friends of dufferin grove park
January-February 2006 Newsletter
posted January 25, 2006



Newsletter prepared by:
Jutta Mason

Jane LowBeer

Technical support:
John Culbert

Henrik Bechmann,
Joe Adelaars

Park phone:
416 392-0913

street address:
875 Dufferin Street


Park photographer: Wallie Seto

Quality Control Printing at Bloor and St. George

Volume 7, Number 1, January-February 2006



There were three tournaments in January in the three-rink cluster:
Women of Winter Shinny Hockey Tournament at Dufferin Rink January 6 and 7 (8 teams): which was also featured in the media

Wallace Rink Shinny Hockey Tournament (ages 8 to 13) shinny tournament January 7 (6 teams), so the younger kids had their own tournament at Wallace while Dufferin Rink was reserved for women’s shinny

Campbell Rink Tournament (15 and over) January 21 (6 teams).

All the tournaments were fast and exciting and worked out really well. If it hadn’t been for Deirdre Norman getting the ball rolling with her women’s shinny tournament, we might not have copied her by having other tournaments as well.  (Thanks!) Next up (still in the planning stage) is a February invitation to the Jimmie Simpson Rink “hockey in the neighborhood” program (at Queen near Broadview), to bring over some younger teams to play at one or several of our three cluster rinks, maybe also with kids from Regent Park South Rink. Watch for the posters, or talk to Dufferin Rink staff.


Campbell Rink, Christie Rink, Wallace Rink and Dufferin Rink all close their change areas between 8 and 9.30 p.m. but lovers of shinny hockey can play longer if there is no permit. The hockey gates are not locked until 11p.m., and the rink lights and nets stay on too. At Wallace and Dufferin Rinks, whenever there’s a permit on the hockey side (and even when there isn’t), there are also energetic shinny games on the pleasure-skating side after regular hours.

Rinks close to houses are locked after 11 p.m. so that there is no middle-of-the-night noise to wake up the neighborhood. Any noise complaints should be reported to recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro at 391-0041, and to Dufferin Rink staff (even for the other rinks) at 392-0913, and e-mailed to the City rink manager, James Dann, at  If hockey players climb the fence and make a bunch of hockey racket in the night, they can expect to be confronted by rink staff and given letters of trespass forbidding any further rink access (including during regular rink hours) this year. If people want to play hockey in the dark, they can go to City Hall Rink – there’s a game there every night, and the noise doesn’t bother other people.


If you have any old photos of your hockey-playing grandmother or grand-dad, or yourself as a little kid, playing shinny hockey on the pond, in your backyard, or on a City rink, please bring them by and let us photocopy them. We’re starting an “old hockey photos” display at the rink house. We have some good photos from the City archives – now we need some from the neighborhood.

We promise to be very careful with the photos and just copy them at Kwik Copy and then return the originals right away. So please: rummage around in your old photo albums and share the action shots you find in there.


The zamboni cafe  is open seven days a week with the staple items of mini-pizzas, Beretta’s organic hot dogs, Sosnicki’s organic perogies, sandwiches, soup and park oven bread (the main soup cooks are Mary Sylwester, Amy Withers, and Niko Gomez), and of course Fair Trade coffee, hot chocolate, drinks, and the park’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. On Thursdays the park bakers arrive at 6 a.m. to bake bread for the weekly farmers’ market (3 to 7 p.m.), and there’s bake-oven pizza as well. Fridays the cooks make Friday Night Supper with farmers’ market produce: both meat and vegan dishes, salad, and a dessert. Left-overs are served all weekend long.

When the park’s Hobart dough-mixer broke in December, the park staff had to make all the bread and the huge batches of park cookies by hand, and that was tough.  We found out that even a second-hand replacement would cost at least $3000, and the park cookie money couldn’t cover that.  There was some unsuccessful searching, and then one day park friend Herschel Stroyman brought over an old friend of his. Issie Chackowicz is mainly a bike mechanic, but he’s “handy” (he knows how to fix things), and he’s not scared to search out how things work.  He figured out how to take out the broken motor, and he brought it to a machinist to rewind (that means taking out the broken bits and winding an amazing amount of shiny new copper wire into the motor). On January 19 Issie brought the motor back and re-installed it and, lo and behold: it WORKED.  For $500, Issie got our mixer fixed: no garbage mixer in the landfill and no more sore wrists for the park bakers.

Meantime another park friend talked to her teacher, executive chef Robert Pittl at the Bayview Country Club. He had an old Hobart mixer sitting unused in their storage room, and he said we could have it for free. The parks department sent a truck to get it and now we have a second mixer. However, it won’t switch on! So Issie Chackowicz came back and he has some ideas. (Two mixers are better than one).  We’ll see how he does with this one.

Issie has also told us he teaches bike maintenance classes and would like to do that at Dufferin Grove Park in the spring – watch this newsletter for details.


For some years now, most of the City’s staff zamboni operators have been reluctant to work at Dufferin Rink. Some have not been shy to say so. They say there’s too much interference with their regular way of running rinks. The zamboni drivers seem particularly unhappy about the idea that they should match their ice maintenance visits to the rink program schedule. One particular zamboni operator recently insisted on clearing the ice before a hockey permit was finished, because, he said, that was his prerogative if he felt like it. When a rink friend argued with him, the zamboni driver and his partner left the rink without grooming the ice at all, and went home early. A few days later some of the City zamboni drivers summoned their supervisor to a health and safety meeting.

The following day the on-site rink staff were told that they must follow a new health and safety “protocol.” It soon became apparent that these new rules would make it much harder to keep to our ten-year practice of letting skaters keep on skating on the pleasure-skating side while the hockey side is being cleaned by the zamboni, and vice versa. (This is another feature of our rink that has been unpopular with many City zamboni drivers.)To comply with the new rules in the evenings, on-site rink staff would either have to leave the rink house unattended for half an hour, or add another staff whose only role was to double the staff already standing guard outside by the hockey lift-gate (to prevent people from being run over by the zamboni). If the second on-site rink staff was not there, the zamboni driver would have the right to leave the work site immediately, on the grounds of employee health and safety.

This is a bit of déjà vu! The last time there was an employee health and safety complaint at the rink was a few days before Christmas 2003, when City inspectors came and said Dufferin Rink was the worst rink they had ever seen. On that occasion they ordered the new community kitchen bordering the zamboni garage to be torn out and the giant Clay and Paper Theatre puppets to be removed from high up in the rafters. They also said that no one but a licensed zamboni driver could enter the zamboni garage.

A Zamboni, as skaters know, is about the size of a small truck. It has four wheels, a scraper/flooder at the back, and a large chamber for storing the scraped-off snow at the front. As with street sweepers, snowploughs, and road repair vehicles, the driver’s visibility is less than in a car, so the driver has to take extra care. When a zamboni is standing in a garage, though, it’s no more dangerous than a parked car, and so the inspectors’ 2003 verdict did not stand. The Dufferin Rink kitchen is still there, the puppets are back, and the farmers’ market and all sorts of other events have continued.

But now it seems that once again a zamboni is being held up as a singularly dangerous vehicle from which skaters must be protected. So even if you (and your kids) know how to cross a busy road like Dufferin Street without a crossing guard, you can’t be trusted to stay back from a moving zamboni with only one rink guard to warn you off.

Back to the requirement of having an extra, otherwise unnecessary staff person at the rink in the evening. The zamboni supervisor says that there’s only one alternative: to shut all the skaters inside the rink house during the time the zamboni operator is grooming the ice. He says that Dufferin Rink has become so busy that special protections must be put in place. It’s not that there has been any accident, but that there could be.

So now we have a problem. The philosophy at this park is to stay away from having extra staff who have waiting-around time as part of their job description, even though that may be a common way municipal government is run. As things stand, the Dufferin Rink staff are booked to do the work that’s needed. Because the rink has become so well used by so many different people, that work includes keeping the rink house clean and arranging it as a neighbourly space, hosting community events, teaching skating, connecting with other rinks, youth counselling, court work with youth, giving citywide rink information, doing web postings, shovelling snow, helping farmers on market day, running the zamboni café, helping the zamboni operator, organizing tournaments, and more.  On-site rink staff deal with all the different demands on them, more or less successfully, by helping one another and listening to rink users. They also get rock-solid support from the recreation supervisor.

The zamboni crew have chosen to stay out of this loop and to set their rules independently. That’s a puzzle. A clash of philosophies? So many City rinks still have their windowless staff room with the old couch and the all-winter card game, where the zamboni operators and the on-site rink staff and a few favourite rink users spend time between periods of ice maintenance. Sometimes the door is propped open, other times it’s locked from the inside. Is that protection from the public really so much more agreeable than running a rink that’s a friendly hub in a lively neighbourhood?

There will be some discussions now between the City zamboni operators and the Dufferin Rink on-site staff. Hopefully the two clashing philosophies will move a little closer again. If not (since we don’t like to hire waiting-around rink staff), rink users will have plenty of time to brainstorm about the upside-down world of city rinks, when they’re squashed together inside the rink house as the zamboni moves around the ice outside, all alone.


At about two a.m. last Hallowe’en, park neighbour and friend Bruce Whitaker was awakened by the sound of cracking and smashing in the park. He got up and looked, and called the police. Two cruisers happened to be in the neighborhood already and came within minutes. They arrested a young person under 18 for vandalizing the cob courtyard that was built by many neighborhood people under Georgie Donais’ direction all last summer. With some large stones, the young man had destroyed half of artist Susan Szenes intricate mosaic counter, all the plumbing fixtures on the public health sinks, and three-quarters of the tiles painted for the cob courtyard by park children. He had also made many holes in the walls. The cob walls are much too strong to break down, but the many holes in the plaster would give access to winter snow and rain (and so there is some interior water penetration now).

Our first step was to hire summer cob-builder foreperson Heidrun Gabel-Koepff to record all the damage for the court, and to fix as many of the plaster holes as possible. Our second step was to try and get involved in the court case. Georgie and many others thought it would be best if the young man was sentenced to do community service hours fixing up the cob damage. That could connect him to the community in a more positive way at the same time. (Most park youth are also park-boosters, and this park has an unusually low amount of damage through vandalism.)

But no matter where we asked, we couldn’t find out anything about the court case. In frustration, we turned to the City’s legal department, to see if they could gain standing at the trial. That’s when we found out that the city does not use their lawyers to follow up on vandalism even when an arrest is made. Their reason: it would not be cost-effective.

Many park friends disagree. If the police know that the City will not go to court for vandalism, why would the police take the trouble to investigate such acts? They would see it as a waste of their time.

Beyond that, news gets around. Many youth know that the City doesn’t follow up in vandalism arrests. So why should they worry about doing antisocial acts in public space?

Since concern about antisocial acts by youth is currently running high in Toronto, we contacted City Councillor Adam Giambrone and the mayor’s office. The councillor said he is looking into changing policy but we are asking for a meeting with city lawyers, so that park staff and cob builders can explain our thinking to them. Watch the newsletter for follow-up.


Since the City (owner of the park and everything in it) took no role in contacting the courts about the youth who vandalized the cob courtyard, other ways had to be found. After much searching and phone tag by park staff, Jutta Mason went to the youth court at 311 Jarvis Street. She walked up and down the office corridors and looked at door signs until she found the youth’s probation worker. Then they had a long talk.

It turned out that the probation worker lives in this area. She had watched the cob courtyard being built and had brought her whole family over to see it at Thanksgiving. (Toronto is a small town!) Not only that – the probation worker had read in the December Park Newsletter, posted on the rink shed, that we were frustrated because we couldn’t contact the court about the cob vandalism.

The probation worker knew how much community effort had gone into the cob courtyard. So she had told the young man, after he formally accepted responsibility for the damage in the park last November, that he would not be charged if he went and talked to the cob builders, and also helped to repair the damage. But there was a snag – before the young man could do any repair work, young offender diversion procedure says there first has to be a “talking circle” on the model of what native people do (they call it a “healing circle”). Everyone with a specific concern about the incident, including the young man’s friends and the cob courtyard builders, could be involved. The agency employed to set up and lead this circle is called Peacebuilders International. They are based in St. James Town and Regent Park, and they hadn’t contacted us because they had never heard of Dufferin Grove Park and didn’t know how to find us.

So we invited their worker to the park and had a good talk with him. Now we hope the preparations for direct contact are going ahead. More news next month.


As many rink users have noticed, there are often tow trucks parked at the dead end beside the rink house. They feel at home in that spot, and out of the way. From time to time, the tow truck drivers double park right in the middle of the street so they can compare notes out their driver’s side windows. When a park friend recently pointed out to two drivers that they were making it hard for the apartment building residents (and rink users) to drive in and out, the drivers said this was the first complaint they had ever heard. They need more feedback! If you see them block the street, and it bothers you, tell them you don’t like it.  If they still don’t move, come and tell the rink staff and they’ll write down the tow truck’s metro license number and report them to the licensing people.

But they’ll probably listen to you the first time, when they realize that people actually don’t like them blocking the street. It’s just that they didn’t know.


From before Christmas, 2004, when the first “city secrets” freedom of information appeals were funded by park friends, until now, the park’s little research group has been looking to see where our Parks and Recreation tax money goes. The research group is called CELOS (pronounced cee-loss), CEntre for LOcal research into public Space. Even though our group is so small, we’ve found out quite a bit, from reading City Council minutes and submitting a lot of freedom of information requests. There seem to be some puzzling expenditures, small, medium and large, related to playgrounds, energy retrofits, rinks, managers, insurance, debt charges – and that’s just a part.  Requests for clarification don’t generally get much (or any) response. That’s no wonder, because the City is in increasingly serious financial trouble and alarm bells are going off all over the place about accountability and budgeting methods. It may be that the MFP Computer scandal is not the end of it.

This being a municipal election year makes it a good time for citizens and those in municipal government to think about where our taxes go. CELOS will be presenting the first “Citizens’ Audit” about Parks, Forestry and Recreation to the City Budget Advisory Committee and to the City Auditor on February 10. The Audit will also be posted at the Dufferin Rink house, and it will be on the park web site,, click on “research.” We hope it makes gripping reading!


This past month, extra funds from the rink snack bar:

  • helped to build a temporary stairway at Wallace Rink that gets rid of the entrapment at the dead end by the hockey rink retaining wall, and allows easier access to rink parking
  • repaired the motor of the park bread mixer (see the “Food in the park” section)
  • supplied free hot dogs for tournaments and family skate times at our sister rinks, Campbell and Wallace
  • bought firewood for the rink house wood stove
  • got us more staff for farmers’ market day and busy weekends
  • helped pay for Wallace Rink research (February 5 rink rebuild meeting)

This newsletter was funded by the zamboni café and by park friend Suchada Promsiri, the owner/chef  of the aptly named tiny-but-delicious OhSoGood Café on College near Ossington: she gave us $105.15 for two newsletters – the entire contents of her tip jar.