Toronto breaks snowstorm rules with extended hours at outdoor rinks

Open this photo in gallery People using hockey sticks in the city’s Eaton Centre winter sports plaza on Dec. 24, 2018. Mark Blinch/Reuters The first domino has fallen in the new Toronto bylaw barring…

Toronto breaks snowstorm rules with extended hours at outdoor rinks

Open this photo in gallery People using hockey sticks in the city’s Eaton Centre winter sports plaza on Dec. 24, 2018. Mark Blinch/Reuters

The first domino has fallen in the new Toronto bylaw barring women and children from using the city’s sports facilities during weekday snowstorms, the deputy city manager says.

Hours are being extended at outdoor skating rinks to accommodate more families in the next two weeks, and those located at home arenas, including the hockey rinks in the city’s three suburban centres, will extend until midnight.

The bylaw, which took effect this month, has sharply divided the population. City councillors have said the rule is designed to encourage people to stay off the roads during snowy events. But many residents see it as unnecessarily restrictive.

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In response to the public backlash, city council this week voted to temporarily relax the rules to allow families to use the rinks from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during snowstorms until Feb. 15.

County council (on Toronto’s northwestern fringe) on Thursday voted to extend rinks’ hours until the end of the season in March. Any evening that ends after 9 p.m. has been extended to midnight for the benefit of schools, recreation centres and municipal arenas.

Deputy city manager Mark Crockatt says conditions now look “toward normal.” He says the authorities are “concentrating the enforcement efforts” during the December cold snap, when icy roads make it difficult to enforce the rule.

Although there have been no complaints from members of the public since the new bylaw took effect, it has created problems on some levels.

At Toronto’s city-owned arena at the southeast corner of Eglinton Avenue West and Dundas Street East, officials said Friday that they are concerned about people parking illegally on ice and potential liability for slips and falls.

“We have a concern that if a snowflake or an ice shoe goes into the rinks, it could actually become dangerous and we could end up going down a path that we’re not in favour of,” said Rob West-Cowle, president of the Toronto Ice Rink Association.

For the coming two weeks, the city is proposing to extend the weekday hours at each facility’s outdoor rink until 9 p.m. The rinks run from Dec. 29 to Jan. 14, from Jan. 8 to 27 and from Jan. 26 to Feb. 15.

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“We hope that everyone will continue to play the right way and play the game safely and responsibly,” Mr. Crockatt said.

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