Trust The Guardian to bring up two subjects close to Price Tag editors’ hearts-hockey and streets. And it brings up a new nomination for the annual Price Tags “Gordie” Awards: City of Hamilton city councillor Sam Merulla who had the idea to cordon off a small part of a street for street hockey, after kids were charged for playing on the road. “Street hockey is somewhat of a dying activity in our community,” Merulla says. The City of Hamilton has posted that hockey can be played from 8:00 am to dusk, and hockey helmets must be used. And of course perhaps most importantly the ball hockey rules are laid out.
Everyone played ball hockey on the street back in the day, with nets that were quickly dispatched to the curb when a car came by. Often car drivers took one look at the activity and moved to another street, as ball practice meant that their rear licence plate could be used for target practice. Increasingly these kinds of activities are the subject to stern admonishment and fines by municipal by-law officers. As the Guardian notes: Most cities are reluctant to endorse street hockey. In Vancouver, you need a written permit. In Montreal it is mostly prohibited (except in alleyways). Ottawa allows it, but feels compelled to insist that “free flow of traffic is maintained once an adjustment in the game has been made to allow the passage of a car”. (For those of you who speak Canadian or have watched Wayne’s World, you’ll know that is the legal definition of yelling: “Car!”)
Toronto simply says NO to ball hockey on the street. Why? Because this activity can cause injury. But they do not cause accidents, which you think would be paramount. A psychologist talks about a bigger problem, and that is telling children that public spaces on streets are only for cars, and “prohibit children from public spaces work against children’s capacities to play on their own and in their own ways.” When you think of it, setting up an informal game of street ball hockey can be relatively free of adult intervention. How did this activity become controversial?
“There is a pernicious and completely wrong assumption these days that any time a child is not directly supervised by an adult, the child is automatically in danger,” says Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids. “That’s why we get people calling 911 when they see a child walking to school or waiting at home alone or waiting in a car. It really is almost superstitious because it’s not borne out by reality … it’s a cultural delusion.” But there is good news-the city of Calgary has taken out a phrase in their regulation that banned hockey nets on streets, which ostensibly normalizes street hockey net use. Even Toronto, known for a not too helpful approach to pedestrians in the street public realm are thinking of legalizing street hockey and basketball.
There is hope yet for Canadian ball hockey on municipal streets.