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Trying to imitate Walter Gretzky.

posted March 23, 2005

City rinks manager James Dann says that most of next season's rink decisions will be made in the next two weeks. So if you love your rink and want to have your say, THIS is the time. More about that, but first, about being like Walter Gretzky -- RESOLUTE, to have our rink as long as we can.

Walter Gretzky

Even though the Dufferin Rink compressors were turned off for the season on Sunday March 20, there could have been some perfect games of shinny in the evenings following that, under the moon. If we had had half an hour of scrape each day by the zamboni, the rink would be smooth and solid. We have so much ice on the rink (maybe six solid inches) that it can't stop being a rink yet, and as soon as the sun goes down, the underneath ice starts to refreeze the top layer that the sun licked into little mushy bumps during the day.

But our zamboni was taken away first thing Monday, and parked in a storage garage.

When we realized how cold the nights were and how solid the ice was, we tried flooding it at night with the big hose, to see if that would smooth out the rough surface. It worked pretty well the first night, but the hose was too short to reach out into the middle. So we pleaded for more hose, and Parks staff brought it over. Only they brought pieces of hose that didn't fit together, so it was no good. However we thought of Walter Gretzky and his stories of how he used make sure that his backyard rink was as good as it could be for his boys. So we flooded as much as we could -- but a frustrating half inch of soft ice remained by evening.

The zamboni could have fixed it SO fast! (By just scraping off the soft inch or two, on top of the thick hard layer that you can feel underneath.) The city has zambonis. It has zamboni operators on staff who are seriously underemployed between seasons, waiting around at $23 an hour plus benefits. The only thing missing is Walter Gretzky's attitude: "let's just have a rink as long as it's possible."

This past winter was the best rink season in recent memory and a lot of things started to work much better than during the bad old days. Now if more of the neighbourhood rink lovers, all over the city, are willing to get acquainted with a few details of how rinks function, we can move to the next level for next year, together with the city's rink staff. So here's your chance -- please let us know if you would be willing to contribute your thoughts. (skating@dufferinpark.ca)

One aim: next year, let's find a way to be more responsive to weather conditions. This applies to all the rinks. Just because the money is not there to run all the rinks full tilt during all the cold months, that doesn't mean there can't be a flexible response to the weather, with scaled-down staffing. This year, for instance, most outdoor rinks were shut down on Feb.27. But the weather's been so cold that by March 23, almost a month later, Christie Pits Rink (as an example) is still full of hard ice except for a little strip along the boards. It would have been easy to start that rink up again for March Break -- one or two zamboni visits each day, open the washrooms -- so much fun for the kids and the night-time shinny players too.

In the spirit of Walter Gretzky, let's not squander what's in our reach -- let's make the rinks as good as they can be.

Jutta Mason


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