#CityShaping

Rinks: Canada’s Parks

There are few things as Canadian as outdoor hockey and skating in winter.

Kids racing around, chasing pucks and one another, parents helping younglings take their first steps on the ice; skating outdoors in the often-harsh Canadian winter is the ultimate form of lemonade made from sour lemons. It’s a rite of passage for Canadians of all ages.

This month, the City of Toronto opened most of the city’s outdoor rinks, the mild weather putting a damper on the beginning of skating season, but not stopping some of Toronto’s more dedicated skaters and hockey players. The rest of the rinks opened December 5th. While the mild rainy weather makes for bad skating, any low single digit dry weather – especially low-sunlight days – can make for a very enjoyable and comfortable skate for casual pleasure skaters.

There are few things as Canadian as outdoor hockey and skating in winter. Kids racing around, chasing pucks and one another, parents helping younglings take their first steps on the ice; skating outdoors in the often-harsh Canadian winter is the ultimate form of lemonade made from sour lemons. It’s a rite of passage for Canadians of all ages.

This month, the City of Toronto opened most of the city’s outdoor rinks, the mild weather putting a damper on the beginning of skating season, but not stopping some of Toronto’s more dedicated skaters and hockey players. The rest of the rinks opened December 5th. While the mild rainy weather makes for bad skating, any low single digit dry weather – especially low-sunlight days – can make for a very enjoyable and comfortable skate for casual pleasure skaters.

These organizations do outstanding work in providing gear and instruction to kids from low-income families, but it’s the ice itself which ends up as one of the largest costs to run hockey programs here in Toronto – a notion which seems laughable in a place with regular access to outdoor ice during hockey season.

A city is defined by its investment in its own citizens, in the form of creative and unique public recreation options to encourage activity. It is an outwards indicator of an interest in promoting physical activity and socializing among residents – when it comes to social capital investments, it is best likened to the famous line from ‘Field of Dreams’ “If you build it, they will come.”

In Regent Park, a new ‘Rink of Dreams’ was opened last winter as a joint effort between Hockey Canada, Toronto Community Housing and the City of Toronto to build and maintain the Regent Park South Rink at the Regent Park Athletics Gardens. The project even attracted the attention of Maple Leaf Sports and Under Armour; and the end result is an NHL-sized rink with boards and painted lines open to youth in specific blocks of time. The rink has a fully heated, and visually impressive, building for putting on skates and warming up.

This project should establish the benchmark for new outdoor rinks in Toronto.

With more and more organizations working to get gear for kids, what is often lost is that access to suitable and safe ice is the biggest obstacle. Providing high quality outdoor public skating options like this attracts use, and illustrates a willingness to invest in neighbourhoods; players and skaters from across the city travel to Regent Park just to enjoy the rink’s polished ‘Winter Classic’ appeal.

While hockey, at its highest levels, is currently trying to reconnect the game to its outdoor past via special outdoor games, cities like Toronto – who host such perfect ice-bearing weather for prolonged periods of time – are presented a phenomenal opportunity to engage residents and help neighbourhoods attract outside visitors by building high quality outdoor rinks conducive to organized hockey, as well as recreational skating.

The newest rink in Regent Park just set what should be the new standard for public outdoor rinks.

For rink hours, visit here.