I grew up playing street hockey in Chomedey, Laval, Quebec, where playing the game was almost a passage of youth. We would haul out our “2 ton”, slapped together nets, made out of two by fours with wire fence meshing. Most of the time, the nets were wobbly and lopsided. But nonetheless; they were as much a part of the game as were the players.
We really didn’t have defined teams, in as much as, who ever showed up; played. Sometimes we had odd numbers, therefore, one team played with more players than the other. Or, sometimes there would be too many good players on one team, so the other team would get an extra player or two, to sort of even things out.
When I played, Street Hockey had no real rules, other than the ones we made up on the spot. And no referees. We ran an awful lot, bumped each other. But; never threw a check. And everyone got to play.
From time to time, our group of players would either challenge, or be challenged by another group of players from a different street or another part of the community. And off we would go, if we were the “visiting” team, schlepping our “2 ton” flimsy net with us.
As kids, we played from early spring to summer, and from Autumn to winter when we weren’t playing football, before the winter snow had finally come. Playing Street Hockey was marvelous for a host of reasons:
We stayed close to home where our parents could keep an eye on us. Everyone played, regardless of skill levels or how many kids showed up. No one needed any equipment except for a hockey stick. And sometimes, even the hockey sticks were nothing more than what was left of a stick after the blade had been broken off.
There were never any fights. And from time to time, players would change teams in mid game if one team was too “outclassed” by the other. Where in sports today, can you find anything that even comes remotely close to exhibiting this type of class, comradery and openness to all who want to participate? The simple answer is that you can not.
Street Hockey might actually be the most quintessential, coherent, Canadian sport ever. More so than ice hockey and lacrosse. But all is not well on the Street Hockey front.
There is a hullabaloo of sorts in the city of Hamilton, Ontario. An elderly woman is upset because the ball “occasionally” winds up on her front lawn and in her flower bed. The case has become such an aggravation, that it went to local court where the neighbor’s complaint was dismissed on more or less a technicality.
Even the media has made it into an unquestionably national story; covered in print, on radio and on television. The general consensus of the media: the lady complainant ought to simply lighten up. As you can read in today’s (January 8, 2002) editorial section of the National Post. After-all; who is this bitter old lady to come between a truly national sport and a boy’s right of passage?
In truth, the lady is right. Absolutely right!
When we played Street Hockey, our ball also used to fly off in unintended directions, and very often land on someone’s property. Most of the time it was no big deal, and when we retrieved our ball, we were always very careful not to trample the property where the ball landed. And more than that. If the person who lived at the house where the ball would sometimes go, was unhappy at us coming onto his/her property, we simply moved our nets and play a few doors down. Again, no big deal.
However; in this case, adults have become involved, and the neighbor’s right to enjoy her property, without people coming upon it has been violated. And that violation is being promoted and defended by the father of one of the Street Hockey players. I can’t imagine a worse lesson that he can be teaching to his son and other children.
I also can’t imagine what the press is thinking by siding with the father of the player, and making the neighbor out to be the Grinch who stole Street Hockey.
Not only is this unfair to the elderly lady. It is patently unfair to the children who play Street Hockey. The message the adults and media is sending is simple. “Respect for other peoples’ rights and property are meaningless in your pursuit of fun”.
This is totally opposite from what we learned about good sportsmanship when we started playing Street Hockey more than 40 years ago.
The media, the courts and parents are on the wrong side of the game.