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< January 05 - 10 | 2008-2009 Diary Page List | December 28 - 31 >

Sunday January 4 2009

Christie Pits

Cloudy today but no rain until 3.30, and lots of people came to skate for the Family skating time -- staff estimate about 90. The snack bar was open from 1-3 pm, but then had to close (supervisor's orders to only allow 2 hours a week) even though there were still lots of people around. Skate rental was very popular but also had to stop before people were ready (same orders).

Ice maintenance: 3.30 pm only, using the Ramsden zamboni because the flying squad zamboni was out of order. Ice maintenance staff report much equipment failure.



Weather: high 1, low -5. There was a nasty forecast of freezing rain but it never really came about.

This was the last day of the holidays, and despite the dark clouds much of the day, there were still plenty of skaters. Near the end of the day, around 8 pm, the zamboni driver was driving very fast up and down the hockey ice. It was puzzling and alarming to watch -- how could he be cleaning the ice that way, and if he wasn't resurfacing, why was he driving like that? He looked really grim.

Who knows why he was mad (if). He told me a few days ago that he had a fall in the parking lot of the Parks service yard last weekend, and sprained his leg. Maybe he was in a bad mood because of that. But the rink staff looked worried when that zamboni driver was on the ice. They took extra care to make sure the skaters stayed far back when he was resurfacing the open "pond" side of the rink.

The rinks operate during the cold, dark time of the year. It's hard not to be alarmed at times. The easy, light breezes of summer aren't there. There are rainstorms and snowstorms, and jangly alarms sometimes go off around the big machines. The ice resurfacers and plow-trucks go back and forth so much, they can bump into boards and gates - splintering wood, and twisting metal gates so that they don't close right anymore. The rest of the park is often in darkness, with only the rink standing out, an oasis flooded by powerful rink lights.

Usually it feels fine, and to the skaters it often feels better than fine. But tonight it felt uneasy.

Ice maintenance today: 9 am, 12 noon, 4.55 pm, 8 pm.



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."



E-mail from R.R. to

I would like to file a complaint with the city about the maintenance of the Rosedale hockey rink. Could you advise me who to contact and how?

The long tradition (10-20 years!) of the same players coming out to the weekend early-morning shinny games (Sat 8-10; Sun 9-11) is in jeopardy this year because of the terrible maintenance of the ice. In the past, the flying zamboni team would clean the ice first thing in the morning ensuring great games. But this season we've faced unplowed snow and rough ice. The rink attendant doesn't let us use the scraper and there's only one (!) shovel for the snow. One morning we shovelled and scraped with whatever we could find for 1h and could only play for's a very sad state of affairs when the kind of cameraderie that has developed over the years is threatened because of city's indifference.

January 4 2009, response fom to R.R. is not a city website, as you may have noticed already, it's external. But I can certainly tell you who to contact.

Your complaint is not unusual, and people in various parts of the city are trying to solve these kinds of things at their neighborhood rink, e.g.: Ramsden Rink.

One problem seems to be a very uneven distribution of outdoor rink ice maintenance staff. All single-pad central Toronto neighbourhood rinks except for Kew have been recently downgraded to "minor" rinks, while in Etobicoke those rinks are called "major" (like our double pads). The many single-pad hockey-board rinks in Etobicoke have on-site ice resurfacing staff and vehicles for 9 - 14 shifts a week, leaving the central single-pad rinks with the crumbs (flying squads that come twice a day on good days, often less).

The new acting general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Brenda Patterson, recently defended the present situation in writing: "The start-up this season has gone very well, with only a few minor disruptions....Staff is pleased with the availability and assignment of equipment and believes it is more than sufficient to support the needs program across the city." Her whole letter is here.

It would be very helpful if the general manager heard from other rinks that it's not working as well as she seems to think. However, in case City management never do get it to work this season (despite the considerable cost of the large and well-paid ice maintenance staff complement), shovels and scrapers are a big help. At Dufferin Rink we (rink users and on-site rec staff) fought the "battle of the scrapers" some years ago. As a result, the director at that time put out a citywide memo explicitly permitting rink users to work alongside rec staff to clean snow off the ice. However it seems that a number of rinks have slid back into the old approach of "NO."

The rink staff at Dufferin, Christie, Wallace and Campbell rinks have worked out a shovel protocol and have already begun to do regular supplementary ice maintenance, since the City is demonstrably not able to deliver an adequate level of maintenance at the central rinks (not even all double pads). You could ask Parks to supply Rosedale Rink with a total of three green rink scrapers (two single-size and one double) and four snow shovels, plus a letter of permission to use them. The person who can get you the shovels and the letter is the ice maintenance supervisor for your area: Peter Leiss.

The person who can clarify the on-site building attendant's role in supporting the manual ice clearing with the best shoveling routine is City recreation manager Lucky Boothe . He may wish to send the Rosedale rink staff to Dufferin Rink for a quick training refresher with the rink staff there. Lucky would also be responsible for ensuring that any staff reluctance to support rink users is remedied.

And the address for the general manager is [email protected]. Drawing her attention to your problem is perhaps the best way to make sure it gets immediate attention. And -- of course -- gaining the support of your city councillor is always helpful: [email protected]. He must be very aware of the issues you're facing, having dealt with them for so many years at Ramsden.



From the Karen MacKenna for the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods:


Well, after some false starts this inaugural season - sincere apologies - looks like today the weather (no rain!) is smiling on us. By all accounts the hot choco will be served up between 3pm and 5pm today at the rink. All skaters and sledders welcome!

Please, BYO Mugs if you can. We will supply eco cups if you forget.

I will host the initial Sunday and Patricia Arseneau has agreed to share alternate Sundays with me. But we welcome and encourage any volunteers who would like to take on a shift during the 12 week season. Please contact me at[email protected] you are interested).

Patricia Arseneau was serving up the hot chocolate (organic Camino, and free!)and there were plenty of people interested. But just as she poured out the first cup, the freezing rain began. However, there were still skaters on the ice. Soon this bad weather luck has to turn.


Karen MacKenna and friend giving hot chocolate advice

Patricia mixes it in

free hot choclate, just as the rain begins


At 10am a father was on the ice shooting pucks while his daughter pleasure skated. A second hockey player was sitting outside the rinkhouse. They were soon joined by other players. By 10:30, there were enough for a game. The ice was snowy and everybody wanted to know when the Zamboni was coming. After an hour most of the players left.

At 1pm a father and his son were alone on the ice shooting pucks. They were joined by a second father who brought his young son and daughter to pleasure skate. (On Sundays and weekdays, it's shared use from 10am-4pm. This means hockey players and pleasure skaters have to share the ice.) More hockey players arrived. Sides were chosen and there was a game. Rink staff warned the players to be careful of the pleasure skaters and they generally were, but hockey at Campbell is intense, which made it hard for the pleasure skaters. The father said he and his children were alright on the ice. The family left after an hour.

Hockey players continued to arrive and by 2:30, there were twenty on the ice. Another father came with his young daughter to pleasure skate. Told by the rink staff that it was shared use, he decided to leave. Staff suggested he try the double pad at Wallace-Emerson. He seemed interested. At 3, a third family with young children asked about pleasure skating.

The small Zamboni came at 4:50 and did a flood. It left at 5:20. The Zamboni crew only came once today. CELOS heard later that one of the Zambonis had trouble starting this morning.

After the Zamboni left, hockey continued. At 5:30, a young couple came to pleasure skate. They thought All ages in the schedule meant pleasure skating. They asked the ten young hockey players on the ice if they would mind having a couple of pleasure skaters on the ice even though it was hockey time. The players said it was OK.

Saturday January 3, 2009


Weather: high -3 C low -15. Sunny all day.

Today was perhaps the busiest day yet in the holidays, and no wonder, with perfect winter weather and a (pleasantly thin) layer of still-white snow over everything.

The last skaters, taking off their skates at 11 when the lights turned off, seemed reluctant to leave even then. One of the skaters thanked the staff person who was locking up, saying that he had been at the rink much more than at home, and that these rinks were just wonderful, and he appreciated the rinks, and the staff who run them, so much.

Such testimonials are surely a nice nourishment for the trouble-shooting (and sometimes careworn) rink staff, dealing with hundreds of people every day.

Ice maintenance: 8am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5.30 and 8:55pm.



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.


Wallace Emerson

This was supposed to be the first day of skating lessons, beginning at 10 a.m. At 9.30 a skating teacher arrived. She said there were supposed to be two others, but they never showed. The resurfacing crew hadn't come to the rink yet and so the ice was still snow-covered. The rec staff shoveled out a little section of the ice so that the lessons could begin. A plow-truck showed up during the first lesson, to plow out the rink, but before the rink was done, the driver left the snow removal to an old zamboni, which was very slow. Later on, it turned out that the lessons were cancelled.

Not a good beginning, but hopefully the problems will get fixed.

Aside from that, it was a beautiful day at the rink, with higher attendance and more $2 skate rental than any day so far in this rink season (or maybe ever).

Ice maintenance: 10.30 a.m., 7.30 pm There was lots of snow piled against the boards in the morning, left there by after-hours skaters who must have used benches to move the snow out of the way.


Christie Pits

clearing the rink with shovels, just as the plow-truck arrives

Rink users and staff arrived to find the rink pretty snowy again, from a lot of use and one unfortunate snow flurry the day before. They set to work with the big green rink scrapers, and snow shovels, to clean the rink of snow. When they were about half way through (10 a.m.), the plow-truck arrived and did the rest. At 1 pm and 5.30 pm the flying squad came.



When the building attendant arrived at 9:45am, the ice was covered in snow. There were eight players. They asked if they could use the green shovels. For the next half hour the players and the building attendant shovelled snow off the ice, including the piles left along the boards last night.

At 11:30 a plough arrived. The driver looked at the ice but didn't bring the plough on it. Not surprising since skaters and rec staff had just cleared the ice manually. However, the driver did clear the large pile of snow that was blocking the north Zamboni gate.

Every Saturday from 4-6, there is pleasure skating. Staff make a cooking fire by the rink and serve hot chocolate and food. Ten skaters showed up during the first hour, four during the second. The hockey players weren't happy to give up the ice, but they left without any problems. Only one of the younger boys stayed for pleasure skating. A few others hung around in the changeroom.

A recent immigrant from Morocco stopped by to chat by the fire. He said this was the first time he had ever seen an ice rink. A young family was skating. The parents spoke French to their children. When the man from Morocco heard them, he started speaking to them in French.

The Zamboni finally arrived at 6:30. The driver did a separate scrape followed by a scrape and flood. He finished at about 7.

Friday January 2, 2009


Weather: sun and cloud, high -1 C, low -5.

Annoying snowflurries in late afternoon, early evening, in between clear skies, made it necessary to hand-scrape repeatedly. But the crowds continued. One of the young teens' i.d. disappeared and - despite a search of every corner of the skate room, in case it had slipped down -- it never re-appeared. She was angry that she'd have to get a new i.d. card, and said with a steely voice: "when I leave my i.d. here, I expect to get it back!!" Fair enough. It's hard not to snap back, though -- "honey, did you notice the number of people renting skates this afternoon? Do you realize this is operation done on a shoestring, which is why you and your friends can meet here day after day, skating or kibitzing with each other inside by the woodstove, for only $2 a pop? The skates are sharpened for you, broken laces are replaced, i.d. is filed, and this is only the second time this season that there's been a mistake -- plus one $200 theft of skate-rental deposits, which the rink program had to swallow."

The interesting thing about making things work well, is that many people quickly come to take it for granted. The machinery fades into the background, invisible.

On the other hand, people get big ideas. After the evening shinny hockey time was packed on both the hockey pad and the "pond" side, a bunch of the players said -- "this place needs two or three more pads. Come on, let's get the city to build a bunch more pads right next to these two, -- they'd be full right away."

But they also said that they don't use the rinks nearer to their houses, because the ice maintenance is bad.

Better to fix up the rinks that are not working, rather than build new ones! And cheaper.

Ice maintenance: 9am, 1:30pm, 5:10pm, 7pm manual scrape, 9pm. Peter Kuitenbrouwer, writing about tonight's ice maintenance in the National Post, (January 4 2009) Our group, which has a city permit, arrived for the 9 p.m. skate. A few centimetres of snow had recently fallen, and a city worker was clearing it off with the Zamboni. Having removed the snow, she drove off to clear the pleasure rink. "Aren't you going to flood?" I asked her. "My shift is ending," she said. "Unless I get a call from my supervisor to work overtime, I'm going home." She left us with a rutted mess of an ice surface, a washboard permeated by deep gouges. At one point I tried to turn backwards, lost my balance and smacked, theatrically, on the ice, whacking my helmet-clad head on the ice. "Wow," said another player, after making sure I was okay. "That was a garage sale!"



The building attendant arrived at 3:30pm. Hockey players told the B/A that the Zamboni flooded the ice at 3. It started snowing and by 6, there was too much snow on the ice to move the puck easily. The players used the rink's big green shovels to clear the ice with the help of the B/A.

The Zamboni arrived at 7:15. It did two passes around the rink. On the first pass it did a scrape without flooding. On the second it did a flood and scrape. It left at 7:40.

It continued to snow. At about 8 when the building attendant was inside, some people used the nets to push snow against the boards. They left four large piles. The building attendant started to clear the piles but couldn't finish before his shift ended.

While the B/A was clearing snow, a woman who lives on Symington asked about pleasure skating with her daughter. The rink staffer told her there is pleasure skating and a campfire every Saturday from 4 to 6. The woman said it was unfair there is so much hockey at the rink. The B/A told her there's more hockey at Campbell, because pleasure skating times at the rink haven't attracted many skaters. He told her there is more pleasure skating at Wallace-Emerson, which has a double pad. The woman said she would rather bring her daughter to Campbell because it is closer.

Thursday January 1, 2009


starting the new year with a skate

Weather: sunny and started off very cold (-14 C in the morning), then milder, eventually up to -5. Low of -4.

The rink had its busiest day since it was rebuilt in 1993. Many of the other outdoor rinks that were open across the city were also very full. Poor North York -- all their rinks except the one at Mel Lastman Square were locked.

The central rinks didn't have any zamboni staff for the day (only the Etobicoke rinks got ice maintenance staff), so the rink staff and users did ice maintenance manually (with the green scrapers) three times: at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.


Wallace Emerson

"pond" side

how not to do ice maintenance -- some work and some chat

A fine day, cold but clear, with a LOT of skaters, everyone in a good mood and "Happy New Year"-ing each other.

Ice maintenance: zamboni crew were only scheduled for Etobicoke on New Year's Day. So at Wallace Rink there was manual ice maintenance only (snowshovels and green ice scrapers) done by rec staff and skaters: 11am, 6:30pm.


High Park

The city holiday schedule says that High Park rink is open but without supervision. In actual fact, there are two staff there -- a zamboni driver and his assistant. They are sitting in the observation office. Because of the holiday, there are no program staff or rink guards where the actual skaters are. But there are plenty of skaters, both on the shinny hockey pad and on the pleasure-skating side, many looking like they're having a very good time.

shinny hockey on New Year's Day

lots of pleasure-skating

The change area is not well signed but it has many new rubber mats leading both to the men's and to the women's swimming pool changerooms. Newly arriving skaters are hesitant about whether they're supposed to go to their assigned gender areas, but they soon figure out that the signs are not meant for winter.

the change rooms now have plenty of rubber skate mats

zamboni tent -- snug with straw bales

The zamboni tent has straw bales at the bottom, to keep the zamboni warmer. It looks a bit like a little barn where goats might be kept -- snug.


Giovanni Caboto

The city holiday schedule says that this rink is open but unsupervised. The steps and ramp are unshovelled and the front door is locked as before, but there's a new, more colourful hand-lettered sign saying that the rink must be accessed "by the gate" instead of the door. A few skaters try the door and then look around to where the gate might be. The parked St.Clair Right-of-Way construction trailers are still blocking the gate, but it's possible to slip between the vehicles and find the way in.

the rink staff say this is not the "real" entrance to the rink

finding the path between the construction trailers

music playing

fresh ice

Once inside the fence, it's evident that there must be some rink supervision somewhere, since the ice appears to be freshly resurfaced and the speaker attached to the light standard has music playing. There are a few pleasure skaters, and another few shinny hockey players, but more are changing into their skates. No sign of the zamboni driver. His (unlabelled) door is shut and the front desk, very nicely located by the locked front door, is empty. So are the various change rooms, one of which is blocked off by a bench. But some washrooms are open, and they're clean.

New Year's Day shinny hockey

the locked front door, empty entrance, unlabelled staff door


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.


Christie Pits

snowy rink

A beautiful sunny day, but a pretty snowy rink. No ice maintenance on New Year's Day except in Etobicoke. So in the afternoon, staff and rink users cleaned off the snow at 1 pm with shovels.


Glen Long

There was never an answer to the e-mail offering a "rink open for public skating" sign for the holidays.

The City's holiday rink schedules showed many outdoor rinks in Etobicoke and central Toronto open for New Year's Day. But it said that North Toronto outdoor rinks, except for Mel Lastman, would be closed.

The North York rinks were as good as their word. Despite the nice weather, and despite outdoor rinks in other parts of the city being lively with families and "Happy New Year" wishes exchanged among neighbours, Glen Long Rink was locked, with a new sign: Rink Closed. There was no other sign explaining when the rink would be open again.

Rink Closed, plus duct tape

view from the rink -- there are lots of people living nearby


The rink was really full of people, the big parking lot had no spaces left. There was a big shinny game and there were lots of people skating around the tree. The ice was excellent -- the zamboni driver said he's been assigned to work 10 to 6, all by himself -- no rink staff at all! He said it's strange to have only himself there as staff. But the scene looked verv friendly, lots of Happy New Year's, nobody acting foolish, so that they would have needed direction from a rink guard.

The zamboni driver said that they have not lost one day all season so far.

the view out the rink clubhouse window

skating around the trees


The ice was snowy and in the afternoon at 4.30 pm, some hockey players took the snow off with the scrapers (green shovels). Better hockey after that. No ice maintenance crew on duty except for Etobicoke rinks.



early evening at Trinity Rink, January 1

There were pleasure skaters on the ice and two rink guards in the building. The ice was rather snowy, since there had been no ice maintenance since yesterday, but the rink guards said they are not allowed to use shovels to clear snow off the ice. They said there used to be those big green rink scrapers at Trinity Rink,. to clear the snow off the ice, but they had been removed so that no one would use them.

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