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January 2009

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 10, Nr.1, January 2009

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

Weekly Events

Saturday morning Kids’ Dance with Eroca

In Eroca's classes, kids move their bodies and use their imaginations. It's a fun way to start off the weekend. These classes are FREE. To register, email Eroca at or leave a message at 416 392-0913.

10am-10:30am Ages 5 and under Dance
10:45am- 11:30am Ages 9-12 year olds Dance
11:35am-12:20pm Ages 6-8 year olds Dance

12:30pm-2pm Open Beginner-Skating Games with Eroca

Free, drop-in, no registration needed: A great chance for kids who are learning to skate, to practice their skills while a having at fun at the same time. Parents are welcome to join in too. (Important note: The skating games should not be treated as childcare, parents are still responsible for their kids.)

Drop-in learn-to-skate, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays

Skating classes are not as common as they used to be at City facilities, but lots of people are learning to skate in the old way, with a chair or a friend or a fence to cling to at first. It’s nice to get a few pointers from a good skater sometimes, and so there’s an assigned rink helper at Dufferin Rink as a resource on Wednesday from 4.30 -6.30, Fridays 4-7, and Saturdays 10 to 1. The helper can be spotted because of the orange fluorescent vest – just go up to that skater and ask for help. Sometimes they go inside to warm up for a few minutes – if there’s no helper on the ice, ask at the snack bar, and they’ll be glad to come out and help.

Friday Night Supper, 6 to 7.30 pm

Many of the park staff are good cooks, who like to work at Dufferin Grove Park because of the variety of tasks. Staff who are interested can work with food as well as making the wading pool fun or helping kids learn to skate. The bake oven, the farmers’ market, the suppers, the summer cob café and the winter zamboni café – all are interesting tasks, developing a fuller range of skills. There’s lots of learning techniques and trying out new recipes, and in the wintertime the skaters are the lucky recipients of these experiments. Friday Night Supper is never the same from one week to the next. Chilis Relenos, Vegan Gnocchi with wine-tomato sauce, wild boar stew with couscous and oven-roasted tomato sauce, apple galette with pear sauce – cooked by Anna, or Mary, or Ginger, or Matt, or any number of others. The meals are cheap and tasty and all the money raised this way goes back into the park. Best of all, the cooks try to make enough to last into Saturday – so come to the rink hungry, and eat with your skates on.



Sunday February 1 from 1 to 4 pm

From Clay and Paper director David Anderson: “As in other years, a mob of puppets will descend on the skating rink at Dufferin Grove Park. Come take one of our puppets for a spin around the ice while a DJ plays some cool tunes.

We will be holding puppet-building workshops during the 2 weeks before he event. Everyone is welcome to join our puppet building throng! No prior experience necessary. We will even introduce you to the Zen of the Creetch (that's secret puppet talk). To join with this discreet band of builders, please email Cat at and she'll let you know where and when the workshops will be happening.

We also need volunteers for the event, so if you can help out on February 1, please email


Friday February 6 and Saturday February 7, 2009. This very popular tournament is already fully registered, so it’s too late to join as a player – but it’s great fun to watch. There will be good snacks to keep up your cheering strength, including hot dogs but, sorry, no beer, Dufferin Rink is not the Air Canada Centre. The pleasure-skating pad is open for public skating during the tournament. Spectators can skate and cheer at the same time.

Saturday February 21, 6 pm to 10 pm: The annual bike couriers’ BIKE RACES ON ICE.

This tournament will once again have the initial elimination rounds on the hockey side only, followed by a two-rink final that can be very exciting, and occasionally a bit bloody, if there’s a collision – the bike tires have many little studs in them. This event is just as much fun inside the rink house, with a corner set up as a pit-stop bike repair station, and lots of unusual bikes (and unusual cyclists).


Rink clubhouse: open Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm
Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm
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 favor and notify the rink staff right away.
Pleasure-skating: always freely available. After 9:00pm, skating is unsupervised. Then it's like skating on a pond: it’s mostly shinny hockey, and people are responsible for their own use of the rink.

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! It makes sense to run these rinks better, and to get the word out to skaters sooner. Until the City’s information sources improve, is available. Response time to a rink user e-mail varies from half an hour to two days, and there’s as much follow-up as the rink user asks for.

People usually write in about problems, but not always – sometimes they just want to share their pleasure at the existence of the rinks. The problems that hears about are most often related to ice maintenance (see page 6). There are also some glitches with scheduling, and – for a few unfortunate people – there’s late-night noise. Shinny hockey players, if you want to play midnight hockey, don’t do it at a neighbourhood rink! is putting together a list of rinks that are far away from houses, soon to be posted on the home page.


In early January, on a cold, cloudy Saturday after the holidays had ended, the rink house was so full of people changing into skates or eating Mary’s Sylwester’s lentil soup, that there was not one more place to sit. Outside, most of the benches were full too. It’s no fun having no place to sit. The City of Toronto owns more outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks than any city in the world, 49 of them – so why is this one sometimes so crowded?

The answer is easy, everybody knows why. It’s crowded because of the skate rentals, the zamboni café, the woodstove with the rack for drying mittens, the double pad of (mostly) good ice, and the great rink staff who run the entire operation, including zamboni-guarding, shovelling snow, applying band-aids, and keeping the see-and-be-seen youth crowd in line. Dufferin Rink is not heaven, but it’s a very nice place to go.

A couple of years ago, the Dufferin Rink staff asked Tino DeCastro (recreation supervisor) if they could start doing the same kind of work at Wallace Rink. He said yes. With City Councillor Adam Giambrone’s help, the rink change room was redesigned with some big sunny windows. The rink staff added better enforcement of the code of conduct, plus skate rentals, snacks, kids’ books, and weekend campfires. Now Wallace Rink is a very popular place too. When Wallace Rink finally gets good ice maintenance (hopefully very soon), it may get too crowded at times, just like Dufferin Rink.

It would be nice if this kind of thing were contagious, spreading to a few more neighbourhood rinks, to reduce the crowding.

CELOS JANUARY LIST of outdoor rink facts

This list is inspired by the "Harper's Index," a monthly list of surprising numbers published by Harper's Magazine. Our numbers show surprising, sometimes downright astonishing facts about Toronto's outdoor rinks.

- Rink with the best view: Prince of Wales (Lakeshore and Third Street)
- Rink with the best ice in any weather (sun, rain, or snow): Rennie
- Rink with the best food: Dufferin
- Total hours of ice maintenance staffing at each Etobicoke single-pad outdoor hockey rink, per week..... 72 to 112 hours
- Total hours of ice maintenance staffing at each North York single-pad outdoor hockey rink, per week: 112 hours
- Total hours of ice maintenance staffing at 10 out of 11 Central-Toronto single-pad outdoor
hockey rinks, per week: 7 to 21 hours
- Total hours of ice maintenance staffing per day at 12 of the city’s 13 double-pad outdoor ice rinks: 14
- Total hours of ice maintenance staffing at Wallace double-pad outdoor ice rink for the entire month of December: 28
- Hourly wages of outdoor rink maintenance staff (work with ice resurfacing vehicles): $23/hour (for 24 staff) and $27/hour (for 73 staff)
- Hourly wages of outdoor rink program staff (work with skaters): $9 mostly, a few at $16.
- Number of rinks that have posted mandatory helmet laws for shinny hockey: 49
- Number of rinks that do consistent helmet enforcement according to the posted rules: 2
- Number of rink-injury legal claims against the city since the beginning of amalgamated information collection (1998): 2
- Number of rink-injury legal claims involving an outdoor rink: 0
- Number of rink-injury claims relating to helmets: 0
- City-estimated “direct costs” of running the outdoor rinks for three months: $3.7 million
- City-estimated “full costs” of outdoor rinks, counting associated parks and recreation costs (including administration and strategic planning): $5.7 million
- City-estimated costs of outdoor rinks, counting all associated City staffing and infrastructure costs: $12 million
- Number of City-owned outdoor rink pads with hockey boards: 33
- Number of City outdoor rinks with hockey boards that offer less than 10 hours a week of free public shinny time at prime time (after 4 on weekdays, all day on weekends): 8
- Number of City outdoor hockey rinks that offer more than 25 hours a week of free public shinny time at prime time (after 4 on weekdays, all day on weekends): 16
- City’s “full cost recovery” target for outdoor rink permit/ registration revenue, per season: $3.3 – $4 million *
- What that target permit/registration income translates into per rink: a revenue target of $100,000 to $121,000 per season, that's $1190 to $1440 per day
- City outdoor rink revenue from permits, at the current highest-earning rink (West Mall): $20,000 per season, that's $238 per day
- Number of City-owned rinks with City-owned kitchen facilities within 20 meters: 13
- Number of City-owned rinks that use these facilities to run a daily snack bar: 2

-*The Management Services Director of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Ann Ulusoy, has offered to sit down with CELOS sometime, and explain how they calculated their rink costs recovery numbers


Dufferin Rink staff, working on the principle of making good use of existing city assets, got involved with running Christie Rink this year. But it was tricky from the beginning. The week before the rink was set to open, an order came from downtown advising the removal of the rink wood stove on the grounds that (1) wood stoves in public buildings are against the fire code and (2) permission for installation had not been properly granted. Since neither of those reasons turned out to be correct, the wood stove was allowed to stay. But problems continued. Dufferin Rink staff had worked with CELOS and the Women of Winter Tournament to assemble a Christie rental skate collection. But it turned out that the Christie/Trinity Recreation supervisor was not happy with rink staff handling cash, so the $2 skate rental times were limited to two hours a week. That left out even the daytime school groups. The same limitation prevented the use of Christie Rink’s kitchen for more than two hours a week. Doing a healthy-snacks rink café, to bring in more families and school classes and improve the week-night youth scene, takes more than two hours a week. Too many blocks! Too bad. So “making good use of city assets,” including unused existing kitchens (and under-used existing staff expertise) will have to wait for another season.


Sunday Nights From 9:30pm - 11:00pm Level One Beginner Shinny Drop-in: Are you a wannabe shinny hockey player, but just starting to get the hang of it? Dufferin Rink offers an hour of protected drop-in shinny hockey time, Sunday nights from 9:30pm - 11:00pm. None of the Dufferin Rink hot shots are allowed on the ice during that time. No need to register, and it's free, with a staff resource person on the ice who will pass to you, help you with drills, and give you pointers if you want. Or you can just practice as you choose. Space is limited each night to 30 players, and is on a first come first serve basis. For more information, e-mail or call the park at 416 392-0913. Ask for Dan.

Also: Wednesday Nights From 10:00pm - 11:00pm Level One Beginner Shinny Skills Program: skills practice, and protected shinny hockey time for beginner skaters, A resource person will be there to help you improve your skills through exercises, drills and organized games. This program is for those who are new to skating. It's a free registered program. Space is limited. For more information or to sign up e-mail, or call 416 392-0913. Ask for Dan.


$2 for skates, $1 for a stick and gloves. You need photo I.D. or (for kids) a membership card after your parents fil out the form.


The first volume of the Dufferin Grove newsletter began in September 2000, enlivened by Jane LowBeer’s friendly illustrations. There have been so many stories since then, with so many different people in them. It’s a tale of picnics, and campfires, and concerts, and tournaments, and building projects, and codes of conduct, and local businesses, and police visits, and election times, and North American hydro blackouts, and tree watering, and sandpit-building, and on and on – different elements of community life in and around the fourteen-acre (six-hectare) parcel of grass and trees that is this neighborhood’s “public commons.”

The parallel story all the way along has been that of the city bureaucracy as it fosters – or blocks – public life in this commons. Two storylines, all tangled up together, with the outcomes still as unclear and unpredictable as the outcome of a hockey game. (Which players will tire first? Who knows?)

Meantime, kids who were playing in the sandpit when the newsletter began, are now working at the rink, finding out what their strengths are, putting those strengths back into the public space that helped to grow them. And there’s a group of city part-time staff who have brought their best efforts to this commons for years, in and out of their other projects, travels, studies, new babies, and leaves of absence. Their participation in the park stories is another bright thread in the weave of this newsletter. So is the steady, sensible support of the recreation supervisor, Tino DeCastro, whose motto, even before the newsletter began, was “let’s make it happen.” Will it continue to happen? Nobody knows for sure, but the newsletter will chronicle whatever comes next.


Dufferin Rink is one of a cluster of three neighborhood rinks. The other two are Wallace Rink at Dufferin and Dupont, and Campbell Rink at Wallace and Campbell Avenues. This season so far, Dufferin Rink has had quite good ice maintenance, but both Wallace and Campbell have had trouble. Here’s the story in brief. There are two classes of city outdoor rink staff:

  1. The staff who work with skaters directly (“program staff”) are part-time temporary recreation staff, in CUPE Union Local 79. They earn between $9 (mostly) up to (rarely) $16 per hour, plus 15% benefits. As part of their contract they are not allowed to operate any ice maintenance equipment except for snow shovels.
  2. The staff who operate ice maintenance equipment – zambonis and snowplows – are full-time permanent Parks workers, CUPE Union Local 416, and they earn between $23 (24 staff) and $27 (59 staff) per hour plus 24% benefits.

The two staff groups have separate supervisors and they work independently. For example, the program staff at Wallace and Campbell rinks rarely know when an ice maintenance crew is scheduled to arrive there – it’s usually a surprise (or a disappointment, if they don’t come at all). In December, on almost half the days, the ”flying squad” only made it to those rinks once a day, and on six days not at all.

The “flying squads” drive a zamboni around in a truck and trailer from rink to rink. Not all rinks are maintained by flying squads, though – only some of the single-pad rinks, plus Wallace Rink, are maintained that way. (Wallace is the only one of Toronto’s twelve double rinks that doesn’t have its own equipment and maintenance operator).

The City spends around $4 million per season (not $160,000 a month, as the media story claimed last year) in direct costs to run the outdoor rinks, so there's lots of funding allocated. So how does a rink end up with the more unreliable “flying squad” status? Here’s how: a couple of years ago somebody downgraded 10 of the 11 Central-Toronto single-pad rinks to "minor" rinks. Although that may have made sense on a computer screen, the 9 single-pad rinks of the same size and type in Etobicoke and North York are rated as "major" rinks. On the ground, that means that these 9 Etobicoke and North York single-pad rinks have on-site ice re-surfacing operators for 72 - 112 hours a week, and on-site ice maintenance equipment (snowplows and ice resurfacers). In contrast, the 10 Central-Toronto single-pad rinks (for instance, Campbell or Trinity Rinks) have ice maintenance staff at the rinks for 7 - 21 hours a week, and no on-site equipment. The travelling ice resurfacers for the flying crew are often broken and snowplows seem to be in short supply.

This remarkably uneven distribution of staff and equipment doesn’t necessarily mean that all the better-maintained rinks have more skating for their neighbourhoods. In fact, most of those rinks have far less public skating time. North York’s neighbourhood outdoor hockey rinks were locked all day on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The public skating hours for both Etobicoke and North York outdoor rinks are less than a quarter of those in Central Toronto. A mystery? Indeed. There’s more information – quite a bit of it – on And Councillor Adam Giambrone says he will meet to discuss Wallace and Campbell Rinks with City outdoor rinks manager Kevin Bowser, who’s on holiday to Jan.19. Hopefully other councillors will also find out more.


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 permitted 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 two other park campfire sites, speak to the recreation staff at the rink house, or e-mail


Shinny hockey is a different game than full-equipment, full-contact hockey. In shinny hockey there is no checking, and no slapshots. It appears that there have never been any shinny hockey injury claims, nor pleasure-skating injury claims, against the City. The two rink-related claims have been for full-equipment hockey in arenas (one body-check, one fight).

Ice is slippery, for sure, and hospital emergency rooms get lots of people with ice-related broken bones and head bumps. Most of those injuries are not from rinks, though – they’re from ice on sidewalks. Should people wear helmets and padding when they go out on the sidewalks in Toronto in the winter? It might not be a bad idea…..


From market manager Anne Freeman: “Happy New Year and welcome back to the no-kidding-it's-winter market, where the pleasures of good company and wonderful food add a lot of warmth to the season. We'll have a slightly smaller crew now. Still lots to choose from, though, with the priority on local as always, and some extras where we need them provided by our producers. Shopping at winter markets provides important support for our farmers, and we appreciate your loyalty at this time of year when 'a walk in the park' is slightly more challenging!”

Two of the park cooks got a small grant from the Big Carrot Foundation last year, to try canning and selling tomatoes and tomato sauce, using the market tomatoes. In the hot days of late summer, Anna and Lea, joined by Jenny, were roasting the tomatoes in the park ovens, peeling and seeding them, cooking down the sauce, sterilizing the jars in a giant pressure cooker. All the processing that the far-away (for organic tomatoes) canning plants do, the park cooks did by hand. They fittingly named the results “Red wagon preserves.” Are they ever park-local, and labour-intensive! And really tasty.


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web site: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:



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