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posted April 8, 2006


The human zamboni meets the Dufferin glacier

This last rink season, Dufferin Rink was even busier than last year (a bit too crowded for a neighbourhood rink) but people said they had lots of fun anyway – and a lot of new kids and some grown-ups, learned to skate with those yellow-painted skates we got last year from the NHL Players’ Association.

Rink board of management:

On-site staff and rink users disagreed considerably with the zamboni drivers, this past winter, about optimum ice thickness and other aspects of their ice maintenance. No resolution was ever found. In February there was a public meeting to look into forming a board of management to run the rink. Representatives of the zamboni drivers’ union, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 416, told the meeting that no matter who manages the rink, their existing collective agreement stands. However, introducing more hands-on rink management could help a lot. A list was circulated at the meeting to get volunteers who would work on finding out more about boards of management. Several of them attended a meeting of the McCormick Arena board of management, to see how they function. Now one of the park’s legal researchers is going through the City’s proposed new board of management legislation and also the union’s collective agreement. Check the "City Rinks" page of the park web site for new information as it’s posted. To get on the rink information e-list, e-mail [email protected]. To get on rink phone list, leave your name and number at the park: 416 392-0913, and staff will pass along your message.

Human zamboni:

After the public rink meeting, City Recreation Director Don Boyle directed the zamboni drivers to cut the ice thinner. Extra ice scrapes occurred on five occasions, but the ice was still between 3 and 8 inches thick (depending on where it was measured) by the end of the season. Once it gets too thick, ice is hard to reduce.

During the final two weeks of the season, on-site staff and rink users tried scraping the ice with the green rink shovels when the sun made it mushy, hand-flooding (with a big black hose), and mopping the ice after flooding to get it smooth (a tip learned from curling arenas’ web sites). The human zamboni! Rink staff also painted one of the hockey boards black to see if that would reduce the melt on the sunny side of the rink. It helped, so next year all the board on that side should be painted a dark colour.

Now that the rink season is done, the on-site park staff are writing a little booklet about all the details of running outdoor rinks, for other City rink staff and rink users. Rink friend Sylvie Varone has donated $75 to help with the printing.

Ice thickness at other rinks:

The park’s research group checked out ice thickness in outdoor rinks all over the city at the end of the season. Almost all the rinks had ice between 4 and 7 inches thick. Our researchers found a chart from Manitoba arenas that showed a 20% increase in energy costs when indoor arena ice thickness went from 1 inch to two inches. We consulted CIMCO, the ice rink compressor company, to find out what ice thickness is optimal in outdoor rinks. The person we talked to said that our rink compressors could not possibly cool four or more inches of ice and that any ice that thick had been turned into a natural ice rink. He told us he’d talk to the CIMCO engineers to see if they had an energy-cost formula. But he never did get back to us or return our phone calls after that. So we wrote to the president of CIMCO. He wrote back that while one and a half to two inches of ice is the standard for indoor ice, three inches would be best for outdoors, no thicker.

Meantime, two weeks after the compressors had been turned off, the last little sections of ice, still over three inches thick, were almost done melting. The ice sheet was like a retreating glacier, staying hard on top even when the temperature rose to 18 degrees.

Rink cluster:

The "rink cluster" experiment did well for two months and then the wheels fell off in the third month. The idea had started as Dufferin Rink staff helping staff at Wallace Rink and Campbell Rink making their rinks work better, and thereby spreading out rink users and making Dufferin Rink less crowded. But the conflict between Dufferin on-site staff and the ice maintenance crew removed the support that was needed, and Wallace Rink in particular reverted to its former ways. The ice was often poor there and the strongest youth dominated the ice and the rink house in the evenings. This summer, Wallace Rink will be torn down and replaced, at a cost of $1.2 million. It appears that there may after all be some minor improvements inside the rink house as well. So next season we’ll try again.

posted January 31, 2006

Outdoor Rink Reports, 2005 - 2006

Here's a look at the running of some of Toronto's outdoor rinks during the rink season of 2005/2006. Toronto has 47 neighborhood compressor-powered outdoor rinks (that's not counting the big outdoor rinks in central squares). The rinks range from lively meeting places for their neighborhoods to squalid hangouts for very troubled people. The rinks are also demonstration sites of the joys and troubles that beset city staff. Jutta Mason visited some rinks every day, some just occasionally.


Saturday March 18

For the record -- there was no response to the e-mail below on Friday. So we closed the rink. Then rink staff lead hand Mayssan and I hand-flooded and hand-scraped the pleasure-skating ice ourselves. The human zamboni. Just when we were done, the zamboni driver arrived, although we had been told earlier (see below) not to expect that. He scraped and flooded the hockey side and then we re-opened. (Note: surprise scrapes are nice but collaborating ahead of time on the ice scrape plans is even better.)

However it was satisfying to see that ice maintenance can be done by hand in desperate times. Outdoor rinks in March get only about 10% of the normal winter attendance, on good days -- when the ice is mushy, attendance goes to zero.

Also for the record -- west region does indeed have four rinks to look after for March, not six. Why not tell the straight story? Better yet, why not collaborate on making it work, i.e. draw the on-site rink staff in on the planning, if the compressors are pumping the whole time anyway?

Friday March 17

E-mail to Tino:

I have heard that there will be NO extra scrapes for Dufferin rink because there are only three staff for SIX west rinks. Yesterday there were only FOUR west rinks still open. During the last two days, the zamboni driver was only assigned to ONE rink (ours) but he said he was also busy rolling up mats at other closed rinks etc.

I think if the city keeps some rinks open, the rolling up mats at closed rinks could wait for three days.

Please let me know for sure that no one is coming to scrape our rink so that we can close the rink -- it needs a scrape NOW and there are a fair number of people there. Shall we tell them to go home?

Thursday March 16

E-mail to Tino:

I'm hoping that we can try an experiment with our rink tomorrow. On these cold but sunny days the rink has been closed all afternoon and the staff have been turning away lots of kids. At City Hall this afternoon I noticed their rink was open and in good shape. Their zamboni driver said they scraped it about every two hours. Today at Dufferin Rink we only got the early morning scrape and then no more until after the sun went down.

When the rink staff measured today they found our ice is still 4 to 6 inches thick in many parts (except near the south-facing boards, where it's 2 and a half inches of watery slush with one inch of hard ice underneath). So we think there's enough ice on most of the rink to allow the zambonis to experiment with scraping every two hours tomorrow (except along the south-facing boards). Please see if the zamboni drivers could be persuaded to give this a try. That means we need a scrape at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., reverting to the normal maintenance schedule after that. If that makes the ice worse, not much is lost. We've had to be closed so much this week anyway, and there are only a few days left. It's good to try things!

Sunday March 12 (Cloudy in the morning, then two hours of sun, then cloud again. High of 15.)

Dufferin Rink, 11 a.m., cloudy: Ice hard with little patches of water here and there. Only four skaters. Zamboni driver says the ice is too hard to cut down, and that it’s better to wait until it gets slushy in the afternoon.
Rennie Rink, 12 noon, cloudy: Ice hard on both sides. Looks 2 to 3 inches on most of the hockey side, much thicker on the pleasure-skating side. About 25 kids on both sides for figure-skating lessons. One of the parents told me about the day the Toronto Maple Leafs came to play for the media. Apparently some school classes were brought over, but the kids were told that they couldn’t speak to the Maple Leafs, nor get their autographs, nor go on the ice with them. It was a very cold day and the kids shivered in the bleachers until it was over – just a backdrop for the photos.
Harbourfront Rink. 12.30, sunny: ice has thin film of water on it but good underneath. Beautiful scene along the waterfront, but only 12 skaters.
City Hall Rink, 1 p.m., sunny on half the rink, shaded by hotel on the other half: ice is hard, but with a thin film of water everywhere. Skate rental is closed. About 20 skaters.
Ryerson Rink, 1.10 p.m., completely in shade: About an inch of water on the rink – looks like a pond. No skaters.
Ramsden Rink, 1.25 p.m., sunny but with shade from tree branches on hillside. A film of water overall, but solid under. No skaters, nor staff in view. Ice very high – looks like the lift gates are trapped.
Dufferin Rink, 2.20 p.m., sunny. Ice has a film of water all over it – underneath it feels solid. Three skaters. Zamboni driver says he’s busy at another rink, will come by as soon as he can, to cut ice.

Saturday March 11 (Sunny, high of 10 celsius.) Dufferin Rink, 7.30 p.m. You can't keep rinks open if you don't take care of them. Tonight our rink is open because it was scraped by the zamboni at 8 a.m., scraped again from 12.30 to 2 (14 loads of snow off), closed for the afternoon, scraped again at 6.30, reopened at 6.50 p.m.. Now the ice is FINE. Apparently the zamboni driver will not be returning tonight, because there's no permit (just ordinary taxpayers skating). But there are lots of kids and adults skating on both sides.
City Hall is open and the ice is fine, presumably for the same reason -- they actually got scraped. All the other City rinks are closed. The zamboni driver says he didn't want to use the zamboni on the other rinks today because it might stress the machines.
If zambonis are too stressed by doing what they're made for, the City needs to get better vehicles. Beyond that, I have the impression that if I stopped asking, over and over, for the ice to be done, Dufferin Rink would just be allowed to sink into the same mess the other rinks are in. I keep being told that they can't do the rink, it's too soft, too wet, etc. and when I ask them to please just try it (and they do, apparently because of an order from management, to listen to me for now), the ice turns out to be fine. There's lots of margin for error anyway, given the depth of ice at most rinks.

But really, where are the managers? Why not come out and see for themselves that the rinks get done?

A “this-makes-it-all-worthwhile” moment: just before Dufferin Rink reopened tonight, a big group of boys and girls arrived with three men. The kids were aged about 7 to maybe 12. The girls wore shawls over their heads. Apparently the group had hoped to skate earlier in the afternoon and had been told to return around seven. So the staff figured that they’d better not disappoint them. None of the group had skates, so everybody got fitted from the skate rental room. To celebrate the reopening, the skate loans were free.
The only other skaters were our usual 7 or 8 rink rats from the low-rent apartments, also aged 9 to 12, with the old truck driver who usually brings them, and one other dad.
As soon as the hockey side reopened, the rink rats took to the ice and skated around the periphery of the rink, really fast, as though they were on Hockey Night in Canada. Then they pushed one of the nets up to make room for the other group with the loaner skates. That group had mainly novice skaters, so they brought out chairs for everyone. For the next half hour, the rink rats played sensationally fast shinny hockey, while the novices pushed the chairs around in their section of the ice. Very soon the novices began a game where they pushed the chairs at one another and, just before they hit, they would fall down, on purpose, with a big clatter. All of them, including the adults who were watching them, laughed themselves silly. It was an organized pandemonium.
So the staff made mini-pizzas and gave everyone a free mini-pizza, and a park cookie, just to celebrate the joy of having a rink.

Wednesday March 8 (cloudy all day, high of 3 degrees celsius) Ramsden Rink: 12:30 p.m. Poor ice quality but recently cleaned. Ice thickness roughly 4 - 6 inches. 8 hockey players on hockey pad.
Riverdale: 12:45 p.m. rink closed on March 5th. Rink is unlocked. Ice thickness 6+ inches.
Withrow Rink: 1:00pm good ice quality. Ice thickness roughly 2 - 4 inches. No Skaters. No nets.
Monarch Park Rink: 1:15 p.m. rink closed on March 5th. Rink is unlocked. Evidence of hockey played since closing (pucks and broken stick on ice). Ice thickness 4.75 - 5.5 inches.
Greenwood Rink: 1:30 p.m. rink closed March 5th. Rink unlocked. Ice thickness 5.5 - 6+ inches.
Kew Gardens Rink: 1:45 p.m. poor ice quality. Ice thickness 4 - 6+ inches. One hockey player.
Jimmy Simpson: 2:00 p.m. poor ice quality but recently cleaned. Ice thickness roughly 4 - 5 inches. No skaters. No Nets.
Regent South Rink: 2:15 p.m. poor ice quality but recently cleaned. Ice thickness roughly 3 - 5 inches. 3 hockey players.
Rennie Rink: 4:00 p.m. pleasure pad poor ice quality but hockey pad great ice quality. However, hockey pad locked "to set for girls hockey later on". Ice thickness about 2 inches on hockey pad and roughly 4 - 6 inches on pleasure pad. No Skaters. Staff person kicking soccer ball against rink building wall. Rennie Rink was the only one where the observer saw a staff person outside, at all the rinks visited March 7 and 8.

Tuesday March 7 Dufferin Rink: bright sun and a high of 2 degrees. I found out last night that there was no one available to scrape down our ice yesterday, after the early morning, because not only the supervisor, but also his zamboni staff, were busy setting up flowers at the Canada Blooms show.
Today there is a zamboni driver in the daytime, and at noon he did an unscheduled, long scrape. Then at four there was another one, by the driver who was so anxious he’d hit cement on Sunday. Right after that, the rink staff measured the ice thickness remaining. It was between 4 and 6 inches in most places. You can see that even with the bright sun and the temperature above freezing, the ice is hard to get low, when it’s been built up with all those cursory scrapes and plentiful floods, for the past three months. And when it rained, the only way we got the water off was by the on-site rink staff pushing it off with shovels – the zamboni can push it off better, but the drivers never did it.

* A lot of the rinks closed on Sunday, and their compressors have been turned off. So it's a good time to check their ice thickness, which won't have gone down much yet since the weather's still cold:

Wallace Rink: Ice thickness: 3 - 3.5 inches.
Christie Rink: Ice thickness: 2.75 - 5.25 inches.
Trinity Rink: Ice thickness: 4.5 - 5 inches.
Scadding Court Rink: Ice thickness: 6 inches.
We can't really go up to a rink that's still open and hammer the measuring spike through the ice. But it's interesting to see which of the rinks still open are doing well, and which are not:
City Hall Rink: 5:30pm, Lots of skaters. Ice in good condition.
Harbourfront Rink: 5:45pm, Lots of skaters. Ice in poor condition.

Monday March 6 Dufferin Rink, 2 p.m. This morning the mechanic came and put a new blade on the zamboni. Good! But ever since then it’s sat in the garage. The extra scrapes I was hoping for in the early part of the day didn't happen, in fact the ice is bad. Is that because the zamboni supervisor is busy all this week at the Canada Blooms flower show? Is it because nobody thinks that making the ice lower is worth trying? Is it because they're busy rolling up mats at Wallace?
At any rate, the ice is very bumpy at Dufferin, not because of the weather, but because a zamboni doesn't work on ice, even with a nice sharp blade, unless somebody takes it out of the garage. 10 p.m. I sent the above description to the director as an e-mail, and he reminded the staff that he wants the ice cut down. So when the regular ice maintenance time came, the driver went slowly and took off five or six loads of snow. The ice was completely smooth, with the new blade. This evening – despite a day of sunshine – the ice is smooth and full of skaters.

Sunday March 5 Dufferin Rink
10 a.m. Sunny. Nice ice but already melted along the boards.
1 p.m. rink full of people, but very snowy and mushy along the boards. Staff called zamboni supervisor, he said someone would come and look at the ice.
1.30 p.m. Zamboni driver came to take a look, but didn't do the ice. He was just leaving when I arrived at the rink. He said the rink is too mushy and he might hit cement. I said, can you just try? He said (after a long talk) okay, but then he drove away in his truck. With all those skaters, there was so much slush the staff had to close one of the connecting gates.
2.15 p.m. The zamboni driver returned with another driver (I guess they're still on their "two drivers for one zamboni" rule). Said he didn’t agree with doing the ice and he could hit cement. But (after a long talk) he agreed to try, while the other driver stood and watched. Then the first driver did one row at a time, each time stopping in the middle to talk to someone on his cell phone. At the end of each row he asked me, “what do you want next?” Eventually he did the entire pleasure-skating side, dumping five big loads of snow without the blade ever hitting cement, not even close. (The ice is still between 3 and 7 inches thick, depending on where you measure.) Meantime the on-site rink staff chipped out a test piece in one little sunny corner of the pleasure-skating side, trying to get it down from five inches to to two inches. With a lot of chipping and scraping they got down to three inches, but below that the ice was too hard for them to take it down lower. Both of the compressors are going, and they’re strong.
5.00 p.m. the family shinny permit had to be cancelled, and then the adult learn-to-play-shinny-hockey permit too. The hockey side was too messed up, not having been scraped since early morning. The staff called the zamboni crew to see if they could clean the hockey side for the 7.30 permit. The driver said no – since it was the last day for many of the rinks they had sent all but two of the drivers home early. So they’re short-staffed now.
One has to assume everyone got their full pay anyway.
The on-site rink staff test-painted two sections of the hockey boards black, to see if that will reduce the reflected warmth of the sun for the rest of the week, melting the ice along the boards. Tomorrow will tell. Might as well do lots of experiments. The zamboni driver said there’s a reason why the boards can’t be painted black – then you can’t see the puck against them. But since the rules of shinny hockey say you can’t raise the puck off the ice, and the ice is still white, hopefully the players will still be able to follow the puck, without getting tripped by the melted ice along the sides.
6 p.m. The on-site rink staff called the zamboni driver again, to see if he might be able to come on his own (without bringing another driver to watch). The zamboni driver said he just had to finish closing up Wallace Rink for the season. So one of the Dufferin Rink staff hopped on the bus to go up and see if he could give him a hand, to get him to Dufferin Rink a bit faster.
7 p.m. The zamboni driver came, scraped the ice, came back again at 8.50 and scraped again. So in the end, the two last permits got to play. It makes me think that our idea of closing the rink for the afternoon yesterday was silly. People can keep on skating, like they did today, unless the ice is impossible, and then if the zamboni comes, they can take off the muck on the top and the rink can carry on. For now.

Saturday March 4, Dufferin Rink Bright sunshine today, and 2 degrees celsius. Bad weather for outdoor rinks. I found out this morning that the zamboni drivers skipped the afternoon scrape yesterday. So the extra scrape in the morning was cancelled out by the missed one in the afternoon. I guess the idea of getting the ice thinner hasn’t gained acceptance yet. Today we measured the ice: about 6-7 inches on the high side of the hockey rink, about 3 and a half in front of the nets where all the scuffle is, and almost four on the low side where the sun hits. The lowest is a little strip right against the boards -- just under three inches.
So the hockey side was closed from 1.30 p.m. to just after 7 p.m., but at 10 p.m. the strip by the north boards (where the sun hits in the daytime) was still watery.
At noon I talked to the zamboni driver and we said we’d try it without scraping, to leave an opaque layer of snow on the top and see if the sun couldn’t get at it so well. But I don’t think it helped, so tomorrow we’ll see if we can get lots of scrapes. That might be hard because it’s the last day before some of the drivers are laid off for the season, and they often disappear early then.
Despite the bad ice it was a very busy day. Partly I guess it’s just people’s desire to be somewhere – so they sit around the rink house and eat soup and play checkers.
Wallace Rink 1.30: ice pretty solid except right at the boards, and shiny. So much for the “opaque” idea. They have about 2-3 inches of dasher boards showing all the way around, not like Dufferin Rink, which has none on the high-ice (north-facing) side. Only about six people on the rink, though. Ice maintenance at noon.
I asked the zamboni driver about one night a week ago when the rink lights went off much too early. Was it true that the wires had been cut? He said yes, someone had got into the compressor room – I guess the door can still be forced open – and had cut the wires in the lighting timer box. I guess maybe they thought if they cut those wires the lights would stay on all night. But instead the lights went off right away, and the electrician had to come and fix them the next day.
Maybe those are the same folks who wrecked the snack bar stove so it can’t be used anymore. You have to wonder.
Campbell Rink 2.00: again pretty solid ice except on about an eighth of the rink where the sun hits the worst – just mushy there. The lowest ice is 3 and a half inches, higher in some places but not as high as Dufferin – you can see plenty of dasher boards right around the rink circumference. Eight people playing hockey – they moved the nets forward so they’re out of the mush. No ice maintenance since the morning.
Christie Rink 2.30: ice still good except along the sunny boards. Nets sinking in a little like everywhere else. Only one person, shooting a puck. Dasher boards showing all the way around. No ice maintenance since the morning.
Harry Gairey 3.00: ice good enough for a full game (8 people), with the nets moved up.
Ryerson 3.30: ice almost perfect (lots of tall buildings nearby mean the ice is rarely in full sun). Rink full of pleasure skaters.
City Hall 3.40: rink full of skaters (really full). Ice looked fine. Zamboni had just come off. The Sheraton Hotel is just to the south and that must protect the rink from some of the sun. By the afternoon it’s in full sun, though.
Harbourfront, 4.10: Ice didn’t look good – mushy all over the place. Lots of skaters, though. Last week the staff there told me they have seven inches of ice. They also said they have a hard time with the sun, which has no barrier at all down by the lake.
Trinity, 4.30: ice had three skaters on it. You can see the dasher boards all the way around, but the ice was strange – hard in places and then big gouges in other places, as though it had splintered off in chunks.

Friday March 3 Dufferin Rink The zamboni driver scraped the hockey side one extra time this morning, and there's evidence that someone did the corners with the edger -- there are a few ridges but the bumps are gone. The ice by both nets is still lower, and chipped. I assume that the early morning zamboni shift is trying to put extra water down but it doesn't bond well? The longest period when the ice is closed is from 11p.m. to 9 a.m. If a zamboni driver can work 4 to midnight tomorrow, and come over at 11 p.m. to flood those net areas, that could help. If no zamboni driver can work a later shift, volunteers can do a bucket brigade after 11 tonight. Then the early morning zamboni driver can scrape it level. For the record: the compressor was on last night at minus 8 but off this morning at minus 10. It just switched on again shortly before noon, at minus 6. That's good because in mid-morning at minus 8 in bright sun, the nets started sinking in, to the top layer of ice.
11.00 p.m. No word back about an extra zamboni driver so the “bucket brigade” went into action after the last permit. Not so many buckets, maybe 10 on each concave area. We’ll see what happens. Christie Rink, 4.30 p.m. The ice is very good, no depressions in front of the nets. You can see about 2 inches more of the dasher boards all around than at Dufferin. So why is their ice lower? They have no drainage holes, it should have been a mess.
Maybe the difference is really that they get so much less maintenance than Dufferin, and so those many fast floods with so little scrape are missing. \\ I found out some hydro costs for rinks today: according to the City’s records, for just the month of January, 2005 (last year), Christie Rink cost $6526.27, Dufferin Rink cost $5797.84, and Wallace cost $7571.82 (but that counts the whole community centre). Trinity Rink only cost $1358.22 (does that make sense?). So compressor-run rinks are not cheap.


Sunday Feb.26 Campbell Rink, 12 noon. Dufferin staff person arrives with her shopping buggy full of hot dogs and firewood for her regular Sunday afternoon ‘family pleasure skating’ mini-event. But the rink house is locked and there’s no staff in evidence. No note either. So she returns to Dufferin Rink, which is full of skaters.
Dufferin Rink, 3 p.m. DJ is playing old rock tunes, and staff plus volunteers are out on the ice, dancing, wearing Clay and Paper Theatre’s puppets. Everybody’s got red faces – it’s minus 7 C. Sun and cloud. The ice is hard in most places except along the boards. There are wet craters along there, where you can put your foot deep down. Craters with water, at minus 7?! And the compressors are running.
6.45 p.m. zamboni drivers arrive 45 minutes early to do the ice. At the 4.50 p.m. maintenance time they didn’t come until staff called them, and so the ‘family shinny’ permit went on 25 minutes late. The schedule is posted all over, the rink season is in its 14th week, but the times are still contentious.
9.30 p.m. Compressors still running, at minus 10 C.

Saturday Feb.25: Dufferin Rink, 3 p.m. Most of the ice is good except along the sides where the sun hits the boards. It’s minus 5, sun and cloud, and there’s a shinny hockey tourney with Jimmie Simpson Rink’s “hockey in the neighborhood” program. When the kids step out of the player’s boxes, they sink deep into the slush. Rink staff say they can see the cement. The dasher boards can be seen again there, but on the other side the ice still hides them completely. Freezing cold and mush in the ice! Who can understand it?

Friday Feb.24: Nathan Phillips Square Rink, 1 p.m. Minus 3 celsius, with sun and cloud. Ice good. One of the on-site rink staff went down to learn some more, but the zamboni driver there said they’ve been told not to answer any questions from anyone who comes from Dufferin Rink.
Harbourfront Rink, 1.30 p.m. Ice good there too, but with a cold wind off the lake. The zamboni driver told our staff person that the Siemens control system monitors the ice temperature and sets the compressors automatically. He says that a lot of their ice is 7 inches thick too.
Wallace Rink, 5.p.m. the ice is so bad, the hockey side’s been closed all day. Not many people on the pleasure-skating side. Although the lore is that direct-ammonia rinks freeze the ice better, it’s not evident this year.
8.30 p.m. Zamboni did a slow scrape and then a flood – then they opened the hockey rink, ice is okay again. Meantime there’s been a meeting with a youth who is really mad about the bullies that hang out at the rink. He says they intimidate the rink guards so much that they even sit in the rink house smoking and drinking. He insisted that the meeting should happen somewhere else than in the rink house, otherwise, he says, the bullies will beat him up later.

Thursday Feb.23: Dufferin Rink, 3.00 p.m. It’s 4 degrees celsius and the sun was out for a while. Now it’s clouded in but the damage was done – the ice is mush all over. People can still skate but it’s messy. No ice maintenance since the early morning, and the zamboni supervisor came to check at 2.30, but says they can’t go on the ice until much later.
Harry Gairey Rink, 3.15 p.m. Mushy like Dufferin.
College Park Rink, 3.30 p.m. All covered with water, and mushy underneath.
Nathan Phillips Square Rink, 3.45 p.m. Good condition, maybe 15 people skating. The zamboni driver told me it was last done around 1.30. Then he went on with the zamboni, tried to flood it but stopped after the first round. The rest was just a scrape, but it looked a bit rough after.
Harbourfront Rink, 4.00 p.m. It’s started to rain. The rink looks rough and mushy. About six skaters on the ice are scrambling to get off , out of the driving rain/snow. I talk to the zamboni driver. He says he did the ice at 2 p.m. It looks ridged, though, and rough. Maybe it is better to stay off. The guy at the rink says they have a problem with too much sun.
Trinity Rink, 4.20 p.m. rink closed. It looks just like the others – mushy with a puddle on one side.
Dufferin Rink, 6.30 p.m. It got colder, now it’s about minus 3 C. The zamboni is scraping the ice, and it’s very smooth, no ridges. Wallace rink, 10.10 p.m. Women’s open shinny. The players are cursing when they go around near the net – big gouges and chips in the ice, front and back of the net. Scary.

Wednesday Feb.22: Dufferin Rink, 2.15 p.m. Some kids, aged maybe 13 or 14, who have been causing lots of trouble at the rink, came into the rink house. The staff told them to leave, but they wouldn’t. An older friend of theirs said, “you don’t have to listen to the staff, they can’t do anything.” So one of the staff called the police, and told them that one of the kids had been seen with a knife in the past.
Three cruisers arrived in about 4 minutes. The kid who had been seen with the knife last week was clean, but his friend had a pretty big knife in his pocket. So he’s out of circulation for a while. Probably spending the night in the cells behind the courthouse.
Yesterday at a meeting, everyone had discussed whether to involve the police if these kids kept up their campaign of trouble. Opinion was divided. Some of us thought that we could make the kids leave if we just surrounded them with staff.
But it might not have gone so well, if we had done that. Now the trick is to contact the probation officer and see if they’ll let us work with the kid doing his community hours. That might help him turn a corner. But who knows?
I told one of the other parents about it afterwards, without names of course. People are often surprised when they hear there’s trouble at the rink. They see it as a very orderly, friendly place. I told her, “the snack bar is just a front. It’s there to attract the mixed-up kids so the staff can work with them if they’re going through a bad patch.”
Of course the snack bar is also there to serve food to hungry skaters, but in another way I was telling the truth. It’s those goofy kids with their cursing and their fights (and their knives) that really absorb a lot of the staff's time. They care about those kids, and they're bothered about the guy being in jail tonight.

Nathan Phillips Square, 10 p.m. There were maybe 15 pleasure-skaters on the ice, about the same as at Dufferin Rink. Plus there were six hockey players at the sidelines. Two of them told me they were just waiting for the lights to shut off, and then the nightly hockey game would begin. I asked about light. They said there’s enough from all the tall buildings around. I asked them if they ever play at Ryerson – “sure we do. Wherever there’s hockey, we play.”

Ryerson Rink, 10.10 p.m. A sign at the side of the rink said “skating prohibited between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.” But there were two groups of skaters just lacing up their skates – more than I’ve seen there in the daytime. As I watched them, one of the zamboni drivers from City Hall walked by. I asked him about the sign. “That’s nothing, that’s just to protect them against lawsuits.” He said he loves to see the hockey at City Hall, that rinks should be used as much as possible.

College Park Rink, 10.20 p.m. nobody was skating. There were just three or four street kids sitting on a bench, interested doing some business, maybe.

Tuesday Feb.21: Harbourfront Rink, 3 p.m. Good ice. Much less crowded than on the weekends. The rink supervisor told me their ice is pretty thick now too, after the last few rainfalls. He said they put on an extra operator early morning for the past two days and did 5 scrapes with the blade all the way down, and that helped. Five scrapes a day wouldn't be impossible at Dufferin Rink if the extra zamboni driver would split the scraping with the other guy. No such luck though -- Dufferin has been getting one deep scrape every two or three days.

Sunday February 19:

Dufferin Rink, 12 noon. Sunny but still only minus 10 celsius. The compressor has started running again.
Campbell Rink, 2 p.m. Family time, no shinny hockey players allowed. Only one family plus three more skaters.

Saturday February 18:

Dufferin Rink, 9 a.m. The temperature is minus 16 celsius, the coldest day of the winter so far. But the compressor is running. Maybe the ice is so thick that the minus 16 can't reach the temperature sensors in the rink slab?
2 p.m. Temperature: minus 13. Compressor still running.
7.p.m. Temperature: minus 12. Compressor still running. It's the bike race tonight, and the race has lots of people watching, stamping their feet trying to keep warm. But the compressor is still trying to cool the ice!
11 p.m. The compressor is silent. It took that long for the ice to cool down.

February 17, Friday

Wallace Rink. The hockey rink was locked all day. The Dufferin Rink staff person told me she went over in mid-evening to find the flying squad looking at the padlock to the hockey gate, which was frozen. They said they were just going to leave because the lock wouldn’t open, but she suggested they get some hot water and thaw out the lock. She had to return to Dufferin Rink, but phoned the Wallace Rink office from there to see how it was going. No answer, although she tried repeatedly.
9.10 p.m. When I came to the rink, skaters had the nets on the pleasure-skating side. The hockey side was still locked. The hockey ice looked as though it had not been done since yesterday’s rain froze on it. The skaters told me the flying squad did get the lock open but said they couldn’t zamboni the ice because it’s too cold, so they left without taking the zamboni off its trailer. Skaters also told me that the gangster-boys had gone into the change room with the Wallace staff after the Dufferin staff person left, and appeared to be having a party in there and in the garage. Maybe that’s why they didn’t want to answer the phone.
Campbell Rink 9.30 p.m. permit on the ice. Ice looked okay but fairly snowy. Building attendant had rigged up a TV reception dish and was watching TV inside the rink office with a friend.

*A note from shinny hockey player John Dondertman: We had our game Friday night but the conditions were marginal at best, the ice had very large cracks and holes. I was told that the zamboni had been by at one point but I am not sure when. I had been at Dufferin Grove earlier and the ice was actually as good as I have seen it this season. Overall the ice conditions have been poor at Campbell Rink, is it possible to get a flood closer to our 9:00 pm permit? Is there some one else I need to get in contact with about this? Also would you normally charge for last Friday as the ice was as I mentioned extremely poor.
Response to John, from Jutta --
1. as far as I know the city's policy is to charge full price for the ice whether the ice maintenance was good or bad.
2. I'm not sure the evening crew of zamboni drivers works their full shift. Campbell Rink is looked after by a "flying squad" -- two zamboni drivers with a truck pulling a zamboni on a trailer. They do Campbell, Wallace, Trinity and Christie rinks, I think. Despite the rain on Thursday night, by Friday evening the rinks should have been okay. I checked them and noticed that Campbell and Christie and Trinity rinks had lots of snow on them but they did look like they had been serviced at some point earlier during that shift. Wallace Rink had not been serviced at all.
I thought that the evening shift for zamboni drivers is until 10 p.m. but there are signs from your reports and those of other rink users that they stop earlier. Whether their shifts have changed or they simply leave early every night is something that management ought to verify by checking the log books against rink user reports. I'm not sure they will, though.

Christie Rink 9.50 p.m. Large group of youth with bottles standing outside the rink house, knocking and calling rink staff’s name, but he was gone. Large group of shinny hockey players on ice. Ice looked okay but snowy.
Trinity Rink 10.10 p.m. Rink locked. Ice looked okay but snowy. I wonder when the flying squad staff go home at night? Does anybody check?
Dufferin Rink 11 p.m. Temperature minus 9 but compressor running. I guess the ice is so thick the compressors can’t tell the temperature. Tech services says the compressors turn themselves off half the time during winter, when it’s cold enough, but maybe that’s quite a bit less than half the time when the ice is this thick.

February 16, Thursday.

Dufferin Rink, 7.30 p.m. Today the zamboni was used to scrape down the ice for more than half an hour. Wonderful. That’s the third or fourth time since the rink meeting ten days ago. All the other times the zamboni is just used for giving quick floods, and the ice gets higher. The dasher boards in the corner are disappearing.

There was a light rain for most of the day and around 6.30 there was some lightning, maybe two or three times, with very feeble, distant thunder. The zamboni supervisor called to say there would be no more ice maintenance that day – he was sending the drivers home because of the lighting.

At 9.00 a couple of hockey players went out with rink shovels and pushed off some water. Most of the water that had been on the rink when the zamboni drivers went home had already frozen solid, except for one side where a pool of water had collected. The ice is so high there that the drain holes are blocked completely. Since the zamboni drivers never came back to the rink to push off the water, the ice is higher again.

11.00 p.m. When I went to lock the gates, the timer had just cut the rink lights off. Two children were skating on the beautiful smooth ice of the darkened rink, now frozen completely. Their parents -- very elegantly dressed -- stood and watched them. I told them I was locking up, and they said -- "they're having such a good time -- a few more minutes?" So I showed them how to lock the padlock when they were ready to leave. They said they're Hungarian. As we talked, the lightning began again -- with barely any thunder. The two children cut circles and figures of eight in the ice with their skates. I left the four of them there, with their enjoyment, Hungarians in the Canadian winter.

February 9, Thursday.

Dufferin Rink, 6.30 p.m. one of the zamboni drivers was feeling chatty. He said to the rink house staff: “this ice thickness argument of yours is all wrong. Think about it – if there were two ponds and you had to walk across one of them, and one had two inches of ice, and the other had seven inches of ice, which one would you rather walk across? Think!”

February 7, Tuesday.

An e-mail arrived:

Hello Ms. Mason,

One of our readers pointed me towards the Friends of Dufferin Grove website, where you state that I misquoted you in yesterday's article.

I'd appreciate an opportunity to discuss how I may have misquoted you. You can well imagine that it's not something I like to do!

Phinjo Gombu
Reporter - Toronto Star
Newsroom, One Yonge St.

Hello Mr.Gombu,

Wow! A journalist who follows up on an obscure posting on a web site! I'm surprised and impressed.

I even experimented with writing a little clarifying note to the Star's editor yesterday, but it made me mad again about the whole situation (i.e. the rinks fiasco, not your article) and I dropped it. I also decided that the "low work standards" of folks that "spend a huge amount of time doing nothing" is -- sadly -- fairly descriptive of zamboni drivers over the years for many parts of the city and many rinks. It's not as much the case for Dufferin Rink. We have been the squeaky wheel for so long that we do get four regular ice maintenance visits a day, except when there's warm or wet weather (which is when they could scrape off ice to get it thinner, but they almost always refuse).

Very few of the 49 compressor-run outdoor rinks get the kind of maintenance that Dufferin Rink gets. Some are lucky if they get a zamboni once a day. But the zamboni drivers will be upset about this detail -- of me apparently denying their regular ice maintenance work at Dufferin Rink, which gets more frequent maintenance than other rinks -- and feel unjustly accused. Which I don't want.

An outdoor rink needs responsive ice maintenance, and that's what's deficient, more than regularity in the case of our rink. The zamboni driver who came and flooded our ice on Saturday as it was raining is a good example of the problem. The schedule said to flood the ice, so he was bloody well going to do it, and woe to the people who questioned him. Another part of the problem is the zamboni drivers who don't scrape the ice when it's soft on top, or when there's water on it, and who mock the on-site staff (and rink users) for even suggesting it. The supervision is also the problem, and up from there, the management, which has more or less abandoned the $60 million-worth of compressor-run outdoor rinks as something that needs their attention. In the restructured parks bureaucracy, these outdoor rinks have not yet even been assigned to anyone as their responsibility (unless that got done in the last few days, as a result of your article).

So it's a big ball of wax, and singling out the zamboni drivers for a mess that is so much bigger is unfortunate. As I said to you on the phone, describing a complex situation (i.e. almost any bit of reality) is tricky. I can see it takes practice, and I haven't had that practice enough. So, although I believe I did say to you that Dufferin Rink usually gets the zamboni four times a day, I was unable to convey that responsiveness to weather is just as important, as is collaboration with other people, as is trying things (instead of just shutting down suggestions in favour of what's always been done).

The other way I probably confused the picture for you was by telling you that the zamboni drivers complained about having to fit themselves to our regular ice program schedule, i.e. not being able to cut into a program or a permit as they often do at other rinks, to run their zamboni. Overall, they complain about Dufferin Rink a lot but they do fit themselves to our schedule (squeaky wheel again). But almost every winter there is a revolt by them. My presence there, as a highly involved outsider, is a big irritation for many City workers too, and that becomes a lighting rod for the many frustrations that bug people who work inside a bureaucracy. This winter their irritation/frustration has come to yet another crisis.

The compressor-run outdoor rinks are only one little instance of how people end up frustrating one another. The issue of dysfunctional union/management arrangements is a bigger one, and getting it out in front of people, as your piece did, is the main point here. I will have to mop up with City staff, to tell them I'm aware that Dufferin Rink gets good treatment by their standards. But I am very grateful that your piece was as open and detailed as it was, and I think it's way over on the good side of the media ledger (of the influence of journalism in fostering public discussion). So we'll see how the meeting goes tonight.


February 6, Monday

Dufferin Rink, Today an article about my proposal to put outdoor rinks under community boards of management came out in the Star. It got people's attention at City Hall, like no call or e-mail by me ever could. But it also made it sound as though the irregularity of the ice maintenance is the big problem at Dufferin Rink, which it isn't. Sigh.

This afternoon they removed the new rule about all the rink users having to be shut up in the rink house when the zamboni's on the ice. But the on-site rink staff are not to talk to the zamboni drivers directly. I asked the Parks director -- should they communicate through hand signals?

Plus any section of ice not fenced with chain link is supposed to be cordoned off during ice maintenance, with special yellow ropes. Will this practice now migrate to the other outdoor City rinks with much more open area -- City Hall, for instance? What a fuss, always explained by the elastic, roomy excuse of "liability." But nothing happened to justify this fuss, not at our rink or elsewhere, and there were no lawsuits against the City for zamboni accidents. At City Hall, at Harbourfront, or here, people understand that you should get out of the way of a moving vehicle.

11:00 p.m.: It snowed a lot of the evening, just tapering off around 9.30. Around 6 the kids at the rink got bored and started shoveling, with the rink house staff supervising. Shoveling is a good way to earn a mini-pizza, drink, and cookie, but the kids also like to do it because pushing those long rink shovels is a way to test your strength. Two zamboni drivers and the supervisor came at 7 and they went around and around with the zamboni and shovels, working really hard, taking off snow for a couple of hours. So when the permit guys arrived (Mondays it's the musicians and the engineers), they had a game. At 11 they were tired, but sometimes I think they'll just float away with the joy of the game, out under the open sky.

February 4, Saturday. Dufferin Rink, 1.20: a lot of rain in the forecast, and it’s begun. Two zamboni drivers come, we ask them to wait to scrape the ice until the end of the under-12 shinny time (as it says on their schedule). The zamboni driver comes out on the machine right after, doesn’t wait for rink guards, starts flooding the rink even as the rain is falling hard. Rink guards try to talk to him, ask him why he’s flooding in the rain, but he won’t stop the zamboni, the rink guards have to get out of his way. The on-site staff (rink guards) call the zamboni supervisor. Twenty minutes later the supervisor calls back to say that from now on his crew will handle all the ice maintenance. Here’s the new rule to top the previous new rule: both the rink on-site staff and the skaters will be confined in the rink house during the whole time of ice maintenance. He says there can be no interference, and if people even come out of the rink house during ice maintenance, the zamboni driver can leave the zamboni right in the middle of the ice and go away.

Astonishing chaos. How deep will it go? Is there anyone home in parks management?

February 3, Friday

Rain, 4 degrees, until about 2 p.m. then clearing, with a few bits of showery clouds from time to time.

Dufferin Rink, 3 p.m. staff shoveled water off pleasure skating side for the skating lessons. Then zamboni came and got some more off.

6.30 p.m. ice is good, lots of skaters, Friday night Supper.

9.00 p.m. the clouds are gone and there’s a moon over the rink – permit is made up of young guys who used to get kicked out of Dufferin Rink when they were teenagers, troublemakers – now they get to borrow the key so they can get into the change-room afterwards. Lovely fellows. Wallace Rink, 11 a.m. Zamboni driver is inside, says that later he’ll get a zamboni to use so he can get the rink in shape. Rink is already very wet from the rain, no drainage holes.

8.30 p.m. I guess the zamboni driver never did get a zamboni, before he left at three. He spent his whole shift without a zamboni. The hockey rink has so much water on it that it’s closed. The rink guard tells me they never opened it all day. People are playing hockey on the pleasure side.

Harry Gairey Rink, 8.45 p.m. Good, fast shinny game on the hockey side. Ice looks okay.

City Hall Rink, 9.30 p.m. Quite a few skaters, music by a d.j., the ice tent (Winterfest) is open, but the whole scene looks a bit listless. Ice looks fine.

Harbourfront Rink, 10.10 p.m. Packed. Coloured lights, music – people are dancing on the ice, it looks like a big, energetic club. I ask the rink guard – when did your rain dry up enough so the ice got hard? He looks at me funny. "Our ice wasn’t wet. If it rains, it freezes right away." And he starts to explain about compressors freezing the ice.
That's how things are when the ice is the right thickness. Harbourfront keeps their ice around 2 inches, versus most rinks' (including ours) 6 inches. So their compressors can work properly, while the City's outdoor rink compressors gobble up energy and they still can't manage if it rains or the sun comes out. A sad story.
However, the music and the dancing on the ice are worth imitating. We'll try it at Dufferin Rink soon.

Christie Rink, 10.45 p.m. the ice is fine, with three players, but the plexiglass is so fogged up that you can’t even see it. Why?

February 2, Thursday

Wallace Rink 9 p.m. 10 women there for hockey. Two families on the pleasure skating side. 27 shinny hockey players. Rink guard told them they could go on the pleasure-skating side. One family doesn’t mind, say they were leaving anyway. The other one is an off-duty zamboni operator with his three kids – is very angry about the change made after 9 p.m., calls the supervisor, tells the rink guard that I can phone him if I want to change the schedule. Rink guard asks his name but he won’t give it, just says: "she knows who I am." But I don’t know who he is. I guess we’d better post the sign bigger.

Rink guard told me that a bunch of the shiny hockey players got in their cars and headed down to Dufferin Rink, which was also pretty full.

February 1, ’06, Wednesday

Dufferin Rink: The ice is even thicker, but good as long as the temperature stays near freezing. Dufferin Rink has been getting too crowded again.

3.30 p.m. zamboni operators come and insist on two rink guards. Agreement was only one, but they say they have a piece of paper "from your supervisor" that says the rules have changed again. Rink on-site staff ask to see the paper, but the zamboni drivers say no. They say they’ll leave if the rink guards don’t stay out there. Not very many skaters, but they stay out.

Wallace Rink: not as crowded but tonight there were thirty players on the ice at 8 p.m. There's the usual group of young construction workers, who are still rubbing their eyes from their post-work nap when they get to the rink in the evening. When they fully wake up, they’re really eager to play. The rink supervisor has agreed to try closing the building at 9 p.m. and taking the pressure off the permit groups and women’s shinny players that way, so there won’t be a huge number of unhappy hockey players being kicked off the ice. If the building is closed when the permit starts (as it is at most rinks anyway), the other hockey players can move over to the pleasure-skating side – it’s like being on the pond. So there’s no brawl. Hopefully the women won’t get the stupid comments, either, if they don’t have as many players as the male shinny players they’re displacing on Thursdays. As long as people are allowed to keep on playing, and it’s not too frustrating with the crowds, things stay peaceful.


January 30 ’06. Monday

Cloudy with sunny periods, 6 degrees.

Wallace Rink, 10 a.m. An inch of water on the hockey side. Rink staff said that there used to be drain holes for water but the rink ice is so high the drain holes are plugged. So the rain water from Sunday just stays on top, until it freezes even higher. Pleasure skating side is mostly frozen (better drainage) with three shiny hockey players. Zamboni arrives on trailer. Driver leaves hockey side untouched, floods frozen side so that it, too, turns into a lake. Hockey players give up and leave.

Dufferin Rink. 3.30 p.m. Rink was scraped in the morning, but in the afternoon it has some water on it. Three zamboni drivers arrive, stand and look at the ice, then leave. Staff and rink users remove water manually. Ice even thicker than before.
5.30 p.m. zamboni drivers arrive and do ice during parent-child shinny hockey time (not at regular zamboni schedule). Tell rink staff that they don’t need to conform to the rink schedule.

January 29 ’06, Sunday

Dufferin Rink. Rain all day. In mid-afternoon the zamboni driver came and checked the rink. Rink staff asked him if he would scrape water off. He said, no, why do you ask? Staff said, I’ve heard the ice is too thick. Zamboni driver said: "bullshit," and left.

10 p.m. rain stopped and rink frozen solid. No ice maintenance, ice even thicker than before.

January 28 06, Saturday

Sunny, 8 degrees.

Christie Rink, 2.50 p.m. water over the whole surface, rink locked. Change rooms locked Carefully-lettered sign taped to the door: “Rink closed due to warm weather. Will re-open again A.S.A.P. when weather permits. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Nice sign, friendly.

Harry Gairey, 3.10 p.m. Rink is closed. Lots of decent-looking ice (this is a direct-ammonia rink) but also some wet spots. Ice looks at least 3 ½ inches high along the boards. The Olympia-driver tells me he won't be cleaning the ice until much later. He says they’ll re-open around 8. How does he know the exact time already?

College Park, 3.30. Good ice, only one wet spot. Three young guys playing hockey. The on-site rink staff person, who has messy hair and big pants, tells them to stop, and they argue. He says in frustration, “Listen to me, if it was up to me, I wouldn’t tell you to stop, but I’ll get in trouble. I’m just like you, bro!” They argue some more and he compromises and tells them they have to stop the minute a pleasure-skater comes along. Three minutes later an elegant European women comes in with her skates. She asks, “Would you please ask them to stop playing hockey?” He says he’ll stop them when she’s ready to go on. I’m closer to the door, so I yell out to them, “five minute warning! There’s a pleasure skater coming on!” The hockey players smile and nod. I tell the woman, “they say they’ll stop the minute you come out.” She smiles, the rink staff smiles – a perfect picture of Canadian agreeableness. It works!

City Hall/ Nathan Phillips Square, 3.40. Hard to see the ice because the rink has hundreds of skaters on it (Winterfest). Zamboni driver says the ice is fine, why wouldn’t it be? He says he’s surprised to hear other inks are closed. He thinks the ice thickness is about 1 ½ inches; it gets done every hour and a half. I ask about safety precautions when the zamboni does the ice, with all those people standing along the edge of the rinks without barriers. He says, the rink guards are there, no problem. I see two rink guards – he says a third one is on break. Rink guard/skater ratio is about 100 people per rink guard, maybe more.

Regent Park North, 4.00. Looks wet, but door is open. There’s a family just playing on the ice without skates, baby being pulled on a sled.

Regent Park South, 4.05. Locked. Three drinkers around the corner. Ice looks fine except a wet spot at south end. No sign on the door.

Withrow Rink, 4.45. Closed. Lots of water on it. Zamboni foreman says it will reopen in the evening.

Regent Park South 5.30. Rink open now. A bit bumpy but fine for skating. Three kids skating, plus the drinkers, plus one rink staff, inside. The zamboni trailer pulled up just as I got there – the on-site staff went out on the ice to get the skaters off, but then the zamboni trailer just pulled away again. The on-site staff gestured his puzzlement to them as they left, but they just waved through the truck window and kept going. The skaters and the staff were upset, saying, "those guys are just lazy, they do this a lot."

City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, 5.45. Still full of hundreds of skaters, ice fine.

Harbourfront Rink, 5.55. Zamboni was just cleaning the ice. Very busy rink – hundreds of skaters sitting along the curved edges of the rink, their feet on the ice. One rink guard, no barriers. Zamboni going fairly fast, just staying slightly back from the edges.

I asked the staff at the skate rental if they’d had trouble with the warm temperatures and the sun. They said their ice had been fine all day and they had not lost a single day after the first weekend when their rink opened.

Harry Gairey Rink, 6.35. Rink locked but ice looked fine. Zamboni driver got on his zamboni and started to scrape. A rink user standing outside tried to get his attention to see when they would open the rink, but the zamboni driver just stared past him and kept driving. He doesn’t scrape first, but floods.

Trinity Rink, 6.50. Rink locked but solid (no water), had not been scraped. Change house locked, no sign.

Christie Rink, 7.10. Locked. Ice hard but a bit bumpy, had not been scraped. Very skateable so I unlocked it.

Dufferin Rink, 3.30, zamboni drivers charted in book that they watched rink staff scraping slush off the ice.
Zamboni coming to do the first scrape of the day. On-site staff unhappy because rink operator had gone on the ice without warning the rink staff, then criticized the staff for hurrying out and not wearing scrapers. Zamboni driver also critical of rink staff for manually scraping slush off the ice, saying it left marks. No marks visible.
10 p.m. ice smooth. 30 skaters.

Campbell Rink, 10.05: ice smooth, had been scraped by zamboni. One skater.

Wallace Rink, 10.10: permit on the ice, 8 more shiny hockey players on the pleasure side. Ice smooth, had been scraped by zamboni.

Christie Rink, 10.20. two hockey players on ice. Had not been scraped by zamboni but players said it was okay.

Trinity Rink, 10.30. had not been scraped by zamboni, a bit rough, but door was unlocked and 8 players said it was okay to skate on.

January 27, 06, Friday

Wallace Rink: 12 noon. on-site meeting of on-site rink staff with Policy and Development staff, Tech Services staff, zamboni supervisor, on-site staff supervisor, Wallace main zamboni driver, two community consultants, the City Councillor and his assistant, and the architectural/design consultant hired by the City to plan the rink-replacement (Totten Sims Hubicki, a very frequent outside consultant for the City on capital projects). Discussion of what needed to be done at Wallace Rink. Basic tenor of discussion was "it probably can't be done at this time," in response to any questions about changes relating to change-room and zamboni garage. The larger question of whether it made sense to replace a high-functioning direct-ammonia rink with a lower-functioning brine-glycol /ammonia rink was raised by several on-site staff but it got no response beyond the general reference to “compliance.”
2.00 a.m. rink had players on both sides, hockey side was an extended family including kids, playing very quietly i.e. not hitting the boards. Pleasure side was the Hockey players whom I'd kicked out from Dufferin Rink (see below). They agreed to try and play without slap shots or yelling.

Dufferin Rink: sunny day, 3 degrees, ice softer in afternoon but fine by skating lessons time (4 p.m.) Rink very full both sides. 6.30 and 9 p.m. ice maintenance done by Wallace on-site day-shift rink operator alone, despite Thursday protocol. He said the other rink operators don't want to work at Dufferin Rink so he was doing extra hours.Measured ice thickness: 4 ½ inched at centre of pleasure-skating side.
1.30 a.m. a rink neighbour called and woke me because there were people noisily playing hockey on the locked rink. I put on my clothes and went there and asked five players to leave. They were angry, said they work construction all week, and on the weekend they take a nap and then have enough energy to play hockey. I said don't play close to houses. They showed me their rink access: the rink swing gate had been left without a padlock by the zamboni drivers. Then they left.
3.00 a.m. rink still empty.

College Park (Barbara Ann Scott). 4.20 pm. 1 skater, 3 people sitting on bench in the middle of the ice, 2 people changing into skates inside. No staff. 2 youth drinking giant bottles of ice beer on a park bench close by. One of them took a piss against the corner of the building. Lots of passersby, but they don’t seem to be looking at the rink much.

Ryerson Rink, 4.35 p.m. No skaters. An on-site rink staff sitting inside at a desk. He told me the last scrape they had was the day before at 4 p.m. Ice frosty but smooth. The rink staff said that a lot of people cut across the rink, in shoes, to get to their parked cars and indeed, as we stood outside we saw it about ten times. No one fell. The rink staff told me that he has no phone in the building. There’s a phone in the windowless garage, but if he stayed in there he couldn’t see anything.

The rink is a beautiful little jewel with huge Canadian Shield boulders embedded on the ice surface, and a little elegant Japanese-style rink house actually built around two of the boulders. But the windows of the rink house are yellowing plastic that you can no longer see through, there’s a hole in the wall around a heat vent, with bits of insulation hanging out, and the washroom has lots of gross graffiti scrawled on the door. And no staff phone! For a few thousand dollars it could be a wonderful place. But as it stands, few people skate there. Right beside a school of 20,000 students, half a block from the Eaton Centre – and the rink is almost empty. It takes a real effort to spoil something so beautiful.

Campbell Rink: 1.45 a.m. rink empty, gate open.

Christie Rink: 2.15 a.m. rink empty, gate open.

Harry Gairey Rink: 2.30 a.m. rink empty, locked.

Trinity Rink: 2.45 a.m. rink empty, gate open.

January 26, 06, Thursday

Campbell: 10.20: 19 people playing shinny, maybe a mixed permit?

Christie: 10.30. 6 guys playing shinny, lots more in the rink house changing at the end of a permit.

Wallace: 8.30: two women there for open shinny. Zamboni driver had cleaned, and cleared the ice. All the shinny players from before were leaving because there were three people on the pleasure-skating side, and nowhere for them to play. I talked to them about maybe changing the times so they could play on the pleasure-skating side after 9:00, like at Dufferin. They said they'd like that for all permits.
9:00 p.m. 6 women there.
9:15: six more women. Staff let the hockey players onto the pleasure skating side -- (pleasure skaters were leaving anyway).
9.30: three more women including a goalie. More guys came, and just played shinny on the pleasure side.
10.35: still about ten women there.
11.00: light out, about five guys on the hockey side, no women left. They went over to the pleasure side so I could close up, no argument.

Dufferin: 1.p.m. joint health and safety committee meeting across town, to discuss new “health&safety protocol” for Dufferin Rink. Three CUPE Local 79 staff from Dufferin Rink asked if they could come and were ok’d. Otherwise all CUPE Local 416 plus two of their supervisors. Meeting took 2 and ½ hours. Dufferin on-site staff returned saying there had been lots of wild talk. Local 416 workers said no volunteers are allowed to help with safety/ crowd control because of lawsuits. Eventually it had been agreed that there would be only one on-site staff except at 6.30 or otherwise if busy, the zamboni crew would always be two people, the zamboni driver would tell the rink staff when they arrived, and wait for the rink staff to remove skaters from the ice and stand guard at the railing. One zamboni driver would raise and lower lift gates, the other zamboni driver would place special barriers at fire pit and by railing to bar people from access to zamboni route.
4 p.m. farmers’ market was on. One of the flying squad zamboni drivers came into the building and told me he needed rink guards. He was already out on the hockey ice with the zamboni (he had brought it off the trailer). I told him he'd have to find the staff by letting them know at the zamboni café that he was there. Two staff grabbed orange jacket/vest and went out. Zamboni was frozen up -- Dufferin rink on-site staff person came inside to get hot water -- then he helped the zamboni driver to hook up to hot water hose outside near the garage side door -- lots got spilled on the ice, big dirt tracks there too, chunks out of the ice -- big confusion.

Then another zamboni driver came. The first zamboni driver scraped the hockey side, then drove off and loaded the zamboni back on the flying squad trailer, with the on-site rink staff still standing on the rinks waiting – they didn't know if he was coming back to fix the mess on the pleasure side, no communication. Rink guards showed the second zamboni driver that the hockey gate once again won't close.
6.30 p.m. on-site rink lead staff reported that two flying squad zamboni drivers came to clean ice, told her to get them food, acted very rude. It’s a civil war.

January 25, 06, Wednesday

1. Dufferin: Everything is complicated because of the civil war we have at the rink. Two zamboni drivers came for the first two ice cleanings and then just one came for the final cleaning and demanded two rink guards. The Dufferin rink on-site staff went out and asked all the rink users inside so that we would only need one rink guard. By the time the on-site rink staff was back in, he had to stop a fight in the men's washroom and settle people down.
Women's shinny permit got more people this time.
11.10 p.m. lots of people playing shinny on both sides. After I cleared them out I set up the "no hockey after 11 or else" signs again.

2. Wallace: 10.50 p.m. no one was playing shinny on the hockey side even though it was open -- big shinny game on the pleasure side. One of them told me the game had started there during the Wednesday permit and then it had been going too fast to interrupt everything and move over.

January 24, 06, Tuesday

1. Christie Rink: 1.45 p.m. One on-site rink staff person plus one community-hours window washer plus three friends. Out on the ice: three skaters. I asked the on-site rink staff about the youth program that runs out of Alex Duff -- he says it's every evening 6-8, organized by Bob Abate staff. If that was changed to 6-9, you'd only need one on-site rink staff at night -- maybe pay them more and expect more? Just a thought.
10.40 p.m. 13 skaters playing drop-in shinny - say they come there a lot -- they play until 11.30 (when the lights go off). Ice looked like it must have been done this evening. Leaving there, I wiped out on my bike. Ouch!
2. Campbell Rink: 10.50: the rink was empty. Not much snow on the rink -- either they didn't have many players tonight or the ice was done sometime in the evening.
3. Wallace Rink: 8.30 p.m. Building Attendant was all by himself the whole shift. He said that the Arena Operator now has school on Tuesday nights too. Poor management: the rink operator shifts are set to suit the operator, not the needs of the rink. The regular operator now has three shifts out of five when he works days, even though the rink needs the operator in the evening. Skaters are reluctant to complain because the rink operator is one of the best on city staff. But the on-site rink staff said that the ice was not cleaned on the evening shift at all, so not very many people came skating, no one on the pleasure-skating side. This is when the green shovels would work out, if we could send a Dufferin staff person up to help organize it. By bus, I guess.
11.00 p.m. five people on the hockey side, ice very snowy. The gangster boys were all gathered under a streetlight at the corner of the rink. The stairs have mud on them because the "path" leading up to them is so muddy.
4. Dufferin Rink: meeting to discuss the new "protocol" set up for 1 p.m. with everyone there to meet with the zamboni drivers and their supervisor. Supervisor called at 12.55 to cancel. Two zamboni drivers came to do ice at 3.15, all staff on ice cleaning duty were required to wear fluorescent vests and studs on their shoes. Two operators came again at 6.30. At 8.30, three operators came. They did the pleasure side very fast at 8.45, then stood idle and obviously impatient to do the hockey side before 8.55. Let's ask them to do the pleasure side at 8.55 and the hockey side at 9.05. They get paid until 10 and seem to be overstaffed at the moment anyway. Poor management practice -- if they have three operators to send to Dufferin, they should have sent one over to Wallace to do their ice at that time, also to be a second person for the solitary on-site rink staff there.
10.30: hockey side had women's open shinny -- very full. Pleasure-skating side had men's drop-in shinny hockey -- also very full.
11.15: last stragglers leaving. I put out the chairs with the warning signs taped to them again, for the 2.30 a.m. skaters.

January 23, 06, Monday

Christie Rink – I didn’t visit

Campbell Rink -- 9.45 p.m. -- empty.

Wallace Rink -- 10 p.m. I looked at the new stairs on the hillside. They look good (steel risers). Need a railing if it snows, that's all that's left to do with the stairs.
Hockey side was open but empty; permit didn't show up the second week in a row. Fast shinny game on pleasure side -- the guy said they were moving too fast to go over to the hockey side. So I locked it. Lots of snow on the ice -- did it get done by the evening zamboni operators at all?

Dufferin Rink -- shed was moved so no problem now with sight lines.
8.45 p.m. Two zamboni drivers came. Two on-site rink staff went to help – Driver told on-site staff to put on an orange vest. Too many staff, so one zamboni driver stood there for a while and then disappeared -- either sat in the truck or left?
The second zamboni driver cleaned the pleasure –skating side then sat in zamboni while the on-site staff person raised the gate. She will ask him to raise the gate in future. Then the zamboni driver did hockey side. Pleasure side had lots of skaters but no puck allowed (good idea not to). The zamboni driver did not signal with his horn when he was done the hockey side but just drove toward the lift gate. On-site rink staff cleared pleasure rink again so the zamboni driver could dump snow (some people were walking across the basketball court as he came out the far gate but they dodged the zamboni). The zamboni driver came back across pleasure rink and I went to walk in front to spot him as per the old protocol-- he didn't seem to see me and he went pretty fast so I got out of the way. He should go slower, also on the ice.
On-site rink staff made the following signs for the middle of the night hockey players:

I put these out on the hockey rink at 11 p.m. and sent the rink neighbour another e-mail with my phone number on it.

January 22, 06, Sunday

Campbell Rink: Dufferin Rink staff person went over and Campbell rink staff helped her set up the barrel for fire and the benches from McCormick. Only 6 hockey players when we got there -- then one pleasure skater. Suddenly at 2.30 all sorts of pleasure skaters came. Dufferin Staff said it ended up being 40 people on the ice. She put a bench right on the ice and people sat there too. Hot dogs were free again -- next time we'll bring more. \\ We unlocked both side doors leading to washrooms. Maybe we could put different padlocks on so the staff could unlock the doors? \\ Ice done by zamboni driver. He drove the zamboni right on the road from rink to rink, because the trailer was broken, at about 4.30 p.m. I think.

Wallace Rink: no ice maintenance all day (after early morning) because the flying squad trailer was broken. Ice was done by zamboni travelling on the road, about 5.00 p.m. I think.
7.15 p.m. lots of skaters on both sides (18 hockey side, 12 pleasure side, 14 on benches). Some wanted access to washroom (closed early because of Sunday), some didn't care.
I noted that EVERYONE used the new stairs, coming or going.
11 p.m. only about 7-8 hockey players left.

Christie Rink: 7.30 p.m. pleasure skating time, hockey nets locked up. Ice had been done shortly before, by zamboni travelling without a trailer. One on-site rink staff was reading a book, the other on his cell. One staff would be plenty. A family of 5 or 6 were sitting on benches near the fireplace chatting. Said they don't come to Dufferin much anymore because it's too crowded. (yes!!) But they said they miss the food and the atmosphere.
Pepsi machine has been moved; good. I put three chairs in front of the fireplace, which had a nice fire in it.

Dufferin Rink -- very full all day. Zamboni was broken from the day before but apparently the zamboni driver scraped the ice with it anyway in the morning. No ice maintenance during the day because the flying squad had no trailer. I guess they just had to sit there all day. 5 p.m. family shinny permit scraped their own ice with green shovels -- worked fine. Zamboni driver arrived with zamboni, no trailer, at about 5.45. He scraped the ice at 6 p.m., 7.30, and 8.45.

E-mail to the park web site: “I had a question for you guys, I'm not really sure who to contact with this. I live near he ice rink and there has been a group of young guys meeting up 3 or 4 times a week in the middle of the night to play when the rink is closed. It wouldn't bother me, I actually like the sound of skates on the rink it's that they are being really loud and screaming at each other. At first I was just a little irritated but now they seem to be meeting regularly, last night they came out to play at 2:30. If I didn't have to get up at 6 for work it might not be as much of an issue but I was wondering if there was anything that could be done to help the situation.”

January 21, 06, Saturday

Dufferin: 9.30 a.m. Skating lessons started, then two zamboni drivers came. They didn't warn anyone and the zamboni was on the ice before any on-site rink staff could get out there. He said to on-site staff that he did that because the other driver was with him and could keep a lookout. The zamboni driver did the hockey side, had to dump snow three times (it had snowed in early morning). The skating teacher cleared her class right off twice, stayed on the ice in the corner with everyone the third time. The zamboni driver protested to the skating teacher about this, despite a lot of adult supervision.
1.05p.m. Zamboni driver alerted rink staff with proper notice to clear ice but it was the wrong time. Said no one had told him he had to wait until the end of kids-and-parents shinny hockey time (1.30) I went home and ran off a large-print version of the Dec.10 ice-cleaning schedule and posted it on the wall in the garage, by gas hose. Also posted it on the staff bulletin board and on the public bulletin board. Rink only medium-busy all day.
11 p.m. youth permit on hockey ice and only three people on pleasure-skating side.

Wallace: At 11 a.m., no staff at the rink, garage door open all the way, rink office door unlocked and unattended. Hockey nets still outside of rink, lift gate up, new stairs with layer of snow. After 10 minutes, in-site rink staff came back from the mall, said zamboni driver had gone to clean Campbell. I cleared snow off steps.
12.30p.m. skating lessons well-attended, barrel fire with hot dogs, muffins, nice scene.
I spoke to zamboni driver about the missing green rink shovels -- he said they were used twice, and despite his instruction, people pushed the snow against boards, so he put them back into the compressor room. I asked him to chain them outside against the fence with one of the locks. I promised him the shovels would only be used with proper supervision -- make sure no one at Wallace has that padlock key for now?
10.30 p.m. fast hockey game. I asked them to lock the padlock when they left and they said yes.

Campbell: good ice maintenance all day, zamboni there all day. One-day tournament for all ages, starting at noon. Six teams, 35 players from all three rinks. Hockey was very fast and good. Barrel fire with hot dogs (One Dufferin Rink staff plus local helpers). All players seemed to enjoy it. (Two refs, no fights). At the finals (8 p.m.), the team from Dufferin was ahead 6-4 of the team from Campbell, when the team from Campbell decided to forfeit. --?
Many players said they want to do another tournament, but at Dufferin where the rink house is handier and warmer.
At 10.30 Campbell rink was empty.

Christie: at 10.30 there was one skater just leaving. Rink was unlocked but nets were locked to the outside. Why?

January 20, 06, Friday

Dufferin: because of the 11 degrees and the ice thickness, the rink was covered with water by 11 a.m. Two zamboni drivers came to fix the hockey gate lock. They stayed quite a while talking but didn't want to use the zamboni. Their supervisor didn't return calls. So on-site rink staff, working with skaters, took water off manually with the green shovels for about two hours (off and on). Much improvement and people could play hockey after. Technical services staff person came by and said he'd lowered the sensor temperature on the compressors but they still weren't working to the optimum because the ice was too thick (made worse by rainstorm the day before). Tech staff said he's very concerned for March openings if the ice is already this thick now. Zamboni driver said Tech Services staff doesn't know what he's talking about.
E-mail to rink manager: "The on-site rink staff have paged the zamboni supervisor about ice maintenance, but got no answer to their pages. The rink is not only puddled but also soft. This may be because the ice has been allowed to get much too thick already. The zamboni operators have come to the rink but they told the on-site staff that it’s nonsense about ice thickness, and that they will not go out onto the ice with the zamboni. (This is not uncommon.) The two are sitting and drinking park coffee instead….Could you try to talk to the rink supervisor about this?"
No answer.
4.30 p.m. zamboni driver did finally scrape the ice, got more water off -- ice was fine after that, but still just as thick. Lots of skaters were there for skating lessons and Friday Night Supper.
Evening -- ice good and lots of skaters until lights went off.

Wallace: Zamboni driver told me he did the ice in the morning and it was fine all day (Direct ammonia!). At 4.30p.m. there were a few sections of damp but the many skaters said it was fine to skate and play hockey. Both rinks had a lot of skaters in the evening. 11 p.m.: ice snowy but solid, no puddles, at lock-up time.

Campbell: At 5.30p.m. the rink had not been done, some puddles on it, nets off. The two flying squad zamboni drivers were sitting in office with the on-site rink staff -- said they had been told not to scrape ice but just be on standby. They also said they would ruin the ice if they went on it. I didn't bother telling about Dufferin being done an hour earlier -- why argue with a wall?
10.30 p.m.: 13 skaters in very fast hockey game.

Christie: on-site rink staff called around 1 p.m. and said he was closing Trinity and Christie because each had two inches of water on them. At 6 p.m. the rink was locked but there was one skater inside -- water on the edges but solid in the middle. Rink house was locked too, no sign on it. I unlocked the rink door. The skater was glad, said the ice was fine, he was skating all around.
7.25 p.m. three skaters on the ice, ice was fine (but had not been scraped). I unlocked the hockey nets. As I left I could see two families coming for pleasure skating -- but rink house was still locked. I.e. rink was quite skateable from 5.30p.m. even with no ice maintenance but it was closed all evening.

January 19, 06 Thursday

Wallace: women's shinny again had only 4 people. I will contact them and also talk to the learn-to-play-shinny folks (Lawrence) and let everyone know that if they can't get at least 8 women out next time, we'll try again next year.
I talked to zamboni driver about seeing guys in the compressor room the night before at 10.10 p.m. He said he NEVER lets anyone in there. He tested the compressor room door and found that it can be easily opened without a key. A handy clubhouse, with lots of buttons and switches! He said he'll make sure it gets fixed today.
At 10.30 p.m. both sides of Wallace Rink were full of shinny players. Looked great.
At 11 p.m. I locked up the hockey rink and most shinny players left by the new stairs.

Campbell: At 10.45p.m. the mixed (men and women) permit was just leaving and there were 7 shinny players on the ice. Nets on.

Christie: At 10.05 p.m. the ice was empty, nets were on, and a full-equipment permit was just relaxing post-game in the dressing room. There was a fire in the wood stove, lots of benches, and the scene looked very nice. The on-site rink staff was reading the paper. He said that everything is clear now that you and he have talked, and he'll do the same things at Trinity. (?) He also said the Pepsi machine is being moved away from the fireplace today.

Dufferin: At 9 p.m. the permit was on the hockey side and the ice was too packed with shinny players on the pleasure side. Some people left and the rest organized themselves into two lines and took turns.

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Content last modified on November 14, 2010, at 03:00 PM EST