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Game on!

Kids playing street hockey aren't harming anyone, so why stop them?

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Ryan Van Horne is a Halifax journalist, playwright and documentary film director. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers from coast to coast and on his blog at ryanvanhorne.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanVanHorne.

Ryan Van Horne is a Halifax journalist, playwright and documentary film director. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers from coast to coast and on his blog at ryanvanhorne.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanVanHorne.

On a crisp, sunny day, a friend came home to her Armdale neighbourhood to see her kids playing street hockey. She thought it was a beautiful sight, but a cranky neighbour darkened the mood.

This neighbour didn’t like hockey, nor the sight of a hockey net.

This is a new level of grinchiness that goes beyond “the kids are too loud” or “they’re blocking traffic.” Apparently, there is an exterior decorating code that some are using to further curtail what was once Canada’s greatest pastime. But unless this neighbourhood has a restrictive covenant on outdoor hockey nets (don’t get any ideas, folks), this complaint only represents the closure of a mind.

Trying to change the hearts and minds the small minority of people who don’t like street hockey is a waste of time. Don’t call them names like “fuddy duddy,” because that means they’re old-fashioned and anybody who doesn’t like kids playing outside is not old-fashioned. They’re cranks or weirdos from another planet. Anyone who is old-fashioned would surely smile at the sight of kids playing outdoors.

So, rather than writing an open letter to people who don’t like street hockey or people who want to ban it, I’ll aim for a wider audience and offer some advice on how to deal with these people.

It can be a struggle to remain positive in the face of negativity, so here is a simple checklist to ask yourself when someone complains. Step 1: Ask yourself, are the kids damaging property? Step 2: Ask yourself, are they obstructing traffic and refusing to move?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, the kids need a lesson on playing nice and being considerate, not a visit from the police or a bylaw enforcement officer. Deal with it from the perspective of someone who wants them to continue playing, rather than stop. Maybe you could have a couple extra sticks at the ready be like the Mounties in Glovertown, Newfoundland, who achieved social media stardom in October when they joined in a game while on duty.

Kids being “too loud” while playing outside is also not a valid complaint. Like breathing, noise is part of kids playing. Any time kids play outside, you’re going to have noise. If they neighbourhood crank needs a demonstration of that, offer one—with a smile of course.

Many kids these days spend too much time in front of screens and if we need a bylaw to govern how kids play, it should be to reduce screen time or ban it outright on nice days. Playing outside is great for kids. It gives them exercise and teaches them social skills such as how to get along and play well with others.

Despite NHL legends Sidney Crosby and Bobby Orr touting the benefits of street hockey, many Canadian cities have bylaws about street hockey. They are centred on the issue of obstructing traffic and, thankfully, they’re rarely enforced because there is something built right into the DNA of the kids who play it.

They want as few interruptions as possible. Nobody likes having to shout “Car!” and move nets to let motorists by. If you’re the goalie you don’t like having to drag the net over to the curb. If you’re owner of the net, you especially don’t like it if the person moving the net drags it and doesn’t lift it. The tattered mesh of street hockey nets blowing in the wind is a testament to lazy goalies and a poorly chosen location.

When I was a kid, I played on a street-hockey team called the Breckenridge Bruins. We played games against teams from neighbouring streets such as the Woodbridge Wings or the Mayfair Maple Leafs. I even got my start as a journalist by writing a column for the team newspaper.

Kids who want to play hockey face enough pressures. Organized hockey can be too expensive for some and, thanks to global warming, there are fewer outdoor rinks and ponds suitable for pick-up games. Those that do manage to freeze, don’t last as long. Society suffers more from young people wasting a beautiful day in front of a screen than by playing street hockey.

Let the kids play.

 

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