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Market day madness -- when the rink house is filled with farmers and skaters, on Thursday Farmers' market day. The new zamboni driver was pretty accomodating to the hubbub -- he has obviously been warned that this mixed-use is the reality of Dufferin Rink.
The biggest headache for the rec staff is the 13 to 17 shinny hockey age cut-off. Some of those fellows are very good, and the age cut-off is an arbitrary way of cutting the numbers into different time slots. So the borderline kids pretend to be over 18 or under 18 depending on the scheduled time. Staff have put up signs that i.d. will be required, but it's not so easy to insist. A lot of time is spent in argument at the rink gate. Ten years ago, the argument would have quickly become abuse, especially because most of the rec staff are women. But by now there have been so many examples of the rec staff's willingness to make their points stick -- and so many signs that the rec staff are struggling to make the rink work for the shinny players -- that there is rarely any abuse. Just diplomacy and strategy, waiting for the moment to sneak on. Another kind of game.
It's important to remember that much of this will improve when the other rinks open tomorrow.
One of the window-smashing kids from last April came to the door at 9 om. The meeting with his family has not yet been set up. He asked -- am I allowed to play after 9? The staff said -- no, of course not. He will try at other rinks too, innocently -- in a way -- a child of 13 not fully taking in that if you smash windows, you are labelled, and for good reason. You can't recede, becoming just one of the group.
Good news about the Fire Code -- Bruce Scott at the Ontario Fire Marshall's office says there's NO rule against wood stoves in rinks. A point for common sense! Now there's just the health and safety committee. One of their questions is "Has anyone complained to the Staff about Eye/Nose&Throat Irritation, Headaches, Nausea or Dizziness from the wood smoke." Happily, wood stoves are designed not to smoke, and the excellent "Regency" model from Marsh's Stoves -- installed at Christie Pits in 1998 -- never does when used properly.
Good news also from downtown -- the wood stove is allowed to operate after all.
Weather: weak sunshine off and on, high 5 celsius low 2. Light rain starting around 9 pm.
The nets didn't get fixed but that didn't keep skaters away. At 7 pm there were 50 guys trying to play shinny hockey. The pleasure-skating side had the overflow, and the inside was crowded too. The rec staff are talking about having to cap the numbers and turn people away. And on Friday there's a school holiday -- how can all those kids fit?
The crazy thing is that there are so many other rinks around here. Their compressors have been on for days, using up lots of power, but they need some more flooding and, in these long evenings with early darkness, they need the lights turned on. The reason they're not open is that the official schedule says no more rinks can open until December 6.
According to a report that Parks staff presented to the City councillors last month, this is training week, so there should be lots of zamboni drivers around, who need practice and could be flooding these rinks. That same Parks report says Dufferin Rink is a designated training area. But we've seen almost no one being trained. So where are they all?
It's been ten years now that we've been writing to Parks management and to city councillors about opening up the rinks when the season is ready, to let the crush of young people skate and play shinny hockey. Tonight the kids were talking to me in the rink house, saying, why don't the Dufferin staff get the other rinks open? We can't move out there!
I said, the recreation staff have no control over this. The rinks are controlled by another arm of the department, by Parks, and they are in their own silo and do as they please. But you guys don't even know the power you have. If all forty of you in here took out your cell phones and called your councillors, you could change people's minds.
They obviously think I'm soft in the head. One of them said, Miss, I voted in the last election, and nothing happened. Why would I call those councillors?
I bet there are meetings scheduled from here into the next decade, about how to deal with fat kids, bad hearts, high blood pressure, juvenile diabetes. And here they all are, kids wanting to skate, packed in like sardines at Dufferin Rink and locked out of those other rinks which already have their power running. But there seems to be nobody with the will to lay down the water and turn on the lights.
In other news: the annual December shoe thief is back again, stealing old, ordinary shoes so that little kids, and adults too, will have to walk home in skates or in their socks. Tonight the lead staff lent her spare boots to a women whose shoes were gone, so she could get home. The woman couldn't believe that the staff would do that. The lead staff said -- why not? I can go home in my work boots, and you can give me back my other boots tomorrow.
Exactly. It's just common sense, making the rink work for a person with no shoes. If only it was contagious, and spread to the Parks managers so they would open a few more rinks and make the rinks work for the crowded skaters that have no space....
Meantime, the annual "caution, shoe thief" signs will have to go up on the door again.
Hurray, the "rink hotline" message has been changed to say it's open. It sounds friendly and inviting. The assistant to the Ontario Minister of Tourism sent an e-mail inquiring about City Hall rink, so we sent him a link to this rink too. Its location is dramatic, and the ice is very smooth.
The rink has a thick layer of hard ice on it, looks like 2 inches already. One of the Rec staff said the technicians were working on the compressors until 9 last night, but that they began making ice on the weekend or even earlier. The ice is there, but the rink is not scheduled to open to the public until this coming weekend.
Weather: High 3 celsius, low - 2. Cloudy with occasional short snowflurries.
The rink was very busy all day -- lots of school kids and also shift workers. Lily Weston, who used to work here ten years ago, has returned for two evening shifts a week. She says she can't believe the change -- no arguments! The culture has changed over the years -- where the strongest and pushiest used to be on top, now everybody takes a turn. The atmosphere is so much more friendly and relaxed, and usage has gone up too.
The new zamboni driver is getting the hang of his big blue vehicle and figuring out his own tricks for getting around the tight pleasure-skating rink. He did so much better on his early-evening round, the Rec staff came out and shook his hand -- "congratulations!"
He laughed. Learning to drive that zamboni with an audience of fifty young guys who know everything better must be tricky.
Now if the ragged nets can be fixed up, even better.
The ice is in although not thick. A city staff person said that the compressors were turned on sometime during the weekend. The maintenance staff weren't expecting it, and so they hadn't moved the nets, which froze onto the ice. No water had been put down but there was a fair bit of rain, and it froze on contact.
The hockey side is locked but the other side has no fence and could be skated on. But no one is expecting the rink to be open (the schedule says Dec.6), so there are no skaters.
At 2 pm the Tech services staff were in the compressor room, working on the machinery. The rink hadn't been started up but the mats were all laid out, ready for skaters.
The "rink hotline" message still has the same last-season message on it, saying the rink is now closed and will open again in December. Since it's a weekday, the Access Toronto line was accessible, and they said that the rink is open, and that they would look into the glitch on the "hotline."
Monica Gupta, the president of Friends of Christie Pits, forwarded an e-mail from the recreation supervisor, about the use of the rink's community kitchen. The supervisor wrote that the kitchen will not be available for community use this rink season. No hot chocolate, no healthy snacks!
Back story: For the past (unknown number of) years the kitchen has been licensed to Jack Domenico, the owner of the Maple Leafs Baseball team. The amount of the license fee is not public, although it's rumoured to be about $2000 a year. In the summer, Jack is said to sublet the kitchen to another person for $1800. In the winter he keeps it locked, and the only snacks are chips and pop from vending machines (but they're often broken). There are lots of complaints from skaters.
In the past, the kitchen was used for a youth program preparing healthy snacks, and for many community events (the kitchen was put in at the request of a community planning group when the building was renovated in the early 1990s).
The supervisor's letter explained:
Monica says the Friends of Christie Pits group won't want to get this complicated. So the rink house kitchen may be locked again this winter. An odd situation: a public facility built with public funds, locked because managers -- also paid from public funds -- say it can't be used. So here is the second "no" from the civil servants -- no to the wood stove and no to the kitchen, even though both exist and are paid for.
Weather: high 3 celsius, low 1.
Rain-showers for much of the day, but by mid-evening there were a lot of kids playing shinny, not so many pleasure-skaters. There was lots of friendly back-patting of people just returning since the rink opened.
A guy fell on the path, before he even got on the ice, and he figured he's twisted his ankle so that it might be broken. He lay out there on the cold rubber mats for 20 minutes until the ambulance came. This kind of injury -- just slipping on sidewalk ice (it was raining at the time) is far more common than slipping and falling while skating.
A new zamboni driver was practising and he was frustrated tonight. He was just told to go to the rink, without being given any specific orientation by someone who came with him. He said he wouldn't have minded only two hours with an old hand, just even to be shown the tricks to opening the various gates. No foreperson, no trainer, no supervisor on site. Odd.