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Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis

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Why we love outdoor rinks - rink stories from the diaries

Here are some fun stories from our rink diaries. Most rink detail web pages have diaries that you can peruse.

2007-2008 season

See also stories from the 2008-2009 season: Buttonwood, Campbell, Dufferin, Humber, Ledbury, Otter,Prince of Wales, Rennie.

City Hall (Nathan Phillips Square)

See City Hall Rink.

Friday Feb.22

The zamboni driver said, "I love this job so much." Good ice, and happy skaters.

Saturday Feb.2

The last day of Winterfest, with a remarkable fire display from France:

6000 clay pots with fire

the rink was very full

lineups for skates and food were very long

a snowman came instead

so with some help from dad

There was so much fire all over the square -- it looked beautiful but the smoke was pretty intense, and acrid. Happily, there was no one crying out, "stay back," or, "don't touch, you'll get hurt!" But the skate lineups looked like they'd last for an hour, so a little boy at the side set to work making a snowman. He said, "this is the first snowman I've ever made." His father said that's because they've been here in Canada for less than a year. He'd like his son to learn winter things like skating, and even to learn it himself, but the lineups at City Hall are too long.

And indeed the lineups were impressive. Nor was there very much food around -- but fire and food go together! Maybe on another occasion some of the good campfire cooks in the city will make a fire event around City Hall rink that also involves food.

But it was very impressive.

Saturday November 24

Diary entry by M. Monastyrskyj

Cold overcast day. Minus 1 celsius. Arrived at 12:15pm. The rink is busy but not too full. The ice is snowy and ready to be cleaned. There are two rink guards on the ice. At 12:35 they ask people to get off and when that's done, the Zamboni starts to clean and flood the ice. The driver is slow and careful. He does a good job. The flooding takes 15 minutes. One guard remains on the ice to make sure skaters stay off. (A Zamboni driver later tells me the guard is necessary, because people tend to treat the Zamboni as a toy rather than the potentially dangerous piece of machinery it is.) I count fifty people wearing skates standing on the side waiting to go back on.

After the Zamboni finishes its job, I put on my own skates. I change on the benches surrounding the rink as do most of the other skaters. The concrete benches on the south side are covered in snow. A lot of people just leave their shoes by the side, but some, including myself, put them in the lockers that are available for a quarter in the change room. The change room itself is just a narrow corridor with lockers on one side and a door to the employees room on the other. There is a long rubber mat, but it only extends half-way into the room. Half the floor is bare concrete. There is no room for chairs or benches. Even though there is barely enough room to sit, a few people do change on the hard floor.

The rink at Nathan Phillips Square is different than a typical neighbourhood rink. For one thing, it is larger. For another, there are no hockey boards. Also, and I wasn't ready for this, there is a one-foot drop from the side to the ice surface. I had to be careful getting on and off the ice. I had trouble the first time, because I wasn't used to it. I saw parents helping their young children get on and off. Also, some of the teenagers would jump onto the ice and the momentum would carry them into the middle of the ice. I saw a couple near-collisions when teenagers jumped onto the surface.

Overall, the ice is good. It's hard but not quite as smooth as I would have hoped. (It's possible my expectations are too high for an outdoor rink at this time of year.) Unfortunately, the ice was not cleaned for at least another three hours. (See below.)

There is now one rink guard on the ice. He appears to be wearing an iPod. Now and again a child without skates goes on to the ice. I see the guard politely tell one father that children can't go on without skates. The father listens. When another father asks the guard if he would mind taking a picture of him and his family, the guard obliges. The guard is sometimes there, sometimes not. At one point, I see the guard sitting on a bench talking on his cell phone.

In general, the skaters are orderly. A few teenagers are playing tag. Pretty much everyone else is skating in circles. The atmosphere is friendly and people are having a good time. Lots of smiling and laughing. Plenty of people on and off the ice are taking pictures. A middle-aged couple is holding hands. I saw one father skating around the ice with his young child on his shoulders. Fun for the child, but hardly safe. I didn't see the rink guard then.

The skaters are diverse: different ages, sexes and ethnic backgrounds. Some are experienced skaters, others seem to be trying on skates for the first time. (Skates can be rented at the rink. It costs $9 ($7 children) to rent skates for two hours. A credit card, driver's license or other government-issued ID is required as is a $40 cash deposit. Helmets can be rented for $5. Hats, gloves, socks and laces are on sale. Skate sharpening costs $5. Fast food is available from food trucks parked on Queen, south of the Square.)

I skated for three hours because I wanted to see whether my first impressions would hold up. They did. The number of skaters varied but the whole time I was there the atmosphere remained friendly. The opening ceremony of the City's Cavalcade of Lights celebration was on that evening and performers were doing sound checks while I was there. There was also music from the radio playing over loudspeakers on top of the building at the west end of the rink. The music from the radio wasn't very loud.

The ice quality, however, began to deteriorate because of the lack of cleaning. At about 3:30 I approached the Zamboni driver and asked him how often the ice gets cleaned. He says they try to clean it every two hours, but it depends. For example, when there's a special event like the Cavalcade of Lights opening ceremony, the number of people crowded onto the ice makes it impractical to clear the rink for the Zamboni. The driver told me he couldn't go on right then, because no rink guard was available to keep people off the ice. When I left the Square at 3:50pm, the ice still had not been cleaned.

The rink at 12:30 before the ice cleaning

The Zamboni cleaning the ice

The ice at 12:45pm right after the Zamboni cleaned it

The ice is snowy three hours later

Meanwhile the Zamboni is parked behind the change rooms

The skate rental kiosk

Skaters changing on the benches by the rink

Most people put their shoes under the benches

Fast food truck parked on Queen St.

Another food truck
Saturday Nov.24, 10.15 pm

The rink was full of snow at this point, and also full of skaters -- maybe a hundred or more. All staff had gone and the skate rental was closed but the lights were still on and people still looked like they were having a good time.



See Queensway Rink.

Sunday February 24

Click to enlarge.

3:30pm Twenty hockey players of all ages ranging from adults to little boys are playing an energetic game of shinny. Some of the players are wearing helmets. Some aren't. Three more boys are playing on their own at the east end of the rink next to the boardwalk where people put on their skates. The ice is snowy but otherwise in good shape except for the edges where it's soft.

12:30-1:15pm The weather is warm and the snow in the park is starting to melt. The ice, however, is in pretty good shape. When the CELOS researcher starts skating, he notices that the ice is a little soft especially along the edges where some melting is noticeable. Nonetheless the ice is more than good enough for pleasure skating and hockey. Fourteen people are playing a game of shinny. The players are of various ages ranging from young boys to adults. Two of the players are teenage girls. Both girls are good players and can easily keep up with the boys. Of the fourteen players only one little boy is wearing a helmet.

The shinny game dominates the ice, but there are other skaters. In one corner near the entrance, a father and is young son are passing a puck back and forth. The little boy looks to be four or five years old. Another teenager is shooting the puck by himself. Three young teenagers are pleasure skating. They skate around the edge of the rink, but sometimes have to stop because of the hockey players. There are also a few moms without skates standing on the wooden boardwalk where people put on their skates.

After a while, some of the hockey players decide to leave while new players arrive. All the players put their sticks in the middle of the ice and new sides are chosen by having one player toss sticks to one side of the rink or another. After the sides are chosen, one adult jokingly says, "There is a no trade rule here." A half hour later the sticks are put in the middle of the ice again and new sides are chosen.

At 1:15pm there are 21 people at the rink, 17 wearing skates.



See Valleyfield Rink.

Saturday March 1

11am The ice has been cleared of the snow that fell last night and is in good shape. There are 3 adult men and five children skating at the rink. No one is playing hockey. One of the fathers comments that the ice is "pretty good, actually." None of the skaters was here when the ice was cleaned, but they say it must have been earlier in the morning.

Sunday February 24

7:15-8pm There are 19 people at the rink when CELOS arrives. Eleven are on skates. The rest are parents and other family who have come along with the skaters.

The ice is hard and smooth, but very snowy. A couple of the hockey players wonder why the Zamboni doesn't come more often.

During a previous CELOS daytime visit, some young hockey players complained that the lights aren't bright enough at night. However, on another visit two older players disagreed, saying that while the lights didn't reach all the corners, they were bright enough. This is CELOS' first night-time visit to Valleyfield. The lights could be a little brighter, but they are adequate. As the older players said, the corners are a little dark, but the light does cover most of the ice surface. Some of the people know each other and there is a lot of friendly conversation. The skaters are of all ages. There are several parents with young children. Some of the parents are on skates, some are not. The rink is unsupervised so there is no one here to tell the parents without skates to stay off the ice. Also, there is no one here to make skaters wear helmets. Some children and hockey players do wear helmets, but many don't.

Five boys decide to play a game of shinny. They choose sides by putting their sticks in the middle of the ice and having one boy toss the sticks to either side of the rink. The shinny game dominates most of the ice, but there is still room for other hockey players as well as pleasure skating. During the 45 minutes that CELOS is at the rink, people are coming and going.

Saturday February 23

2pm There are 13 hockey players on the ice, mostly teenagers who appear to be 14-15 years old. Most of the ice surface is being used for a fast-paced game of shinny. At one end of the rink, three hockey players ares playing a separate game. On another side of the rink a father is playing hockey with his young boy.

During a previous CELOS visit, some young hockey players complained that the lights aren't bright enough at night. The players said half the rink is covered in darkness. On this visit, CELOS asked two older hockey players about this. The older players said the lights are bright enough. They said the lights don't quite reach all the corners, but do cover most of the ice. The older players don't see this as a problem.

10:30am There are sixteen people at the rink: 10 hockey players, 3 pleasure skaters and 3 moms sitting on the bleachers by the side of the rink. The moms have brought their own food to the rink. The ice is in good shape.

Saturday January 12

2:15pm The ice is in good shape. There are six pleasure skaters. An older man who is there with a few young girls says that about 4pm the rink will be filled with shinny players.

Saturday December 8

Steps covered in snow and ice

1pm This is a single pad rink with no nets or boards. The changerooms are locked. The ice pad is located at the bottom of a hill. There is snow and ice on the steps leading down to the rink from the parking lot, but they have been salted a little. There are 17 shinny players on the ice. It is a fast-paced game. The players are good skaters and have obviously had a lot of practice. One of them is a girl. Two men are standing on the side watching the game. One of them says Valleyfield is "a nice little spot, always busy." The other man says he sees boys playing shinny here in the morning when he's on his way to work. The rink was open a few days earlier than Dec 8.


Valleyfield shinny Sat Dec 8, 2007

The players are good

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Content last modified on September 08, 2010, at 05:52 PM EST