Neither naturally athletic nor outdoorsy, especially when sidewalks get icy and I have a safety-sanctioned excuse not to run, I’ve never been a big skater. Sure, I took lessons in elementary school, but remember little beyond constantly losing at “What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf?” because my stopping skills were subpar.
Fast forward fifteen years and enter my ever-outdoorsy, canoe-owning, all-Canadian Gentleman Caller who bought me a pair of skates last Christmas. And what glorious skates they are! Forget channeling a ballerina in clean white figure skates or the Great Gretzky in razor-sharp hockey blades. These beige Ladies’ Comfort skates are fleece-lined, ultra-cushioned and have replaced a good portion of the fiddly eyelets with a velcro strap.
Nevertheless, last year, we managed but three skating outings, primarily because the Gentleman Caller was studying in Hamilton and I wasn’t brave enough to venture onto ice all alone. But this year! No, 2017 will be different. I will channel #girlboss vibes and glide across as many different rinks as possible, with or without company of any sort. (I’ve also signed up for adult lessons, at the very rink where stopping games eluded me so many years ago.)
The Rennie Park rink, in west Toronto’s Swansea neighbourhood, made for an excellent return-to-the-ice venue this season. My friend Martha had corralled a bunch of our old high school friends for a post-Boxing Day skate, and the group camaraderie calmed my nerves. At the very least, I thought, I wouldn’t have to ask strangers for help if I couldn’t lace my skates tightly enough.
Rennie Park has two skating areas: a good-sized rink with boards where shinny, youth league games and lessons take place, and a small trail around a tree, where our group skated. Not having to dodge hockey players was a big relief, as were the poles around the edge of the rink that I could grip as I tottered onto the ice for the first time.
A downside to skating in stroller-derby Swansea during winter break, however, is the number of children on the rink. Nothing against young’ns, but they tend to fall into two categories when on the ice. First are the speed demons, decked out in freshly sharpened skates and hockey jerseys, some wistfully eyeing the shinny game one rink over and others practicing their leaps and twirls. They are far better skaters than I — hats off, tots! — but had the unfortunate habit of being unpredictable. They wouldn’t skate in orderly clockwise circles like the rest of us, and I have an unholy fear of them bumping into me, starting a domino reacting of downed skaters, and not being able to get up.
The other group of children were very small and completely bundled in snowsuits. They were, for the most part, much worse than me, but had the advantage of having a much shorter distance to fall and not embarrassment about doing so. And so fall they would, often very close to my very sharp skates, and I was very worried I wouldn’t be able to stop in time and end up slicing a tender young finger. Luckily, my stopping habits have improved since my “What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf?” days, and all fingers were spared.
Rating: 3/5 skates ⛸️⛸️⛸️
Pros: The loop is more interesting than a rectangular rink, heated change rooms and washrooms, separate hockey and leisure skating areas, rails to help getting on and off the ice
Cons: Unpredictable children, fairly small leisure trail that gets busy fast