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This page includes this year's recent rink diary entries for Toronto's outdoor rinks. In the individual rink folders you can also find (particularly the south District rinks) entries from previous years. See the individual rink folders for details.
If you have stories, pictures, rink condition updates, a family or community event, etc. to share, send us the material at [email protected], and we'll post it in the rink diaries (subject to editing of course).
On this page:
For more detail, and complete diaries, see the individual rink details.
In this section:
It snowed a lot yesterday but by this evening the rink had been cleared and it looked magical. There are lots of evergreens planted around this rink, which were laden with snow, and the windows of the massed high rise buildings all around were lit up in a very cheerful way. Even so, it was a surprise to find skaters there -- the rink seems to get so few people.
A man who was there with his children said that he lives in a high-rise across the street, but will only be here a year. He was East Indian with an Irish accent. I guess many of the people who live around there are short-term, put up in a suite by their global company. That's another reason why it would be good to have the rink be a bit of a meeting-place -- so that these global nomads could plant their feet at least a little bit in an actual place, with a campfire, and rental skates, and a friendly staff person who might even introduce people to one another.
From rink user J.T.: I am the parent of 2 girls (5 and 8) who enjoyed the skating season for the most part but were sorry that Saturday mornings were taken away as we like to come before lunch. We found that the rink club house was not open at 10 am but that was manageable as we put the skates on outside but we would have to leave earlier to go to the washroom.
There were weekends that we didn't skate long due to the hockey players arriving and the kids felt intimidated by fast moving skaters with pucks and sticks
I was wondering if the Saturday pleasure skate would be busier if you did it at lunch time as more parents with younger children might show up. The kids can't wait until next year.
The day started out at -18 celsius, so the rink staff thought the class from St.Rita's wasn't coming. But at 1 pm the temperature had climbed to -12, and it was brilliant sunshine. So their principal let them go. The rink staff had stayed at the office for a meeting, when they got the call from the teacher -- "we're here, but the rink change house is locked -- where are you?"
So Michael Monastyrskyj jumped into a cab and got to Campbell as fast as he could to let the kids in. Then he put on a big pot and everybody had free hot chocolate. The kids put on their skates and played around on the ice, in the snow, and back and forth in and out of the rink house -- checkers, chess, cards, skating again, joking, talking -- a very nice afternoon at the rink.
Rink staff Eroca Nichol heard about a whole bunch of free used skates at one of the schools, so rink staff Dan Watson went to look. He found enough good pairs that he could bring over enough for the Christie Pits after-school program "The Nook." He spray-painted them electric blue, and now the Nook kids can go out on the rink and race up and down. Those kids have a huge amount of energy, so this is the right thing for them.
City Hall is the only one of the city's outdoor rinks that's stayed open over the Easter weekend. At 6 pm it's in very good condition, especially compared to Harbourfront, which has also stayed open. Harbourfront is exposed to full sun but City Hall is not, and it shows. The ice is smooth and people look comfortable skating, not having to worry about tripping. Even so, the number of people are less than half what's usual on a sunny Sunday in winter. People are just tired of winter.
3 pm: About 30 - 40 people on the ice, many others sitting nearby. Lots of youth. The ice looked fine except for right at the edges and in the one corner where the sun shone -- almost all the rest of the rink was in shade because of the tall hotel across the street.
6:20pm There are forty people on the ice. Another twenty are sitting on the benches by the side of the rink. The ice is snowy and is melting in the corners, but people are able to skate without any problems.
3pm There are 60 people on the ice. Many are small children. The ice looks good.
1pm City workers are using a Zamboni and a front-end loader to clear the snow off the ice. A large group of children are sitting on the benches waiting to go on the rink.
The zamboni driver said, "I love this job so much." Good ice, and happy skaters.
The last day of Winterfest, with a remarkable fire display from France:
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.
11 am: The ice maintenance supervisor says the ice is fine but the rink staff say it's snow-covered -- light snow since dawn, still falling. But they have their own zamboni....(?)
The ramp that lets the zamboni get onto the ice has been declared unsafe for skaters -- no more going down gradually, a straight step down or forget it.
3pm Low 10, high 15 celsius. There is a lot of water on the rink. The rink guard says anyone who falls is in for a good soaking. However, the ice underneath is hard and despite the warm weather there are 10 skaters.
10am: 8 skaters, no helmets. Great ice.
5.30pm: 70 skaters, few helmets. Good ice.
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 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.
The rink is packed with people -- last day. The hockey pad has a huge number of little boys in full hockey gear, and dads, with about five different games happening on various parts of the pad. A group from Scarborough has come over on the subway. Councillor Ootes' office arranged for some of the Dufferin Rink loaner skates to be sent over to Dieppe sent over for them, and helmets. The boys have brought their own sticks but they forgot a puck. One of the dads gladly hands over an extra one in his hockey bag, and out they go, the Scarborough kids, who have clearly not played a lot of hockey. But they fit right in.
The skate changing room has a whole wall of windows -- what a difference that makes, for parents to be able to watch their kids from inside.
High -1, low -10. last day of the season, and the rink actually made a semi-recovery so that people were able to skate in the morning. The rink staff put on music. By the afternoon the ice was just slush (sun) but everyone seemed to be having a good time -- tanning, playing on snow hills, and kind of sliding/stomping through the slush.
High 5, low -3. Sunny much of the day -- the rink was toast by noon. But even in the morning there were not many people skating. Everybody knows it's over.
At 9 pm there was water all over, some of it slightly frozen but not much -- many large patches of cement or almost cement, on both pads. Funny to think of the HUGE disagreements between zamboni operators and rink staff the year before last -- the zamboni guys said the ice should be good and thick in later winter, so it would withstand the sun, and the rink staff said it should be thin, so the compressors could freeze it properly. Turns out they were both wrong. Rennie Rink has thick ice and it's a big mushy pool, so no one can skate. Dufferin has thinner ice and it's down to cement, so no one can skate.
The only solution is not to try and keep the rinks open in March, when the sun is so strong.
The fact is, of the eight supposedly open rinks, most are locked. Those that still have a bit of skateable ice have very few people there. And a locked rink costs almost as much to run as an open one -- about $500 a day per double rink in power (those struggling compressors, mainly), plus over $300 a day per rink in zamboni operator wages, whether they can get out on their machine or not. Painful waste of money.
There are 5 people playing shinny. None are wearing helmets. The ice is usally done in the evening and at night. The ice is pretty good. They have a copy of the schedule posted but none to take home. There is a lot of garbage around the rink. The ice is more than 3 inches high and they need to bring in the edger.
A rink staff person had to get stitches because they tried to enforce the age groups. From now on staff say they less inclined to argue with patrons since they don't want to get stitches...or worse. The supervisor moved the staff person to work only at the nicer rinks.
posted November 17, 2007
5.15 pm Easter Sunday, with about 25 skaters. The rink had many mushy holes that were making skaters leery of going at all fast. Inside four staff were in the skate-lending room, chatting and looking like they were ready for the rink season to be over. The women's washroom was nasty looking, with toilet paper on the floor and one toilet plugged, empty toilet paper rolls in the other two stalls.
Outside, Bob Dylan was playing on the p.a. and there was a wonderful view of old sailboats on deep blue water. But the ice was not really worth skating on.
1:50pm Low 10 high 14 celsius. A view from the Bathurst streetcar shows 2 players on the hockey pad and no one on the pleasure pad.
3:40pm Low 10, high 15 celsius. There is a lot of water on both the hockey and pleasure pads, but the ice underneath is solid. There are 2 players on the hockey side. One of the players says the shinny side was busier earlier and probably will be again later.
At 2 pm the rink was just about to close -- the ice was mostly slush but there were skaters on it anyway -- just to savour the last few hours, people said.
The long-term, much-respected zamboni operator has had his position "deleted." The "deletion" is another piece of fallout from the current Parks, Forestry and Recreation organizational restructuring. None of the long-time rink workers were consulted about the outdoor rink restructuring scheme. The zamboni operator says that twenty-two years of his experience have been deleted. He and the other "deletions" were invited to attend a Human Resources seminar on how to write a good resume. None of them had ever had a chance to ask any questions about the new concept of running the rinks, so they kept on interrupting the lesson to ask about the plan. Finally the Human Resources instructor shut his notebook with a bang and said he was fed up with the questions, "you people don't even know how to value yourselves."
The zamboni operator said he and his colleagues had to restrain themselves from throttling the instructor. After all, the new rink fiasco wasn't his fault. But whose idea was it? Who was consulted? Where does the buck stop? The main question remains: Is anyone home?
Heather the blades are sharpened as required they were all last done Tuesday Feb 19th.
I was at the rink today and had an interesting chat with the ice maintenance crew. I noticed that the ice was still pretty thick and I asked them if they were able to do any extra scraping prior to the party tomorrow, as there is sunshine in the forecast. I was told that they can't do extra scraping because a) they don't have time and that even if they did, b) they don't have sharp blades. They said they only get new blades on their machines once a month and this isn't enough.
4 pm: The rink has 10 people pleasure-skating, one rink staff inside windowless office. Ice is not bad except very slushy on the south-facing side -- the brilliant sun has melted it down to a layer of leaves, but not -- apparently -- down to cement.
Inside there were 3 people and there were 3 people playing shinny. There are no helmets. The ice is good, it was last done in the morning and will be done in the evening. Usually they get ice maintenance twice a day. There is a lot of graffiti around the building. They do have a schedule posted and they have one to take home.
4:40pm Low 10, high 15 celsius. The hockey pad is empty. There are 2 skaters and a dog on the pleasure pad. The pads are covered in water but the ice underneath is solid.
At 10.25 the compressor was running, ice very hard after three days of intense cold. 10 pleasure skaters and 4 hockey players, all with helmets. Change room very tidy, but two of the three vending machines out of order. No staff in sight.
North Regent is a rink on its last legs, as far as we know, its planned destruction is forecast within the overall Regent Park revitalization. Since it is going to be destroyed (and not rebuilt) the rink's structural difficulties have long been ignored since it will be gone soon. The usual problems with Regent North are: terrible changeroom, the worst in the city, tiny and cramped with no windows whatsoever, one must walk through the washroom to enter. The phone in the staff part of the room never seems to work. The ice itself is often not great because of both inattention but also because the compressors must not be strong enough and on high sun days the sun destroys the ice.
The wonderful thing about this sad story is that South Regent, only a block away is gorgeous, large, well attended, lots of windows onto the rink and windows in the opposite direction getting the afternoon sun. But, back to Regent North: tonight the weather below zero and with no real sun the ice is great! However it looks like the concrete pad was not properly cleaned before the ice went in leaving dark patches where piles of leaves submerged in the ice, weakening the ice.
North Regent is not staffed at this time of day so the building is locked but the rink door is open and a sign reads "unsupervised at times use at own risk." While no one is taking advantage of the offer I am glad that one could. The ice is great, the lights are on. A rink to yourself, what a treat!
South Regent is like the favoured child compared to North Regent. South Regent has a truly wonderful building with windows so staff and users can see the action on the rink and lovely west facing windows so that the room warms after school when the kids come by. There are about 15 users and 2 staff skating. Almost no one has a helmet on. There are extra helmets available on top of the lockers. Staff explain that the helmets are not good quality and kids don't like wearing them "who knows where they have been", unless the kids are very little. But for shinny hockey the users are usually aged 12-18 and they refuse and staff respect their decision.
Staff have not been given the city of Toronto helmets although the posters are up saying that helmets are on offer. Staff feel that there is some sense that Regent should not get fancy new helmets.
The ice is good tonight although staff report that in the first month they did not get a scrape or flood more than once every other day. A permit is arriving tonight so everyone is happy that they will get ice maintenance.
The lockers need to be fixed and the women's washroom is locked, women must use the men's which is propped open.
Inside there are 6 people and there are 3 people pleasure skating, no shinny skaters. Every pleasure skater is wearing a helmet. The ice looks pretty good but it was last done early in the morning and it won't be done again until 6pm. The ice is usually done very early in the morning and again around 4 or 6pm. There is a copy of the schedule posted and they have a schedule to take home. Outside there is a lot of ice that needs chipping.
There is a permit on the ice with 14 kids in full hockey gear playing. Riverdale is one of the most well permitted rinks in the city. Deep down in Riverdale park it should be possible to play all night without disturbing neighbours.
Staff explain that this rink is quite pleasant and safe to work at. But they find it hard to enforce the helmet policy with adults, especially when the image on the poster is of a child and she doesn't have a facemask or neck guard. Getting children in this neighborhood to wear helmets is easy, the rink staff say, but adults are impossible.
Rink open but unmaintained. No skaters.
The "Gas Station Islanders" party for their Right2Play fundraiser (sports equipment for kids in war-torn countries). They put on a really classy party, with live bands and a good sound system and food for sale and races and contests on the hockey side. The ice wasn't terrible despite the bright sunshine, and the mood was very friendly. The rink staff had free hot chocolate at the campfire. At the end, when the organizers counted the donations for Right2Play, they were happy: $1200.
Last day. The rink was very full, everyone wanting one more skate. Home Depot has done a fix-up and the floor has rubber tiles, the walls have a new coat of Maple-Leaf blue paint, there are more benches, and the office seems to have been turned into a changeroom, to add a bit more space to the other two changerooms -- a warren of little rooms. The other two little tiny changerooms were jammed with skaters, but the office change room had only the rink staff and a couple of people asking for information. It looks like the staff reclaimed the office as soon as the ceremony was over. The same staff person said that even though there were so many people skating and the ice was good, at 6 pm he would lock not only the changerooms but also the ice surface. He wouldn't let people just carry on skating, as they do at other city rinks.
And no one stops this nonsense, people just obediently trot home, leaving the rink their taxes pay for just locked up tight by the city's hapless young rink staff. With the compressors continuing to run until morning. Very strange.
In this section:
From S.P.: I got to Broadlands around 1:30pm and the rink was open so I went in and asked if I could play and he told me that its leisure skate time but since theres only one other guy, and he's playing shinny, you can go on. He told me that he was flooding at 2:30pm and that from 2:30pm - 4pm he was leaving for no apparent reason and he was locking up the rink so I'd have to come back at 5pm to play shinny for 13 and up. Nobody told me I had to wear a helmet when I went on. But later when I asked him about their rules with helmets he said that yes they do enforce it for shinny, and all the time for children of 6 and under. I told him that I want to come back but I wasn't interested in wearing a helmet. He told me sorry but those are the rules here, it's a city policy. So before I left I told him he should check up on that, cause the city isn't allowed to enforce that rule. That was pretty much it. Other than that the rink is very nice and the zamboni driver was very friendly and the whole place was in good condition.
12:20pm The rink gates are locked and a sign says the rink is closed until further notice. The ice is still covered with the previous night's snow. The Zamboni justed started to remove it when the CELOS researcher arrived. A recreation staffer in the community centre next door says the rink is still open for the season.
report from a 16-year-old skater: I got to Glen Long around 11 – 11:30am and the entire rink was locked up. I went around back to knock on a door to see if anyone was there and there was staff members at the rink but they were still closed which was totally unnecessary. The Zamboni driver who runs the rink told me that i couldn't just come and play hockey whenever i feel like it, its not a free for all rink (which doesn't make sense cause its a public rink). He told me "you have to pay to play here that's how it works" if you want to play shinny hockey there you have to have a permit unless you come for shinny time which is only 2 hours a week so I asked him if I could just skate and they wouldn't let me so by that point I left.
Report from a 16-year-old skater: I got to Irving Chapley around 1 - 1:15pm and the rink was open so I went inside and asked a staff member if I could play shinny and he said no. So i looked onto the rink and I saw 2 people playing hockey so I asked him why i couldn't play if they were playing and he said that it was a permit and you've got to pay to play here. so I complained about how 2 people isn't a real permit so he let me go on and play but he told me "I didn't let you on and I didn't see you go on and if you break your neck I'm not going to do anything about it, it's your problem." At this rink unlike Glen Long they didn't make the hockey players wear helmets. When I was leaving around 1:45pm i tried to get back into the rink house and it was locked, the staff was gone and the gates were locked so i was caged into the rink with no way out, so i had to climb the fence to get out of the rink.
A large crowd of parents and children gathered at the rink tonight to celebrate Chanukah on Ice, - an event organized by the Jewish group, Chabad on the Avenue. The focal point of the evening was the lighting of a menorah made of ice. After the ceremony, Men on Ice performed some figure skating routines featuring Robin Hood and men dressed in orange ballet tutus. There was a DJ playing rock and disco music as well as some Jewish songs. For the children there was a raffle and a game of guessing how many coins there are in a jar. The rink-side barbecue had a lot of customers. The mood was generally upbeat. People seemed happy to be there, though some of the children didn't like having to get off the ice for the performance. As soon as the Men on Ice show was over, young hockey players were jumping back on the ice. There was, however, a safety issue. The menorah's electrical cord was left exposed on the ice and people were skating over it. No city employees were visible, though they might have been hard to spot in the throng.
2:45pm There are 14 skaters on the ice and ten people standing or sitting by the side of the rink. Large sections of the ice are soft and slushy. When the CELOS researcher starts skating, he finds it's impossible to make a complete circuit of the rink because so much of it is soft. Some of the other skaters aren't actually skating. They are just standing and talking. The ice surface is not suitable for skating.
7:40pm A CELOS researcher is told over the phone that the rink is open.
7:50pm When a CELOS researcher calls, he's told the outdoor rink is open, but skaters should be careful because the ice is soft along the edges,
4:30pm The rink is behind an indoor arena. No one is on the ice, which appears to be in good shape. The Zamboni pulls out of the garage to clean the ice. The driver says that the number of skaters varies, but the rink does get busy at times. There are benches and lights along the side of the rink.
There is only one outdoor rink in Toronto's East District:
2pm Two-thirds of the rink surface is a lake unsuitable for skating. There are ten skaters on the remaining third. During CELOS' visit skaters co come and go, but many don't stay long because there isn't enough room to skate.
In this section:
2:30pm About a dozen boys and girls are playing hockey. They look like kids playing baseball in the back field, just messing around. The big difference is that this pickup game depends on a 50 horsepower compressor and the machinery to clear the ice. A whole city bureaucracy is needed to set these friendly, goofy kids up in their play area. Some of them don't even have skates.
We ask them if we can take their picture, and tell them they'll be posted on the cityrinks.ca website. This interests them for half a minute -- being on TV would last a little longer -- but then they return to their game. Two of the three girls are goalies, and they get frustrated with each other if they let the puck through. The boys flash up and down the ice and don't seem to take anything very hard.
10 pm: Rink locked but seven guys playing shinny hockey. No helmets. They said they managed to squeeze in the crack of the fence, although it was locked.
8.30 pm: The zamboni driver is just coming off the ice, which looks good. The hockey side has two kids in helmets and one adult without. The pleasure-skating side is empty.
Both of the women's toilets are blocked, one with paper towels and the other with a whole roll of toilet paper. Otherwise the place is clean, and the broken lights have been replace din the corridor. But it's empty.
Later on a youth at Wallace Rink says he lives right beside JJP and he used to go there all the time. He remembers that lots of skaters were there when he was a kid, but now he and his friends don't go there anymore, because of the helmets and too many rules. They go to Wallace and to Campbell, he says, since they're both full of skaters and the game is good there.
11:30am There is an unusual sight at the park today. Twelve people are skating on a natural ice surface that has appeared next to the artificial rink. The natural ice is so smooth that it looks like someone has flooded the area on purpose. However, conversations with skaters reveal that the ice appeared naturally. About a week ago, a lot of snow melted leaving a big pool of water that later froze over. As one father put it, "Mother Nature did this." This accidental rink is quite beautiful because the ice has formed around trees and a picnic table.
At the real rink, there are 14 people skating on the pleasure side while 6 more people sit or stand on the side. Some are parents with children. Most of the children are wearing helmets. A couple of the children are using walkers. A few also have face masks. The changeroom is open and there are a few more people there. (One of the washroom hand-dryers isn't working and there's no soap in the dispenser. The washroom is, however, clean.) When CELOS arrives, the hockey pad is unlocked but empty. Later a family goes there to skate and shoot hockey pucks.
There is a handwritten sign on the big staff room: STAFF ONLY. KNOCK BEFORE ENTERING
2:50pm A man is playing hockey with a young boy. He says the rink was rebuilt but there have been some problems.
2:20pm The rink isn't scheduled to open until Dec 15.
report by M Monastyrskyj
2:30pm I arrive exactly at 2:30. As I enter the rinkhouse, I notice that part of the schedule posted on the blue and white sign by the door has been taped over because there was a discrepancy between the sign and the times posted in the Etobicoke (City West Region) skating brochure open pdf. Earlier in the season the wrong times had not been taped over.
The changeroom is big and there are plenty of benches. It looks almost the same as the changerooms at Sunnydale Acres and the Westway. There are three smaller changerooms on the side. There are bulletin boards with recent notices. The Etobicoke rink brochure schedule and other notices are posted on the window of the staff room. The staff door isn't marked, but I think the windows and the notice would make it obvious to anyone that this is the office. The door isn't locked.
2 pm: The rink is snow-covered and shows not sign of having been maintained. Two adults are trying to skate through the snow. the rink changehouse is locked.
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.
At 3.30, the rink was very watery and unskateable. The zamboni operator was sitting by the observation room window on his own just reading the paper. He said he doesn't hold out much hope for tomorrow either -- too much water to refreeze properly.
3pm There are twenty skaters of various ages and skill levels on the ice, all playing hockey. According to the sign posted by the City Sundays are reserved for pleasure skating, but this is an unsupervised rink and there are no City staff to keep the hockey players off the ice. Some are parents with their children. When CELOS first arrives the activity on the ice is unorganized, but after a while players throw their sticks into a pile and sides are chosen in the time-honoured way. Sticks are tossed to one side or the other and your team is on the side where your stick lands. Not everyone joins in the game, but despite the rink's small size, the ice is wide enough that the game can take place on one side while the rest of the players can keep skating on the other.
This small rink with no boards, nets or changerooms is a fifteen walk away from Sunnydale Acres which has a much larger ice surface as well as boards, nets and a spacious changeroom. One of the hockey players says he sometimes plays at Sunnydale, but he doesn't like it there because he has to wear a helmet. Here he doesn't have to. He points to the crowded ice surface and says, "Look, no one is wearing a helmet and no one is getting hurt." He says he can understand kids being made to wear a helmet, but if you're 19 or older you shouldn't have to.
His buddy, another hockey player, says there are too many rules at Sunnydale. Also, when he calls Sunnydale to find out if the ice is available no one answers the phone. They've tried calling the City's rink information line 338-RINK, but it wasn't helpful so they don't bother any more. They just come to Rivercrest because they know the ice is available. The players say the rink is busy every day and children from the school next door come here skating after classes are over. This Sunday Rivercrest is a busy place. People were coming and going all the time during CELOS's visit.
12:30pm The rink is empty. There's a lot of water on the ice.
12:25pm The gates are locked and the only ice is frozen rainwater. A woman has come with her two children to skate because the City website said the rink would be open. She saw workers put up boards two weeks ago.
12:15pm A small group of boys are playing hockey. The ice is good. Four City maintenance workers are at the rink. They came by truck. One of them used to work sometimes at Dufferin Grove.
5pm It's public shinny for players 14 -18 years old. The ice is in good shape. There are five players on the ice. All are wearing helmets. Rink staff confirm that shinny players are required to wear helmets. CELOS is visiting the rink to confirm some details about the place. The Etobicoke skating brochure with all the outdoor rink schedules is posted prominently outside the office door. The staff also has copies to give out. The rink operator is happy to discuss maintenance. He shows the CELOS researcher the tractor that is used to clean the ice as well as the snow clearing equipment. Unlike the situation in downtown rinks, rink operators in Etobicoke have equipment on hand with which to clear the snow and don't need to wait for a plough to come. The rink operator and rink coordinator both say that people often come to the rink in the middle of snow storms expecting to skate even when it is snowing too heavily for the rink operator to keep up. Rinks in Etobicoke don't allow members of the public to help clear the snow. This isn't considered necessary, because the rink operator can do that himself with the equipment on hand.
4:30pm The rink is completed buried in snow. An hour later, the rink operator at Westway says that in Etobicoke the priority after a snowstorm are the larger rinks (the so-called 'majors'). Summerlea is a 'minor,' i.e. an ice pad without boards, nets or changerooms. The operator at Westway said a roving crew was out cleaning the minors. However, it's worth noting that 'minor' rinks are sometimes busier than the 'majors,' partly because there are no permits and the ice is always available and partly because there are fewer rules. Players at Rivercrest, another 'minor' rink, said they played there because they didn't have to wear a helmet.
3pm The rink is locked, but you can see through the chainlink fence that the ice is covered in snow. After a few minutes, the rink operator arrives and unlocks the door. He says he will start cleaning the snow off the ice. The rink has a large snowblower. The operator says having only one 3-11pm shift Monday-Friday makes it harder to clean the rink after a snowstorm. Asked about the roving crew that cleans rinks weekdays when there's no rink operator, he says that some live outside the City and don't show up on snowy days. However, there are tire tracks on the ice suggesting somebody was trying to clean it earlier. Later that afternoon, the rink operator at Westway says there was some kind of equipment problem at Sunnydale. However, he didn't know the details.
1:30pm Sunnydale Acres has a big changing room but the place feels like a mausoleum because there are only a few people in it. Fifteen people came for the public skate but they all didn't arrive at the same time, which means there are only a few people at a time in the changeroom.
Rink staff say the rink is quiet because it is in an out of the way place, but there are houses all around and Rivercrest, a much smaller rink only fifteen minutes away is packed with shinny players. CELOS wasn't at Sunnydale for public shinny, but players at Rivercrest said they didn't like Sunnydale because there are "too many rules" and because they have to wear a helmet. Read the February 3 Rivercrest diary entry. The players at Rivercrest also complained that when they call Sunnydale to find out if the ice is available, no one answers the phone. The same players said the rink's information line 338-RINK doesn't have useful information about Sunnydale and they no longer bother to call it.
A hand-written sign on the door of the rink office says shinny players must wear a helmet and the rink guard confirms that the rule is enforced. The guard says he makes one exception. During parent-child shinny he will allow a parent without a helmet to stay if the child is wearing one.
The rink guard, who was friendly and willing to answer questions about the rink, also enforces the City's photography policy. He told the CELOS researcher it was ok to take pictures of the rink itself but not of any of the skaters. Asked if it would be ok to take pictures of people who had been asked first, the guard hesitated, but said it would be ok provided the people were told what the pictures were being used for.
The rink guard says there are fewer skaters this year because a lot of people were confused by the City's announcement (later reversed) that the rinks wouldn't open in December.
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.
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.
11:30am There are two city workers at the rink. One has brought his lunch. The changerooms are locked. The ice is thick, about 2.5 inches. A woman is watching her daughter skate in one corner. There are 4 shinny players on the ice. They are using a turned over garbage can as a net.
11am The rink has one pad with no boards. The changerooms are locked. There are two adults and three children playing shinny. There is also a teen. The teen says the changerooms are opened if a city worker is present. The ice is snowy and some of the players used shovels to clear a place to play. The teen says the rink is popular and had been packed the day before when it opened. Later that day a CELOS researcher meets the teen again at Queensway rink.
6 pm: Both pads are closed. The hockey pad is watery at the south-facing end but otherwise looks firm. The pleasure skating pad is terrible, with many gouges right down to cement. The zamboni operator looks unhappy that he had to close the rink, but says that a man fell twice, and it would be terrible if anyone got hurt by catching their skate on the cement. The operator also says that the temperature of the brine that's recirculating from the rink into the compressor room is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, almost the warmest he's ever seen. (Normally 10 degrees F.) That's the power of the sun, he says. "Maybe the weather will cooperate in the next few days and the sun will stay away."
There are three other people sitting in the staff room, but the operator seems keen to stay out and chip away at the bumps with a snow shovel. A shinny player arrives, looking disappointed, and then the zamboni operator makes his day: "you can go on, just stay away from that wet area at the end."
12pm A woman is leaving the ice. The rink is empty. The ice is in good shape.
10:40am The ice has been cleared of last night's snow and is in good shape. A permit group is playing a vigorous game of shinny.
5:20pm There are half a dozen shinny players on the ice, all wearing helmets. The ice looks reasonably good, but is rough near the boards. The operator says the rink was able to open on time this morning despite yesterday's snowstorm. He says last night while it was still snowing he cleared the ice 5-6 times so that when the roving crew came in the morning there wasn't much snow to clear. Asked about nearby Valleyfield which was still covered in snow, he says in Etobicoke the priority are the 'majors' (larger rinks with boards and changerooms). Once the big rinks are cleaned, the roving crews go to the minors - smaller pads like Valleyfield and Buttonwood. He said a roving crew had taken Westway's snowblowing equipment and was out cleaning the smaller pads as we spoke. When it was pointed out that Sunnydale Acres, a 'major', was still covered in snow, the operator says there was an equipment problem there, but he didn't know the details. Three young men are inside the staff office along with the rink operator. They may have been rink guards.