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Cross-Canada outdoor rinks and helmet rules -- information gathered directly through emails and phone calls, January/February 2014
Municipal helmet policies for skating at (mostly) outdoor rinks, across Canada

The important distinction is “recommended” (your own choice of what kind of helmet to wear, or no helmet) and “mandatory” which for Canadian rinks means only a helmet approved by the CSA, no U.S. or European certification accepted.

Vancouver: –There is no shinny hockey outdoors in Vancouver.
Calgary: helmets recommended for any-age indoor and outdoor pleasure-skating and any-age outdoor shinny hockey.
Edmonton: helmets recommended for any-age indoor and outdoor pleasure-skating, and for any-age outdoor shinny hockey. 5 city-run rinks plus a lot of community ones. Wheelchairs and skate aids are explicitly permitted at regular skating times; no provisions for babies.
Regina: helmets recommended for any-age indoor and outdoor pleasure-skating and any-age outdoor shinny hockey. The City of Regina maintains 60 outdoor ice rinks at 41 different sites. Most of these rinks have push-button lights. Plus one speed-skating oval. There are also 8 hockey rinks with push-button lights (local group maintenance).
Winnipeg: helmets recommended for any-age indoor and outdoor pleasure-skating and any-age outdoor shinny hockey. They have 40 outdoor rinks in parks (2 per ward, about 40), wholly maintained by the city, plus a lot more hockey rinks at locally-run community centres.
Mississauga: only have 3 city-run outdoor rinks – helmets recommended for any-age outdoor pleasure-skating, helmets mandatory for any-age outdoor shinny hockey.
Toronto: helmets mandatory for under six pleasure-skating, indoors and outdoors, and mandatory for any-age shinny hockey, indoors out outdoors. Exception: Harbourfront's Natrel Rink has no mandatory helmet requirements for any age.
Ottawa: madatory multi-impact helmet at all city of Ottawa public skating sessions at indoor arenas for kids aged 10 and under or if identify as a weak skater of any age. (City of Ottawa Policy). Helmets recommended for any-age outdoor pleasure-skating and any-age outdoor shinny hockey. See their By far the most rinks in Ottawa are outdoors (details below) -- 258 of them, most maintained by volunteers, some with field houses and city supervisory staff. The City of Ottawa website calls Ottawa “the city that lives and breathes hockey.” Wheelchairs, strollers, and "E-Z Glide" skate aids are explicitly permitted at regular skating times.\\ update in 2019: CSA-approved helmets are required for people in wheelchairs and strollers. Not permitted: Carrying children on the ice (including baby carriers).

Montreal: about 250 city-maintained outdoor natural ice rinks (4 compressor-cooled), many with hockey boards. No helmet rules at outdoor rinks.
Fredericton: have 7 natural and one artificial outdoor ice rinks, 6 indoor – even indoors pleasure-skating is helmets recommended. Outdoors there are no helmet rules.

Sample details

For Calgary: there are about 180 community centres of which about 90% have ice rinks. They are leased to neighbourhood associations for between $10 and $15 a year and that way the local groups can run them as they choose. Many have firepits, hockey boards, and some kind of ice resurfacing equipment. There also 5 city-run outdoor rinks (fully maintained by City Staff – pleasure skating only, no fire pits, no shinny hockey) and 44 Adopt-a-Rinks (maintained by volunteers- supported by City Staff - pleasure skating only, no fire pits, no hockey, no extra lighting). ([email protected];

Example of Stanley Park Rink in Calgary, from rink participant Mark Chambers:

There is such a collective, multi-generational memory of pond hockey on the prairies that as soon as too many rules get introduced, the spontaneous fun is lost.

There are many outdoor rinks in Calgary. We lease the land from the City for a nominal amount and, even though the rink is in a regional park, our community can make the rules- of which there are very few.

We have 4 hockey nets and there will often be 2 games going on simultaneously with no defined boundaries and with pleasure skaters in the mix. At times it is a little chaotic but people adapt very well. A bit like driving in Rome.

For Ottawa, from Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services manager Kelly Robertson:

In respect of incidents involving the initiation of litigation, since 2004, 4 cases have been initiated – all involving adults, two while skating, two while walking on or near indoor ice surface – all at indoor arenas. With respect to injuries on our outdoor rinks, in the past three years we have had 15 reports - nine reports of a facial injury (puck/stick) - three hand injuries, one ankle and two head injuries - none of these have resulted in any claims to date.

A key factor underlying the differences between our indoor arena/public skating mandatory helmet use policy versus recommended use at our outdoor rinks relates to: a) only about half of the City’s community-based 258 outdoor rink site operations offer supervised skating hours; b) as part of our helmet use review, we received advice from our corporate risk management group that we shouldn’t mandate helmet use if we were not in a position to enforce the mandatory use of helmets.

Outdoor rink injury reports are typically from community-based partners who supervise approximately half of our outdoor rink sites through agreement with the City – approximately half of our outdoor rink sites are maintained by the community-based partner but there is no expectation of supervision. Incident reporting subject to specific criteria/definitions in our agreement has been a requirement for several years.

Of the 258 sites:

-a handful (approx. 23) are maintained by City staff – a few of these may have supervised hours – 30 hrs/wk – by a non-profit community-based operator

-approx. 130 are supervised and maintained by the community

-the balance are maintained by the community.

6 FT staff and 2 PT staff support the above.

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Content last modified on May 02, 2019, at 07:53 AM EST