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Ice surfaces in unusual places build on Canadian nostalgia for the old-time rink

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'Everybody remembers the first time lacing up.' For many kids now living in Canadian cities, their first skating experience may come at a shopping mall or other unique urban spaces. For property owners, a sure-fire way of enticing Canadians is by installing a rink. Free skating has become a big draw for families at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

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A skating path winds underneath the rafters of the former Brick Works in Toronto's Don Valley. The jumble of dilapidated brick buildings and metal sheds sat idle for close to three decades until Evergreen - a national charity devoted to greening communities - approached the owners, the City of Toronto and the Region Conservation Authority, with a proposal to reinvent the site as a showplace for urban sustainability.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

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There is a cooling system underneath the Brick Works rink that keeps the ice useable when the temperature creeps above freezing - which it has been for much of the season. In a bit of environmental ingenuity, the warmth pulled off the rink is redirected to help heat two buildings on the Brick Works site.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

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West Edmonton Mall's Ice Palace runs year-round. 'It’s the heart of the centre, the meeting place, a locale for way-finding because we are really large,' mall general manager Stacey Claffey says.

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The Ice Palace skating rink, an NHL-sized facility, was installed in 1983. It's been so successful in drawing people to the mall that the Triple 5 Group is including a rink in its newest megamall project in New Jersey.

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The Skating Oval, an free outdoor rink Cadillac Fairview built in 2009, sets the Shops at Don Mills in Toronto apart from other malls. 'Our slogan is ‘a breath of fresh air,’ and not every mall can offer a skating rink,' marketing manager Lauren Genz says.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

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Can shopping mall ice replace old-time rinks? 'It gets families together,' says Lauren Genz of the Shops at Don Mills. 'People can put down their cellphones and Nintendo and participate in an activity together.'

JENNIFER ROBERTS/jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

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