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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.

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Content last modified on November 06, 2006, at 06:36 PM EST