Be-Leaf it: Toronto cracks down on street hockey

A street hockey player stands in front of a net. Stock photo by Getty Images.

The Maple Leafs haven’t begun to fall yet and already Toronto is cracking down on hockey.

The hockey-cursed city is seeking to fine residents if they leave nets and other athletic equipment on streets.

That’s right. Instruct your kids not to leave those hockey nets, basketball hoops and other means of obstruction on local roadways. Gone are the days where Toronto neighbourhoods happily embraced the sounds of slapshots and bouncing balls.

It’s not far-fetched to wonder whether we are paving the way toward a world where kids will soon be asking Siri on their iPhones: “What is hockey?”

Approximately 20 residents in an upscale Toronto neighbourhood got an unexpected visit from bylaw officers last week, after someone made a complaint that their hockey nets were hindering traffic. Some residents received a notice of violation — a yellow document — instructing them to remove the nets as soon as possible. They were warned they would be fined $90 if they failed to comply.

Under s. 743 of the Toronto Municipal Code, titled Use of Streets and Sidewalks, encroachments may not “obstruct driveways, impede or pose a hazard to pedestrian or vehicle traffic.” It’s an offence for someone to contravene this chapter. There is no set fine for violators in the Code, but it references the Provincial Offences Act on how the fine may be established.

This coupled with s. 950 of the Code, which prohibits playing sports on roadways, really make it difficult to tell your kids: “get off your phones and go play outside.” Chapter 950 says: “No person shall play or take part in any game or sport upon a roadway and, where there are sidewalks, no person upon roller-skates, in-line skates or a skateboard, or riding in or by means of any coaster, scooter… shall go upon a roadway except for the purpose of crossing the road…”

Additionally, building an ice rink in the front or backyard may also run afoul of the city’s zoning bylaws that require such structures to be so many feet away from roadways.

Since Toronto does not allow playing sports on roadways or leaving encroachments in the form of fences and hockey equipment, if an accident occurs during a street game, the players and their parents will be liable for any damages. The city will not be liable, unless it could be shown that it failed to maintain the road properly.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, however, is frowning upon city officials who cracked down on hockey nets last week. Let’s hope he can come up with a more balanced scheme to keep young hockey enthusiasts happy and keep traffic impediments in check.

Until then, make sure your kids play sports in designated areas or clean up after themselves if they cannot resist some ball hockey in front of your house.

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