005-2006

Thursday January 19, 06

At 9 p.m. the permit was on the hockey side and the ice was too packed with shinny players on the pleasure side. Some people left and the rest organized themselves into two lines and took turns.

January 20, 06, Friday

because of the 11 degrees and the ice thickness, the rink was covered with water by 11 a.m. Two zamboni drivers came to fix the hockey gate lock. They stayed quite a while talking but didn't want to use the zamboni. Their supervisor didn't return calls. So on-site rink staff, working with skaters, took water off manually with the green shovels for about two hours (off and on). Much improvement and people could play hockey after. Technical services staff person came by and said he'd lowered the sensor temperature on the compressors but they still weren't working to the optimum because the ice was too thick (made worse by rainstorm the day before). Tech staff said he's very concerned for March openings if the ice is already this thick now. Zamboni driver said Tech Services staff doesn't know what he's talking about.
E-mail to rink manager:

"The on-site rink staff have paged the zamboni supervisor about ice maintenance, but got no answer to their pages. The rink is not only puddled but also soft. This may be because the ice has been allowed to get much too thick already. The zamboni operators have come to the rink but they told the on-site staff that it’s nonsense about ice thickness, and that they will not go out onto the ice with the zamboni. (This is not uncommon.) The two are sitting and drinking park coffee instead….Could you try to talk to the rink supervisor about this?"

No answer.
4.30 p.m. zamboni driver did finally scrape the ice, got more water off -- ice was fine after that, but still just as thick. Lots of skaters were there for skating lessons and Friday Night Supper.
Evening -- ice good and lots of skaters until lights went off.

January 21, 06, Saturday

9.30 a.m. Skating lessons started, then two zamboni drivers came. They didn't warn anyone and the zamboni was on the ice before any on-site rink staff could get out there. The zamboni driver said to on-site staff that he did that because the other driver was with him and could keep a lookout. The zamboni driver did the hockey side, had to dump snow three times (it had snowed in early morning). The skating teacher cleared her class right off twice, stayed on the ice in the corner with everyone the third time. The zamboni driver protested to the skating teacher about this, despite a lot of adult supervision.
1.05p.m. Zamboni driver alerted rink staff with proper notice to clear ice but it was the wrong time. Said no one had told him he had to wait until the end of kids-and-parents shinny hockey time (1.30) I went home and ran off a large-print version of the Dec.10 ice-cleaning schedule and posted it on the wall in the garage, by gas hose. Also posted it on the staff bulletin board and on the public bulletin board. Rink only medium-busy all day.
11 p.m. youth permit on hockey ice and only three people on pleasure-skating side.

January 22, 06, Sunday

very full all day. Zamboni was broken from the day before but apparently the zamboni driver scraped the ice with it anyway in the morning. No ice maintenance during the day because the flying squad had no trailer. I guess they just had to sit there all day. 5 p.m. family shinny permit scraped their own ice with green shovels -- worked fine. Zamboni driver arrived with zamboni, no trailer, at about 5.45. He scraped the ice at 6 p.m., 7.30, and 8.45.

E-mail to the park web site: “I had a question for you guys, I'm not really sure who to contact with this. I live near the ice rink and there has been a group of young guys meeting up 3 or 4 times a week in the middle of the night to play when the rink is closed. It wouldn't bother me, I actually like the sound of skates on the rink it's that they are being really loud and screaming at each other. At first I was just a little irritated but now they seem to be meeting regularly, last night they came out to play at 2:30. If I didn't have to get up at 6 for work it might not be as much of an issue but I was wondering if there was anything that could be done to help the situation.”

January 23, 06, Monday

-- shed was moved so no problem now with sight lines for zamboni drivers.
8.45 p.m. Two zamboni drivers came. Two on-site rink staff went to help – Driver told on-site staff to put on an orange vest. Too many staff, so one zamboni driver stood there for a while and then disappeared -- either sat in the truck or left?
The second zamboni driver cleaned the pleasure –skating side then sat in zamboni while the on-site staff person raised the gate. She will ask him to raise the gate in future. Then the zamboni driver did hockey side. Pleasure side had lots of skaters but no puck allowed (good idea not to). The zamboni driver did not signal with his horn when he was done the hockey side but just drove toward the lift gate. On-site rink staff cleared pleasure rink again so the zamboni driver could dump snow (some people were walking across the basketball court as he came out the far gate but they dodged the zamboni). The zamboni driver came back across pleasure rink and I went to walk in front to spot him as per the old protocol-- he didn't seem to see me and he went pretty fast so I got out of the way. He should go slower, also on the ice.
On-site rink staff made the following signs for the middle of the night hockey players:
I put these out on the hockey rink at 11 p.m. and sent the rink neighbour another e-mail with my phone number on it.

January 24, 06, Tuesday

+4. meeting to discuss the new "protocol" set up for 1 p.m. with everyone there to meet with the zamboni drivers and their supervisor. Supervisor called at 12.55 to cancel. Two zamboni drivers came to do ice at 3.15, all staff on ice cleaning duty were required to wear fluorescent vests and studs on their shoes. Two operators came again at 6.30. At 8.30, three operators came. They did the pleasure side very fast at 8.45, then stood idle and obviously impatient to do the hockey side before 8.55. Let's ask them to do the pleasure side at 8.55 and the hockey side at 9.05. They get paid until 10 and seem to be overstaffed at the moment anyway. Poor management practice -- if they have three operators to send to Dufferin, they should have sent one over to Wallace to do their ice at that time, also to be a second person for the solitary on-site rink staff there.
10.30: hockey side had women's open shinny -- very full. Pleasure-skating side had men's drop-in shinny hockey -- also very full.
11.15: last stragglers leaving. I put out the chairs with the warning signs taped to them again, for the 2.30 a.m. skaters.

January 25, 06, Wednesday

+1 Everything is complicated because of the civil war we have at the rink. Two zamboni drivers came for the first two ice cleanings and then just one came for the final cleaning and demanded two rink guards. The Dufferin rink on-site staff went out and asked all the rink users to stay inside so that we would only need one rink guard. By the time the on-site rink staff was back in, he had to stop a fight in the men's washroom and settle people down.
Women's shinny permit got more people this time.
11.10 p.m. lots of people playing shinny on both sides. After I cleared them out I set up the "no hockey after 11 or else" signs again.

January 26, 06, Thursday

1.p.m. joint health and safety committee meeting across town, to discuss new “health&safety protocol” for Dufferin Rink. Three CUPE Local 79 staff from Dufferin Rink asked if they could come and were ok’d. Otherwise all CUPE Local 416 plus two of their supervisors. Meeting took 2 and ½ hours. Dufferin on-site staff returned saying there had been lots of wild talk. Local 416 workers said no volunteers are allowed to help with safety/ crowd control because of lawsuits. Eventually it had been agreed that there would be only one on-site staff except at 6.30 or otherwise if busy, the zamboni crew would always be two people, the zamboni driver would tell the rink staff when they arrived, and wait for the rink staff to remove skaters from the ice and stand guard at the railing. One zamboni driver would raise and lower lift gates, the other zamboni driver would place special barriers at fire pit and by railing to bar people from access to zamboni route.
4 p.m. farmers’ market was on. One of the flying squad zamboni drivers came into the building and told me he needed rink guards. He was already out on the hockey ice with the zamboni (he had brought it off the trailer). I told him he'd have to find the staff by letting them know at the zamboni café that he was there. Two staff grabbed orange jacket/vest and went out. Zamboni was frozen up -- Dufferin rink on-site staff person came inside to get hot water -- then he helped the zamboni driver to hook up to hot water hose outside near the garage side door -- lots got spilled on the ice, big dirt tracks there too, chunks out of the ice -- big confusion.

Then another zamboni driver came. The first zamboni driver scraped the hockey side, then drove off and loaded the zamboni back on the flying squad trailer, with the on-site rink staff still standing on the rinks waiting – they didn't know if he was coming back to fix the mess on the pleasure side, no communication. Rink guards showed the second zamboni driver that the hockey gate once again won't close.
6.30 p.m. on-site rink lead staff reported that two flying squad zamboni drivers came to clean ice, told her to get them food, acted very rude. It’s a civil war.

January 27, 06, Friday

sunny day, 3 degrees, ice softer in afternoon but fine by skating lessons time (4 p.m.) Rink very full both sides. 6.30 and 9 p.m. ice maintenance done by Wallace on-site day-shift rink operator alone, despite Thursday protocol. He said the other rink operators don't want to work at Dufferin Rink so he was doing extra hours.Measured ice thickness: 4 ½ inched at centre of pleasure-skating side.
1.30 a.m. a rink neighbour called and woke me because there were people noisily playing hockey on the locked rink. I put on my clothes and went there and asked five players to leave. They were angry, said they work construction all week, and on the weekend they take a nap and then have enough energy to play hockey. I said don't play close to houses. They showed me their rink access: the rink swing gate had been left without a padlock by the zamboni drivers. Then they left.
3.00 a.m. rink still empty.

January 28 06, Saturday

Sunny, 8 degrees.

3.30zamboni drivers charted in book that they watched rink staff scraping slush off the ice.
7.30. Zamboni coming to do the first scrape of the day. On-site staff unhappy because rink operator had gone on the ice without warning the rink staff, then criticized the staff for hurrying out and not wearing scrapers. Zamboni driver also critical of rink staff for manually scraping slush off the ice, saying it left marks. No marks visible.
10 p.m. ice smooth. 30 skaters.

January 29 ’06, Sunday

Rain all day. In mid-afternoon the zamboni driver came and checked the rink. Rink staff person asked him if he would scrape water off. He said, no, why do you ask? Staff person said, I’ve heard the ice is too thick. Zamboni driver said: "bullshit," and left.

10 p.m. rain stopped and rink frozen solid. No ice maintenance, ice even thicker than before.

January 30 ’06. Monday

Cloudy with sunny periods, 6 degrees. 3.30 p.m. Rink was scraped in the morning, but in the afternoon it has some water on it. Three zamboni drivers arrive, stand and look at the ice, then leave. Staff and rink users remove water manually. Ice even thicker than before.
5.30 p.m. zamboni drivers arrive and do ice during parent-child shinny hockey time (not at regular zamboni schedule). They tell rink staff that they don’t need to conform to the rink schedule.

February 1, ’06, Wednesday

The ice is even thicker, but good as long as the temperature stays near freezing. Dufferin Rink has been getting too crowded again.

3.30 p.m. zamboni operators come and insist on two rink guards. Agreement was only one, but they say they have a piece of paper "from your supervisor" that says the rules have changed again. Rink on-site staff ask to see the paper, but the zamboni drivers say no. They say they’ll leave if the rink guards don’t stay out there. Not very many skaters, but they stay out.

February 3 2006, Friday

Rain, 4 degrees, until about 2 p.m. then clearing, with a few bits of showery clouds from time to time.

3 p.m. staff shoveled water off pleasure skating side for the skating lessons. Then zamboni came and got some more off.

6.30 p.m. ice is good, lots of skaters, Friday night Supper.

9.00 p.m. the clouds are gone and there’s a moon over the rink – permit is made up of young guys who used to get kicked out of Dufferin Rink when they were teenagers, troublemakers – now they get to borrow the key so they can get into the change-room afterwards. Lovely fellows.

February 4 2006, Saturday.

1.20: a lot of rain in the forecast, and it’s begun. Two zamboni drivers come, we ask them to wait to scrape the ice until the end of the under-12 shinny time (as it says on their schedule). The zamboni driver comes out on the machine right after, doesn’t wait for rink guards, starts flooding the rink even as the rain is falling hard. Rink guards try to talk to him, ask him why he’s flooding in the rain, but he won’t stop the zamboni, the rink guards have to get out of his way. The on-site staff (rink guards) call the zamboni supervisor. Twenty minutes later the supervisor calls back to say that from now on his crew will handle all the ice maintenance. Here’s the new rule to top the previous new rule: both the rink on-site staff and the skaters will be confined in the rink house during the whole time of ice maintenance. He says there can be no interference, and if people even come out of the rink house during ice maintenance, the zamboni driver can leave the zamboni right in the middle of the ice and go away.

Astonishing chaos. How deep will it go? Is there anyone home in parks management?

February 6 2006, Monday

Today an article about my proposal to put outdoor rinks under community boards of management came out in the Star. It got people's attention at City Hall, like no call or e-mail by me ever could. But it also made it sound as though the irregularity of the ice maintenance is the big problem at Dufferin Rink, which it isn't. Sigh.

This afternoon they removed the new rule about all the rink users having to be shut up in the rink house when the zamboni's on the ice. But the on-site rink staff are not to talk to the zamboni drivers directly. I asked the Parks director -- should they communicate through hand signals?

Plus any section of ice not fenced with chain link is supposed to be cordoned off during ice maintenance, with special yellow ropes. Will this practice now migrate to the other outdoor City rinks with much more open area -- City Hall, for instance? What a fuss, always explained by the elastic, roomy excuse of "liability." But nothing happened to justify this fuss, not at our rink or elsewhere, and there were no lawsuits against the City for zamboni accidents. At City Hall, at Harbourfront, or here, people understand that you should get out of the way of a moving vehicle.

11:00 p.m.: It snowed a lot of the evening, just tapering off around 9.30. Around 6 the kids at the rink got bored and started shoveling, with the rink house staff supervising. Shoveling is a good way to earn a mini-pizza, drink, and cookie, but the kids also like to do it because pushing those long rink shovels is a way to test your strength. Two zamboni drivers and the supervisor came at 7 and they went around and around with the zamboni and shovels, working really hard, taking off snow for a couple of hours. So when the permit guys arrived (Mondays it's the musicians and the engineers), they had a game. At 11 they were tired, but sometimes I think they'll just float away with the joy of the game, out under the open sky.

February 7 2006, Tuesday.

An e-mail arrived:

Hello Ms. Mason,

One of our readers pointed me towards the Friends of Dufferin Grove website, where you state that I misquoted you in yesterday's article.

I'd appreciate an opportunity to discuss how I may have misquoted you. You can well imagine that it's not something I like to do!

Phinjo Gombu
Reporter - Toronto Star
Newsroom, One Yonge St.


Hello Mr.Gombu,

Wow! A journalist who follows up on an obscure posting on a web site! I'm surprised and impressed.

I even experimented with writing a little clarifying note to the Star's editor yesterday, but it made me mad again about the whole situation (i.e. the rinks fiasco, not your article) and I dropped it. I also decided that the "low work standards" of folks that "spend a huge amount of time doing nothing" is -- sadly -- fairly descriptive of zamboni drivers over the years for many parts of the city and many rinks. It's not as much the case for Dufferin Rink. We have been the squeaky wheel for so long that we do get four regular ice maintenance visits a day, except when there's warm or wet weather (which is when they could scrape off ice to get it thinner, but they almost always refuse).

Very few of the 49 compressor-run outdoor rinks get the kind of maintenance that Dufferin Rink gets. Some are lucky if they get a zamboni once a day. But the zamboni drivers will be upset about this detail -- of me apparently denying their regular ice maintenance work at Dufferin Rink, which gets more frequent maintenance than other rinks -- and feel unjustly accused. Which I don't want.

An outdoor rink needs responsive ice maintenance, and that's what's deficient, more than regularity in the case of our rink. The zamboni driver who came and flooded our ice on Saturday as it was raining is a good example of the problem. The schedule said to flood the ice, so he was bloody well going to do it, and woe to the people who questioned him. Another part of the problem is the zamboni drivers who don't scrape the ice when it's soft on top, or when there's water on it, and who mock the on-site staff (and rink users) for even suggesting it. The supervision is also the problem, and up from there, the management, which has more or less abandoned the $60 million-worth of compressor-run outdoor rinks as something that needs their attention. In the restructured parks bureaucracy, these outdoor rinks have not yet even been assigned to anyone as their responsibility (unless that got done in the last few days, as a result of your article).

So it's a big ball of wax, and singling out the zamboni drivers for a mess that is so much bigger is unfortunate. As I said to you on the phone, describing a complex situation (i.e. almost any bit of reality) is tricky. I can see it takes practice, and I haven't had that practice enough. So, although I believe I did say to you that Dufferin Rink usually gets the zamboni four times a day, I was unable to convey that responsiveness to weather is just as important, as is collaboration with other people, as is trying things (instead of just shutting down suggestions in favour of what's always been done).

The other way I probably confused the picture for you was by telling you that the zamboni drivers complained about having to fit themselves to our regular ice program schedule, i.e. not being able to cut into a program or a permit as they often do at other rinks, to run their zamboni. Overall, they complain about Dufferin Rink a lot but they do fit themselves to our schedule (squeaky wheel again). But almost every winter there is a revolt by them. My presence there, as a highly involved outsider, is a big irritation for many City workers too, and that becomes a lighting rod for the many frustrations that bug people who work inside a bureaucracy. This winter their irritation/frustration has come to yet another crisis.

The compressor-run outdoor rinks are only one little instance of how people end up frustrating one another. The issue of dysfunctional union/management arrangements is a bigger one, and getting it out in front of people, as your piece did, is the main point here. I will have to mop up with City staff, to tell them I'm aware that Dufferin Rink gets good treatment by their standards. But I am very grateful that your piece was as open and detailed as it was, and I think it's way over on the good side of the media ledger (of the influence of journalism in fostering public discussion). So we'll see how the meeting goes tonight.


February 9 2006, Thursday.

6.30 p.m. one of the zamboni drivers was feeling chatty. He said to the rink house staff: “this ice thickness argument of yours is all wrong. Think about it – if there were two ponds and you had to walk across one of them, and one had two inches of ice, and the other had seven inches of ice, which one would you rather walk across? Think!”

February 16 2006, Thursday.

7.30 p.m. Today the zamboni was used to scrape down the ice for more than half an hour. Wonderful. That’s the third or fourth time since the rink meeting ten days ago. All the other times the zamboni is just used for giving quick floods, and the ice gets higher. The dasher boards in the corner are disappearing.

There was a light rain for most of the day and around 6.30 there was some lightning, maybe two or three times, with very feeble, distant thunder. The zamboni supervisor called to say there would be no more ice maintenance that day – he was sending the drivers home because of the lighting.

At 9.00 a couple of hockey players went out with rink shovels and pushed off some water. Most of the water that had been on the rink when the zamboni drivers went home had already frozen solid, except for one side where a pool of water had collected. The ice is so high there that the drain holes are blocked completely. Since the zamboni drivers never came back to the rink to push off the water, the ice is higher again.

11.00 p.m. When I went to lock the gates, the timer had just cut the rink lights off. Two children were skating on the beautiful smooth ice of the darkened rink, now frozen completely. Their parents -- very elegantly dressed -- stood and watched them. I told them I was locking up, and they said -- "they're having such a good time -- a few more minutes?" So I showed them how to lock the padlock when they were ready to leave. They said they're Hungarian. As we talked, the lightning began again -- with barely any thunder. The two children cut circles and figures of eight in the ice with their skates. I left the four of them there, with their enjoyment, Hungarians in the Canadian winter.

February 17 2006, Friday

11 p.m.Temperature minus 9 but compressor running. I guess the ice is so thick the compressors can’t tell the temperature. Tech services says the compressors turn themselves off half the time during winter, when it’s cold enough, but maybe that’s quite a bit less than half the time when the ice is this thick.

Saturday February 18 2006:

9 a.m.The temperature is minus 16 celsius, the coldest day of the winter so far. But the compressor is running. Maybe the ice is so thick that the minus 16 can't reach the temperature sensors in the rink slab?
2 p.m. Temperature: minus 13. Compressor still running.
7.p.m. Temperature: minus 12. Compressor still running. It's the bike race tonight, and the race has lots of people watching, stamping their feet trying to keep warm. But the compressor is still trying to cool the ice!
11 p.m. The compressor is silent. It took that long for the ice to cool down.

Sunday February 19 2006:

12 noon. Sunny but still only minus 10 celsius. The compressor has started running again.

Wednesday Feb.22 2006:

2.15 p.m. Some kids, aged maybe 13 or 14, who have been causing lots of trouble at the rink, came into the rink house. The staff told them to leave, but they wouldn’t. An older friend of theirs said, “you don’t have to listen to the staff, they can’t do anything.” So one of the staff called the police, and told them that one of the kids had been seen with a knife in the past.
Three cruisers arrived in about 4 minutes. The kid who had been seen with the knife last week was clean, but his friend had a pretty big knife in his pocket. So he’s out of circulation for a while. Probably spending the night in the cells behind the courthouse.
Yesterday at a meeting, everyone had discussed whether to involve the police if these kids kept up their campaign of trouble. Opinion was divided. Some of us thought that we could make the kids leave if we just surrounded them with staff.
But it might not have gone so well, if we had done that. Now the trick is to contact the probation officer and see if they’ll let us work with the kid doing his community hours. That might help him turn a corner. But who knows?
I told one of the other parents about it afterwards, without names of course. People are often surprised when they hear there’s trouble at the rink. They see it as a very orderly, friendly place. I told her, “the snack bar is just a front. It’s there to attract the mixed-up kids so the staff can work with them if they’re going through a bad patch.”
Of course the snack bar is also there to serve food to hungry skaters, but in another way I was telling the truth. It’s those goofy kids with their cursing and their fights (and their knives) that really absorb a lot of the staff's time. They care about those kids, and they're bothered about the guy being in jail tonight.

Thursday Feb.23 2006:

3.00 p.m. It’s 4 degrees celsius and the sun was out for a while. Now it’s clouded in but the damage was done – the ice is mush all over. People can still skate but it’s messy. No ice maintenance since the early morning, and the zamboni supervisor came to check at 2.30, but says they can’t go on the ice until much later.
6.30 p.m.It got colder, now it’s about minus 3 C. The zamboni is scraping the ice, and it’s very smooth, no ridges.

Saturday Feb.25 2006:

3 p.m. Most of the ice is good except along the sides where the sun hits the boards. It’s minus 5, sun and cloud, and there’s a shinny hockey tourney with Jimmie Simpson Rink’s “hockey in the neighborhood” program. When the kids step out of the player’s boxes, they sink deep into the slush. Rink staff say they can see the cement. The dasher boards can be seen again there, but on the other side the ice still hides them completely. Freezing cold and mush in the ice! Who can understand it?

Sunday Feb.26 2006

3 p.m.DJ is playing old rock tunes, and staff plus volunteers are out on the ice, dancing, wearing Clay and Paper Theatre’s puppets. Everybody’s got red faces – it’s minus 7 C. Sun and cloud. The ice is hard in most places except along the boards. There are wet craters along there, where you can put your foot deep down. Craters with water, at minus 7?! And the compressors are running.
6.45 p.m. zamboni drivers arrive 45 minutes early to do the ice. At the 4.50 p.m. maintenance time they didn’t come until staff called them, and so the ‘family shinny’ permit went on 25 minutes late. The schedule is posted all over, the rink season is in its 14th week, but the times are still contentious.
9.30 p.m. Compressors still running, at minus 10 C.

Friday March 3 2006

The zamboni driver scraped the hockey side one extra time this morning, and there's evidence that someone did the corners with the edger -- there are a few ridges but the bumps are gone.
The ice by both nets is still lower, and chipped. I assume that the early morning zamboni shift is trying to put extra water down but it doesn't bond well? The longest period when the ice is closed is from 11p.m. to 9 a.m. If a zamboni driver can work 4 to midnight tomorrow, and come over at 11 p.m. to flood those net areas, that could help. If no zamboni driver can work a later shift, volunteers can do a bucket brigade after 11 tonight. Then the early morning zamboni driver can scrape it level. \\For the record: the compressor was on last night at minus 8 but off this morning at minus 10. It just switched on again shortly before noon, at minus 6. That's good because in mid-morning at minus 8 in bright sun, the nets started sinking in, to the top layer of ice.
11.00 p.m. No word back about an extra zamboni driver so the “bucket brigade” went into action after the last permit. Not so many buckets, maybe 10 on each concave area. We’ll see what happens.

\\ I found out some hydro costs for rinks today: according to the City’s records, for just the month of January, 2005 (last year), Christie Rink cost $6526.27, Dufferin Rink cost $5797.84, and Wallace cost $7571.82 (but that counts the whole community centre). Trinity Rink only cost $1358.22 (does that make sense?). So compressor-run rinks are not cheap.

Saturday March 4 2006,

Bright sunshine today, and 2 degrees celsius. Bad weather for outdoor rinks. I found out this morning that the zamboni drivers skipped the afternoon scrape yesterday. So the extra scrape in the morning was cancelled out by the missed one in the afternoon. I guess the idea of getting the ice thinner hasn’t gained acceptance yet. Today we measured the ice: about 6-7 inches on the high side of the hockey rink, about 3 and a half in front of the nets where all the scuffle is, and almost four on the low side where the sun hits. The lowest is a little strip right against the boards -- just under three inches.
So the hockey side was closed from 1.30 p.m. to just after 7 p.m., but at 10 p.m. the strip by the north boards (where the sun hits in the daytime) was still watery.
At noon I talked to the zamboni driver and we said we’d try it without scraping, to leave an opaque layer of snow on the top and see if the sun couldn’t get at it so well. But I don’t think it helped, so tomorrow we’ll see if we can get lots of scrapes. That might be hard because it’s the last day before some of the drivers are laid off for the season, and they often disappear early then.
Despite the bad ice it was a very busy day. Partly I guess it’s just people’s desire to be somewhere – so they sit around the rink house and eat soup and play checkers.

Sunday March 5 2006

10 a.m. Sunny. Nice ice but already melted along the boards.
1 p.m. rink full of people, but very snowy and mushy along the boards. Staff called zamboni supervisor, he said someone would come and look at the ice.
1.30 p.m. Zamboni driver came to take a look, but didn't do the ice. He was just leaving when I arrived at the rink. He said the rink is too mushy and he might hit cement. I said, can you just try? He said (after a long talk) okay, but then he drove away in his truck. With all those skaters, there was so much slush the staff had to close one of the connecting gates.
2.15 p.m. The zamboni driver returned with another driver (I guess they're still on their "two drivers for one zamboni" rule). Said he didn’t agree with doing the ice and he could hit cement. But (after a long talk) he agreed to try, while the other driver stood and watched. Then the first driver did one row at a time, each time stopping in the middle to talk to someone on his cell phone. At the end of each row he asked me, “what do you want next?” Eventually he did the entire pleasure-skating side, dumping five big loads of snow without the blade ever hitting cement, not even close. (The ice is still between 3 and 7 inches thick, depending on where you measure.) Meantime the on-site rink staff chipped out a test piece in one little sunny corner of the pleasure-skating side, trying to get it down from five inches to to two inches. With a lot of chipping and scraping they got down to three inches, but below that the ice was too hard for them to take it down lower. Both of the compressors are going, and they’re strong.
5.00 p.m. the family shinny permit had to be cancelled, and then the adult learn-to-play-shinny-hockey permit too. The hockey side was too messed up, not having been scraped since early morning. The staff called the zamboni crew to see if they could clean the hockey side for the 7.30 permit. The driver said no – since it was the last day for many of the rinks they had sent all but two of the drivers home early. So they’re short-staffed now.
One has to assume everyone got their full pay anyway.
The on-site rink staff test-painted two sections of the hockey boards black, to see if that will reduce the reflected warmth of the sun for the rest of the week, melting the ice along the boards. Tomorrow will tell. Might as well do lots of experiments. The zamboni driver said there’s a reason why the boards can’t be painted black – then you can’t see the puck against them. But since the rules of shinny hockey say you can’t raise the puck off the ice, and the ice is still white, hopefully the players will still be able to follow the puck, without getting tripped by the melted ice along the sides.
6 p.m. The on-site rink staff called the zamboni driver again, to see if he might be able to come on his own (without bringing another driver to watch). The zamboni driver said he just had to finish closing up Wallace Rink for the season. So one of the Dufferin Rink staff hopped on the bus to go up and see if he could give him a hand, to get him to Dufferin Rink a bit faster.
7 p.m. The zamboni driver came, scraped the ice, came back again at 8.50 and scraped again. So in the end, the two last permits got to play. It makes me think that our idea of closing the rink for the afternoon yesterday was silly. People can keep on skating, like they did today, unless the ice is impossible, and then if the zamboni comes, they can take off the muck on the top and the rink can carry on. For now.

Monday March 6 2006

2 p.m. This morning the mechanic came and put a new blade on the zamboni. Good! But ever since then it’s sat in the garage. The extra scrapes I was hoping for in the early part of the day didn't happen, in fact the ice is bad. Is that because the zamboni supervisor is busy all this week at the Canada Blooms flower show? Is it because nobody thinks that making the ice lower is worth trying? Is it because they're busy rolling up mats at Wallace?
At any rate, the ice is very bumpy at Dufferin, not because of the weather, but because a zamboni doesn't work on ice, even with a nice sharp blade, unless somebody takes it out of the garage. 10 p.m. I sent the above description to the director as an e-mail, and he reminded the staff that he wants the ice cut down. So when the regular ice maintenance time came, the driver went slowly and took off five or six loads of snow. The ice was completely smooth, with the new blade. This evening – despite a day of sunshine – the ice is smooth and full of skaters.

Tuesday March 7 2006

bright sun and a high of 2 degrees. I found out last night that there was no one available to scrape down our ice yesterday, after the early morning, because not only the supervisor, but also his zamboni staff, were busy setting up flowers at the Canada Blooms show.
Today there is a zamboni driver in the daytime, and at noon he did an unscheduled, long scrape. Then at four there was another one, by the driver who was so anxious thinking he might hit cement on Sunday. Right after that, the rink staff measured the ice thickness remaining. It was between 4 and 6 inches in most places. You can see that even with the bright sun and the temperature above freezing, the ice is hard to get low, when it’s been built up with all those cursory scrapes and plentiful floods, for the past three months. And when it rained, the only way we got the water off was by the on-site rink staff pushing it off with shovels – the zamboni can push it off better, but the drivers never did it.

Wednesday March 8 2006 (cloudy all day, high of 3 degrees celsius)
Saturday March 11 2006 (Sunny, high of 10 celsius.)

7.30 p.m. You can't keep rinks open if you don't take care of them. Tonight our rink is open because it was scraped by the zamboni at 8 a.m., scraped again from 12.30 to 2 (14 loads of snow off), closed for the afternoon, scraped again at 6.30, reopened at 6.50 p.m.. Now the ice is FINE. Apparently the zamboni driver will not be returning tonight, because there's no permit (just ordinary taxpayers skating). But there are lots of kids and adults skating on both sides.

If zambonis are too stressed by doing what they're made for, the City needs to get better vehicles. Beyond that, I have the impression that if I stopped asking, over and over, for the ice to be done, Dufferin Rink would just be allowed to sink into the same mess the other rinks are in. I keep being told that they can't do the rink, it's too soft, too wet, etc. and when I ask them to please just try it (and they do, apparently because of an order from management, to listen to me for now), the ice turns out to be fine. There's lots of margin for error anyway, given the depth of ice at most rinks.

But really, where are the managers? Why not come out and see for themselves that the rinks get done?

A “this-makes-it-all-worthwhile” moment: just before Dufferin Rink reopened tonight, a big group of boys and girls arrived with three men. The kids were aged about 7 to maybe 12. The girls wore shawls over their heads. Apparently the group had hoped to skate earlier in the afternoon and had been told to return around seven. So the staff figured that they’d better not disappoint them. None of the group had skates, so everybody got fitted from the skate rental room. To celebrate the reopening, the skate loans were free.
The only other skaters were our usual 7 or 8 rink rats from the low-rent apartments, also aged 9 to 12, with the old truck driver who usually brings them, and one other dad.
As soon as the hockey side reopened, the rink rats took to the ice and skated around the periphery of the rink, really fast, as though they were on Hockey Night in Canada. Then they pushed one of the nets up to make room for the other group with the loaner skates. That group had mainly novice skaters, so they brought out chairs for everyone. For the next half hour, the rink rats played sensationally fast shinny hockey, while the novices pushed the chairs around in their section of the ice. Very soon the novices began a game where they pushed the chairs at one another and, just before they hit, they would fall down, on purpose, with a big clatter. All of them, including the adults who were watching them, laughed themselves silly. It was an organized pandemonium.
So the staff made mini-pizzas and gave everyone a free mini-pizza, and a park cookie, just to celebrate the joy of having a rink.

Sunday March 12 2006 (Cloudy in the morning, then two hours of sun, then cloud again. High of 15.)

11 a.m. cloudy: Ice hard with little patches of water here and there. Only four skaters. Zamboni driver says the ice is too hard to cut down, and that it’s better to wait until it gets slushy in the afternoon.

2.20 p.m. sunny. Ice has a film of water all over it – underneath it feels solid. Three skaters. Zamboni driver says he’s busy at another rink, will come by as soon as he can, to cut ice.

Thursday March 16 2006

E-mail to rink staff supervisor:

I'm hoping that we can try an experiment with the rink tomorrow. On these cold but sunny days the rink has been closed all afternoon and the staff have been turning away lots of kids. At City Hall this afternoon I noticed their rink was open and in good shape. Their zamboni driver said they scraped it about every two hours. Today at Dufferin Rink we only got the early morning scrape and then no more until after the sun went down.

When the rink staff measured today they found our ice is still 4 to 6 inches thick in many parts (except near the south-facing boards, where it's 2 and a half inches of watery slush with one inch of hard ice underneath). So we think there's enough ice on most of the rink to allow the zambonis to experiment with scraping every two hours tomorrow (except along the south-facing boards). Please see if the zamboni drivers could be persuaded to give this a try. That means we need a scrape at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., reverting to the normal maintenance schedule after that. If that makes the ice worse, not much is lost. We've had to be closed so much this week anyway, and there are only a few days left. It's good to try things!

Friday March 17 2006

E-mail to on-site staff supervisor:

I have heard that there will be NO extra scrapes for Dufferin rink because there are only three staff for SIX west rinks. Yesterday there were only FOUR west rinks still open. During the last two days, the zamboni driver was only assigned to ONE rink (ours) but he said he was also busy rolling up mats at other closed rinks etc.

I think if the city keeps some rinks open, the rolling up mats at closed rinks could wait for three days.

Please let me know for sure that no one is coming to scrape our rink so that we can close the rink -- it needs a scrape NOW and there are a fair number of people there. Shall we tell them to go home?

Saturday March 18 2006

For the record -- there was no response to the e-mail above on Friday. So we closed the rink. Then rink staff lead hand Mayssan and I hand-flooded and hand-scraped the pleasure-skating ice ourselves. The human zamboni. Just when we were done, the zamboni driver arrived, although we had been told earlier (see below) not to expect that. He scraped and flooded the hockey side and then we re-opened. (Note: surprise scrapes are nice but collaborating ahead of time on the ice scrape plans is even better.)

However it was satisfying to see that ice maintenance can be done by hand in desperate times. Outdoor rinks in March get only about 10% of the normal winter attendance, on good days -- when the ice is mushy, attendance goes to zero.

Also for the record -- west region does indeed have four rinks to look after for March, not six. Why not tell the straight story? Better yet, why not collaborate on making it work, i.e. draw the on-site rink staff in on the planning, if the compressors are pumping the whole time anyway?

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