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How to build a rink on top of a Toronto skyscraper

It’s not every day that I get asked to go skating outdoors in Toronto, let alone on the rooftop of a skyscraper. My figure skates have only made one appearance this season and that was for a late night skate at Nathan Philips Square.

I first heard about the mysterious rooftop rink on social media last week and have eagerly been waiting for today, the moment I could head up to the 20th floor above Hy’s Steakhouse at 120 Adelaide Street to find out how it is even possible to put a rink on a roof.

The minute I stepped out onto the roof of the building I was drawn to the sight of the CN Tower off to the right and the miniature rink, which takes up the entire surface. But what I was not prepared for was how bitterly cold and windy it was (yes, yes I know … I live in Canada).

Duncan Fraser, marketing manager at Molson Canadian, said the ice is a little hard and ‘chippy,’ similar to what he grew up on playing as a kid, giving it a little charm.

“It is a different attitude when you step out here and you are in the open air in the middle of winter and just flying around having a good time,” said Fraser.

Making this rink, which due to its size is more suited for three-on-three hockey, was no easy task and one that Richard Kuypers, the senior manager for sponsorship and events at Molson Canadian, said had some hiccups along the way.

As I stood back and finally took in the view after doing a few jumps and spins on the ice, I got the chance to talk to Kuypers about how the rink was made.

Kuypers said a crane was used from the neighbouring building, which is currently under construction, to move all the equipment up to the roof. The crews then created a sub floor to level out the roof because the surface was not perfectly flat. From there the ice, boards, glass and netting were assembled.

Kuypers said over a hundred people were needed to make this challenging project possible including engineers to test the weight load of the building.

“When we first got the assignment there were a couple of… exhales,” he said. “Without the crane it would have been a lot different, last year it was in the mountains and it had to be done by helicopter.”

He added using a helicopter in Toronto is a lot different than in the mountains.

A structural engineering team built the net that drapes over the entire rink.

“It is fully enclosed, we can’t take any chances,” said Kuypers who added that he cringes every time people take slap shots.

“People have been firing shots and it holds up … everything has been safe,” he said.

Two black trust towers (which you can noticed from street level on Adelaide) are on opposite ends of the rink with a cable suspected down the middle. The netting falls to either side in a “barn” roof system and are tied back down into the glass on either side.

As I was standing up there trying to keep warm, Kuypers told me that they have to test the wind frequently to make sure it doesn’t go above 40 kilometres per hour.

If the wind reaches that speed the net that hangs above the rink needs to be taken down and no one is allowed on the ice. If wind speeds gets to 60 kilometres per hour everyone needs to evacuate the entire rooftop. He said it has happened once so far and he wanted to get off the roof as quickly as possible.

Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs came out and tested the nets just to make sure.

The boards are four foot tall (standard size) the entire way around. Kuypers says the engineering team considered creating higher boards but it wouldn’t work due to the wind levels. He added that they actually considered doing higher glass but settled on a ‘happy medium.’

I joked to Kuypers that they must get annoyed that I had figure skates on, creating toe picks in the ice, but he just pointed to a guy standing outside the glass staring at us waiting to flood the rink, and says “he might.”

There isn’t a zamboni but rather a smaller machine that floods the ice, which takes about 30-minutes to complete.

“It’s grassroots hockey, what I have grown up playing. It is a great feeling,” said Kuypers.

Fraser said Molson Canadian fought to keep the rink open until Feb. 7 and that people can rent our rink time online at rooftoprink.ca.