Friday, March 26, 2010

Banning Street Hockey Dimishes Us All.

This week's news story that a predominantly Anglo suburb ticketed a resident for playing street hockey with his son and a group of kids has really ticked me off. It's an example of the over-regulation that should not exist in our society, especially in Quebec.

It's something we expect outside our province, in Ottawa or other some-such stuffed shirt community that expounds a tight-assed, white bread mentality, where fun is a four lettered word.

But it happened here in Quebec, the land of laissez-faire, where jaywalking, running red lights and ignoring crosswalks are all accepted practices. It's truly disappointing. It tarnishes our hitherto well-deserved reputation for enjoying a certain joie-de-vivre.

For those of you who haven't heard, a resident of the staid Anglophone community of Dollard-des Ormeaux, was ticketed when he defied a community cop by telling him that he would not stop the game of street hockey.

The city explained that a neighbour had complained about the noise emanating from the group of kids playing in the street and so they had to act.

Every neighbourhood has that same idiot neighbour that makes life difficult for kids. My foil as a child was old man Mr. Brown, who lived at the corner of the street and who tormented us at every opportunity.

Things, haven't changed in all these years, there will always be a Mr. Brown in some form or another. The cops should actually ticket these idiots for being such Grinches. At least Mr. Brown taught me a valuable lesson which I have always lived by - Don't hassle little kids, even if they're annoying. This is the time of their lives, so grin and bear it!

And so the $75 ticket is a testament to the over-regulated society that we have created, one that values Grandma's desire to watch Oprah, in peace and quiet, over the rights of kids to have fun in the street.

Noise is part of the city. Sirens, airplanes, dogs barking, tires screeching, church bells and kids playing are all part of the urban landscape. Those who seek solitude can escape to the country, but the city belongs to the people.

When I was a kid, way back in the day, street hockey was the great equalizer. I grew up in that infamous St. Urbain neighborhood in Montreal, of Moredchai Richler fame, where hockey was one of the first indoctrinations into Canadian life for immigrant children.
Back then, it was was the Anglos, Immigrants, and the 'Yids' versus the 'Frenchies.' (Yes we talked like that, and nobody cared) More often than not, there weren't enough 'Frenchies' to go around and so we had to trade a few players.
No matter, after counting out ten paces to measure the space for the goals, we deposited scrunched up jackets or a lost galosh to denote goalposts (no we didn't have nets) and the two players who owned  baseball mitts were obliged to be the goalies.
We played and we played, using that famous red, white and blue rubber ball that everyone, over forty remembers. When cars came by, they slowed down to a crawl respectfully and those who dared to honk were booed unmercifully. The police drove by all the time and smiled and joked with us. One time a police sergeant parked his car and borrowed a stick to take a few 'shootout' shots at our goalie. We went home when it got dark and our parents never worried.
Nobody ever got hit by a car and none of the neighbours complained about the noise.

Nobody wore any type of defensive equipment and masks and helmets were unheard of. But in all the years, I only saw one injury and that was a broken leg.
We learned to curse in French,Yiddish and assorted European languages.  'Idiotsky'! 'Putsch'! 'Tabarnac!' 'Pootsa!', but more importantly, we also learned to live together.
Street hockey was our first opportunity as kids to organize something for ourselves without adult supervision.

Great memories, it was the best of times....

Too bad that we have become a nation of sissies, all of us, Francophone and Anglophones combined.
We live in a world where street hockey is no longer acceptable because it annoys neighbours and violates the never-proved theory that even the safest suburban street is too 'dangerous' for play.

Today, we over-supervise our children and take exaggerated precautions, we consider everything too dirty, too unsafe and too dangerous for our precious little ones. Yet we over medicate and over treat our children with antibiotics and tranquilizers and think we are doing a bang up job raising our kids because we keep them 'safe.'
When I grew up nobody had 'Epipens', inhalers, nor was anybody lactose intolerant. Asthma was as rare as could be and nobody gave their kids Ritalin. We didn't eat junk food because it didn't exist and at any rate nobody could afford it. Drinking a Pepsi or an Orange Crush was a rare and delicious treat.

Sometimes less is more.

Today instead of letting kids organize and play amongst themselves, we organize sanitized  'play dates."
I much prefer my mother's attitude when she admonished me to; "Get away from that television set and go outside and play in the street.  Don't come back 'til six....."



  1. Now don't be too hard on Ottawa. I live in a suburb of the city and there are kids playing street hockey and basketball near my house all the time.

  2. My father played street hockey when he was a kid growing up in Pointe-St-Charles during the depression. Sometimes they used frozen horse manure as a puck because they were so poor. One of the kids he played street and ice hockey with went on to become a famous goalie and hall of famer in the NHL.