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The City's "rink hotline" says that this rink will open on Dec.13, but it's open on Dec.6. A rink attendant there says he's noticed that there is no compressor sound but there is ice on the most of the rink. College Park has very little drainage, and it's cold, so the water that collected there has frozen. Red pylons mark the cement strip along the edge. The opening sign, still from last year, says December 8. Inside it's cold, but the mats are laid out and the bathrooms are being cleaned.
The rink attendant says he was not told that his shift was cancelled, and the rink coordinator said he never heard about the delay in opening either.
At 10.15 a.m. the entry to the public parking area is locked, with a sign that says, "staff parking only." When the rink was redesigned, this parking area was put there for rink users. But staff are trying to prevent parking by non-hockey-players who made all sorts of trouble at this rink last year.
Christie Rink has had ice for many days -- apparently the compressors were started on Nov.28 or maybe even earlier. There was some rain after that and the rink has no drains, so the water just stayed on and froze. But when a big load of water freezes at once, ice gets very uneven, and that seems to be what happened here. There has been no zamboni since the ice went in. The first skaters left, saying the ice was too rough to skate.
The flying crew arrived with the zamboni at 10.30 a.m., and after that the ice was better. They also left the gate unlocked, so that people can park there again. Later, some Friends of Christie Pits arrived with Christmas wrap, a tree, and three easy chairs. They even wrapped the unused pop machine, which certainly looks nicer than when it had its chronic "out of order" sign.
Weather: High minus 2 celsius, low -7. Snowflurries beginning about 1, more in earnest about 3 pm. The accumulation was only about 2cm, but it always builds up faster on ice.
The crush on the rink was much relieved by the opening of Wallace, Christie, and Campbell rinks nearby, but even so there were lots of people out to skate. In late afternoon, when the snowflurries had begun to build up on the ice, the staff took the pucks off and gave the players a fluorescent tennis ball -- so that no pucks would get lost that could then be sucked up by the zamboni. If a puck gets up into the zamboni's augur, that means three days in the mechanic shop down on Eastern Avenue.
At 5.15 the snowflurries had backed off quite a bit and the zamboni cleared off the snow pretty quickly. As soon as it was back in the garage and the driver was gone, the next flurry came. Then it stopped again, and the rink rats plus rink staff went out with the green rink shovels and got the shinny side clear again. Good hockey for a while after that. The next snow cleared the rink out, though -- a winter wonderland, but better for a walk in the park than for finding a buried puck.
E-mail from women's shinny hockey player M.G.:
Rink is open for the season, with good ice.
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.
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.
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.
The ice was in and there was a building attendant and a rink guard inside. The rink change area has no windows, so the staff can't see out and skaters can't see in -- creepy. Out at the rink there were zero skaters. The sign announcing the opening of the rink was from last year, and gave December 8 as the date. It looks like nobody knew.
Regent South Rink was open with a building attendant and a rink guard. Good ice, four people playing shinny hockey. The sign was from last year's closing date. The rink house was light-filled and run-down and friendly as always.
Opening day. The ice was almost okay but it had thin patches near the entryway. Six people skating. The rink change house doors were open but there was no sign of any rink attendant other than a parked car -- knocks on doors produced no result. Much of the rink building and surround looks in need of care and attention -- scraped doors that need paint, a signboard with no information, a deep crack in the asphalt path that's just covered over with a piece of rubber mat.
On opening day the rink has a thin layer of ice but it looks skateable. However there's no one skating. The sign says "Weather permitting, this rink will open on Dec.9." Only the "9" is changed to "8" with black felt marker. Maybe that's one reason why there's no one here -- the sign is wrong, because it's still up from last year.
The building attendant is there, and the rec staff coordinator is just passing by. He says that the rink house is still in bad shape, and that a guy approached them to see if he could run a little snack bar out of the rink -- but it didn't go anywhere. I suggest skate rentals. We agree that this rink is a beautiful but slightly sad orphan, not living up to its potential.
The ice is a bit rough in places (looks like only one flood with a zamboni), and thin, but there's no cement. It's full of kids. As usual the nailed-up players' boxes is where all the kids prefer to sit -- it's tricky because their legs are all dangling and kids run into them during the shinny games.
The approach to the rink from the parking lot is very trashy, same as last year, and there trash has blown up against the chain link fence and got stuck there. It's hard to tell when it was last picked up.
The rink is scheduled to open today. When staff arrive at 10am they find the rink is covered by the same rough sheet of ice that has been there for days. There are some skate marks but it isn't clear whether the ice is ready. A steady stream of hockey players come and ask if the rink is open. The building attendant shows them the ice and say they can try it if they like. A few do, but no one stays long. People are also phoning to see if the rink is open.
At about 11:30 a man from corporate services comes to look at the compressor. The compressor is working properly. At 11:45 the Zamboni arrives to do a scrape and flood. He takes longer than usual.
A few players say the ice isn't bad, but there is a patch near the side gate where the Zamboni has flooded over a pile of leaves. The rink is busy all day. Most of the players are the same regulars who played last year, but there are also some new faces who have questions about the rink and its schedule.
4-6pm is set aside for pleasure skating. Park rec staff set up a campfire and start serving free hot chocolate and hot dogs. However, the weather is bad and no pleasure skaters show up. Staff tell the hockey players they can stay on the ice for now, but will have to leave if any pleasure skaters show up. None do.
When it starts to snow, players ask to use the green shovels to clear the surface. The players push the snow to the Zamboni gate while a staff person moves it from there to a pile by the playground.
Late in the afternoon when it starts getting dark, the lights don't go on. A crew from the City arrives to fix the problem. At 6pm, they were still working on it.
Weather: high -4 celsius, low -8. mainly sunny but the sun is so low and weak you hardly notice it.
Today was a day off for many schools and the rink was pretty crazy -- since most of the rinks are not yet open, at least not officially.
Beyond the crowding from the younger kids, there are all the young teens who come skating to be with other young teens, play-fighting and bragging and doing various girl/boy dramatics. Friday night is a particular focus -- too young to date, maybe, but old enough to see and be seen, as noisily as possible.
The park cooks made some delicious food for the Friday Night meal, but eating it in the rinkhouse was a bit like eating in a noisy kindergarten. It reminded us why Friday Night Supper was started in the first place -- to balance the youth culture with some adults. When it got too crowded, Friday Night Supper devolved into less of a sit-down thing. It may need reviving, to squeeze the youth a bit, so they don't feel that they own the whole world.
A young kid was overheard saying to his friend, as they left the rink to go home: "you can buy stuff here, like good food even." But the fact is, the kids don't tend to buy more than mini-pizzas. Maybe on Fridays, unaccompanied kids of a certain age (young teens, who don't tend to have very much money) should be able to get that "good food" free. It would be the same idea as the art gallery announcing, as it just did, that high school students get in free every day after 3.30. A Slowfood "education of taste"?....
The rink looks pretty good and ready for skating, and the compressor building has lots of steam coming from the condenser. The mats are neatly laid out too. What's missing is only some signage, letting people know when the rink will open, or anything about its schedule. The south bulletin board ("Harry Gairey Ice Rink") has a skating poster from March 2007. The north bulletin board ("Alexandra Info") has two roller blading posters. The rink doors has a sign saying "rink changerooms." Nothing else.
Trinity Rink was just being started. Two staff were out there with the hoses at 2.30 pm, but the rink was still mostly cement. The foreperson was there too. He looked tired. He said the rink had had compressor problems which had just been fixed. The up-to-date bulletin board had two notices telling of the delay, for technical reasons, and saying the rink would open on Dec.8. The second notice was from the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods, who had planned an opening party with hot chocolate - now postponed to the middle of December. Some of the park friends are planning to take turns serving Fair Trade hot chocolate for a couple of hours every Sunday - a great way to get to know a rink. This group has a wikipaedia entry too, here.
The rink is ready to go for tomorrow, but when the last hose flood was finished today, some kind rink worker forgot to lock the gate. By 4 pm this had been discovered. By 6pm the rink had about 20 shinny players.
This area has so many Portuguese kids, and the Portuguese love hockey. In Portugal, it's roller hockey, of course, and there are European championships and roller hockey stars. But here it's real ice hockey, and kids come out in rain or in bitter cold, and play for hours, sometimes all day. That's why the recreation staff make sure there are snacks.
In late afternoon, the day before the rink season is to begin, the zamboni is just pulling off the ice and the ice looks perfect.
When I took the picture at the left I could see a rink operator looking through the glass. The sign is nice with all the ornamental kale planted there, and the doorway is clear of litter, but -- sadly -- there's no sign that says the rink is about to open for the season.