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2008 - 2009

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.

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Content last modified on December 08, 2014, at 08:20 AM EST