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Weather: high -6, low -12. Flurries later in the afternoon and evening. Snowflurries and cold kept people inside by the woodstove a good deal. The permits came, though, and had a good time despite the cold.
It was cold today, so there were not as many skaters. Also it snowed last evening, and no plough or zamboni came until mid-afternoon. Staff and skaters managed to clear off most of the pleasure-skating side with the single rink shovel, but the hockey side took much longer and staff still weren't finished by the time the zamboni came. One rink user was very upset that staff wouldn't allow hockey on the pleasure-skating side.
When the flying squad finally got there, they made all the skaters clear both rinks and go inside the rink house for half an hour. This was apparently because the zamboni had to cross the pleasure-skating pad several times to get to the water source, when it was clearing off the hockey ice (all that snow was gumming up the zamboni augur, so it needed more water than usual). The zamboni staff didn't want to be held up by waiting for another 5 minutes, for the rink staff to clear the pleasure-skating ice, each time the zamboni had to go for more water. So the skaters were held up for half an hour instead.
The back story is that the rink renovation of two years ago was not designed with ice maintenance in mind. So there is no zamboni garage, no natural gas outlet, and no ready water access. Sad and a bit unbelievable, but true.
Dec.7 2008: A letter from Deirdre Norman of the Women of Winter Tournament, to City Councillor Adam Giambrone:
Today there was an angry man who only wanted to yell at me and not talk or even have my contact info. He first came and yelled that all over the city no one can play shinny at that moment. This was at a time when we had heard that the flying squad had left Campbell and was on its way over to Wallace so we cleared snow from the sides of the boards (where I think hockey players put it last night) in prep for zamboni, and cleared the rink of rowdy hockey players with millions of pucks. Then it was empty for... 20 minutes or so, even though the flying squad only had to drive four blocks, and I didn't let people play shinny hockey on the pleasure side, and the man yelled. Then he came back and took pictures of the hockey pad and of me and another staff and grumbled.
This is one of the most impressively located rinks in the city, with a huge view of the lake and the Toronto skyline. At 11 a.m. The ice was in excellent condition, but there were no skaters. The front door had no sign announcing the rink opening date. The rink operator was friendly and informative, though, and said they had been preparing the rinks for two weeks already. So it was no wonder that the ice was so much better than at the downtown rinks, some of which had only three days of preparation.
The rink operator said she hopes to get together a rink staff hockey team to play for fun this season. She said that that one of the rink guards at this rink was a former member of the Canadian Women's Hockey Team -- so the pace of the hockey ought to be pretty fast.
The rink opened yesterday, and the ice was perfect. But at noon it was empty. The rink operator said that a permit had ended at 11.30 and public skating was not scheduled to begin until 2.15. So he had turned a man away who wanted to skate at 11.45. I said, why? He said that it was all about insurance, and the threat of lawsuits. I told him that there had only been two rink-related claims against the City in ten years, both related to full-equipment indoor-arena hockey leagues, one a body-checking injury, one a fight. He said, even one injury is too much. But then he added that he was just starting to work at the outdoor rinks, and he'd have to check with his supervisor on Monday to see if it was all right to let people use the rink outside of the scheduled times.
At about 1 pm the hockey side had about 8 adults and 8 kids playing hockey. It looked like a parent-child program but it might not have been because that's not in the schedule. The ice looked very good, although one parent worried that it was a bit thin. The boards have the Home Depot and Maple Leafs logos in quantity, and there's a special sign up on the wall. The impression one has is that West Mall Rink is there because of those two corporate sponsors -- but it's unlikely that they cover a fraction of the cost.
There were only four pleasure skaters, and it was a cold wind. Inside, the rink was clean as always, but monotonous, with not many people there, no food, no services, no neighbourly chat. The donours' paint job had painted over the bulletin boards, so they were no longer notice boards but just clean white surfaces. Antiseptic!
The rink maintenance worker was very friendly, though. He let parents stand and watch the hockey in the office, because it was cold outside and the office had the best view. He said he's not a lead hand nor an APO2 -- he was just helping out because they were short-staffed.
One odd thing hasn't changed from last year -- the main entrance, facing toward the street and close to the bus stop, was locked. There was a track of footsteps through the snow, leading from where the bus stops, along the long front wall of the building, to the edge of the car parking lot, and then onto the path that leads to the rink-side door, the one that's unlocked.
Rennie Rink ice is thick and excellent after one week open. Inside there's lots of chat among neighbours waiting for their kids to have their figure skating lesson. A young man sells pre-wrapped Dad's cookies and he makes hot chocolate by the cup (with baby marshmallows). He says the reason he sits at a table in the middle of the room with his kettle and his cups is that he doesn't want to raise wrong expectations in the buyers -- doesn't want people to think he's got more to sell.
All proceeds on Sunday morning go to the Swansea Figure Skating Assocation. The cookie seller is not a figure skater himself -- he says he's manning the snack table because he's working off his school community hours.
The rink boards have not yet arrived, so there is nothing happening and no ice.