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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.

2008-2009 season

See also stories from the 2007-2008 season: City Hall, Queensway, Valleyfield.


See Buttonwood Rink.

Wednesday December 10 2008

unsupervised shinny hockey, what a thrill

The rink is in the middle of a big open space behind an apartment building. At night it's visible from far away because of the bright rink lights and the steam rising from the condenser. The ice looked good, despite bad weather yesterday (rain mixed with snow). At about 7 pm the rink had 25 youth on it, skating around or talking. A few girls, mostly guys. Almost half seemed to be smoking. There was no adult at all, nowhere nearby either. The mood was merry, lots of ribbing, but it didn't sound mean. Some of the kids remembered having their photo taken last year, and they commented on its having been the "featured picture" on the homepage for some time.

Sticks were thrown into the middle and then suddenly there was a fast game. There are no boards, and the ice doesn't even cover the whole tennis court -- on one side there's suddenly cement -- but it didn't seem to bother anyone. A few kids wore helmets. Most didn't.

shrine for a murdered youth

Outside of the rink, against the chain link fence, was a shrine for 17-year-old Boris Cikovic, who was murdered near the rink in early October. There was a hockey stick, a basketball, some lanterns, a photograph, a plastic wreath, and a little printed description, maybe from the funeral.

A rink maintenance staff person came by to check on the rink. He said that there had been many layers of water put down to get the rink ready, "every day, every day, we were out here" and he was clearly pleased at the results -- good ice and a rink full of kids, playing shinny. The memorial is right beside them, and at least some of the kids must have known this talented young hockey player. But as long as there are kids and places where they can play, life goes on.


Campbell Park

See Campbell Rink.

Sunday December 21 2008

No ice maintenance at all. Over the course of the day different groups of hockey players cleared part of the ice leaving two sections large enough for shinny and pleasure skating.

The building attendant arrived at 10 and spent two hours clearing snow on the front path and around the rinkhouse. Shortly after noon three local teenagers asked if they could clear out part of the ice. The building attendant went out with them and told them not to put any snow against the boards, because that would make it harder for the Zamboni to clear the ice. The building attendant also warned them not to lose any pucks in the snow, pointing out that a puck can damage a Zamboni. The three teenagers cleared out a section in the middle of the ice and began playing. Later a man and a woman came and cleared out a second section and began playing there.

The building attendant made some hot chocolate which he gave out to people who stopped by the rinkhouse to see if the rink was open. A grandmother who lives up the street stopped by with four children. The children had rented skates before during a Saturday pleasure skate. They were anxious to go skating again. The building attendant said that Sunday afternoon was shared use, which meant they would have to skate while people were playing hockey. He pointed out that Wallace-Emerson was open and that it had a separate pleasure-skating pad. The children, however, didn't want to walk to Wallace. The grandmother finally decided to rent three pairs of skates. By that time the first group of hockey players had left and the children were able to use the patch of ice the players had cleared. The children also spent time in the rinkhouse eating hot dogs and looking at the rink's small collection of children's books.

Some local hockey players also stopped in. They didn't bother bringing sticks or skates. They just drank hot chocolate and hung out for a while. Later the building attendant got a call from Christie Pits asking if there was any shinny at Campbell. Two men had come to Christie to play hockey, but couldn't because that rink only had pleasure skating at the moment. The building attendant explained that there had been no ice maintenance but that two sections of the ice had been cleared by rink users.

A little while later two men showed up at Campbell. They wanted to play shinny and asked if there was a charge for using the ice. The building attendant said skating and shinny were free. He asked the men if they were from out of town. The men said they had come from Brampton looking for a place to play shinny. Staff at Christie had directed them to Campbell. The building attendant told them Toronto operates 49 compressor-cooled outdoor rinks. The men said they had just learned that by going online. They thought this was sick quickly explaining that sick meant good.

They asked if they could borrow shovels to make the cleared section of the ice larger. The building attendant said if they were willing to push the snow to the main gates at the west end of the rink, he would clear the snow from there. The building attendant also warned them about not losing any pucks in the snow. The men cleared a very large section of the ice. It took the building attendant two hours to clear the pile of snow they left at the gate.

After the men from Brampton left, a group of four players took their place on the the patch of ice they had cleared. When the building attendant left at 6, the four men were still playing. Like the previous groups of players, they were warned not to lose any pucks in the snow.

During all the day's snow-clearing one small rink shovel went missing.

Tuesday December 23, 2008

3pm - Thirty players on the ice
Click to enlarge

Another snowy day that called for lots of shovelling. Some of the regular shinny players started their Christmas holidays today. When the rink attendant arrived at 3pm, he found thirty players on the ice. Some had been there since 10am and were unhappy that the rinkhouse wasn't open earlier. They told the rink staffer that the Zamboni had been by at 9:30.

By 4pm it was snowing heavily and the players asked for shovels to clear the ice. The rink staffer brought out the two large green shovels. The players pushed the snow to the two rink gates while the staffer cleared the snow from the gates. By 5pm, 10 players were left on the ice despite the snow. After a while the remaining players left leaving the ice empty for a while.

At around 7, a local man brought his two nieces for pleasure skating. He said they had been by earlier, but didn't go on the ice because of the hockey players. 7pm is shinny time on the schedule, but since there were only three hockey players on the ice, the rink attendant let the girls skate. Their uncle asked for a shovel to clear the ice. Once again the rink attendant brought out the big green shovels. The uncle and two of the hockey players pushed the snow to the gates which the rink attendant cleared. The rink attendant hadn't quite finished clearing the west gate when the Zamboni arrived. After the Zamboni had scraped the rest of the snow, the ice was in good shape. But the snow kept coming and the rink was soon covered again.

Waiting to skate
Click to enlarge

Skating puts a smile on her face
Click to enlarge

The weather didn't stop people from coming the rink. Some of the boys played hockey despite the snow, while others stayed in the rinkhouse and played checkers.

At about 8:30, Grace, who has a regular Tuesday-night permit, stopped by to make sure the rink staffer knew about the permit. A little while later, the first of the permit group arrived. They played checkers while deciding whether to go ahead with the game in the snow. The rink attendant offered to bring out the green shovels again.

Since the permit group was short-handed, they let the local players share the ice. Together the permit group and the local players cleared the ice using the green shovels, while the rink staffer cleared the snow from the gates. That done, the people on the ice put their sticks in the middle of the ice, and chose sides in the time-honoured way. Sticks were thrown left and right. Which way your stick went determined which team you were on. Despite the snow there was a lively game of shinny.

Normally, the rinkhouse closes at 9 and Grace's group takes off their skates outside. However, looking at the snow piling down, the rink staffer didn't have the heart to lock the players out. He worked stayed later so that the hockey players could change indoors.

Playing checkers while it snowed outside
Click to enlarge

Snow didn't stop this shinny game
Click to enlarge


Dufferin Grove

See Dufferin Rink.

Saturday December 13 2008

Weather: High plus 2, low minus 12. Mostly cloudy with here and there a little sun. Light snowflurries beginning about 8 pm.

future NHL players?

Saturday is a day of lots of little-kids' shinny hockey. Today it was packed. First it was 12 and under from 12 to 1.30, then it was 9 and under from 1.30 to 3 (both with parent or - in a pinch -- a cousin). With so many little skaters, surely Dufferin Rink will send someone to the NHL some day.

In the afternoon there were too many people, everything was crowded. This is the result of rental skates, in part -- so many new people come and rent the $2 skates, including lots of youth, and then they have to be stopped from racing around the ice and bumping into people.

learning to skate

One very nice thing: new park friends from R.V.Burgess Park in the Thorncliffe Park area came to the rink to check it out for the Thorncliffe Park Women's Committee. They had a look at everything in the park, and the three kids who had come with the group, got some loaner skates and practised skating. There was time for some good Zamboni cafe food and conversation. One of the women came from Kabul in Afghanistan, and she described an overn they used to bake in while she was at university, working at a summer job. She was very enthusiastic about cooking over fire, and making tea, and the possibility of picnics where food could be prepared in such an oven. Perhaps the Dufferin Rec staff will help them put together a winter campfire at R.V.Burgess Park.

At closing time a young man and woman came to return their rental skates. They said they are German, and are here doing graduate work in philosophy at the University of Toronto. The rink staff person taking the skates was curious, and the young man explained a bit about his study of Aristotle. The rink staff said she actually preferred Heidegger, and gave her reasons.

Will these German students go back to Germany saying that in Canada, skate lending is usually combined with philosophy?


Humber Valley

See Humber Valley Rink.

Wednesday December 10 2008

7.30pm -- the rink had good ice, a bit snowy but no problem for skaters. A dozen youth were on the ice with an instructor, having full equipment hockey drills. They had an odd drill where two lines of kids on either side of the rink shot pucks back and forth to each other while other kids took turns running the gauntlet down the middle, trying, I guess, not to get hit. Nobody raised the puck so it didn't seem dangerous, but it was different.

Inside the change room there were another dozen younger boys just changing out of their equipment, and as soon as they left, another crew of kids arrived to get ready for their time.

The rink operator said that the Humber Valley Hockey Association has the ice every evening, and it was those kids who filed in and out according to their time.

The operator said that they do the ice with a newer machine but not a zamboni. The new machine was broken and he was having to use the old one. Even so, the ice was all right, despite the bad snow/rain combination yesterday. But the operator says that he'd like it if the city stopped auctioning off its old $60,000 zambonis for $1000, and placed them in the "major" rinks instead.

The operator said he is a lead hand, but there are also Arena Pool Operators (APO2s) doing ice maintenance for the unboarded rinks they call "minor" rinks in Etobicoke. They do basically the same work for $5 an hour less, and (as the CUPE Local 416 web site says) this will be the source of so many grievances that the arrangement probably can't last.

The operator had worked at the Park Lawn "Bubble" rink and told more stories about it. Apparently the Humber valley Hockey Association bought the bubble for over $250,000 about 14 years ago, in return for getting a reduction for their hockey time -- which is about 80% of the time at Park Lawn. That worked all right, but now the bubble is getting old -- four year after it's "best before" date, and it's unclear what will happen to it. The public skating time is packed -- 150 or more kids from the surrounding apartments, with only two rink guards. The area is predominantly Eastern European, frugal, and without much money. The operator said he's seen brothers come to skate, with one of them skating for 20 minutes and then then taking the skates off so the other brother can have a turn. Apparently there used to be snack and hot chocolate machines and even a skate sharpening machine there, but they've all been taken out because everything gets damaged.

No wonder, with so little public skating time -- it must frustrate people. And the operator says it's pretty hard to get rink guards, when they only have two hours of work at minimum wage -- nobody wants that job.

An hour later, downtown at Trinity and Christie Rinks, there was public over-18 shinny at both rinks. Trinity had 28 out on the ice, 12 in the boxes, and another four guys just arriving. Christie had about as many on their open shinny time, and then a permit came and everyone got off for them. The permit was mixed men-women, again over 20 people. Same story from the time school lets out, only that before 7 it's younger teens, then little kids and parents. There are rink guards, and the wood supply for the "hot stove" at Christie is neatly stacked against the wall. Last night the skates for rent were still being sorted, but they exist.

Different cultures, in a way. A "major" rink like Humber Valley could be called a "working rink." The downtown rinks are more "playing rinks." Nobody from the downtown rinks is going into the NHL (but some of the Humber Valley kids might). Downtown the skaters just get on the ice and play shinny, sometimes for three hours at a stretch, since there's so much free public ice time compared to the Etobicoke and North York rinks. Or on the single pads, during the pleasure-skating time slots, they skate around with their friends, or play British Bulldog when the rink guard has his back turned. At Humber Valley the times are shorter and the hockey skills approach is more serious.

Different strokes. But more public time slots might be helpful at this Humber Valley Rink and others like it, to spread the joy of skating more broadly.



See Ledbury Rink.

Friday December 12 2008

Aty 2.15 the rink had 7 shinny hockey players at one end, three pleasure skaters, and a large family of eight more skaters just arriving in the rink change house. The rink is so long that the shinny hockey players and the other skaters seem to be able to share the ice without bothering one another. The rink change area is clean and inviting, with lots of benches and a great view of the ice.

long rink with a little bridge going over it

shinny players at one end

Otter Creek

See Otter Creek Rink.

Friday December 12 2008

At 2.30 pm Otter Creek Rink had 21 enthusiastic shinny hockey players on the hockey side and another 17 on the pleasure-skating side, with many more in the players' boxes. They said it's exam time (the rink is right by Lawrence Park Collegiate) and a lot of the kids had the afternoon off. What better thing to do than play hockey?

A mother who was there with two young children said that normally the rink is pretty quiet on weekday afternoons. She didn't mind that on this day both rink pads were full of shinny players -- they were letting her little boy play along with them and the mom said -- this is one of the best days of his life!

Lawrence Park exam time

little NHL hopeful -- the perfect day at the rink

Prince of Wales

See Prince of Wales Rink.

Sunday December 7 2008

huge skyline at Prince of Wales Rink
Click on picture to enlarge it

This is one of the most impressively located rinks in the city, with a huge view of the lake and the Toronto skyline. At 11 a.m. The ice was in excellent condition, but there were no skaters. The front door had no sign announcing the rink opening date. The rink operator was friendly and informative, though, and said they had been preparing the rinks for two weeks already. So it was no wonder that the ice was so much better than at the downtown rinks, some of which had only three days of preparation.

The rink operator said she hopes to get together a rink staff hockey team to play for fun this season. She said that that one of the rink guards at this rink was a former member of the Canadian Women's Hockey Team -- so the pace of the hockey ought to be pretty fast.



See Rennie Rink.

Friday Nov.28, 2008

Good ice, with the zamboni flooding. The zamboni has the Toronto Maple Leafs on it, even though they didn't give the zamboni -- in return for giving the boards and the scoreboard three years ago, the Leafs got to "wrap" some pictures on the zamboni. The images show kids playing hockey, bound (maybe) for the NHL.

The rink staff said that they began to cool the rink with the compressors over a week ago (Nov.20) and they started ice-making on last weekend. But then the weather wrecked the first layer and they had to begin again on Tuesday Nov.25.

ice coming along

zamboni image wrap
Sunday December 7 2008

Rennie Rink ice is thick and excellent after one week open. Inside there's lots of chat among neighbours waiting for their kids to have their figure skating lesson. A young man sells pre-wrapped Dad's cookies and he makes hot chocolate by the cup (with baby marshmallows). He says the reason he sits at a table in the middle of the room with his kettle and his cups is that he doesn't want to raise wrong expectations in the buyers -- doesn't want people to think he's got more to sell.

All proceeds on Sunday morning go to the Swansea Figure Skating Assocation. The cookie seller is not a figure skater himself -- he says he's manning the snack table because he's working off his school community hours.

skating round the tree

Sunday morning skating lessons

new steel mesh over doors and windows

cookies and hot chocolate fundraiser for the figure skaters
Wednesday December 17

At 8.30 pm the large parking lot is full to capacity -- it's girls' hockey night and every change-room is full. Lots of parents/friends watching, some standing beside the rink and some looking down from the changeroom above. The snack bar is open, staffed by three young guys who say they're doing this as volunteer hours. Zero healthy snacks! Just chips and chocolate bars and pre-wrapped cookies. They say that on Saturday the menu is more varied, even including toasted bagels.

Two hockey teams on the hockey side and 17 pleasure-skaters on the other side.

The zamboni operator doesn't know when this rink was cleared from last night's snow -- but when he came on duty at 3 pm, it was all done. He says he cleans the ice often, up to five times a shift.

girls' hockey

rink house windows with a good view

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