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December 2009

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 10, Nr.10, December 2009

Dufferin Rink November 30, 2009.

For an independent community email list service and discussion group, see dufferingrovefriends


From organizer Heidrun Gabel-Koepff: ''“This season's winter craft fair at Dufferin Grove Park will be set up outside the rink building. There will be wonderful hand-made goods this year including woodworking, knitwear, glass designs, print work, jewellery, T-shirts, book covers, scarves, skate covers, cosmetic products, cookies, teas and much more. Local, non-professional crafters bringing great deals to you for the holiday season (most items are under $20)! There will be hot drinks and food available from the Zamboni Cafe, as well as Yasi's Place, and Tim's crepes.”''


On July 31, Max Wallace felt moved to offer a donation to the playground in Dufferin Gove Park – $800 to buy an additional swing, accessible for kids who use wheelchairs (and for anyone else). Playground users have been suggesting this desirable addition for over a year, and Max hoped his donation would nudge the project into reality. It did. On November 24, city workers installed it! And it turns out the City doesn’t even want Max’s money. He says he’s going to donate it to the playground bio-toilet project instead.

Other good news – the much-loved “spider climber,” once on the waiting list for removal, has been repaired and is about to be repainted. The monkey bars have also been repaired and repainted, the four-way teeter-totter has had its arm replaced, and the four-way “Daisy” spring toy that broke off in the summer was replaced with a new one (that only took a week, thanks to a photo sent to City Councillor Adam Giambrone, of a tearful little girl named Ronan Denis, next to the broken-off spring toy).

Repair and good maintenance of existing resources instead of adding new debt by removal and replacement – what a good concept.


In winter there are lots of birthday-and-skating parties, at the rink-side campfire near the smaller bake-oven. The rink house can’t be booked for birthday parties – it’s open for everybody, not rented out privately – and even the campfire circle is not closed to drop-ins when there’s a party.

Even so, a campfire-and-skating party seems to work very well for celebrations. To book a campfire by the rink, or at the central campfire site, speak to the recreation staff at the rink house, or e-mail You can borrow marshmallow sticks, pot and pot-stand, oven mitts, ladles, etc. But you have to bring your own wood.


The unofficial word is that most outdoor rinks will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day – NOT a good plan. Lots of people like to come outside and have a skate on the big holidays. On Christmas Day, after the presents are opened, the kids get to try out their new skates or hockey gear, if any, and later the grownups get to take a break from eating. On Boxing Day people get to have some outdoor fun with relatives who might be visiting, and take a break from shopping. On New Year’s Day, it’s “the first day of the rest of my life,” and lots of people want to skate off the parties with some fresh air and exercise. But the City can’t afford the cost of holiday ice maintenance (the zamboni drivers earn triple time-and-a-half plus 26% benefits). The solution may be to have the rinks staffed only by the low-paid part-time rink program staff, have a few roving zamboni staff to do one ice resurfacing per rink, and do the rest with shovels and skaters. Dufferin Rink will be open one way or the other But the other city rinks….?

The rink is open seven days a week, and that includes the holidays. The rink clubhouse will close at 5 pm on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, the hours are 10 am to 6 pm. Boxing Day is normal hours. On New Year’s Eve the rink clubhouse stays open until midnight, and on New Year’s Day the hours are normal (9 am to 9 pm).


Toronto has more outdoor compressor-cooled rinks than any city in the world – 49, with one more to come in January (the new skating oval at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Etobicoke). But our civic knowledge of the physics of ice maintenance hasn’t kept pace with our collective rink wealth. At Dufferin Rink, after the scheduled City ice maintenance was augmented by 8 late-night volunteer hose-floods, the rink opened for the season on November 22. The ice has been good ever since. Many people seem to find this amazing, even shocking, since the air temperature has been warmer than usual, as high as 11.

What’s the surprise? Collectively, as taxpayers, we spend about $500 a day at Dufferin Rink to fuel the compressors that cool the rink pad. The rink has two compressors of 75 horsepower each – you can hear their noise through the compressor-room doors at the side of the building. These compressors push a brine (salt water) solution through a big tank of cooling ammonia, and then out into the extensive grid of PVC pipes underneath the concrete floor of the rink. This cold liquid brings the entire big concrete slab to well below freezing, so any water that’s put on the rink pads sets up as ice right away. The brine liquid circulates back into a large pipe in the “header trench” right next to the building, underneath where everybody stands when the zamboni is doing ice maintenance. From there the brine gets pushed back into the compressor room, where it passes through the freezing-cold ammonia tank, and out again into the pipes under the concrete, and so on.

The only serious match for this powerful cooling system is the sun, and in the months around the December 21 winter solstice, the sun is very weak. It doesn’t get to spend very much time above the horizon, and that suits the compressors just fine.

The sun begins to gain real power toward the end of February, which is why, on a sunny day on, let’s say, February 25, when the air temperature is minus 8, the ice gets really mushy near the reflective boards, and even a bit soft in the middle. The compressors are losing ground as the sun prepares to bring on spring and summer. But on a low-sun Monday, November 23, at 11 degrees, a thin film of water forms on top of solid ice, and the shinny hockey and pleasure-skating at Dufferin Rink are brilliant.

It’s not only rink users whose rink literacy is in some need of upgrading. The city’s rink staff are also confused. In our travels around the other 48 city rinks, we have often heard zamboni drivers say that they can’t make ice because the temperature is above zero. The city’s Park management blames a multitude of ice-making sins on the temperature, global warming, etc. Convenient – but most of the time, not true. The compressor-cooled rinks can do their job, and having all those rinks can take some of the sting out of the dark months of winter for Torontontians.


Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm
Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm
Skate rental ($2.00): Monday to Sunday 9 am to 8 pm

Shinny hockey: same hours as the rink clubhouse except Sundays. There is a (strictly enforced) age schedule. From rink staff: “If you ever see the wrong age group on the shinny ice, do us a favour and notify the rink staff right away.”

Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's a bit like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

Beginners’ free registered shinny hockey, Wednesday Nights From 10 to 11 P.M.
Each session consists of a warm up, drills and exercises to improve your skills and a fun scrimmage. This program is for those who are new to skating. To register, e-mail Dan Watson at

Beginners’ free drop-in shinny hockey, Sunday nights From 9:30 to 11 P.M.
Each session consists of warm up, quick lesson and an organized game for beginners. Space is limited each night to 30 players, and is on a first come first serve basis. More information: or 416 392-0913. Ask for Dan Watson.

The large rink lights turn off after 11:00pm, and then the rink is locked.

Parking: One good place to park is at Dufferin Mall across the street. After 5 pm. there’s lots of parking across from St.Mary’s School at the north end of the park too.

Rink contacts: 416 392-0913 or The rink phone message will tell you the current ice skating conditions.



This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 49 municipal outdoor ice rinks, plus Harbourfront Rink. The site has maps, hours, schedules, phone numbers, ratings, and stormy-weather updates. It also has blogs about the individual rinks, with contributions from skaters. For information or comments:

Toronto has more outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks than any city in the world. It’s the free-outdoor-ice-skating capital of Canada!

Youth “One-Off” Shinny Program, Saturday Night, 9 -11 pm.

Local youth: get together a group of 12 or more and play shinny on the hockey pad. 9:00pm - 11:00pm. Contact Mayssan or Sarah at for more information. Free registered program, $50 deposit required - once you play, you get it back.

Women-only shinny hockey Tuesdays 9 – 11 pm.

This is an open women-only shinny hockey time. There’s also a women-only permit on Wednesday nights. To join up, contact staff. There are no men-only shinny hockey times, for obvious reasons.


14 city rinks were supposed to open on the Nov.21 weekend. Only two did open then – City Hall and Dufferin Rink. Harbourfront, not managed by the city, also opened. Those three rinks all had overnight floods for the first week of ice-making. City rinks used to have late-night floods as a matter of course, but somehow that bit of ice-making know-how got lost. At Dufferin Rink, the volunteers were Sarah Cormier, Mayssan Shuja, and Matt Leithold, (volunteers from the rink program staff), Jutta Mason and Blair Merill. This is a simple thing that makes all the difference – easy, satisfying, and fun. And after the Star story, some of the regular rink staff were assigned do work until 2 a.m., which was also a big help. Let’s hope it spreads over the whole city for next year, and the disappointment of missed opening days won’t be repeated.


During the week of ice-making at Dufferin Rink (starting on Nov.16), Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter said she wanted to write about the rink opening. She did her homework –she came to the rink at midnight on November 18 to interview me for an hour and a half, while I was flooding the ice with the big rink hose. The column she wrote, and the picture Star photographer Carlos Osario took on Friday night just after the rink staff had completed their round of floods, got lots of reactions. Examples:

(1) On Sunday morning, Nov.22, Vincent Muia approached rink program staff Anna Bekerman and startled her by giving her three $100 bills as a gift for the rink. He said he used to come to Dufferin Rink a lot as a kid. He had just read the Star article and he was so happy to be reminded of that time that he came right down to give this present. After some urging by Anna, he left his card: he’s an insulation contractor, with a company called Dominion Insulation, located at 295 Garyray Drive in Weston.

Small world! Back in 1995 when the first bake-oven was built, the Toronto Sun covered opening day. As a result of that article, a skid recycler named Hussain Alli called the park and offered us as much dry hardwood as we ever wanted, because he loved the idea of bread being made in the old way they used to bake it in Guyana, where he came from. Hussein’s little skid factory was also on Garyray Drive, and we often went there to get wood. (He often delivered it, too, in his beaten-up old van.)

Now the park has two good friends on Garyray Drive. And for those rink users who need insulation done, you might want to call up Vincent Muia at 416 743-6688, for an estimate. (“The Fraternal Order of rink users.”)

The rink program staff went out and bought a new printer with some of Vincent’s donation, and right away printed up the new season’s skating schedules. The rest went to grow the skate rental collection.

(2) On Monday afternoon, a rink user told us that she was very excited about the Star article because she had just put her house on the market. Her real estate agent had clipped several copies of the article and posted them at the open house.

(3) On Tuesday morning, Lillian Michiko Blakey e-mailed that seeing the photo of the rink in the Star brought back many memories of skating at Dufferin Rink fifty years ago. She sent us an account of those days, and of her family’s establishment in this neighbourhood after being interned in Alberta during WW2, for being of Japanese descent. Lillian’s rink account is on page 6, and more of her stories are here the new “people” section of “about us.” We’ve also posted her evocative painting of the rink, which she created to illustrate how it looked when she and her sister used to skate there.

(4) It would have been lovely if this article had resulted in getting faster responses from people when we contact them for problems or information. But no such luck. 95% of our queries get no response – not from the auditor, not from the general manager of Parks and Recreation, not from other city staff or from city councilors in other parts of the city.

Well, if fame doesn’t help, we’ll have to keep trying persistence.

[Jutta Mason]


Lillian sent us the following piece in response to a Toronto Star article by Catherine Porter, "The power of soup, skates and simplicity" on Nov. 21 2009.

“It was like déjà vu, looking at the newspaper photo of the outdoor skating rink at Dufferin Grove! I couldn't believe my eyes. Fifty years ago, my girlfriends and I went to skate there after school and on Friday nights. Looking at the photo, I was struck by the fact that nothing had changed in those fifty years. The rink is exactly the same as it was all those years ago. It was as if it were stuck in a time warp. And I was pulled back as if it were just yesterday.

On weekdays, the gates at either end of the boards running down the centre of the ice were closed and the ice was divided into two rinks. On the right was the pleasure rink for anyone in the community to enjoy - young and old, beginners awkwardly trying to stay on their feet and those more experienced spinning and gliding effortlessly. On the left was the larger rink, where the boys played games of pick-up hockey. In those days, there were no organized leagues in sports complexes, no uniforms, no fees, no admission.

All the boys needed were skates and hockey sticks, which they had bought for ninety-nine cents. All the girls needed were figure skates they had bought for a few dollars at Woolworth's. Of course, girls did not play hockey then. We just watched the boys out of the corner of our eyes. And the boys knew that we were watching them. The first girl to play years later, was Abby Hoffman, who had masqueraded as a boy for ages before she was found out. There was a huge public outcry and she was in the newspapers for her audacity.

On Friday nights, the gates were raised and the ice became a large pleasure rink, with Strauss waltzes blaring over our heads. My girlfriends and I walked to the rink, with our skates slung over our shoulders, no matter how cold it was. We didn't have special winter pants, only brightly coloured cotton chino pants. By the time we got home, our legs were numb and bright red from the cold. We were always excited as we walked hurriedly to the rink, anticipating chance meetings with boys. No-one knew who would be there and that was part of the lure. We waited in anticipation, and invariably, some brave boys would venture to come over and ask us for a skate around the rink. And for the girls, there was great excitement just in skating in the hockey rink.”


Dufferin Rink is a friendly place, but there’s a reason for the lockers – in a city of 2.5 million people, there will be some thieves. Don’t leave your back pack, or your shoes, or your cell phone, or your hockey gloves, in the rink house while you skate. Lockers are only 25 cents and if you don’t have it, the staff will lend it to you. Keep an eye on your hockey stick, too. Staff will stash it for you in a pinch. And let staff know right away if you suspect someone is cruising for unattended bags.


The tasty market-food suppers will be on offer every Friday night after 6, to eat at the regular rink tables or at the bar-stool counter. However long the leftovers last, they’ll be served on Saturdays too. Every day of the week there’s Mary Sylwester’s warming soup, Sosnicki’s perogies, the mini-pizzas and Beretta’s hot dogs and the park cookies. Apples, too. All that fresh air makes skaters hungry.


This year, both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are on a Thursday. There will be no farmers’ market on those days. On all the other Thursdays, the rink clubhouse will be shared between the skaters, the farmers, and the food customers – tricky but not impossible. The late frost this year means there is still a lot of freshly harvested produce, and also meat, baked goods, cheese, olive oil, honey, chocolate, preserves, and more. Sometimes it gets crowded, but it’s a friendly crowd. And the rink staff will stash your groceries for you if you want to have a skate after shopping.


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web sites: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim,

City Staff at the park: Catarina Cardoso,Andrew DeSousa, Maria (Pia) Perez, Mayssan Shuja, Sarah Cormier, Amy Withers, Anna GalatiAnna Bekerman, Michael Monastyrskyj, Laura Macdonald, Dakota Vine, Daniel Watson, Ben Lander, Rachel Weston, Heidrun Gabel Koepff, Jenny Cook, Hollis Pearson, Lea Ambros, Alain Hesse Boutin, Mary Sylwester, Leslie Lindsay, Carole Ferrari, Marina DeLuca-Howard, Greg Kirk, Ava Lightbody, Lily Weston, Maricela Valdez- Hernandez, Matt Leitold

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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