friends of dufferin grove park
Rink Stories 2000-2001

From our newsletters:

Related pages:

See also:

Rink Stories 2002

Rink Stories 2003

Rink Stories 2004


[Nov.2000] Rink opening:

This year the city's outdoor artificial ice rinks will open at 9 a.m. on Friday December 1. The rinks are open every day (including Christmas Day and New Year's Day), until the end of the rink season on February 25. Admission is free, and at Dufferin Rink the pleasure-skating side will always remain accessible for skaters even after the rink closes for the night (the same as at Wallace-Emerson, Rennie Rink, City Hall, and Ryerson rink).

Last year Dufferin Rink opened late because the floor of the compressor room needed sudden major repairs, and so did the drains. Dave Dermott, the facilities supervisor, tells us the floor looks in fine shape this year, and so do the drains.

Nothing ever runs smooth, though. The new technical standards legislation was held up again this past year, and so the city is again forced to hire expensive refrigeration compressor operators whose job is redundant but who are still mandated by the outdated legislation. The president of the Technical Safety Standards Authority promised us last year that if the new legislation (removing the compressor operator requirement) is delayed, city rinks could get an exemption, and thereby save sorely needed money for their shrunken budgets. Now that promise seems to be in danger of not being kept. We'll keep you posted, in case you ought to call your MPP and talk to him about the common-sense revolution and money-wasting.


[Jan.2001] What is a rink?

DowntownToronto's acting director of Parks and Recreation, John Macintyre, was quoted in the Toronto Star on December 23 saying that outdoor rinks are considered a "fundamental service" and are therefore still free for the citizens. He said "it gets people out and being active." We agree the rinks should be free, and for more reasons than that they get you out moving your knees and your elbows in the open air. Rinks are also a great place to see who your neighbours are, and maybe talk to them. That's why we put effort into making the rink house a comfortable, friendly place. There's no extra money to do this: our rink has two staff at a time just like all other rinks, sometimes only one staff. Some of those staff are pretty young and working at a paid (minimum wage) job for the first time. But they are trying hard. Often our rink house is a happening place, with lots of people talking or eating oatmeal cookies or playing chess or reading stories to their kids by the wood stove. These inside activities are just as popular as the outdoor skating - they go together! Sadly, most rink buildings in Toronto are mainly just places (sometimes pretty squalid-looking) to change your shoes: a great opportunity for building up a neighbourhood, lost.

[Jan.2001] Shinny hockey:

Last year Wayne Gretzky worried in print about the disappearance of informal shinny hockey, which he said was what keeps hockey vital - not the organized games with the coaches and the schedules, but the opportunity to play for hours on an outdoor rink just for sheer fun of it. Luckily, at our rink we still have far more shinny time than closed-permit time, and there are kids (and some adults) who play all day long when they have the chance. Some kids come inside just long enough to swallow four mini-pizzas and two cookies and three fruit drinks and then they're back outside for two more hours. Portuguese kids seem particularly fond of hockey, although one sees young people of every background and every skill level.

When one (anonymous) rink user found out this December that the shinny hours were cut back due to lack of funds, he wrote us a cheque to let us stay open longer. He said that young people could find worse ways to spend their evenings than playing hockey. Since the middle of December we have been able to offer these extra hours, to great appreciation. The donor wants to remain anonymous, but his good idea should be known all over: pass it on.

Neighbourhood kids want to play hockey so much that they even come after hours, when the lights are already out and the hockey gates are locked. They climb over the fence with their sticks and they play in the semi-darkness until after midnight. The rink staff have now started to lock the nets to the fence, so the noise of late-night games doesn't drive the rink neighbours crazy.

Even on New Year's Eve there were two neighbourhood shinny permits. Tracy Heffernan has already applied for more Sunday evening family shinny permits (lots of girls too). If you want to contact her, call the rink at 392-0913 and leave a message.

So Wayne, don't worry, shinny hockey's not dead yet. But we wish you and other hockey players could persuade our politicians to fund some new rink-cleaning equipment. The zambonis are almost worn out and there have been no new ones bought for years. They break down all the time, and so the rinks sometimes get only one scrape and flood a day. People want to play, but they need to have good ice!

[Jan.2001] Dangerous ice:

As many rink users are aware, half the ice surface at Dufferin Rink had to be closed on the last weekend of the Christmas holidays because the cement was showing. The reason appears to have been inadequate rink maintenance (and aging zambonis) rather than any mechanical problems at our rink. Many people called City Councillor Mario Silva and Parks and Recreation area manager Carmen Cogliano. In response, city crews have put much effort into making the ice safe again. Hopefully the ice will stay in good shape now for the rest of the season, barring acts of God or the weather.

[May 2001] Follow-up on the Ontario Refrigeration Regulations for outdoor ice rinks:

This is what we know so far:

  • the existing regulations are 40 years old, our sophisticated rink equipment is 9 years old.
  • the Technical Standards and Safety Authority recommended to the Ministry of Consumer and Business Relations that the regulations should stop requiring a worker ("refrigeration compressor operator") to babysit a machine that doesn't need him.
  • The Ontario Recreation Facilities Association want to go into the business of giving courses to license such workers (refrigeration compressor operators). They have asked the Ministry to require even more of these workers, now for even single-pad ice rinks. This would make it even more expensive for the city to run its rinks.
  • the more restricted regulations implicitly encourage an industry-wide return to Freon refrigeration, by making the use of ammonia refrigeration more expensive (the redundant staffing requirement). Freon gives us lots of trouble with the ozone, ammonia doesn't.
  • statistics on dangerous episodes related to ice rink ammonia equipment are not available from either the provincial government or the city. That is, these arguments over legislative changes are not based on any recorded data of rink-related experience. This data is either not collected at all or not analyzed by anyone.
  • The government will take its next steps at the beginning of June. For more information, e-mail Jutta Mason at
[Sept.2001] Rink alarm:

We found out at the end of August that even before Toronto was turned down as the host of the 2008 Olympics, our city councillors voted to sharply restrict their citizens' outdoor shinny hockey and pleasure skating this year. They instructed Parks and Recreation to reduce the outdoor artificial ice rink season to 10 weeks, not opening the rinks until Dec.22. To make this stick, they reduced the outdoor rink budget by a further $75,000.

In this neighbourhood, the local kids will start banging on the door of the rink house by the middle of November, asking when the rink will open. By then, kids are seized by the excitement of winter, and when they get the chance, many of them play shinny for hours every day. The adults are often less thrilled about the cold weather arriving, but in the past few years the rink has provided a place where families can take their young children and enjoy the social atmosphere as well as the chance to play and exercise.

It's hard to believe that in this winter country, in a city that has excellent outdoor rinks built at considerable expense, these rinks would be moth-balled for an extra month to save less than $100,000 (out of a total Parks and Recreation operating budget of $140 million this year).

Bob Crump and Carmen Cogliano of Parks and Recreation, who are in charge of the rinks this year, say the amputation of the rink season is not yet written in stone. Readers of this newsletter who wish to register their opinion about the 10-week plan, or to change it, could use the list-serve e-mail: Much more about this next month.

[October 2001] The Dufferin Rink Opening Date: Still in Doubt

In the last newsletter we put out a RINK ALARM, because the Parks Department was considering NOT OPENING CITY OUTDOOR RINKS UNTIL DECEMBER 22. The final decision has still not been announced. Rink users in other parts of the city have also become aware of this and are expressing their disagreement.

This is the time for rink users to give the Parks Department some guidance, either directly or through your city councillor. (Remember, city council voted for this restriction.) Don Boyle is the director of parks and recreation for the former city of Toronto. His e-mail is: WRITE AND LET HIM KNOW HOW YOU WOULD FEEL IF THE RINK IS KEPT CLOSED FOR MOST OF DECEMBER. He is a nice person who got his start with Parks in rink maintenance, way back when. He needs to know that outdoor rinks are very important to our kids (including teenagers!) and our families.


If your child's school takes the classes skating, send the teacher a message letting them know these e-mail addresses. So many kids come for skating days before Christmas that the last year we counted (1999), there were 2454 visits to our rink the middle week of December.

[Nov.2001] Success: the rink is opening after all.

The last issue of this newsletter issued a "rink alarm" and asked people who care about the rink to email or call the parks staff and the councillor. The problem was a planned opening a month later than most other years: not until December 22. City council had voted on this and approved it, and that was it.

But that wasn't it. Many, many people called and wrote letters. Eventually it became clear that mothballing the city rinks until a month into the regular rink season was simply not acceptable to people in this neighbourhood, and not in other areas either. An offer to open two weeks before Dec.22 just made people more irritated. Finally, around the middle of October, with more letters and calls coming in every day, Parks Director Don Boyle sent word that selected rinks all over the city would open Dec.1. In the end, one rink in each ward will open at the right time. All the others will have to wait until Dec.22, but given the number of rinks in the city, that's an acceptable compromise for this year. When Don Boyle notified Jutta of the compromise he wrote: "sometimes I just need to laugh or take a long walk in the park to remember what business I am in." He did remember, and was graceful in his acceptance of people's protest. The following day, we wrapped up the colourful rink-user picture collage that hung on our rink house wall all last winter, added an inscription of thanks, and brought it to Don Boyle's office, along with a bag of fresh bread from the bake oven for the office staff. Don accepted these things with a grin and a hug.

Some people sent copies of their letters about the rink to the Dufferin Grove list-serve. They give a pretty eloquent account of why people in this neighbourhood care about our community rink, and copies will be posted on the rink house bulletin board on opening day.

[December 2001] First weekend of rink opening:

Saturday: that day started off at seven a.m. with Andrew MacDonald baking bread for his late-December wedding (he freezes it) and being interviewed about it for a province-wide morning radio show, in a live item broadcast from the park. The interviewer was funny. He said he was skating and kneading bread, but he wasn't - he was just holding the cell phone and pretending to do those things! The rink opened on time at 9 a.m. The ice was amazingly good despite the warm weather (11 celsius). In the afternoon the park had basketball, hockey, frisbee, soccer, and baseball, all going on at the same time. The scene looked as though Dufferin Grove Park had moved to Florida - green grass, flowers still in the gardens, and warm sunshine, all in December.

In the evening when the ice lost its thin covering of water, the rink was full of teenage shinny hockey players. Then later, after the building was locked for the night, there was a robbery. Someone either hid inside the building just before the staff left or got in through a sliding window, and then perhaps they let their friends in and they were able to force up the metal hatch to the office, breaking the metal around the lock. When staff came back, the fridge was open, the butter dish smashed on the floor, all the juices were gone, and the money pouch (with all the change and snack bar money) was also gone from its drawer. That was a low trick.

[Note: In the week that followed, over half the food money was replaced through donations. The women's shinny permit alone collected $40 in a few minutes, when they heard about the robbery. The rest of the money was replaced by charging a toonie to youth who wanted to play for an extra two hours after rink closing-time - a popular arrangement now that the rink is not staffed after 9 most nights.]

Sunday: A sunny day but not as warm (9 celcius). The new skating teachers played games with kids in the skating practice time in the morning; in the middle of the afternoon staff began to prepare for the rink opening/ Christmas tree lighting celebration; more and more people came; at 4 p.m. the Nyamamusango marimba band set up beside the campfire at the big oven, and soon a big, appreciative audience collected there; at 5 p.m. 40 loaves of hot bread (rosemary and 6-grain) were taken out of oven and sold there within 10 minutes; at 5.15 Councillor Mario Silva came to the big evergreen near the wildflower sign, along with a carol choir; at 5.30 the Christmas tree was lit (Santa was there, with a giant sack of chocolate bars from the msilva@city.toronto.on.cay on Gladstone Avenue); at 5.45 some people came back up the hill to drink free hot chocolate and listen to the Darbazi Choir inside the rink house. Then for another hour after dark there were people all over - around two campfires, in the rink house, and out on the rink: a lively park.