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February 2015

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


February 2015 newsletter

​"Icycle" bike race, Feb.21
Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter: February 2015
  • This newsletter is put out by CELOS, the Centre for Local Research into Public Space. Since 2000, when this little organization began at Dufferin Grove Park, we’ve been doing what we call “theoretical and practical research” into what makes public spaces – like parks – more hospitable and more lively. We’ve been researching what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve documented a lot of what we’ve seen and done, in the newsletter and on our five websites. The printing of the paper version of the Dufferin Grove newsletter is currently supported by the GH Wood Foundation.

Events in February

February 6 and 7: The 10th annual The Women of Winter (TWOW) outdoor shinny Tournament. From the organizer, Deirdre Norman: “Fun and feisty tournament is a community event for all level of players.”

The tourney starts on Friday Feb 6, 7:00-10:00pm, then runs on Saturday Feb 7, 10:00am-7:00pm. There will be no public shinny hockey during those times, but good watching!

Friday Night Supper will be a one-dish meal – smaller than usual, but still on.

Saturday Feb.21, 7 to 10 p.m.: 14th annual Dufferin Rink Icycle: Bike races on the rink

Here’s a good description from a National Post article written a few years ago by journalist/shinny hockey player Peter Kuitenbrouwer: “On Saturday hundreds of spectators will gather at the outdoor rink in Dufferin Grove Park to cheer competitors at a race that defies logic, to the many who store their bikes in November and bring them out again in April....The competitors include Jim Kuz, a.k.a. “The Ice Bear,” Alberto De Ciccio, “The Ice Emperor,” and several dozen others, many of whom hone their winter biking skills as couriers, battling ice, wind, snow and police on the cold streets of Toronto...[Racers]use tires that are customized for ice cycling with hundreds of tiny wood screws. On Saturday [Jim Cuz] will wear cycling shoes, winter bike tights, heavy-duty bicycle overshorts from Mountain Equipment Co-op, cross-country skiing socks, a Spyder giant slalom ski sweater with “armour” sewn into it, winter cycling gloves, a balaclava, cycling helmet, and $6 construction safety glasses.”

Everyone welcome: it’s quite a (free) show.

Saturday February 28: 2014 Andrew Cash M.P. annual skating party – 12 to 2 pm

From M.P. Andrew Cash: “I am pleased to invite you and your family to our annual skating party at Dufferin Grove Park. Join me and my family for an afternoon of free family fun. Come by to say hi, enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies, listen to some music by the campfire, and skate with your neighbours! We look forward to seeing you there!”

February 16 Family Day – shorter hours, rink building closes at 6 pm

As is their custom, city management decided to close most rink buildings early on the February 16 Family Day holiday. That includes Dufferin Grove, and it means no food after 4.30, no skate rentals after 6, no warm change rooms, no washroom, no sitting and talking with your neighbours in front of the wood stove as the kids play 12-and-under shinny hockey. The reason for this limitation is that the City government would like all children to go home by 6 and review their homework, and all parents to do the laundry.


But if it’s not a curfew, what on earth is the rationale for restricting skating access on holidays?

A great January for skating on Grenadier Pond

The almost snowless January, combined with steady cold, have made natural ice rinks a dream this year, all over the city. That includes Grenadier Pond in High Park, which had over a kilometre of 12-inch-thick, smooth, snow-less ice for most of the month. Nevertheless, the usual yellow “No Skating, No Access” signs ringed the pond, and on a few occasions a by-law officer tried (unsuccessfully, from the shore) to whistle skaters off. The City Parks By-law has a subsection on skating, which includes: 608-21 B: No person shall access or skate on a natural ice surface in a park where it is posted to prohibit it.

The same by-law also prohibits anyone being in a park between midnight and 5.30 a.m., tree climbing, snowball fights, weeding park gardens without a permit, or playing informal group sports without a permit. (Really?)

From Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee: "...for decades, even generations now, people have been coming to Grenadier Pond to skate, municipal codes be damned." Actually, until the mid-1990s people didn't have to damn the municipal code. Skating was not only allowed on Grenadier Pond, the city encouraged it and made it nicer. In the years when the ice was thick the city staff made a daily campfire and put straw bales around it so people could warm themselves. There were no rink guards -- who needs them on a pond? And the cost of having those two friendly campfire staff must have been less than the cost nowadays of putting up all those yellow signs and sending out by-law officers. The bylaw banning skating on the pond was not actually made until 2002, and part of the reason given then was saving the money it took to staff the campfire and clear a path on the ice. Before that, on those flukey winters when the ice froze before the snow came, the pond used to look like a Breughel painting, alive with skaters.

Last month, there were nine media items about skating on Grenadier Pond, including editorials in the Star and the Post. They all pointed out the same thing: skaters can be reminded that they skate at their own risk and they should be careful. The city can drill for ice thickness measurements and post that information without comment. Meantime, happy pond skaters practiced civil disobedience in January, before the snow.

Dufferin Rink schedule, Nov.22, 2014 to March 22 (not likely!), 2015

More Info:

Pleasure Skating:  Monday – Saturday, 9:00am - 9:00pm
The pleasure pad is open for unsupervised shinny after the last ice maintenance of the evening.
Sunday 9:00am - 9pm. Skate in the round on both ice pads until 5.00pm
Shinny hockey:
Monday, Thursday, Friday before 9 p.m.:
All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT/Program 9:00pm-11pm

All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
Women’s Drop-in Shinny 9:00pm-11:00pm

All Ages 9:00am-3:15pm
Level 2 3:30pm-5:30pm
Level 1 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:15pm-8:55pm
PERMIT 9:00pm-10:00pm
Adult Beginner Drop-in 10:00pm-11:00pm

All Ages 9:00am-11:45am
Level 1 12:00pm-1:45pm
9 & under 1:45pm-2:45pm
Level 2 3:00pm-5:15pm
All Ages 5:30pm-7:00pm
Level 3 7:00pm-8:55pm
Youth Saturday-Night Shinny Program 9:00pm-11:00pm

On the hockey pad:
5-6:30pm - Family Shinny Program (booking with staff)
6:30-8pm - Neighbourhood Youth Shinny Program (booking with staff)
8-9:30pm - Permit
9:30pm-11:00pm Adult Beginner drop-in program (by registration)

Beginners’ shinny:
Drop-in: Wednesdays 10 to 11 pm. All beginners welcome but there’s a cap of thirty skaters. Registered: Sundays 9.30 to 11 pm. Brief lesson followed by a game.

Nearby rinks: Campbell Rink, Mondays 8.30 to 10, intermediate, skills and drills (drop-in)

Wallace Rink: drop-in Adult beginner, Thursdays, 8:30pm-10:00pm (registered)


Rink clubhouse: open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday: 9:00am - 9:00pm, except closing at 6 pm on Family Day (yes, really!)

Zamboni Café : Monday-Sunday 10:00am - 8:30pm

Skate/stick/gloves loans ($1 to $2 suggested donation): 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.

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.

In the event of snow, if rink users help staff in clearing the ice, the rink opens faster. There are lots of shovels, or bring yours from home.

Ice maintenance times: Monday to Friday: 9 am, 11.45 am, 3.15 pm, 7 pm and 8.55 pm. Saturday: 8 am, 11.45 am, 2.45 pm, 5.15 pm, and 8.55 pm. Sunday: 9 am, 1 pm, 4.55 pm, 8 pm.

The website

This is a website run by CELOS, giving information about all 50+ municipal outdoor ice rinks, as well as Harbourfront’s Natrel 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.

EDITORIAL: The wintertime social life of neighbourhood outdoor rinks

1. Knitting up the rinks

In Toronto, there are 50 compressor-cooled neighbourhood outdoor rinks that have change-room/washroom buildings of various sizes. About 20 years ago, a project began in our area, to make our Ward 18 rinks (Dufferin, Wallace, Campbell) into show-and-tell sites for how rink buildings could become wintertime community clubhouses. The intention was to create welcoming spaces for families, school classes, youth, newcomers, old people, even for people who think they don’t like winter. We started at Dufferin Rink. Simple changes were made slowly, over time. Friendly, competent staff were hired, and sensible shinny hockey schedules were put in place. There was sustained encouragement of courteous behavior, accompanied by sanctions if necessary. A snack bar was set up, with good food. Ample seating, in a format that works for conversation, was added, also skate lending, and books and games, and rink-side campfires. The changes, after some years of struggle, worked very well at Dufferin Rink. In the years that followed, a similar approach worked most of the time at Wallace Rink and at Campbell Rink.

2. Unravelling

As many rink users have begun to notice, these good changes are now unravelling. The revised staffing structure imposed two years ago by recreation manager Sue Bartleman means that the senior staff who made the changes have had their responsibilities downgraded. Some have left. The practise of staffing with mostly young students, common at many other rinks across the city, has resumed at the three Ward 18 rinks. These staff get no consistent mentoring or direct supervision. The social life of the rink staff is once again more important than the social life of rink users. It’s common now to see the younger staff standing around chatting with one another, or with their friends who come and visit them at the rink. The skate lending collection is gradually wearing out, since the skate-lending income is no longer used to buy good-quality skates to replace old ones. The skating schedule is not reliably followed anymore. Building cleanliness and clearing snow from paths are sometimes in a muddle.

Courteous behavior seems to be shrinking at the other two rinks. At Campbell Rink, several of the more senior staff declined to work there because of threats by rink users. Parks security staff have been unable to deal with this behaviour during their occasional visits. One of them suggested that the city should hire an outside security company.

At Wallace Rink, a staff member was hit trying to stop a fight, and nasty behavior by some youth (and by some adults too) continues to grow. Groceries meant for cooking disappear, and snack bar receipts are often lower than the food sales would suggest.

At Dufferin Rink, skate-lending income has gone missing. Besides that, as noted in earlier newsletters, the weekly accounting of the income became inaccurate as soon as the new financial system was put in. Questions about errors get no response.

Dufferin Rink still has enough senior staff to do workarounds for the worst of the problems. So there is grumbling from skaters, but it seems that formal complaints have been rare. Recreation managers at City Hall apparently feel that the general outlook is fine. But meantime, the slow unravelling continues. Spooky, like watching a movie in reverse….

The surprising multiplication of Toronto’s natural ice rinks.

Three years ago, our outdoor rinks website,, began to add pages about community-built natural ice rinks to our list of city-run compressor-cooled rinks. In the past two weeks, we’ve visited 24 of them, all over the city, and there are still lots more to go and see. These rinks are quite different one from the other, but what unites them is their night-time flooding session with heavy-gauge city-supplied water hoses and their communities’ capacity to set up a rink that works by local rules -- no bossy rink guards! And when a late-evening, single-light-illuminated shinny game is done, there might be a few refreshing beers in the snow to quench the players’ thirst, before they sign up for tomorrow’s flooding schedule and go home.

A small sampling of community rinks: Morningside Park Rink, in Scarborough, was built and maintained by the international students of Centennial College. Local businesses help – Princess Auto Repair brought night lighting and snow shovels, and Home Depot sends over a snowblower when there’s a storm. Fairmount Park Rink has an annual Winterfest, with shinny hockey, hockey skills, family skate, sledding, a skate and ski swap, face painting and an outdoor wood stove to keep warm. Pearen Park in Etobicoke has the use of the 10 x 10 foot park’s shed, which they renamed the “skate hut” and stocked with “over 120 pairs of skates and forty helmets, plus gloves, socks, hats, scarves, eight hoses, eight snow shovels, an ice scraper, two hockey nets, more than a dozen hockey sticks, a set of brooms for broomball, six chairs, and enough open area for us to be able to fit and tie on more than 20 pairs of skates per hour”! Every day from 4 to 6 and weekends from 1 to 5 they run a learn-to-skate program for the kids from the many high-rise buildings around. At Orchard Park Rink, families make hot chocolate at a rink-side campfire. At East Lynn Park, tobogganers on the adjacent hill occasionally slide right onto the rink, without injury but with lots of laughter. Many rinks have double pads; some have hockey boards. Others are circular, flooded right on top of the parks’ baseball diamonds.

And then there’s the crowning glory of Toronto’s natural rinks: Grenadier Pond. For much of January, the ice was 12 inches thick, smooth and mostly bare – until it finally snowed, two days before the end of the month. got this email from a skater/snow shoveller:

In past years I've seen people using shovels (and snowblowers) to clear patches of ice for skating. When I got to the pond the day after the snowfall I saw a group of 10 men finishing a game of shinny on a fair-sized rink they had made for themselves. I could see in the distance two or three other little rinks where people where skating.

I put on my skates near the south end of the pond and started clearing a path with my shovel, southwards towards one of the little rinks. Another man was shovelling northwards and we joined our paths. There may have been as many as a hundred skaters, and many energetic shovellers. All the people with shovels clearing paths and connecting them reminded me of the kids making rivers in the Dufferin Grove sandpit.

Same principle – making fun by working together, using common sense.

Is Dufferin Rink getting a new designer rink house?

Sometime around the middle of January, a couple of city staff, maybe from the capital planning section, came around with cameras and took a lot of pictures of every section of the rink house. It sounded like they might be documenting the building for possible redesign.

In point of fact, the rink house is a solid concrete-block building that’s barely over 30 years old. It can certainly last another 30 or 60 years, so “poor condition” can’t be the reason to send out the designers. The only other reason we can think of, for putting up a fancier building here at Dufferin Rink, is that so many people come to skate here, and eat, and play chess, and have a campfire, and meet their friends. It’s become a destination rink. And the city is spending lots of money to add significant buildings and important landscaping, to promote its brand.

But here’s the irony: the programs at Dufferin Rink are gradually unravelling (see page 5). By the time a designer building is put up, the rink may be a popular destination no longer. Should somebody warn Capital Projects not to waste their money?

News Flash: after-hours drop-in shinny hockey is reinstated

At the end of January, Phil Rock, the foreperson of the Zamboni crew, directed recreation staff not to let shinny players onto Dufferin Rink for drop-in shinny after 9 pm, when the rink building closes and the rink staff are inside, cleaning. But there’s a background he was unaware of. Until about 15 years ago, when the rink building closed the rink used to close too, except for the permit slot on the hockey pad. That left the pleasure-skating pad empty for two hours. But there were often 30 shinny players that didn’t want to go home. So it was decided to let unsupervised drop-in shinny hockey carry on, on the empty rink pad, until the permit players left at 11. It was the longest-lasting after-hours shinny game in Toronto – but it privileged shinny players over pleasure-skaters, and Phil felt that was wrong. Yet in order to protect pleasure skaters against pucks, rink guards are needed to shoo eager shinny players off the unsupervised rink pad. The rink guards are unavailable because they’re fully occupied inside, cleaning up for the next day. This was obvious to the rink staff but not to Phil Rock. After his order, the second rink pad was empty for a few nights. Happily, the recreation supervisor felt “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and allowed the shinny players back. The game’s back on.

Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market, every Thursday 3 to 7 pm, inside the rink clubhouse):

This is the time of year when the greenhouse-grown baby greens are particularly delicious, as are the savoury or sweet pies, the preserves and jams made last summer, the winter-stew vegetables, the honey and the cheese….


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Web sites: Aseel Al Najim,,,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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