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Showing posts from February, 2012

Skating memories: the backyard rink

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The date on this photo says 1975, which means I either four or five years old, depending on which side of the year this photo was taken. That's me on the right. On the left is Shani, the girl who lived next door. The rink is in our backyard in Brampton. My dad built it.

We are dressed for an arctic trek, even though we are only about 12 steps from the back door. These were the days before children's snowsuits came in colours other than navy blue, brown and grey.

Great Skate #12 - High Park

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I think my phone call to Nicole and Gilles on Saturday afternoon sounded something like this:

"This is the last weekend for the High Park rink! We need to go skating right now! I can get there in an hour! You need to come too! Right now!"

Keen as they are on the Great Skate Project, Nicole and Gilles weren't able to drop everything to join me. But Nicole agreed to squeeze in a skate on Sunday, February 26, and we made a date to meet at the rink at 11am for Great Skate #12. (Then I headed out to accomplish Great Skate #11.)

It was a brilliantly sunny morning, colder than it had felt in a while. I was sorry I hadn't brought sunglasses to cut down the glare from the ice.

The High Park rink is a double pad, and while I was there one side was being used for children's skating lessons. Next door is the outdoor pool, closed for the season of course. Nearby are some tennis courts, which were in use. It's been that kind of winter.

I got there early and kept warm by sk…

Great Skate #11 - Ramsden Park

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A lot of outdoor rinks in Toronto close after the February 26 weekend. It adds a sense of urgency to the Great Skate Project. How many more skates can I squeeze in before the season ends?

Great Skate #11 took me to to the Ramdsen Park rink, next to the Rosedale subway station. I was skating solo, but had lots of company on the ice. A comment on the City Rinks site says this rink is "often excellent". I arrived soon after the Zamboni had cleaned the ice, and really noticed how hard and smooth the ice felt compared to the Orillia rinks of the previous weekend.
It's a double-pad rink, with a top-40 radio station playing over the loudspeaker. Both rinks were pretty busy. Young boys were practising their hockey skills on the pleasure skating side, while a large group of grownup boys played a fairly intense game of shinny next door. 
I enjoyed a half-hour skate, dodging the hockey demons. Four teenagers joined us, skating arm-in-arm. Then a clutch of small children, the adults…

Skating in the headlines

Some interesting articles about recreational skating and outdoor ice rinks have come across my radar during the Great Skate Project:

Chatelaine magazine: Health benefits of ice skating
by James Fell (January 31, 2012)
"Will you remember another night (or afternoon) on the couch? No. Will you remember everyone getting cold-weather-geared-up-the-wazoo and spending a couple of hours skating along a river, around a pond, or even at the outdoor rink of your local community centre? Yes. Forever."
Can't argue with that.

Spacing magazine: Winter Issue
(Winter 2011)
Exploring the theme of how urban planning can help a city embrace winter. Skating rinks get a mention of course, along with the joys of toboggan, snow removal machines and slushy curbside puddles. None of the articles seem to be posted on the website yet, but maybe they'll appear later.

Globe & Mail: Properties that skate circles around the competition
by Shelley White (February 27, 2012)
For shopping centres such…

Great Skate #10 - First Baptist Church (Orillia)

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I had half a plan to skate at all the outdoor rinks in Orillia in one day. After all, there's only seven of them, and I'd already been to one without even realizing it.

But the other half of the plan that I hadn't thought through included:
the weather (even Orillia is having a warm winter, and the natural-ice skating rinks weren't faring well),the transportation (I don't have a car, so someone else has to drive), andthe timing (we had to wait until my nieces were asleep for the night). So when Laurel and I headed out to find the skating rink at First Baptist Church on the evening of Sunday, February 19, I hoped it would be worth it, because the odds of getting to the other rinks were slim.

We found it, eventually, after some slight confusion with the Bethel Baptist Church, which is about a block away on the same street.

The First Baptist Church rink is fenced and has lights, although they weren't on. (Our skate was illuminated by the glow from the Esso station n…

Great Skate #9 - Murray Street Park (Orillia)

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It's always good to get away from familiar settings for a while and broaden your horizons. It makes you realize what you've been taking for granted.
Great Skate #9 took place on Sunday, February 19 in Orillia, where I was visiting my parents for the long weekend. (And also celebrating my dad's birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad!) The rink is just a few blocks away from their house. To call it low-key is an understatement. It's a perfectly decent, natural ice rink. But that's all it is. There are no benches, no lights, no fence, not even a sign.
I didn't even realize it was one of the rinks listed on the Orillia rinks website until my dad pointed out that this rink, located on Murray Street, was in fact the Murray Street Park Rink. I thought it was just an empty lot that some enterprising neighbours flooded and froze. And I know it makes me sound like I don't get out of the big city often enough, but I'm amazed there isn't at the very least a "skate…

Great Skate #8 - Greenwood Park

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Laurel's whole family joined me for Great Skate #8 at Greenwood Park on February 11, 2012. It was a real winter day with fresh snow and a windchill - a rarity in Toronto this year. We seemed to pack a whole winter of fun into one afternoon.

Greenwood is a nice rink. It's a double pad, with one side reserved for shinny hockey. (This seems to cut down on the number of three-foot-tall hockey demons on the recreational skating side.) Another good feature is a large window in the changing area that looks out onto the ice, so you can watch the skaters while staying relatively warm. There's a notice posted at the rink saying that the city will be upgrading the facility, but it isn't clear when that will start.
The youngest skater in the family just turned two. She wears bob skates and isn't really sure what this Great Skate thing is all about yet. Ask her what she thinks about skating and Two says "cold." But she's delighted as usual to be hanging out with …

Great Skate #7 - Ryerson Community Park

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Cathy joined me for a peaceful afternoon skate at Ryerson Community Park on February 4th. This is the little rink tucked into the Ryerson University campus. There weren't many skaters out and everyone else was a university student. Two guys were practising their hockey skills, using turned-over benches as goals. A girl practised her figure skating spins while flirting with a guy who looked like he was torn between flirting back and joining the hockey players.



The Ryerson rink is round, and because there were so few skaters on the ice, it was a good opportunity to explore something I've noticed during Great Skate 2012: people always skate in a counterclockwise direction.

I tested this, deliberately skating clockwise. With just Cathy and I doing laps, we weren't getting in anyone's way, and there wasn't any peer pressure to overcome. At first, no problems, although it felt a bit odd. Then after a few minutes I realized that we had somehow turned ourselves around and …

Rink Links

Here are the sites I've used for the Great Skate project so far:

City of Toronto Parks & Recreation
Locations and schedules for all city-owned rinks in Toronto.

City Rinks
An unofficial compendium of locations, schedules and reviews for all the outdoor rinks in Toronto.

Brickworks Skating Trail
Everything you need to know about the rink, and the whole Brickworks complex.

Harbourfront skating programs
Haven't been there yet this winter, but it's on the list.

BlogTO: Outdoor ice skating in Toronto
The photos on this site are so much better than mine.

Orillia outdoor skating rinks I'm heading out of town for the long weekend. Maybe I'll get to skate on a lake!

Great Skate #6 - Kew Gardens

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Great Skate #6 took place on January 29, at the rink in Kew Gardens Park, coinciding with the Eat, Pray, Skate event hosted by Beach United Church.

Beach United is a big part of my life. It can be one of the goofiest things I do. It can also be one of the most profound. (Often at the same time.)


Eat, Pray, Skate

It's dark out, and cold. We're right next to the lake, so the sky is blacker than it is in other parts of the city.

The rink gleams through the trees. It's brightly lit by overhead lights. Ice candles have been placed around the edge of the rink, to lend an extra glow.

There are lots of people here. You feel like you know them all - even the ones whose names you can't recall, even the ones you haven't met.

Are you hungry? Have a homemade cookie - people brought them to share.

Thirsty? Help yourself to some hot chocolate. There's lots to go around.

Don't have skates? Try on one of the pairs on loan from a community centre.

If you're feeling wobbly …