Toronto councillor wants road hockey bylaw revamped

A Toronto councillor wants to create a process to exempt streets from an "inane" bylaw that prohibits playing hockey on the road.
Coun. Josh Matlow wants to create a process for parents to make streets, or portions of streets, exempt from a bylaw that bans people from playing hockey and other ball games on them. (CBC)

A Toronto councillor wants to create a process to exempt streets from a bylaw that prohibits playing hockey on the road.

At the moment, a long-standing bylaw bans hockey and other ball games from being played on city streets, under threat of a $55 fine.

But Ward 22 St. Paul's Coun. Josh Matlow wants to change that, by making it possible for parents to get clearance for their kids to play street hockey, where it is appropriate to do so.

Coun. Josh Matlow said the existing bylaw is too litigious and does not reflect the reality that kids are already playing ball hockey on city streets. (CBC)

Matlow said he first brought a motion to city council a few months ago, after he heard of a case in his community where children were kicked off the street when playing ball hockey.

"I think that it's inane to have a bylaw on the books that prohibits kids from doing what we know they’re doing anyway, that frankly most parents are actually encouraging them to do, rather than be in front of a computer or a TV screen," Matlow told CBC News.

Matlow said he came to council asking for its support to find a way — at the very least — to allow for slow-moving neighbouhood streets to be exempt from the bylaw.

He said city staff have come up with the following criteria that streets, or sections of streets, would have to meet if an exemption were to be granted:

  • A speed limit of 40 km/h or less.
  • Daily traffic of fewer than 1,000 vehicles.
  • Safe sight-lines for traffic.
  • The support of 80 per cent of households on the street for an exemption

The public works committee will consider the idea next month.

"I think the current bylaw is far too litigious, it’s written by lawyers and it doesn’t really reflect a Canadian pastime, which is youth playing ball hockey on city streets," Matlow said.

However, his push to legalize street hockey has some councillors wondering why he is going to so much trouble over a bylaw that is rarely, if ever, enforced.

"I think it works fine the way it is, to be quite honest," said Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, when asked about the issue.

Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park Coun. Gord Perks said he thought that trying to get street hockey permitted on selected streets is "a little bit like creating a solution where there isn’t a problem."

However, Matlow said that "if a bylaw doesn’t reflect the reality of that street, there needs to be some way to have an exemption."

Furthermore, Matlow said that if the bylaw isn’t enforced, as some critics suggest, "it begs the question why do we have a bylaw that isn’t enforced and nobody likes in the first place at all?"

Perks said the police currently use appropriate discretion when enforcing the bylaw, a system he believes is working well.

"Right now, the police are not scooping kids off the street playing ball hockey," he said.

"I did it when I was a kid, my kids did it, there are kids everywhere out enjoying our streets right now."