Press Release: Greenbelt Foundation partners with RinkWatch to discuss how unpredictable weather could make rink-making a thing of the past for Southern Ontarians

Mar 21, 2019   •   News , Climate Resilience


20 March 2019


“Outdoor Hockey in a Changing Climate” discusses how unpredictable weather could make rink-making a thing of the past for Southern Ontarians

The Greenbelt Foundation has partnered with RinkWatch for an in-depth look at how a changing climate impacts outdoor hockey in and around Ontario’s Greenbelt. RinkWatch, a citizen-science research initiative at Wilfrid Laurier University that monitors changing winter weather conditions via community skating rinks, has analyzed data from Toronto and Montreal. It predicts that climate change will mean fewer skating days and greater difficulty making rinks.

Outdoor hockey and backyard rink-making are iconic Canadian winter pastimes, commemorated on the $5 bill and familiar to many Ontarians. Outdoor rinks require several consecutive days of sub-freezing temperatures to get started, and average daily temperatures of -5.5C thereafter to properly maintain. Unpredictable weather, freezing rain, and brief thaw events—such as those experienced this winter—make it challenging to maintain a usable rink.

The report finds that, as Ontario’s climate warms, rinks will open later and the number of good skating days will decline. By the end of the century, southern Ontario’s outdoor skating season may shorten by up to 40%. Large year-to-year variations in skating seasons have also become common in recent years. Outdoor enthusiasts might remember 2014-15 as a good year for skating; Toronto, for example, saw 44 good skating days that year, whereas in 2015-16 we only saw 11.

“Building an outdoor rink takes considerable effort and investment,” says Robert McLeman of RinkWatch. “Outdoor rink builders tell us they put in the effort so that their kids, friends and neighbours have a place to play outside in the dead of winter. As the climate changes and it becomes more difficult to build and maintain a good rink, we worry that fewer people will make the effort, and we’ll lose this important community resource.”

“Protected green spaces like Ontario’s Greenbelt will help preserve treasured winter pastimes like outdoor skating,” says Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation. “Unlike developed areas, The Greenbelt regulates weather and helps to keep winters cold in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.”

Outdoor Hockey in a Changing Climate is available at, along with other resources including a shareable two-page summary.


About the Greenbelt:

Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest, with over 2 million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands and rivers, working together to provide clean air, fresh water and a reliable, local food source. Permanent protection of the Greenbelt will ensure a climate-resilient, prosperous future for generations to come. Learn more at:

About RinkWatch:

RinkWatch is a citizen science research initiative that asks people who love outdoor skating to help environmental scientists monitor winter weather conditions and study the long-term impacts of climate change. Launched by researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University in January 2013, participants from across North America have submitted information about skating conditions on more than 1,400 outdoor rinks and ponds.
The Greenbelt:


Megan Hunter
Director, Engagement and Digital Strategy
The Greenbelt Foundation
416-960-0001 ext. 315