Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star Editorial: Let kids play hockey

Thurs, April 28, 2011

Showing just want a bureaucratic killjoy Toronto can be, the city’s public works committee has kept a ban on one of Canada’s great pastimes: street hockey.

Kids everywhere get a kick out of passing the ball around the local cul-de-sac and clearing the street to the shouts of “car” once in a while. Like maples in autumn, it’s a typical Canadian scene that occurs “for the most part without incident,” according to the city.

But never mind all that, argues the committee report, there’s “some potential” for increased liability to the city if the ban—one that is rarely enforced—is removed.

That means the city is claiming it needs a law to protect itself while publicly stating it doesn’t intend to enforce it. Surely even the cheapest of lawyers could drive a truck through that open net.

If the city does not want the law enforced, and clearly it does not, then the law should not be on the books in the first place. By leaving it there, it means that kids who have nice, hockey-loving neighbours get to play street hockey while those who have the misfortune to live next door to a curmudgeon risk a visit from the police.

Such a “ban” teaches kids that some laws are for show only and unless you’re really unlucky you can safely break the law with impunity and, indeed, with the support of a good many adults. That’s not a good lesson, nor is it good government.

Even the most ardent hockey fans are not calling for nets on Yonge St. An impromptu pickup game works best on residential streets with little traffic. In the case of younger players, ideally, that happens to be just out the front door where their parents can watch them.

Councillor Josh Matlow wants to reopen the issue at the council meeting in May with a view to altering the ban. Great idea.

City council should rethink this unnecessary ban. Find a way to let kids play, for pete’s sake. We all know they could use the exercise. (The latest dismal report on Canadian fitness shows that between 3 and 6 p.m. kids average barely 14 minutes of physical activity.)

Kingston has already found a way through the supposed liability maze to let kids play street hockey. Toronto should too.

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