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Rink Diary 2008 - 2009

Nov.1 2008

Letter cc'd to, from A.G. :

Re: front page article National Post October 31st - sent to the editor of the National Post and A.Vaughn

Councillor Denzil Minan-Wong has his priorities straight. Last year, the children in my area read in shock how they were going to shut down the skating at Ramsden Park because of lack of funds. Mastercard Canada came up with the emergency money. Now, I read that the city is using $40 million to make over Nathan Phillips Square during the next five years. In the face of childhood obesity and the desperate need for public access to fitness and fun, I ask that the city councillors look to funding our local skating rinks. They are in sore need of repair, and given how few options there are in the winter to exercise in the inner city, this would be money used prudently.

Nov.25 2008,

From shinny hockey player Craig Pardey, about Beginners'

shinny at Ramsden: The good news is that you don't have to sign up or pay a dime; you just show up and play :) The only requirement is that you wear a helmet although most people also wear hockey gloves.

The City usually assigns an instructor to help out with some drills for the first 1/2 hour, and then we play for an hour or so.

There are also other times at Dufferin Grove and Hodgson - both also free and require no sign-up.

Hodgson opens Dec 6, so the first game will be Sun Dec 7 @ 8.30pm Ramsden opens Dec 6, so the first game will be Fri Dec 12 @ 6pm Dufferin opens Nov 29, so the first game will be Wed Dec 3 @ 10pm

December 1 2008, Letter to Friends of Ramsden from Gar Mahood

Subject: Urgent Up-date on Ramsden Rinks

Hi Friends of Ramsden:

I want to bring you up-to-date on the Ramsden rinks, which are scheduled to open next weekend. I have had a number of conversations about the operation of the rinks including a meeting with city staff and want to both pass on what I have learned, and to ask you for some urgent help. Here is some background before I get to issues before us. The rink opens this Saturday, December 6th.

Right up front, let me emphasize one thing. Almost everyone on city staff that I have had contact with have been cooperative and would like to make the rink experience a good one. Almost all are good people. But to make the rinks work, we have to identify the problems. (Read more).

Saturday Dec.6 2008

At 11.30 on opening day, there was only a rink guard at the rink, and he said the building attendant hadn't shown up. The rink guard said he had gone into the storage garage and had rolled out some of the rubber mats (none had been laid out by the Parks workers). He said he was able to get into the garage because the other room (staff room?) was unlocked and the keys were on the table, even though there was no other staff person there. Behind him, the zamboni could be seen in the garage, with its hood up. The ice looked thick enough but obviously not yet scraped or flooded by a zamboni -- there were a lot of leaves on the pleasure-skating side. The rink mats didn't reach far enough so a hockey player was crawling on his hands and knees to get to the pleasure-skating side, so as not to dull his skates.

leaves and snowy ice

no mats to walk on

However there was a lively shinny hockey game, and the players said the ice was not bad. There are some new boards up, but they haven't been painted yet -- too late now.

the joy of the game, regardless

unpainted rink boards

not a nice approach to the rink change room

There was a pretty big mess near the entrance to the change room, and in fact there were still old pieces of dasher boards with nails sticking out of them, lying on the ground. It seems like the Parks workers must have left in a hurry some days before, with everything half done, and never returned to get the rink ready.

Returning at 1.30: a new zamboni driver was in the staff room, but she said the zamboni was out of order. She knew this not from trying it but from getting a phone call. The flying squad was just arriving to do the ice.

Excerpts from a letter, dated Dec.7 2008, from Ramsden rink user Gar Mahood to other Ramsden rink users and

The rink was open—the rink guard showed up—but for the second day in a row, the change room and washrooms were locked.....It was extremely cold lacing up outside, so cold that I had trouble tightening my skates properly. It took me 30 minutes of hockey before I had feeling in my hands again. Everyone had the same experience, including parents who had to lace up two or three pairs of skates, outside.

The rubber mats were not in front of benches so skaters could not lace up there. Those who did will be due for a serious skate sharpening because they had to walk on cement to get to the ice.

Why would the city not have a system whereby someone reports in first thing by phone to a central office that the facility is open and operating properly? In the absence of that green light, why would the city not dispatch a supervisor or floating staffer to bring keys and open up the facility? Why would the city not have a storage box, room, whatever with a spare set of keys and a combination lock? The rink guard could be given the combination over the phone and instructed to open up the change room and washrooms. What are parents to do if a four year old has to use the washroom?

This situation would not be so infuriating if it only happened rarely. Unfortunately, the issue over keys occurs several times each year. Too often, the shovels are locked up and the rink guards cannot hand them out. This morning, the strong wind blew the snow to one end of the rink and we could not get access to the shovels to clear the ice by hand.

....One father asked me today, “Don’t these people care? How could two days go by without some supervisor, some member of management, upon learning about the locked change area and washrooms, not immediately bring over spare keys to open the place up?” I did not have an answer.

Wednesday December 17, 2008

After an overnight snowfall of 2-3 inches, the rink was plowed and resurfaced by 10.30 am.

Thursday December 18

At 1 pm there were five hockey players and five pleasure skaters sharing the pleasure-skating ice. It soon became apparent why -- the hockey rink had a sign and a strong smell of fresh paint. Inside the rink change house, about a dozen young men and women in Toronto Maple Leafs t-shirts (and paint spatters) were having lunch, in the company of a City staff person from the Parks and Recreation Partnership office. They said they were giving back to the community by painting the hockey boards. Since the City carpenters hadn't done it as they did in other rinks, corporate volunteers took on the job. The boards certainly looked better than on the rink's opening day.

However the fence rolls and old kickboard lumber were still by the rink change room entrance.

Ice was good, though.

combined skating on the pleasure-skating side

"wet paint"

two of the corporate painters and the City's Partnership staff

the game goes on

Monday Dec.22 2008

20 pleasure skaters and 15 hockey players, most but not all in helmets. Ice is good. Mats are nicely laid out and clear of snow. Path to the rink from the parking alley is full of snow though. There are no holiday schedules available to take home or helmets to borrow. The on-site zamboni does ice 3 or 4 times a day regularly. ON the bulletin board there's a blueprint and an announcement that there will be a new rebuild of the rink changeroom and zamboni room. One great thing they plan to add is a window from the changeroom onto the ice. However there doesn't seem to be a plan to put a window into the staff room. The community is asked to add their thoughts re the rebuild; however there are no forms left.

Thursday December 25, Christmas Day

At 1.30 pm the rink had lots of people skating and parent-child shinny on the hockey pad. The pleasure-skating pad ice looked good despite the scheduled absence of Christmas Day ice maintenance. The rain on Wednesday evening was like a free scrape and flood, so that all the rinks that had their snow plowed off earlier on Wednesday had smooth, hard ice on Christmas morning. On the hockey side, the nets had been pulled in toward the west, suggesting that the ice on the east side might be a bit rough.

The rink change rooms were open, although no staff was in sight. A knock at the windowless office door did not get an answer, but another knock, and opening the door, revealed a building attendant sitting at the desk, with his arm in a sling. He didn't have much to say, except that he didn't know anything about how the ice clearing went on rainy Wednesday. He said he was just filling in for someone.

A hand-lettered sign on the change room door said "No ice maintenance today. Rink closes at 6 pm SHARP."

On the ice, people seemed to be enjoying their skating a great deal -- lots of smiles and "Merry Christmas" greetings, and "bravo's" for the big scorers on the shinny hockey side.

new skates for Christmas

Christmas Day shinny hockey

Inside the change room, the new bulletin board had been put up, with a drawing of a proposed rink building renovation, long overdue. The drawing showed a larger "activity room" (skate change room) and a smaller staff room. Right now the staff room is as big as the change room, and it looks as though it may at one time have been a team change room.

The bulletin board also had a request for community ideas about the renovation. Hopefully someone, staff or skater, will suggest a window in the staff room. Invisible staff make no sense! And the staff should be able to see the rink from inside, as well.

Late in the day some more news came from the adult shinny group. It sounds like the large message gap between the maintenance staff and the program staff in this department has had a few particularly bad effects at this rink. The traditional Christmas morning shinny game got bumped by children's shinny, despite assurances given to the adult group, right from the Parks director's office, that their game was a go.

However the rink supervisor made a special trip to the rink to assure the adult shinny group that the Boxing Day game would have good ice and the rink would be open, weather permitting.

Saturday December 27 2008

At 8 pm the rink changeroom had a sign on it "rink closed due to weather." This was despite a City "rink hotline" announcement saying all the rinks were open. The hockey side was wet and showed no sign of maintenance. The pleasure-skating side had four skaters playing hockey, since the water had mostly run off and the ice was fairly free of puddles.

It appears that the area rink supervisor had sent all the zamboni staff home for their afternoon shift, presumably on full pay, and turned off his pager, so that rink staff could not reach him to ask about ice maintenance. By contrast, Rennie Rink had hourly ice maintenance and was able to run an all-day tournament with only one game cancelled. The ice was good there.

A pity for Ramsden, that it doesn't have the care that Rennie gets.

Monday Demember 29 2008

Group e-mail from Gar Mahood:

The bottom line is this. Ignore earlier schedules out there. Adult hockey, New Year’s Day morning, is on for 9am to 11am. Read on for details.

As you know, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s are the busiest days of the year at Ramsden. But with the cancellation of adult hockey on the mornings of these days one or two years ago and then again this year, teens and adults who want to play were collapsed from two sessions into one on the afternoons of these holidays. The overcrowding has created a situation where there is not enough room on the benches for the players present. Faced with this, players leave early or simply turn away when they get to the park.

One obvious solution is to return adult hockey, largely levels 3 and 4, to the mornings on these holidays. We were promised adult hockey on Christmas and on Boxing Day, but, despite the efforts of a couple of senior city employees, the return of adult hockey did not go smoothly on these days. (See attached report for a description of what occurred. My apologies for the length of the memo but I am trying to keep a comprehensive and detailed record of the ongoing problems at Ramsden.)

There is evidence that the city staff who are involved now understand the problems and are trying to fix them. But there is a lot to be fixed. It is too late to correct everything this year because schedules have been circulated. I secured a commitment a few hours ago to provide adult hockey on New Year’s Day morning. This will also relieve pressure on the afternoon session.

Contrary to what the distributed schedule says, the rink will open early at 9am. By the way, IGNORE THE SCHEDULE DISTRIBUTED LAST WEEK by city staff that was two years old and is marked 2006-2007! Ignore the earlier holiday schedule for 2008-2009 as well. The rink will be open at 9am and adult hockey will take place from 9 to 11am. The kids’ session will follow. This is the compromise reached earlier today.

The city is trying to find staff to open earlier. Even if no staffer is available, I will be given a key to open the rink and change room early. And I will do so. Those who overindulge the night before won’t make it out of bed or will stumble to the rink to shed the hangover. But, if this game goes as it has in the past, the serious types will be there and it will be great fun.

Thursday January 1 2009

11.50 a.m. The game was on, although there were only 11 players, meaning that some of them looked wiped -- two hours with no subs! The rink attendant said he had cleaned the ice with the rink scrapers before 9 a.m. (he said a few people helped), so it was in good shape despite the lack of zamboni staff. On New Year's Day only the Etobicoke rinks had zamboni staff.

a fun game but....

...after two hours with no subs -- bushed!

There were only four kids and a dad waiting for their shinny hockey time, starting at 11 a.m., so nobody seemed to be put out by this schedule change.

January 3 2009

12.45 a.m. e-mail from R.Y. to I live at--- and every night I have to call the non emergency Police to come down to Ramsden rink and get the hockey players off the ice. I do work in the morning and they wake me up EVERY NIGHT. I know the doors are not locked and just the lights are turned off!!!!!!!! Why is THAT??????? Leaving the players on the ice for however long they want to play. I have made numerous calls and nothing has been done.

I would suggest they lock all the doors. And as usual it is 12:45 AM and I will be call the police again!!!

I know nothing will be done, because what can we do it's not our job.

January 3 2009, Response to R.Y. from, cc'd to City Recreation manager Lucky Boothe and [email protected]

The website is not a municipal website, but we are passing on your very understandable complaint to City management (cc'd above, if you want to contact them directly). The Ramsden Rink staff building attendant who closes the building must be directed to also lock the rink gates, since the rink is close to houses and the sound of the hockey playing after hours is disturbing your sleep.

I've just spoken to the Ramsden rink building attendant and he confirms your experience -- that the staff lock up the nets but not the gates to the rink. I'll call them again after 4 pm, to ask if the woman on duty on the closing shift can start the ball rolling to lock the gates when the staff leave at night. It may be that she needs to speak with her supervisor on Monday before she can receive direction to lock the gates, but at least she can become more aware of the problem.

I'm familiar with a similar situation we had at Dufferin Rink. The staff left the gates open for years, until a rink neighbour came over one day and said: "this is wrecking my sleep!!" The neighbour is a strong supporter of the rink but she said that people were playing hockey at 2 and 3 in the morning. So the staff locked the rink at night from then on. Even so, people climbed the fence occasionally. So the rink staff put up a big sign on a chair they set right in the middle of the rink. And when the next night-time hockey game began, the neighbour came over to the rink and spoke to those shinny players, pointing to the sign. This involved the neighbour putting on clothes and going out into the cold, but she said it was still better than lying in bed, hopping mad.

The shinny players told her they were shift workers hoping to have some after-work fun, but they could see her point. These folks are usually not mean, just thoughtless, and it helps a lot for them to see the effect of their noise. (No need to yell, either -- the obvious misery of a person with a bed-head and a pajama sleeve sticking out of their coat can be really quite embarrassing to the hockey players.) After two friendly but firm visits from the neighbour, they didn't come back.

Please let us know if the City staff get back to you and solve your problem, or if it recurs. We will keep on following up as long as necessary, and I think you'll find that City staff take this problem seriously too.

January 3 2009, follow-up e-mail re noise problem, from to R.Y.

Hi there -- here's the first bit of follow-up: I just spoke to a nice rink staff named Annemarie, who works only on weekend evenings (as a rink building attendant). She says they used to lock up the rink last year but now they use those chains and padlocks to just chain up the nets. Maybe they just need to get a couple of new chains and locks and then they can secure the rink at night too.

She have me two numbers that you can call to get this problem fixed:

1. immediate rink coordinator: Danielle at 416 990-1084 2. rink co-ordinator's boss: Jonah at 416 392-1783.

Let us know if they fix it.

January 4 2009

Response from R.Y. to, cc'd to Lucky Boothe, Recreation manager for Toronto and East York

It does not matter whether the nets are locked, they just want to play hockey!! If the gates were locked last year, I do not see why they cannot be locked this year. I have already spoke with Jonah, ( I also went through this last year with him.) Jonah suggested I come up with a solution, LOCK THE GATES! On Wednesday December 31/08 I left a message for both he and Danielle, whom I have also spoke with, very sweet and understanding but I have not heard back from either of them. Maybe they have the week off.

I do not like calling the police every night, but I have to work in the morning, and my work and home life are suffering as a result of this.

January 4 2009, e-mail from to R.Y., cc Recreation manager Lucky Boothe

"The solution is straightforward, as you mention -- staff can lock the gates at the end of every evening shift -- and the line of responsibility is also clear. Please let us know if this problem gets resolved this coming week. Hopefully the Recreation manager for Toronto and East York, Lucky Boothe, will give the necessary direction."

January 6 2009

E-mail from R.Y. to cc Recreation manager Lucky Boothe "Re Update - the staff returned my call yesterday saying locks were ordered? There must be locks and chains somewhere where they do not have to wait for them to arrive. (I did not ask how long it would take) My mistake! I have not heard any more. Last night Monday January 5th 2009 slamming the puck against the boards until 3AM! I am looking older than my actual age."

January 7 2009

E-mail from Recreation manager Lucky Boothe to R.Y., cc

"Thanks for raising your concern of after hour access and usage of the rink that creates issue of noise. Immediately, we will be placing a lock on the rink gates at closure.

Historically, the locks at this location are often vandalized and after hours access becomes a problem. To this end, we would like to monitor the impact of locking the gate and the vandalism that occurs. Should the vandalism persist and the issue of noise continues, we would like to engage in a conversation that provides alternative strategies to dealing with the after hours usage."

January 7 2009k, e-mail from to R.Y. cc Lucky Boothe

Great, Lucky responded. and took the first step.

But if the midnight hockey crew climb over the fence, or find a way to get a key, my offer stands. (We could also tell them about a few rinks that are left open and NOT near houses. Exercise is good, even at 3 a.m., but not at the cost of people's sleep.)

The rec staff at the rinks around here are pretty adventuresome and they were bothered when I told them your "sleepless at____" story. They were ready to come along (on their own time) and negotiate in the middle of the night, if needs be. We all love rink rats -- only we want them to behave well.

January 8 2009

E-mail from R.Y. to recreation manager Lucky Boothe, cc Thanks for responding so quickly but it is 2:30 AM and I just called the police again. this is ridiculas. There are trespassing signs posted, maybe they should be enforced! I am not calling anyone at home to go to the rink, just go to Ramsden rink anytime after 12 Midnight, there is always a game going on!!!. And I am tired of calling the Police (they have better things to do)

Who is putting the locks on the gates?? I think when the lights are turned off no one takes responsibility and It's Not My Job!!!

January 12 2009

E-mail from R.Y. to Recreation manager Lucky Boothe and I have not heard any late night hockey in the last few early evenings. I will keep you posted and I want to say Thank You for all your help in this matter, I really do appreciate it and also for the quick reponse that I received.

Well you're pretty nice to call it a quick response if you've been talking to rec staff since last year and this is your first winter-season week off the midnight hockey. But it's wonderful to hear that it's quiet now. Your idea of locks was a good one, and maybe one of the staff knew the players and shooed them away. Or maybe Lucky got the night-time Corporate Security staff to come around.

January 12 2009, e-mail from to R.Y., cc Recreation manager Lucky Boothe

A couple of e-mails back you wrote that you were looking older than your years from so many interrupted sleeps. I hope your youth is back now! Your e-mails reminded me that warning shinny players about late-night noise is always good -- I put this bit into the Dufferin Rink January newsletter item:

People usually write in about problems, but not always – sometimes they just want to share their pleasure at the existence of the rinks. The problems that hears about are most often related to ice maintenance (see page 6). There are also some glitches with scheduling, and – for a few unfortunate people – there’s late-night noise. Shinny hockey players, if you want to play midnight hockey, don’t do it at a neighbourhood rink! is putting together a list of rinks that are far away from houses, soon to be posted on the home page.

Friday January 23 2009

At 9.30 pm, there was a fast shinny game on the hockey side, and on the pleasure-skating side there were two pleasure-skaters and three hockey players, no rink guards. Maybe the staff shifts end earlier on Fridays.

Sunday Feb.1 2009

On a very sunny day, 2.15 pm there's no sound of compressors running and the ice is mushy. The hockey side is closed and only half the pleasure-skating side is open. The staff say that the compressors seem to be down and they're waiting for somone to come and look.

The zamboni driver shows me the zamboni and tells me she always wanted to drive one, since she was very small. "My dad took me to a hockey game and I said -- that's what I want to do, I want to drive the machine that cleans the ice." She says she's a big Leafs fan, too.

hockey side locked at 2.15, no compressor noise

zamboni garage
Feb1 2009 cc of letter from T.G. to City Councillor Kyle Rae:

After a great skate yesterday morning at Ramsden one of the skaters told me that the City was considering closing the rink and selling the whole park for development. I was shocked to hear this as I consider the park to be one of the City's great assets, apart from one of the principal reasons we just bought a house in this area.

I have been trying to find out more information about this by searching on the web. So far, I have discovered a website devoted to maintaining all public rinks open but no news items on this rumour.

I write you somewhat reluctantly: I don't want to start a rumour but I also don't want to miss an opportunity to advocate for the park should there be a real debate starting on the subject.

We would be grateful for any information on the subject you could provide to us.

Feb 2 2009

Cc of response to T.G. from Mark Wilson, assistant to City Councillor Kyle Rae

Thank you for the note. There is no such truth to what you've heard. There was a proposal submitted by the Badminton and Racquet Club to redevelop the land that the city's facility sits on, this being the Ramsden Works Yard at the south/east corner of the park. This proposal was turned down by the city but may resurface in the future. Only time will tell, but it certainly does not involve the sale of Ramsden Park.

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