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December 2010

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 11, Nr.9, December 2010

Crowds at Dufferin Rink, December 3

Click on poster to enlarge it.


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, bead work, teddy bears, ceramic bowls, print work, jewellery, book covers, scarves, hemp shopping bags, cosmetic products, cookies, teas and much more.

Local, non-professional crafters bringing great deals to you for the holiday season! There will be hot drinks and food available from the Zamboni Café.


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 the rink pads at most outdoor rinks will be open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day, but the buildings (washrooms, change and warm-up areas) will be locked – 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 (one of the two most popular skating days of the holidays, citywide) people get to have some outdoor fun with relatives who might be visiting, and take a break from shopping. On New Year’s Day (the other most popular citywide skating 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. Why lock the rink houses?

For a follow-up, see pages 5-6. But also, take note: Dufferin Rink will be fully open on all those holidays. The small extra staffing cost will be covered by your zamboni café donations.


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. As long as 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.


Toronto has more city-owned compressor-cooled outdoor ice rinks than any city in the world – 50 counting 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. Many people seem to find it amazing, even shocking, that rinks can run at temperatures as high as 15 celsius.

What’s the surprise? Dufferin 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 pipes that pass through a big tank of freezing-cold 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 that any water that’s put on the rink pads turns to ice. The brine liquid, warming up a bit as it gives its cold to the rink slab, 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 to cool right down again, and then gets pushed back out into the pipes under the concrete, and so on, round and round.

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 cooling system 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 cooling system is losing ground ( as the sun prepares to bring on spring and summer. But on a low-sun day in November, December, or January, even if it’s mild out, the shinny hockey and pleasure-skating at Dufferin Rink are brilliant.


On the first Monday evening of the rink season, rink staff came within a hair of shutting it down. The crowds of young skaters seemed overwhelming, and many of them were clearly frustrated – and not shy to show it. If you’re young and you love to play shinny hockey with your friends, and only one rink opens when there are four other nearby rinks still without ice, the disappointment can sting. Timely opening of all our rinks is the real solution (more about that on page 5). But even after the other rinks have opened, the popularity of skating and hockey can lead to crowded times at Dufferin Rink. If you like it a bit quieter, try the following: Wallace or Giovanni Caboto rinks (up the hill at Lansdowne and St.Clair) for pleasure skating – they’re both double pads, so always available); or Wallace, Campbell (single pad), Christie (single pad), or Giovanni Caboto rinks for shinny hockey (and some pleasure-skating slots as well). For more information on any of these rinks:


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.

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


Last November (2009) 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. All the ice-making compressors in the 14 city rinks were running, but only Dufferin and City Hall rinks had overnight floods for the first week of ice-making. Dufferin Rink was partly flooded by night-time volunteers, and the Star picked up the story. After the Star story, some City ice maintenance staff were assigned to work until 2 a.m., which was also a big help. In the December 2009 newsletter, I wrote: “Let’s hope that the technique of overnight floods to start ice-making spreads over the whole city for next year, and the disappointment of missed opening days won’t be repeated.”

One step forward, two steps back. This year, city ice-maintenance staff have indeed been doing some overnight floods, with much better success. But that improvement was spoiled by the decision to delay the opening of all the 14 early rinks by a week, not even starting up the compressors. In letters sent around to city councilors, Parks management said that ice-making only works when it’s no more than zero C at night and 5 in the daytime for three consecutive days.

But of course that’s not the case. Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink (not run by the City) made ice, with no problem, in the week that was cancelled for city rinks. Temperatures went up to 11 on several days, and stayed as high as 5 at night. Last year, when Dufferin Rink successfully made ice in mid-November, temperatures were even higher.

The rinks manager was quoted, in the Star, saying that the rink at Harbourfront has better machinery than the city’s rinks. That’s not the case either.

City staff’s determination to go against City Council’s 2009 direction to open 14 rinks two weeks earlier is not really acceptable. (Then-councillor Rob Ford was one who voted in favour of the earlier opening.) Toronto is a winter city, and the outdoor rinks are an existing winter treasure. Keeping the rinks locked during prime skating weather is a decision that needs public discussion, not a top-down call to be made behind closed doors. (One year – not the year of the “budget shortfall” – the planned opening date was Dec.22, causing a revolt.) If it’s too complicated and expensive to work out the staffing, then the city’s staffing arrangements need to be re-worked. The eight board of management rinks are one inspiration. Harbourfront’s Natrel Rink is another. In both kinds of rinks, the zamboni drivers sharpen skates, fix what’s broken, do some basic machine maintenance, and in some cases rent out skates. In contrast, the staff’s responsibilities at the 50 outdoor rinks are narrow and their abilities are underused.

The latest news is that the outdoor rink change houses will be locked, citywide, on two of the most popular skating days of the public holidays – Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. No washrooms, no warm-up, no hot chocolate.
Time for a change of rink management.


Some Dufferin Rink friends are part of a recently-formed group of Toronto rink users who want to explore the possibility of creating a co-management system for running the city’s public rinks. The group is called the “Public Rinks Conservancy.”

The goal is to create a city-wide federation of rink-user groups this winter who
(a) aim to actively share decision-making about rink management with city staff, in locally evolving ways that are not one-size-fits-all, applying the "governing the commons" principles of Elinor Ostrom, who got the 2009 Nobel Prize in economics for that work.

(b) are responsive to their local neighborhoods

(c) will seek the active involvement of their city councillors in drafting and passing a by-law delineating how rink users and city staff will work together as partners in running the rinks.

To find out more, go to There will be lots of discussion of this new approach over cups of hot chocolate at various rinks all winter. All help welcome!

The Centre for Local Research into Public Space)

On November 1, seven people from the park (some part-time staff, some CELOS researchers) drove down to Bloomington, Indiana, in two cars, a twelve-hour road trip each way. Bloomington is where Professor Elinor Ostrom works, at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. She told us that she and her co-researcher/husband Vincent Ostrom are “summer Canadians,” having done much of their writing at their cottage on Manitoulin over the years. They named their Indiana University institute a “workshop” because both of them liked building furniture, and thought that a carpentry workshop is a useful reminder of the intricacy of good research.

We wanted to talk to Professor Ostrom and her students about applying their “governing the commons” research to public space in Toronto. She and her colleagues seemed a bit puzzled why seven Canadians from a park would come all that way to see them, but they were kind and hospitable, and the trip was well worth it. To top it off, there was a phone message waiting when the group got home: the Ontario Trillium Foundation has decided to award CELOS a grant of “$100,000 over two years to apply the ‘common resources’ work of Nobel-prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom to enlivening urban parks by supporting the efforts of local groups and creating an accessible database of resources related to park usage in order to increase access to ten parks across Toronto.” Lots of work ahead, but wonderful news. To find out more:


Besides the presents you want to wrap up in shiny paper, here are some other nice presents to give:
1. The Children’s Storefront: the approach its founder Ryva Novick was a big inspiration for much of what’s on offer for families at Dufferin Grove. Last year on the night of October 31 2009, the Storefront tragically burned to the ground, with the death on an upstairs tenant. Now the Storefront is almost ready to re-open, at a new location on Bloor Street at Shaw – they’re not only our inspiration, but also now our much-nearer neighbor. They need only a little more money to finish their renovations and move in. To find out how to give them a present:
2. The Guatemala Stove Project builds masonry stoves for Mayan families, in the Western Highlands, whose only source of heat for cooking is an open and unvented kitchen fire. (The community ovens at the park are masonry ovens, different but related in usefulness.) Each stove costs $225 to build. Some park friends are travelling to Guatemala in February to help build some more. If you feel like going in with some friends to pay for one more stove:
3. And one gift came early: David Rothberg and his wife Alicia Peres have just donated $7500 to CELOS, to “build bridges between humans.” With our new City Councillor Ana Bailao’s help to negotiate the bureaucracy, that means Campbell Park clubhouse/rinkhouse can get better wiring for its stove and fridge, and the Thorncliffe Women’s Committee (our friends at R.V.Burgess Park) can get a Tandoor oven built in their park. There will be more uses for this fund. Good food in parks builds bridges!


This year, both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are on a Friday. There will be a wonderfully overflowing farmers’ market on Dec.23, and a small stock-up market on Dec.30. On all Thursdays, the rink clubhouse is 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,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


October Newsletter sponsored by: Edward Cayley

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