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Skates are sharpened, sticks are taped and a group of dedicated dads and moms are crossing their fingers in a collective wish that the weather holds. Mother Nature calls the shots when it comes to a favourite Canadian pastime – playing hockey on an outdoor rink – and the folks who are responsible for creating and maintaining two local rinks are already hard at work, shoveling and flooding as the weather conditions dictate.
Sunday evening Laine Pond, his son Owen and his partner Jen Cypher braved the cold, donned their toques and gloves and headed out to their neighbourhood park to flood the natural ice rink at McCormick Park.
For the first time, the Friends of McCormick Park are working to build two large ice surfaces in the park, one for shinny and the other for pleasure skating on the east side of the park, on the baseball diamond, off Brock Avenue in Parkdale.
"We have such a huge area here that is underutilized in the winter," Cypher said. "And there are so many people around here that skate, but ice time can be hard to get in the (Mary McCormick) arena."
Cypher explained the City of Toronto has given the Friends of McCormick Park access to water and hoses for flooding. There is a team of volunteers who come out nightly to flood the surfaces, but more volunteers are needed.
posted November 20, 2010
Harbourfront's Natrel Rink (not operated by the City) on Saturday morning, November 20, open on schedule. Go have fun!
Unfortunately, the 14 rinks the city had scheduled to open November 20 now won't be open until November 27 at the earliest.
In mid-November, 2010, Brenda Patterson, General Manager of Parks Forestry and Recreation, released a memo announcing that the opening of 14 rinks on November 20 would be delayed by a week to November 27. She gave a long list of reasons for this, chiefly the weather.
We've been fact checking the statements made in this memo and other sources, and collate our findings here.
September 15, 2010
Update: The following rinks are scheduled to open Saturday November 20, 2010 (pending any revisions): Nathan Philips Square, Dufferin Grove, Regent Park South, Kew Gardens, West Mall, Sir Adam Beck, Rennie Park, Sunnydale, Mel Lastman Square, Broadlands, Glen Long, Hodgson, Irving Chapley, Albert Campbell.
The remaining rinks will open on Saturday December 4.
posted November 12, 2010
Update - on November 12, city management decided to postpone all November 20 openings to November 27, citing weather as the deciding factor. But Harbourfront's Natrel Rink (which is independent of the City) will open on Nov. 20th. Also (Central Park) and the (Rockefeller Center) outdoor rinks in New York City are already open.
So cityrinks.ca asked city management to let Dufferin Rink open on Nov. 20th, to prove, yet again, that good ice can be made at Toronto rinks at these temperatures in the low-sun month of November.
There's been no response to our "test Dufferin Rink"? request to Brenda Patterson. However, the new Ward 18 city councillor, Ana Bailao, called Ms.Patterson. Ana sent this: "She said Council and Mayor had been informed of this decision and that it was reached with the City Manager and she was not in a position to change it. She also said that some compressors broke last year - do you know of anything?"
No we don't know of any compressors breaking down because of starting up in November. We monitored all the rinks. Maybe Ana can find out which ones broke down, so we can follow up. It's always good to get the facts.
Nov.24 2011, Summary of CIMCO ice-making responses:
1. With ideal environmental conditions and the correct equipment, ice can be made in the latter half of November
2. To avoid the radiant heat gain, making ice at night is ideal
3. There is nothing to my knowledge that says the sensible [ambient] temperature can’t be greater than 10 degC. This is the average temperature in an insulated indoor arena
posted November 16, 2010
There's a lot of confusion about the factors that go into deciding on opening and closing dates for outdoor rinks, so we thought we'd ask an expert.
CIMCO (an acronym for Canadian Ice Machine Company, formed in 1913) has a support contract for 18 of Toronto's outdoor rinks in the west end of the city. They visit each of these rinks twice a day when they operate, and built many of them. So they know their business.
I spoke to David Sinclair of CIMCO (He's the Toronto Branch Manager) about factors effecting the outdoor rink season, and he had a lot of interesting information and insights.
He confirmed that the main factor for deciding outdoor ice viability was "radiation load" (direct or indirect sunlight). The lowest effect of this was in the 12 weeks from the start of December to the end (third week) of February. He noted however that on a sunny day even during this winter period, direct sunlight reflecting from white boards around the ice could cause ice near the boards to become soft.
CityRinks cost estimate? for opening 14 rinks on November 21 2009: March 1, 2009. This letter was sent to Councillor Janet Davis, head of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, but received no acknowledgment or response.
On January 12, City Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed to Council’s “Community Development and Recreation Committee” that the city’s outdoor rinks be opened two weeks earlier next winter. They asked for a staff report, to be presented to the committee on February 6. This is something rink friends have been requesting for ten years, so it was time to make a deputation, in favour.
posted January 19, 2009
In a letter to Councillor Janet Davis, the Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, Toronto Councillor Minnan-Wong has requested that outdoor rinks be opened early ("at the same time as Nathan Phillips Square").
Read the full text of the letter. Minnan-Wong's letter was formally received for consideration by the Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting of January 12. See Decision Document, page 8.
This website has been saying for quite some time that owing to the angle of the sun, it makes sense to open the rinks in early November, to end of February, rather than early December to mid-March as has been the case for the last few years.
The Community Development and Recreation Committee voted 3 to 2 to postpone any possibility of earlier rink openings until November 2010 Read more
posted January 01, 2009
According to Google Analytics, you visited cityrinks.ca 12,896 times in December 2008, about 2.75 times more than last year (our first year). In the process you viewed our website pages 54,688 times. And this doesn't count any downloads of our publications.
We're thrilled. Outdoor skating is a great Canadian activity, and Toronto is blessed with the most extensive set of outdoor rinks in the world. We hope that in some small way, together with you, we can make this skating resource a little more accessible and a little better for everyone, through the information provided on this website.
If you read the Google reports attached (see below) you'll notice that although visits were quite a bit lower last year, pageviews were sometimes even higher. That's because so many people worked so hard to get the basic content on the site last year. That work continues this year, but can now build on the foundation that was put in place last year.
Lots of people help put things on this website, but the main people are Jutta Mason, Aseel Al Najim, and Michael Monastyrskyj. There are now about 765 pages of information on the website (not including downloadable pdf's). See Site Map.
This website is supported through celos.ca. We're doing it with minimal financing -- money earned by the "Zamboni cafe" snack bar and skate lending program of Dufferin Rink.
Anyone interested in participating in the continued improvement and growth of this website is more than welcome to inquire, or just send us comments. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the Google Analytics reports for December 2008:
posted November 24, 2008
The Community Development and Recreation Committee recommends that weather permitting, the Outdoor Artificial Ice skating season of twelve weeks be extended at a total of 14 outdoor artificial ice rinks, as indicated in Attachment 1, for an additional two week period to March 15, 2009. Decision Document
This is the letter cityrinks sent to all the councillors on November 14 2008:
Dear Councillor Mihevc,
Last night Councillor Minnan-Wong's office made us aware of a staff report relating to the March extension of the outdoor artificial ice rink season. The item is scheduled to be considered at today's meeting of the Community Development and Recreation Committee: Outdoor Artificial Ice Rink Season. Councillor Minnan-Wong was aware of our long-term involvement with these rinks, as apparently no other councillor or PFR staff was, since we were not notified about this item. Sadly, none of us can change our schedules to come and depute. We will be tracking your committee's decision on this with interest, however. Here are our concerns:
The staff report says: "There are no financial implications arising from this report. The total operating cost of keeping 14 city-owned and operated outdoor artificial ice rinks open for an additional two week period in early March is $172,000."
But the need to find that extra money must be why Rec management has already sent out the order to close the rinks on Christmas Day this year and shorten rink hours on other popular winter holidays including the new Family Day.
The puzzling thing about this March rink plan is: why bother? As the staff report says, March break doesn't begin until March 16 in 2009, so the outdoor rinks won't be open during March Break anyway.
The staff report itself says that last March, keeping the rinks open had lousy results: "there were [only!!] 25 to 40 skaters on each rink per day.....During most days in March, the sunlight and warmer temperatures deteriorated ice conditions at all locations." We agree with this description, except that there were even fewer skaters at some of the rinks. Many of them were closed much of the time. CELOS Information Bulletin:City Outdoor Ice Rinks, March 2008
And yet the report says that staff recommend 14 rinks to stay open into mid-March this year, and every year from now on. If any committee member could question this recommendation, that would be a good idea.
See also Outdoor Rinks And Weather
Rink staff have been concerned for some time that the youth who play shinny hockey at outdoor rinks are dwindling in numbers at many city rinks. The rinks that focus on strict helmet rule enforcement for shinny hockey (i.e. not Dufferin Rink) seem to be losing skaters, who may be opting to stay at home and be couch potatoes instead. But city management have said they are worried about liability risk to the City, if they don’t bar skaters from playing shinny without a helmet.
City staff say they’re unsure about the actual number of claims against the city as a result of rink injuries. So CELOS applied to the City’s Corporate Access and Privacy office (freedom of information) to track down that number. The response was very reassuring. The City’s Risk Management Section has records of only two ice-rink injury claims, and neither of them happened during shinny hockey. Both injuries were during a full-equipment, full-contact hockey game in arenas. One player got a broken leg as the result of a body-check in 2004, the other got an on-ice beating during an MTHL game in 1999, resulting in a broken nose. The broken leg claim seems not to have been settled yet, The on-ice beating victim asked for $1.1 million but settled for $12,000 (grounds for the lawsuit was that the referees didn’t intervene until very late).
In CELOS’ search for ice rink injury hospital data, two more relevant things turned up:
(1) after mandatory helmets were introduced for full-contact hockey programs, head injuries went down for some years. Then, in the past half dozen years, head injury rates began to climb steadily again, despite the helmets, and spinal cord injuries have also increased. Body-checking seems to be the main occasion when serious harm is done. Sports medicine doctors conjecture that as hockey players add more body armour, they feel more invincible.
(2) Canadian hospitals injury data show a lot of “falls-on-ice” injuries. But it turns out that most of the falls are not on rinks, they’re on sidewalk ice. Winter is a slippery time! (For more details about sports injuries and hospital data, go to the media link on the cityrinks.ca website.)
Shinny hockey is a different game than full-equipment, full-contact hockey. In shinny hockey there is no checking, and no slapshots. It appears that there have never been any shinny hockey injury claims against the City. If mandatory helmet rules are causing many youths to stop playing drop-in shinny hockey at the rinks, the harm done to physical fitness may be greater than the good in protecting against the risk of concussions. CELOS will continue to urge City management and Councillors to attend to this problem.