City keeps ban on street hockey

Works committee decides to keep ban
Playing ball games on city streets remains illegal
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 26.) 

L-R: Xander Anderson, Andrew Polanyi, Bowen Pausey and Liam McMahon presented the city with a petition asking to remove the ban on street hockey on city streets. Kris Scheuer/Town Crier file.

Teen Andrew Polanyi just wants to play street hockey with his friends without risking being hassled by the man.
“There’s a sign right in front of my house saying, ‘ball hockey prohibited’ and ever since that sign has been up neighbours have been coming up to us,” 13 year old Polanyi told the media during a Public Works committee hearing on Tuesday. “Some of them have been taking our pictures and sending them to the police and threatening to call the police.”
Currently, anyone found playing road hockey on Toronto streets could face a $55 fine. But in reality no one is charged or fined, said Ron Hamilton, manager of city traffic operations in Toronto and East York.
“I’ve been with the city for 40 years and I can’t recall anyone in Toronto being charged or fined by police,” said Hamilton. Polanyi and three of his friends were at the committee meeting to present a 125 signature petition asking the city to rescind the ban on road hockey. However, it is unlikely that kids will be legally facing off on Toronto streets anytime soon.
Hamilton had prepared a report on the issue which recommended either keeping things the way they are or overturning the bylaw, but the committee chose to take no action.
Committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong wanted to permit the teens to come back in May to speak to the committee, but his fellow councillors rejected that option. Minnan-Wong said he’s happy to meet with the teens to hear their concerns.
Not surprisingly, the teens weren’t happy with the outcome.
“Hockey is our sport,” Polanyi told the media. “We are Canadian. We should be able to play our sport.
“Newmarket has a bylaw that you can play ball hockey on streets. It’s even more important in Toronto because we have less backyards and less yard space and parents can’t always go to the park with you.”
The major concerns around changing the bylaw have to do with the safety of the participants and the impact impromptu games could have on traffic flow.
“There’s a way to deal with that now,” said Councillor Josh Matlow. “Kids scream ‘car’ when there’s a car and ‘game on’ when the car is gone. Kids have done that for a generation.”
Further complicating the matter is that the existing bylaw applies to all roadways: local streets, collector roads, minor and major arterials and expressways. Some have suggested making changing the bylaw to exempt local streets, but Hamilton said it isn’t that easy.
“A local road in the city could see 3,000 cars a day and a suburban local road may see only 200 cars a day. So you have exempted both of these local streets,” said Hamilton.
The bylaw’s existence surprised Laurie Smith whose son Xander Anderson plays ball on their street near Woodbine and Danforth avenues.
“It never occurred to me that one wouldn’t be allowed to play,” Smith said.
“I would like to see it rescinded on certain streets. It can’t be on a really busy arterial road where the speed limit is 60 but on our street the speed limit is 40,” Smith said.
She may get her wish sometime in the future. While the issue is dead for now, councillor Matlow plans to bring a motion to city council possibly as early as May.
“I will move a motion at council that is a reasonable response to staff concerns to develop a way for parents living on slow moving side streets to accept responsibility for their kids playing street hockey,” Matlow told theTown Crier.

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7 responses to “City keeps ban on street hockey

  1. Clifford J. Layne

    Nice picture that you paint, could be on a Currier and Ives Christmas card, parents watching their children play close to home from the porch. When they paint that card however, they better paint it in a small Ontario town, not Toronto. I grew up in small town Ontario, not here, so I did not have to compete with 3800 lbs. of steel every few minutes to play road hockey. Actually I played road hockey with my son on our street last summer for the first time and we were almost run over twice by speeding drivers and were sworn at a great number of times. Sorry, I also drive in Toronto and so I can speak from both sides; Toronto drivers alone are a good enough reason to keep the ban in force.

  2. Clifford J. Layne

    All of this could be of course a mute point, if the city put as much focus on using some of the asphalt that they always seem to have for tennis courts, basketball courts and bike paths and use it for the occasional ball hockey play are in the small parks found within all residential areas.

    • Yes. That would be helpful for kids to have a paved public place to play ball hockey especially is it s outdoors, accessible and free. But some parents and teens argue that nothing beats having kids playing outside their front door with other neighbourhood kids where parents can keep an eye on them from a porch until it is time to come in for dinner, homework or bedtime.

  3. Clifford J. Layne

    As I also remember from my childhood Kris, however, that was not 2011. If the city removes the ban, they are legally stating that they APPROVE the practice. This would fail any underwriter’s test for “due diligence”. I am not saying that we live in a more litigious society, this is not South Carolina. What I am saying is that if a child is severly injured or perishes, the city would be liable. We cannot understand what a parent will do during a time of grief unless we have been there. Also, you know what happens when the lawyers get involved. Trust me on this one, when my son was 8, he threw a “TDSB zero tolerance” snowball at a fellow student and caused an injury. TDSB action was to ensure that all of the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed within their “due diligence” policy; leaving me to face a civil suit in the millions from the parents of the injured child. The city would react in the same way.

    • Cliff, fair enough. Point taken. It’s a shame in my eyes that we need to keep a ban on ball sports on slow moving, side streets. But I know that streets of course are designed more for traffic not for people/kids playing in them.

  4. Clifford J. Layne

    A wise decision by the Works Committee. Taking away the “illegal” aspect of ball hockey or any other sport being played on city streets will not make the practice any more dangerous than it already is. It will not even increase the occurrence of kids playing ball hockey on the streets. They play now because the law is not enforced. HOWEVER, removing the law would leave the city subject to the potential of huge lawsuits if “heaven forbid” any child was injured while playing street hockey. The existing law is the city’s “due diligence” in fighting a law suit. Removing the law could potentially cost the city’s liability insurers millions of dollars.

    • Cliff, maybe it was a less litigious society when I was growing up in Toronto in the 1970s but the neighbourhood kids and I played tag on the street all the time. And there was no talk that I know of of ever suing the city and I don’t remember any kids ever coming even close to being hit by a car.

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