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January 2008

posted January 10, 2008

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 9, Nr.1, January 2008

coming to the rinkhouse craft fair
- the December snow storm

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

Latest News

posted January 10, 2008


Toronto’s 49 outdoor rinks are cooled by compressors. That means that in the low-sun months (November, December, January) they can easily keep their ice in temperatures up to 15 degrees or even higher, on cloudy days. During this year’s January thaw, the ice maintenance crews at Dufferin, Wallace and Campbell rinks pushed off the water from rain at intervals during the day and the rinks had lots of good shinny hockey. They had few pleasure skaters, though – and the rink hot line that runs out of Dufferin Rink was ringing all the time: “have all the rinks melted?” It seems that many people assumed the ice must be ruined because of the warm weather. Schools cancelled their class skating visits. But the rinks were beautiful! So please pass it on: natural ice rinks need freezing temperatures. Compressor-cooled rinks don’t! They just need low sun. By the last days of February, if the sun comes out it’s already strong enough to make lots of trouble. But not yet.

Congratulations to the shinny hockey players at Scadding, Wallace, and Dufferin rinks, and to those players who came across town from other rinks, for grasping this weather-and-compressors fact. They played some wonderful shinny games on January 7 and 8 when it was 15 degrees celsius. They complained a bit, though – the ice was fine but the air was too warm. (They may think back on those days with longing, when their toes freeze during the next cold snap.) Congratulations also to the kids’ hockey program at Rennie Rink, which didn’t cancel their games. CELOS researcher Corey Chivers has posted some very clear explanations of how compressor-cooled ice relates to the weather: go to the Cityrinks web site to find out more. And one more thing to remember: according to the CBC, in the last 150 years of temperature recording, there has been a January thaw in every year except one.

Events at the Park


The Zamboni café is open seven days a week, serving park cookies, hot chocolate, mini-pizzas, organic hot dogs, Mary Sylwester’s vegan burgers and warming farmers’ market soup and muffins, park oven bread and butter, Sosnicki’s perogies, and other surprises. On Fridays, and often on Saturdays, the food is a little more elaborate for those rink users who’d like to have supper and skate or visit there with friends.

How the money works: all the food is also a fund-raiser for other park activities. The (very cheap) prices suggested on the menu board are to cover the cost of materials and to add a bit of money to the park fund. If you can’t pay that much, don’t! If you can pay more, do! (It all goes to a good cause – for instance – a cord of wood for the rink woodstove.) If you can’t pay at all, even to cover materials, swap some work for food – the park staff are often swamped, and a bit of help with tidying the rink house or snow shoveling is much appreciated. Or swap something the park can use – a load of clean scrap-wood from home, for instance, to burn in the bread ovens. If you forgot your money at home, just tell the staff you’ll bring it later. It all works out.


Shinny hockey schedule

Monday – Friday before 9 p.m.:

  • 9:00am - 3:15pm all ages (New: on Monday and Friday the rink may not open until 10am, for occasional extra ice maintenance – check at 416 392-0913)
  • 3.15pm - ice maintenance
  • 3:30pm - 5:30pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
  • 5:30pm - 7:00pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
  • 7.00pm ice maintenance
  • 7.15pm – 8.55pm Level 3 (18 and over, fast-paced)

After 9 pm:

Monday 9 pm
Seasonal permit (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)
Tuesday 9 - 11 pm
Women’s open shinny (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)
Wednesday 9-10 pm
Seasonal permit. 10-11pm: “beginners only” drop-in shinny (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)
Thursday 9 pm
Seasonal permit (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)
Friday 9 pm
Seasonal permit (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)


  • 9:00am - 10:00a.m. 9 years old and under, plus caregiver
  • 10 am – 12 noon all ages
Pleasure-skating side (9.30 - 1.30 learn-to-skate program on part of the ice)

  • 12:00pm - 1:30pm Level 1 (12 and under and parent or caregiver, or novice adult)
  • 1.30 pm – ice maintenance
  • 1:45pm - 3:45pm all ages
  • 3:45pm - 5:15pm Level 2 (about 13 to 17, medium pace)
  • 5.15pm – ice maintenance
  • 5:30pm - 7:00pm all ages
  • 7:00pm - 8:55pm Level 3 (usually 18 and over, fast paced)
  • 8.55pm – ice maintenance.
  • 9.10 pm: single-occasion permit (open shinny on pleasure-skating side)


  • 10:00am - 5:00pm No shinny hockey. Pleasure skating both sides.
  • 5-6.30 pm: parent/child shinny program, by registration, pleasure skating other side
  • 6.30-8 p.m. local adult shinny program, by registration, pleasure-skating other side
  • 8-9.30 pm. Seasonal permit, pleasure-skating other side to 9, then “pond hockey”
  • 9.30-11: youth shinny program (plus “pond hockey” on the pleasure-skating side)

Novice adult shinny hockey practice

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, Wednesday nights from 10 to 11 p.m.. 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 runs some drills and passing practice and then supervises a game. For more information, call the park at 416 392-0913, and ask for Dan Watson.


Fifteen minutes away from Dufferin Rink there are two more outdoor rinks, Wallace Rink (at Dufferin and Dupont just south of the Galleria Shopping Mall) and Campbell Rink (on Campbell Avenue just north of Wallace Avenue, south of Dupont). For the first time this year they’re under the same supervision as Dufferin Rink. Each of the three rinks has different features, so try them all!

Wallace Rink, newly rebuilt last year with a circular pleasure skating pad as well as a hockey pad, has $2 skate rental every day. The loaner-skates collection started with a gift of 20 pairs collected by Deirdre Norman of the Women of Winter women’s shinny program. Rink staffer Dan Watson collected 30 more, numbered them all, keeps them all sharp, and has set up a lending system. There’s also a daily snack bar with mini-pizzas and cookies, juice and pop. On Thursdays there are special community skating programs: learn-to-play-shinny from 7 to 8.30 pm (free, but by registration), and then women’s shinny from 8.30 to 10 pm. And on Sundays it’s family day with a campfire by the rink from 2 to 4pm''' (with hot chocolate, marshmallows, and hot dogs), and sometimes music. The bright, new rink change room is open until 9 pm every evening, set up with games and kids’ books for breaks between skating. After 9 pm there is no staff supervision of the rink – it’s a “pond” then, often with pond hockey on the pleasure-skating side while a permit uses the hockey side.

Wallace Rink has a women’s open shinny time, on Thursdays from 8.30 to 10 pm, and a beginner’s shinny program for the hour and a half before then. Call 416 392-0011 for more information.

Campbell Rink is a large single pad located in Campbell Park, at the south end of the summer soccer destination for the Toronto Eagles’ soccer club. It’s completely surrounded by houses. It’s much more of a neighbourhood rink, and at most times it is shared-use: usually shinny hockey with sometimes a few pleasure skaters around the outside. Campbell Rink is unsupervised on weekdays, but the change room is open between 3.30 and 9pm, with hot chocolate, cookies hot dogs, and juice or pop. Checkers and chess are also set up. Every Saturday from 4 to 6 is supervised pleasure-skating only, with a campfire, free hot chocolate and hot dogs, and $2 skate rentals (and sometimes music).


Rink staffer Dan Watson started adult learn-to-play-shinny sessions last year at Dufferin Rink. The first session got only two people, but soon it got so crowded that Dan had to turn people away. This year Dan added the same kind of sessions at Wallace Rink, and they filled up right away. Adults are avid to play shinny hockey!

So Dan’s adding another series at Christie Rink, on Tuesday nights from 9 to 10.30. From Dan: “None of the Christie Rink hot shots are allowed on the ice during that time. A resource person will be there to help you improve your skills through exercises, drills, and organized games.” It’s a registered free program, and spaces are limited. For more information or to sign up, e-mail or call 416 392-0913 and ask for Dan Watson.



As rink users know, the opening of the outdoor rinks was a cliffhanger last fall, when the City government announced it had a general shortfall of funds and the rinks wouldn’t open until January 2008. Eventually City Council passed new taxes, Mastercard threw in $160,000, and the rinks opened in December.

CELOS, the “Centre for Local Research into Public Space,” had presented a report on the running of the outdoor rinks to the Parks Committee of City Council in April 2007. Since the opening of this current rink season, CELOS researcher Michael Monastyrskyj has been visiting rinks all over the city and enlarging the material for the report. Sadly, the Parks Committee has not followed up on the original report. But an expanded version is in the works, as Michael talks to rink users and staff all over the city.

The most surprising finding so far is that some of the outdoor rinks offer almost no time for public skating. Background: in 2001, City Council voted to cut back the outdoor compressor-cooled rink season all over the city to 70 days a year (from the original 106). This move was said to be in the interests of “harmonization,” giving every part of the city the same services.

The outcry from rink users and in the media was so strong that this shortening of the season was never fully implemented. But neither were other aspects of harmonization. If you live in the former city of North York near Broadlands Rink and you’re in the mood to play shinny hockey, you have four hours a week to choose from. Public pleasure-skating time is eight hours a week. If you live near Dufferin Rink, or come all the way down from North York (some do), you have 70 hours of shinny a week to choose from, and 85 hours of pleasure skating.

There are huge variations in public skating times all over the city’s outdoor rinks, and there are also many daytime hours when some rinks are just locked and empty. In addition, there are rinks where the helmet rules, which are policies unsupported by any laws CELOS can find, are so strictly enforced that rink users are regularly turned away.

It’s not surprising that under these conditions, some outdoor rinks have much lower attendance than other rinks. In 2006, a staff report to City Council’s budget committee proposed saving about $1.7 million a year by closing all the outdoor rinks except those at City Hall and Mel Lastman Square. Did that idea seem to make sense because of low usage in parts of the city? CELOS tried to find out if that was the reasoning behind the idea, and what the cost-savings numbers were based on. But the City’s Freedom of Information office is asking CELOS to pay $120 for staff to hunt for answers to those questions. CELOS will now appeal that response to the provincial Information Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian. Charging citizens for answering their questions seems inconsistent with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.

The rinks are quite a story. To find out more as the story unfolds, visit Cityrinks.


Last rink season the rink lost several of the NHLPA-donation skates through theft. There’s not enough money around to cover skate theft. So skate-lending coordinator Dan Watson has worked out some new rules. He says:

If you want to rent any equipment you must leave a government issued Identification card as collateral. The following pieces are acceptable:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Health Card
  • Driver’s Licence
  • Social Insurance Card
  • Passport
  • Status Card
  • Bring your ID card (BYID)

If you do not have one of these forms of identification you have two options:

  1. You must leave a $50 deposit to be reimbursed upon return of the equipmentOr
  2. You must sign a contract to become a skate rental member at Dufferin Rink.

In order to obtain a skate rental membership, you must complete a registration form. If you are under 18, your parents must complete it for you. Once the information you have provided is verified, you will be issued a membership card to use at Dufferin Rink. You must bring this membership card with you whenever you wish to rent skates.


So far this year there haven’t been many campfires with hot chocolate beside the rink, to keep warm by when it’s too full in the rink house. The staff had to stop making them when they became a hangout for bored youth with various kinds of trouble-making on their minds. They’ll try again now that the holidays have come and gone. Birthday skating parties can book campfires (since no party can book the inside of the rinkhouse – too crowded). Get in touch with rink staff (, or 416 392-0913, or talk to them in person) at least 48 hours before you want your campfire – that’s the rule since last year’s proliferation of formal protocols.

It’s been exactly a year since Parks supervisor Peter Leiss suspended all campfires and then re-instated them with a much more complicated protocol that has added layers of bureaucracy. There are 171 e-mail exchanges about the campfire struggle, posted on the “problems and follow-up section” of the web site, and there may be many more internal ones that park users never saw. All this for a procedure which is almost identical to what has worked well for 13 years!

When CELOS asked to see the draft protocols and the internal e-mails that resulted in so much extra bureaucracy, they were told it would cost them $1700 for staff to get that information out. Another appeal to the Provincial Commissioner, sigh….


Parks, Forestry and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz is starting public consultations about a new approach to program user fees, called “Everybody gets to play.” This name is trademarked by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, one of whose directors is the previous Parks and Recreation general manager, Claire Tucker Reid. Although a joke is already making the rounds, calling this approach “everybody gets to pay,” the report is not all about cost increases. Parks and Recreation management want to use extra fees to enlarge the subsidy for people who can prove they have low incomes (the “Welcome Policy”), from about 15,000 people receiving it now. Free “priority” community centres are to lose that designation, but at the same time all Toronto school kids are to get free swim lessons (grade three) and skate lessons (grade five). The main idea seems to be the concept of “cost recovery,” with the aim of getting 50% of the program costs covered by user fees. This is a separate income stream from the Parks, Forestry and Recreation tax allocation (now just over $300 million from the city budget).

In the 10 years since amalgamation, the staffing for this division has increased by 743 people (about 100 management and the rest includes a lot of bits and pieces of part-time hours for many people). The budget – adjusted for inflation – has increased by $60 million in “real” dollars over those same years. Part of that increase comes from wage agreements. With a work force that big, management also has a big budgeting problem – wage costs increase by around $10 million every year, even if no additional staff are hired. (The increase is not only from union agreements, but also from the scale of merit increases for management.)

So Parks and Recreation management have a big problem, and to they’re addressing it with a big request for public input. Four public meetings are scheduled, two on January16 and two on January 17. The one closest to downtown is at the new Wellesley Community Centre at the corner of Sherbourne and Wellesley (495 Sherbourne), at 7 pm on Wednesday January 16.

CELOS will be going to all four. To follow the story or contribute your own piece, go to CELOS. How should public space be used in Toronto from now on? Should the skating rinks cost money? Or should there be a strong distinction between registered “learn-to” programs on the one hand, and tax-supported public amenities on the other – like rinks and pools, playgrounds and picnic areas, for all the citizens to enjoy without paying extra? Brenda Librecz is inviting everyone into the conversation.

For the PFR proposal, see backgroundfile-9717.pdf. For an analysis of PFR operating budget trends, see the CELOS report. For trends in Toronto family incomes, compared with surrounding areas, see Losing Ground Key Findings by the United Way. Newsletter-Uploads:January2008/KeyFindings_UnitedWayofGreaterToronto.pdf

  • This past New Year’s Eve, Dave Bidini and Janet Morassutti invited a whole lot of shinny hockey players and their families to meet them at the rink and skate in the new year. The rink house was supposed to close early, as it does all over town, but the rink staff stayed an extra three hours to lend skates and let people use the washrooms or warm up. Other people came to make a campfire, or play on the snowhills with their kids. After the staff finally had to leave, Dave and Janet took over letting people into the washrooms (the staff lent them the key). A week later, Janet came to the park with an envelope of $270. She and Dave had collected it from the crowd that night, as a thank-you for the rink. So Dan Watson went right out and bought two new pairs of excellent-quality skates for the skate-loan collection (on sale!).
  • Leemala Ragubance and Shanti Nahata, long-time park-friends also, gave the park a surprise donation, which paid for two brand new pairs of excellent-quality kids’ loaner-skates, plus this print-run of the newsletter. The occasion? Dhiwali. Leemala said giving a gift of money at Dhiwali brings good luck – if you don’t give an even number (they didn’t). Their generosity was certainly good luck for the park.
  • Andrea Adams and Jason Brown gave the park a Christmas donation that’s paying for the February print-run of the newsletter. That’s not the first time, either.
  • Wallie Seto brings back the best Montreal bagels for the staff and park volunteers, every time he goes to Montreal. Sometimes the rink staff get so busy they don’t even eat, and then when hunger makes them weak, Wallie’s bagels come to the rescue.
  • Suchada Promsiri, who makes delicious sandwiches and pastries at her Osogood Sandwich Shop on College near Ossinton, has been concerned about feeding the staff for years now, and she has brought in many, many trays of treats for them, as well as the contents of her tip jar.



The three months when skaters and market-goers share the rink house are an interesting challenge. Market-goers, please be nice to the skaters – they have to change their skates outside on Thursday afternoons, no matter how cold the weather, and they have to be extra careful not to step on anyone, with their sharp skate blades. Skaters, please be friendly to market-goers – they’re stocking their pantries with wonderful food, much of it locally-grown even in the depth of winter. You can have some of this bounty too – check it out! And if you’re shopping on skates and then want to go back out on the ice, you can lock up your groceries in a rink locker until you’re ready to go home. That’s a pretty enjoyable way to get your grocery shopping done.


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Web site: Henrik Bechmann

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


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