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Rink Diary 2008 - 2009

Friday Dec.5 2008

In late afternoon, the day before the rink season is to begin, the zamboni is just pulling off the ice and the ice looks perfect.

hockey pad

pleasure-skating pad

Rink sign, but no opening date information

When I took the picture at the left I could see a rink operator looking through the glass. The sign is nice with all the ornamental kale planted there, and the doorway is clear of litter, but -- sadly -- there's no sign that says the rink is about to open for the season.

Wednesday December 17

too much snow on stairs

At 8.30 the rink had 12 shinny hockey players (only 2 with helmets) with four more getting their skates on, and 11 pleasure skaters. The front door was locked and the stairs were snow-covered. I was not the only one who got all the way to the door, found a hand-lettered sign that the door was not in use, and then had to pick my way around a roadwork trailer and through the snow to get to a side gate. The zamboni operator told me that it's because Parks is supposed to shovel snow of stairs, not Rinks, and it would take him hours to get all that snow off and keep the stairs clear.

He also said that the front doors are meant for the swimming pool, not the rink. But right by the top of the stairs, there's a big City sign advertising both.

So people can get in the gate from the parking area but not the street.

The rink was more or less clean and skateable before 1 pm, after the snow of last night. The rink operator said that he was scheduled from 3, but arrived shortly after 1 pm. Sounds like he started work early and he only had to "clean up" -- the main ice cleaning had already been done. The operator said that he doesn't do the ice on a schedule, just "whenever it needs it," which he said might be four times during a shift.

I asked whether I could put up a sign on the bulletin board, but the operator said I'd have to check that with his supervisor, Mike Hindle.

Thursday December 18 2008

E-mail from to Mike Hindle, rink supervisor:

I was at JJP (Giovanni Caboto, Earlscourt) Rink last night and now I have two questions:

1. I asked the zamboni operator whether there's a public bulletin board at the rink and he said no, so I asked him if I could put my poster on the bulletin board that's there (which I guess is not counted as public, but it's mostly empty). The zamboni operator said that you are the rinks supervisor and I have to ask you for permission. Here is the poster: cityrinks poster

May I put it up at JJP?

2. The street doors to the rink are kept locked. The zamboni operator says that's because it's not part of his job to clear snow off the stairs nor the ramp leading down to the rink. He says it's Parks' responsibility. For now, I had to squeeze in between two roadwork trailers parked on the park property since two years ago, and then walk along a "cowpath" to the side gate of the rink. Or I could take a long detour west along the sidewalk, then up an icy roadway, through the parking lot, to come in the back door of the rink building.

I've noticed that the front entry to West Mall Rink, leading from the bus stop, is also kept locked. Is this an Etobicoke policy? Can you explain?

Sunday December 21 2008

At 1 pm, the pleasure-skating side is open, and has 4 skaters. There is a big Case Loader on the hockey side, clearing off the snow.

Monday December 22

12.30pm - snow unshovelled on steps to rinkhouse, but shoveled on ramp. 14 hockey players and 10 pleasure skaters.

Friday December 27

unshoveled stairs and ramp

Foggy and mild today, with showers. At 4.00 pm the rink is open but full of water. It's hard to get there -- the stairs are still not shovelled and neither is the ramp. There's sign taped to the door, with faint writing on it saying to go around, presumably because the stairs are unshoveled. But in order to see the sign you have to be so close that you'd have gone down the stairs already.

So instead you have to squeeze by the construction vehicles and across the slippery snow and come in the side door. Once in, the rink ice is hard and smooth underneath the layer of water. No skaters. Inside there are three people -- looks like three staff. One of them is the same zamboni operator as last time. He says there's no use running the zamboni on the ice, since the ice is melting.

I don't even ask about the stairs. These three men have all the time they need to clean the snow and ice off the stairs, since there is no intention to clean the water off the rink ice. The mild weather makes it possible to do a good job on the stairs. But the zamboni operator already explained the last time that he has no intention of removing the snow, and the supervisor has not replied to my e-mail question about it.

January 1 2009

The city holiday schedule says that this rink is open but unsupervised. The steps and ramp are unshovelled and the front door is locked as before, but there's a new, more colourful hand-lettered sign saying that the rink must be accessed "by the gate" instead of the door. A few skaters try the door and then look around to where the gate might be. The parked St.Clair Right-of-Way construction trailers are still blocking the gate, but it's possible to slip between the vehicles and find the way in.

the rink staff say this is not the "real" entrance to the rink

finding the path between the construction trailers

music playing

fresh ice

Once inside the fence, it's evident that there must be some rink supervision somewhere, since the ice appears to be freshly resurfaced and the speaker attached to the light standard has music playing. There are a few pleasure skaters, and another few shinny hockey players, but more are changing into their skates. No sign of the zamboni driver. His (unlabelled) door is shut and the front desk, very nicely located by the locked front door, is empty. So are the various change rooms, one of which is blocked off by a bench. But some washrooms are open, and they're clean.

New Year's Day shinny hockey

the locked front door, empty entrance, unlabelled staff door


January 14 2009

The entryway to the rink

It's minus 15 at noon and there are not many people on the ice on this cold day. As usual, it's hard to get in, since the front stairs continue to be unshovelled and so a rink user must squeeze in between the street construction trailers and a portable toilet. Once in, I was impressed to see some guys playing shinny despite the cold. I took a picture, and then another one. One of the players skated over and shouted at me: "what are you doing? why are you taking a picture?" I explained that I wanted to put up a photo showing that Canadian shinny players are tough enough to play shinny in the extreme cold. But he cut me off, angrily pointing to the metal City Policy sign with all the rink rules -- "can't you read? You're not supposed to take pictures!"

Then I recognized him as a rink guard. "You work here? You're not supposed to be playing hockey on your shift!" He said he could play hockey if he wanted. I told him he was very rude. That was the end of it.

cold weather hockey

the cityrinks/ca poster is gone

He was probably not working at that moment anyway. I think that in the daytime, they just have the rink operator in his unlabelled office, not a second person. But I think the rink guard recognized me as the person who contacted the supervisor about the unshovelled steps. Not that it seems to have made any difference.

I went by the front foyer, but the door was closed as always, no one in sight. The sign that I had put up on the bulletin board last time was gone, though.

The feeling one can get at that rink a lot of the time is of a boys' clubhouse, it might as well have a "private, keep out" sign scrawled on it. But it's not private, it's a public rink, and the question is -- does anyone in the administration care?

E-mail from to City Councillor Cesar Palacio, Jan.14 2009

This is a photo, taken today, of the entrance to Giovanni Caboto Rink, the outdoor compressor-cooled skating rink in your ward. Giovanni Caboto is a great rink, and there's a much nicer main entrance, but that entrance is kept locked. The rink staff feel that they don't want to shovel the snow off the steps to the front doors. So people have to squeeze in between the construction trailer and the portable toilet, walk over the snow, and go in the side gate.

I have let Parks management know about this problem but it hasn't changed in a month -- perhaps they might attend to a request from your office? I've cc'd them on this e-mail, as you see. If the front door is re-opened and there is a warm welcome to new rink users, perhaps Giovanni Caboto will start having more skaters again. It used to be very popular.

January 15, 2009

E-mail from acting rinks manager Dave Chapman to I will look into this for you right away and get back to you as soon as can.

January 19, 2009

E-mail from Parks supervisor Dave Chapman to Please excuse me for taking so long to get back to you, but the Supervisor (Mike Hindle) of that area was away and has just returned. Mike has provided the background as I remember from the time when the new building was built. The fact is that the building was meant for providing change rooms for the Outdoor Pool and the AIR was more of an after thought. The change rooms for the access to the pool run off the hallway which is the AIR change area in the Winter. During the summer when there are more staff in place there are always staff in the building. Unfortunately in the Winter the rink staff are expected to be out on the rink and for that reason they want to be aware at all time who is entering and exiting from the Building. For security reasons they keep the doors closed so that nobody can slip in or out without being seen and thereby eliminating any chances of illegal activity in the building while nobody is there.

When I spoke to Mike this afternoon he advised me that he had spoken to the Port-o-let people who are trying to get the toilet removed from the location altogether to provide an easier access to the rink. It might be 1 or 2 days before they can take care of it, but they hope to get it moved before the end of the week.

January 19 2009, e-mail from to Parks supervisor Dave Chapman

The front doors at Giovanni Caboto Rink have been used for decades, and they do not look like an afterthought. There's an excellent stairway and a big "Artificial Ice Rink" sign that's part of the original building (see photo attached). As for supervision -- there is always a zamboni driver on site and his office door is right by that entryway. The drivers are usually in there. It's true that there is no window in the office door, and the door is always shut, but they can prop the door open --yes? Lead hands are supposed to deal with the public as part of their job.

I well remember how active that rink used to be and it's very sad how it has slid in the last few years.

You will note that (happily) keeping the front doors locked is not common at other Toronto outdoor rinks, except for West Mall. And the zamboni staff told me the front doors are locked because it's not their job to shovel the stairs, not because of the reasoning you have advanced here.

May I post my query and your response on the big empty bulletin board at JJP, to see if other rink users can see the point of this locked door? I would need explicit direction from management to JJP rink staff, giving permission to post, since I was cautioned by an irate young off-duty rink guard about taking the outdoor skating photos on here (I was actually trying to show that there's some life in the rink despite the obstacles).

Please let me know if you give this permission.

January 19 2009, e-mail from Parks supervisor Dave Chapman to

I will speak to the staff at the rink, but as far back as I can remember that door is never opened in the Winter. I will get back to you.

January 19 2009, e-mail from Parks supervisor Dave Chapman to

I am still looking into this and I have now been advised by Recreation staff that the gate which opens to the ice surface should be closed and the glass doors opened, except during a flood. I am still working on it and will get back to you with confirmation as soon as I can.

January 21 2009

E-mail from to Parks supervisor Dave Chapman Tonight when I passed by Giovanni Caboto Rink, the stairs had an access-way cleared and the front door was unlocked. Good stuff, thanks for solving that problem.

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Content last modified on January 31, 2011, at 02:17 PM EST