friends of dufferin grove park
Rink Stories 2004

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Rink Stories 2003


[Feb 2004] Do-it-yourself ice maintenance

Sometimes we just can't get a zamboni driver - they're all busy elsewhere - and we're not allowed to drive it ourselves. But if there's snow on the ice, the puck won't move, so the shinny hockey players don't have fun anymore. This is where our special long green ice-rink shovels are the right tool. A staff person opens the swing gates at the east end of the rink and the shovellers skate back and forth on the ice, moving the snow out to the gates. Two people are stationed right at the gates with ordinary snow shovels, and they take the snow that's delivered by the green ice shovels and throw it right out and to the sides, so they won't block the zamboni later. Tony Lam, Nay Lin, and Ricky Ma are three enthusiastic shovellers.

Back in December when the weather was so warm, some shinny players figured out that they could shovel water off the rink, too. They lined up with the shovels overlapping slightly and then all together they pushed a wall of water out the swing gates. Obia Stevens, Rohan Newman, Lucas Porter, Alastair Burgess, and Blaine Tynes pushed so much water out that staff person Lea Ambros said she had to jump out of the way of a wall of water arriving at the swing gates. This was better than anything the zamboni could have done! We would have congratulated these ingenious shinny players, except that they didn't stick around waiting for a handshake - they were back out on the ice, having a really good game. (But of course, anyone who helps shovel is entitled to some free food from the snack bar afterwards.)

[March-April 2004] Rink Season Extended

For years, people have been asking the city to extend the rink season so that kids can go skating during March break. Here's an excerpt from our web site's city rinks diary, showing how this finally came about:

March 4: great confusion reins about whether the rinks will stay open, because the weather has been so warm. The first plan was that Dufferin would stay open until March 7. Then it was decided to keep 20 rinks open until March 21, to let the kids skate through March break. Then it got warm and sunny (sun is much worse than warmth). Yesterday the order came to close all the rinks by the afternoon (for the season). Then we heard, close all the rinks by evening. Then we found out that Dufferin Rink would be allowed to stay open until March 7, as was the original plan.

Then this morning the compressors had been turned off and the electricians had reset the rink lights for summertime. Sigh. It turned out that the mechanics hadn't heard about us staying open until the 7th. They had gone around with lightning speed early in the morning and turned off all the rinks. So then they had to come back and turn us on again. On top of that, one of our compressors had blown a gasket and was overheating. So the mechanics came last night at midnight to work on it (they work during the night so that the ice won't melt when the compressors are turned off for servicing). They stayed until 10.30 the next morning. A lot of overtime charges! But now the ice is perfect, although it's 6 degrees out.

March 5: Today it was 18 degrees in the afternoon. But no sun. So there was half an inch of water all over, but underneath, the ice was smooth and hard. Some people came and skated around, having fun shooting up the water with their skates when they stopped. Late at night the temperature dropped and the ice returned to normal: magic. And then we heard that five rinks - including us! - would stay open to the end of March break.

And the ice has been good most of the time since then. Even so, the rink has often been fairly empty. People walk in and say: What? You're open? We had no idea!

Everyone still thinks the rinks all closed at the end of February, as they did last year and the year before. And the city's rink "hot line" carried no news of the extended season until the end of the second week. However, people will catch on. And these five outdoor artificial ice rinks will remain open until 11 p.m. March 21: Rennie, Dufferin, City Hall, Regent Park South, and Kew Gardens. To find out locations and details, go to and click on sports.

April, 2004: Tiny drill hole caused rink to shut down early (?):

Rink Brine Vats, April 2004

The two giant vats of brownish liquid outside the zamboni garage are brine vats. Brine is what circulates in the pipes underneath the concrete surface of the rink, and keeps the ice frozen in the wintertime. The city technical services staff noticed this past winter that there must be leak in one of the pipes, since the brine (salt and water) needed more topping up than it should. They shut down the rink at the beginning of March break (to the great disappointment of the kids), even though the ice was in excellent condition, because they were concerned about the salt pollution happening under the rink, with the brine leak. (It's illegal to leak salt into the ground except on roads and sidewalks.)

Soon after the rink was shut down, the technical services people came and drained all the brine that hadn't leaked out already, into the two big vats, so they could try and find the source of the leak. Then an expert in brine leaks came. He discovered a drill hole in the concrete near the tennis practice board. No one knows who might have drilled that tiny hole, although the city workers are wondering if the community might have done it (..since they're sure they didn't, and that only leaves us?) Two more drill holes were also discovered. Sabotage? Concrete worms?

This latest discovery - that a tiny hole in the concrete could leak out enough brine that our rink had to be shut down - adds to the odd saga of our rink. The rink was rebuilt in 1992, by the lowest bidder for the job, Gagliano Concrete, a company inexperienced in rink building (which went out of business soon after). In October 1999, technical services staff discovered that the floor was sinking under the compressors, leaving the giant ammonia tank swaying above its cribbing, dangling off its supply pipe. It turned out that there had been no examination of the stability of the soil underneath the compressor room prior to building, and the compressors had been vibrating so much on top of unstable ground that they had caused the floor to sink. A partial repair was done that winter, to allow the rink to open. There was to be follow-up in the summer, but it never happened.

This past rink season the intermittent brine leak was a cliff-hanger, and other equipment breakdowns added to the suspense. Just before the rink was shut down, Jutta accidentally discovered an ammonia leak at midnight. That's how we found out that the rink's flashing ammonia-leak sign is not connected to any central alarm, and therefore it alarms nobody.

When the rink had to close prematurely, five of our rink shinny-hockey organizers sent a letter to park manager James Dann, asking him to seek a rink consultation from CIMCO, the respected ice rink company that supplies all the rink equipment. The group wants to have an evaluation of the problems that may interfere with our use of the rink in future. They also want CIMCO's advice on how best to avoid such problems from now on. When this consultation is set up, we'll let rink users know. In the meantime, here's a puzzle: the technical services mechanics tell us that on many days during the rink season, the rink lost 80 gallons of brine most days, out of this little drill-hole. That's a lot of water. It didn't come out the top like a geyser, or we would have seen it. Did all this water hollow out a cave under the concrete pad of the rink, so that the concrete is just hanging in mid-air the way the ammonia tank was? As of now, there are no plans (by the city) to find out.