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

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wood stove at Dufferin


2021 - 2022

Nov.22, 2021

Opened for the season

Earlier rink diaries

2020 - 2021

This rink is closed for the 2020/2021 winter season, to redo its 37-year-old refrigeration system. Announcement here.

37 years is a good run. Beyond that, this is the year when the rink would have run at a loss, since they're not government-supported -- they make most of their operating budget from skate lending, and they couldn't afford to do all the extra sanitizing and skater-numbers limitations and still break even. So using this year as the fixing gap works much better financially.

But that's just a hunch (from cityrinks).

2019 - 2020

Friday Nov.22, 2019

On an overcast but not-too-cold day, the ice is excellent and there's a school class approaching. The other skaters look like they might be older students with time off, as well as people taking a break from their desks.

location of wood ovens -- coming later

wood supply

school class coming to skate, carrying boxed skates

picnic tables outside of restaurant
Saturday Nov.16, 2019

Harbourfront's Natrel Rink opened for the season TODAY.


Rink Diaries from earlier years

2018 - 2019

Opened Nov.17, 2018

Dec.8, 2018

Natrel ice resurfacer

new designs for the skate rental change room

lots of people

branding and money machine

big sign where you can't miss it


Sponsor ad

a different kind of ad - connecting milk with nicenness
Nov.17, 2018

The rink opened for the season today. Their webcam no longer works. Too bad.

2017 - 2018

Family Day events planned at Harbourfront:

DJs, free skating lessons, and an exhibition of artists doing ice carving -- and they say they'll have their campfires going.

the rink with a sailing ship at the dock
Nov.20, 2017

The rink is open and the ice is fine. A big three-masted sailing schooner is tied up at the dock nearby, planes are flying in to the island airport, and the skaters on the rink show widely varying levels of competence. A few are holding on to the concrete sides of the rink, others are gliding at ease.

There are some odd posts at the side of the rink that seem to tell skaters what they might be feeling or doing: "happiness" and "laughter."

The café was open, and although skaters can't go in with their skates, there are picnic tables on floor matting outside, where people can sit with their skates on and eat and have a beer and enjoy the view of the skaters and the lake. A wonderful location.


Monday morning: skates on good ice

the rink guard shed, with heaters

one of two firepits, for Saturday nights

tables outside the café
Nov.13, 2017

There were four staff standing outside the skate loan building on their coffee break. They said that they started up the rink last Thursday (Nov.9). It already has some good ice on it. They also said they hadn't heard whether their webcam (still malfunctioning) would be fixed this year.

They hope to open on Friday Nov.17, a full week before any of the other rinks. It looks promising.

mats all laid out already

ice building up nicely

2016 - 2017

March 6, 2017

The rink has closed for the season. This year it seemed to have some difficulty with sunny days, and of course there were longer mild periods than usual. And no shade, not like at City Hall or (even shadier) the rink in Mississauga's Celebration Square.

Jan.6, 2017

This rink has been busy as usual despite some weather challenges (rain between Christmas and New Year's, now some real cold) and their DJ skate nights have been going on Saturday nights since mid-December.

Dec.1, 2016

At 9 p.m. it looks like a fair number of people are skating, somewhat in the dark -- lights not turned on. Odd.

Nov.25, 2016

The website lists the rink as open. Now they just need to clean the webcam lens :-)

Nov.24, 2016,

Although the website still says the rink will open mid-to-late November, the webcam at 7.30 a.m. shows skaters, looking like they're having a good time. A phone call at 10 a.m. confirms that their rink is open and the ice is good.

Nov.23, 2016, 8 pm

The machine is out making ice.

Nov.22, 2016

They write that they hope to open by Friday. (Really? Not until then, with this cold weather?) Ice maintenance happening after dark. Note that Mississauga's main outdoor rink downtown is open and has lots of skaters. Is Harbourfront losing its edge? Today their web page still has an old message saying they'll open mid-to-end of November, and their phone message says "closed for the season, see you next year."

Nov.21 2016

From Russ Minaker: "at the Harbourfront Natrel Rink, they made an attempt in early November. At the time they were saying they were going to try to open Nov 15th. I saw their Olympia machine working on it on November 4th I believe it was. But then we got that warm spell."

Tonight their webcam shows a good sheet of ice in, Olympia flooding at 11 p.m.


2015 - 2016

March 3-10, 2016

The rink closed on March 10. It struggled during the last week in particular, with parts of days, or near the end the whole day, being closed. The zamboni did hours of ice maintenance on the 9th but you could see the coolant lines in the ice pattern. So on the 10th, right after a school class that skated in the rain, the closure announcement was put up.

March 9, 8.30 pm -- zamboni trying again

temporary "closed" sign turned into closed for the season
Feb.20, 2016

Last DJ event (first one was Dec.19). Smart scheduling, given the likelihood that the ice will be affected by the higher sun as March approaches, and the fact that people's enthusiasm for skating wanes as winter nears its end.

Jan.11, 2016

Since the rink closed for one day, it has not been closed again (during regular hours), even though the weather has given some challenges.

Dec.29, 2015

The rink has been closed all day and will not re-open until tomorrow. The zamboni has been cleaning the ice all day, and the staff say it's still too soft for skating. At 10 pm the webcam still shows the zamboni grooming the ice.

Dec.27, 2015

The rink was closed again for a few hours on Dec.24, but open for scheduled hours since then. Ice was fine.

Dec.23, 2015

This afternoon, it looks like the rink was closed (bright sun, 14 celsius). By 7 pm there were skaters, and at 10.30 pm there are more skaters, in the dark.

Dec.22, 2015

At 11 pm, the rink's webcam shows a lot of people skating in the dark.

Dec.19 2015

First DJ skating party of the year.

Dec.18 2015

Today the rink was filled with skaters, even though it was cloudy and windy.

We found out that not only the skate lending, but also the restaurant, are run directly by Harbourfront, not outsourced. This is the opposite of the rink at City Hall (Nathan Phillips Square) where both food and skates are outsourced. And at City Hall there are not enough places to sit, either outside or in the tiny change room. In contrast, Harbourfront has large numbers of benches outside and also skate-friendly flooring in its restaurant. That room was full today too, youthful skaters (also from schools?) eating and talking and just lounging on the available couches, in their skates. Like a comfortable clubhouse.

lots of menu items, rubber flooring

comfortable couches for watching the skaters
Dec.12 2015

The rink was sparse under dark skies in the morning but then by evening it was full of skaters -- and again at 11.45 pm there were many people skating around in the semi-dark.

Dec.11, 2015

Even though it was a warm, sunny day, this rink kept its ice very well. Just before midnight after the zamboni was done, it appeared from the webcam that there were at least 40 people skating, in the semi-dark. Very nice.

Dec.5, 2015

rink guard said: "sure, take pictures!"

An article in the Toronto Star says that on Dec.4, a Star reporter was barred from taking pictures of his own children skating at Colonel Sam Smith skating trail. But happily, no such rule exists at Harbourfront's Natrel Rink. Neither does it exist at City Hall's rink. They have a sign saying that people can film or take pictures there. But all other city rinks treat cameras as contraband.

friendly skate loans

skating lessons

Everything seems easier and less rule-bound at this non-municipal rink. Helmets are not mandatory for anyone, but helmet rentals are available. Staff who are good enough to teach skating don't wear helmets, although the learners do. At municipal rinks, helmets are mandatory for all on-ice staff, sending the message -- "skating is dangerous."

The in-house skate loan program (outsourced at City Hall) used to pay for the entire rink operation. That may not be true anymore; we'll ask the manager and report back.

Dec.4, 2015

The webcam showed people skating on Friday Nov.27 (opening day) after the rain had stopped. And it's been very well attended ever since.

Nov.23 2015, 2.30 pm

lots of ice already

The ice is already good and solid, thicker than on opening day in some other years. Mats are not out yet, and it looks like there's still maintenance going on in the skate rental room. Staff said they started flooding on Friday night. They were getting ready to install some propane heaters in the former firebox areas -- they said it's cheaper to buy propane than to buy firewood.

Sadly, the webcam is still broken -- something the rink staff only realized yesterday.

mats not out yet

maintenance still going on in skate room

The staff said they hope to open the rink on Friday afternoon after they've had a chance to push off the rain that's forecast for Thursday night.



March 17 2015

At 9.45, there are 0 skaters, 1 celsius; at 3.30, 5 skaters, 2 celsius; at 4.45, 0 skaters, 2 celsius. Rink closed for the season.

March 16 2015

At 11 a.m. the webcam shows two skaters, at 12.30, 3. At 1.30, 15; at 2.30, 15. At 5 pm: 9 skaters (temp went up slowly from 1 to 12, but overcast). At 8.30: 0 skaters.

March 8, 2015

pylons where it's melting

ice still solid on the lake behind

unlit campfire

At 6.30 pm on Sunday, the rink is full of skaters, despite a sunny day with 6 celsius. There are pylons in the middle where it's wet, but nobody seems to be anxious about the ice quality.

We wanted to see the campfires in the warming areas, and we'd been told that the fires are only lit on Saturdays and Sundays. But the rink supervisor said that actually they don't even light the fires on Sundays -- only on Saturdays during DJ night. Besides, he said, it's hot -- why light a fire?

Saturday, January 24, 2015 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Motown Party on Ice with DJs Steve Rock, Misty Rock‘n’ Roll and Sean Caff Come down and skate to the classic sounds of Motown! From Marvin Gaye and the Supremes to Smokey Robinson and the Jackson 5.

Dec.11, 2014

This morning, there was a plough taking off the snow, with the zamboni following close behind. Around 10 a.m., a big group of skaters came on, and managed to skate in the snow.

December 10, 2014

From Spencer Emmerson, Harbourfront Communications Dept: "I will be bringing my shovel to work tomorrow and making sure the ice is spotless! A sprinkle of snow is magical, but a storm is just stressful."

December 3, 2014

From Harbourfront communication department, their media release about their DJ skate nights:

DJ Skate - Saturday Nights starting Dec 13th 2014

December 2, 2014

The rink has been open almost all the scheduled times despite whatever the weather does. The webcam is the CityRinks reality check about ice conditions, at a rink where there is ideal maintenance.

The DJ nights schedule is up, set to begin this weekend on Dec.13.

November 11, 2014

The compressors are on and there's ice at the edges, but it's 17 celsius, so the ice-making will have to wait until evening. Everything looks ready for the weekend, though.

well-fitting mats leading everywhere

new "warm zone" with fireplaces
November 15, 2014

The rink is open and full of skaters -- sunny much of the day, but only 3 celsius.


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Content last modified on December 05, 2021, at 06:48 PM EST