Montreal and Toronto, the two rival hockey meccas, have a long, long history of fostering world class talent. They both have a reputation for being at the center of the hockey universe – but you’re technically not allowed to play the game in the streets of either city.
On Wednesday, a group of kids playing in Montreal were visited by police after a neighbor called in about the ruckus. And according to Bridget Sykucki, the mother of two of the boys playing, there’s so little vehicle traffic, they don’t even refer to it as a street.
“On Wednesday, we were playing in the alleyway — we call it an alleyway because we only have our cars that are parked there. There are no street addresses that give on that street, so we call it an alleyway but theoretically, it’s a street,” she explained.
She said a neighbour came out and began yelling at the children to be quiet, and threatened to call the police.
Officers showed up a couple of hours later, Sykucki said.
Under the city’s bylaw, the parents could be fined $75 for each kid playing hockey in the street. While we can certainly understand not allowing kids to play in the middle of a busy street, quiet ones are a perfect space. These bylaws are rarely enforced, but it seems they can be a tool for cranky neighbors.
Toronto has a similar bylaw in place:
“The primary reasons stated by the City for the by-laws are that the traveled portion of the roadway is not designed for sports and games and there would be liable issues related to personal injuries and property damage if the City were to permit playing games and sports on the street. When sports or games are permitted on the street, for example a charity run, permits and insurance are required and the roadway is closed for a specific time period.”
What a bunch of killjoys.
In 2012, Toronto councillor Josh Matlow wanted to exempt individual streets from the no-fun bylaw. His plan would only impact streets whose residents asked for the exemption, had support from 80 percent of the households, a speed limit of 40 km/h or less and 1,000 or fewer passed cars per day. His plan was received as overly bureaucratic so it never saw the light of day.
We always hear about how expensive it is to play hockey. The cost of equipment and ice time soars, especially within the cities so the game isn’t always accessible to everyone. It’s the Canadian pastime, but we struggle with ideas on how to make the game available to as many people as possible. Street hockey isn’t just a cheap way to get anyone interested in the game, it builds community and helps keeps kids active and healthy and outdoors.
Just last weekend two teams from the same street in Oakville finished second at the Play On! National Championships, a Canadian ball hockey tournament in Kingston (where you can play street hockey). The junior Hardy Heroes and the senior Hardy Heroes were runners-up in the under-19 and over-19 classifications and got there because of their street hockey bond.
Today, the Toronto Star had a story on the teams:
“We have something almost no other teams have: that closeness,” said Chris Festarini, 21, goalie for the elder Heroes’ team who went on to play in the Ontario Hockey League and at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“We live and breathe Hardy Cres,” he said. “We’re like a family.”
For the younger Heroes, some of their earliest memories involve watching their older brothers clash sticks on the road with the neighborhood kids.
“It started off as, the big kids – they played and we watched them. Then we would start playing,” said Matt Lyon, 16. “From there we would hang out and stuff – go see movies. But road hockey was sort of the basis.”
In Montreal, city councillor Richard Guay visited Sykucki and the children and discussed possible next steps, such as reclassifying their street as an alleyway.
There has to be some compromise here. Kids shouldn’t be told to put the sticks away and get off an empty side street.