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posted October 14, 2005

Good news: Rink users and rink staff collaborate to make some good changes at Dufferin, Wallace, Campbell rinks:

On October 2, 2004 (a year ago) the temperature was 31 degrees. By the beginning of November, it was very chilly, and by rink opening day on November 27, the ice on Dufferin Rink was hard and smooth.

The rink opening day party last year was far too crowded, and we resolved not to have any more celebrations involving the rink house – it’s no fun to have to take a number to get in and out of the building. But after that, the rink season was one of the best. Although the weather was relatively mild, the compressors and the rink staff kept our ice in shape and the skaters and shinny hockey players had a really good time – at least until the cliffhanger March season (the sun is already too strong in March, and the ice is too thick by then, and the compressors can’t quite keep up).

It became clear as the rink season went on last year that so many people want to play shinny hockey at this rink that we need to spread the wealth. So last April a large group of shinny hockey players and other rink friends met with rink staff for a post-season planning session. This was the plan they made for this year:

1. CLUSTERING THE RINKS: there are three outdoor artificial ice rinks within ten minutes of each other in this hockey-crazy neighbourhood: Dufferin, Wallace (at Dufferin and Dupont) and Campbell (just north of Wallace Street on Campbell Avenue, near Lansdowne and Dupont). Tino DeCastro, the City’s recreation supervisor for this area, agreed to treat these rinks as a CLUSTER. That means that when there are no shinny hockey permit spaces available at Dufferin Rink, groups can still – easily – get a permit space at one of the other two rinks in this cluster.

2. LET THE WOMEN PLAY SHINNY: Women’s shinny hockey is a thrill whose time seems to have come. It’s sprung up all over the city. Last year we added an open shinny hour, then had to change that to two hours. After one hour of racing up and down the ice, some women are just not ready to stop. This year, there will be women’s open shinny times at all three cluster rinks: Wednesdays 9-11 p.m. at Dufferin Rink, Thursdays 8.30-10p.m. at Wallace rink, and Sundays 6 to 8p.m. at Campbell. And for the first time this year: a city-wide women’s shinny hockey tournament, at Dufferin Grove Park January 6-7, organized by Deirdre Norman.

3. ALL-DAY SUNDAY SHINNY: is there some old Sunday-sports prohibition that explains why there’s almost no place to play open shinny hockey on Sundays in Toronto? Who knows? But that’s over now, in this cluster. On Sundays, there’s half-day shinny hockey at Campbell Rink, shinny hockey after 6 p.m. at Dufferin Rink, and all-day shinny hockey at Wallace Rink. At long last!

4. STAFF-SHARING AND FOOD: We’ll try to make a start on this. Each outdoor artificial ice rink cost about $1 million to build, but many of those rinks are a bit orphaned – they need more care. Dufferin Rink has demonstrated that a cared-for rink is a lively rink, and a lively rink makes a wonderful, diverse neighborhood meeting place even in the cold of winter. All rinks of this cluster will get more care this winter. For starters, senior rink staff will keep in close touch with rink users and follow up all rink user suggestions within days, for all three rinks of this cluster. Tino DeCastro’s slogan is "let’s make it work." He’s helped make it work for Dufferin Rink; now it’s time to spread the wealth. (Also with snacks, cookies and drinks available for hungry/thirsty shinny players at all three rinks.)

5. OPEN EARLY AND OPEN TWO: every year from the beginning of November, kids and adults are knocking on the rink house doors, asking, is the rink open yet? When we were finally allowed to open last year in the last week of November, the rink was mobbed, and there were near-riots a couple of nights – too many people trying to share the ice. With this much enthusiasm for winter sports, the people at the April rink planning meeting resolved to ask the city to open selected rinks in the middle of November, always two in one area. That way, if one rink is too full, the overflow can go to a rink close by. In our case, we decided on Wallace Rink as the backup. To compensate for the early opening, we’d close on the last weekend in February, when it’s hard to keep good ice in anyway. [Note: see in City Rinks Open Late that the City has dropped the ball on this one.]


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