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David Sasson, centre, received a $75 fine after refusing to break up a street hockey game in Montreal. (Robert Skinner/THE CANADIAN PRESS/La Presse-Robert Skinner)
David Sasson, centre, received a $75 fine after refusing to break up a street hockey game in Montreal. (Robert Skinner/THE CANADIAN PRESS/La Presse-Robert Skinner)

Father vows to fight street hockey ticket Add to ...

The good old street hockey game is again under attack - and it's fighting back.

David Sasson was playing ball hockey with a dozen kids on Choquette Street in the Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux when the police blew the whistle.

A neighbour had filed a complaint under long-standing municipal bylaws, similar to those in most Canadian cities, which make it illegal to play any game on a street.

"I couldn't believe it, I had no idea hockey on the street was illegal," said Mr. Sasson, who is the father of two boys, aged 7 and 10, who were players.

Officers watched the game for 45 minutes on an unseasonably warm March Saturday. They twice called the woman who made the complaint, asking her to drop the matter, according to Mr. Sasson. A municipal official said the woman, who didn't relent, was just tired of the noise. Mr. Sasson refused to break up the game and was handed a $75 ticket.

The 42-year-old sent in his not-guilty plea a few days ago. He intends to fight the ticket to defend what he considers to be a national birthright. He also wants to out the neighbour, who he says has never complained to him directly.

"We live in Canada, we have the right to play hockey," said Mr. Sasson, who staged a fun protest game in a city hall parking lot on Monday. Local police and bylaw officers played.

Road shinny may be an unofficial national past-time, particularly in the spring when ice melts and playoffs start, but there is no right in Canada to play street hockey. In fact, a patchwork of provincial highway safety laws and municipal bylaws outlaw road play of any kind in most places.

When neighbourliness breaks down, the law takes over - usually to great uproar.

Hockey legends Dave (Tiger) Williams, Bobby Orr and Sidney Crosby have risen to the defence of street hockey. Mr. Williams offered to pay legal fees for a family in Port Coquitlam, B.C., facing a court injunction 10 years ago. More recently, Mr. Orr and Mr. Crosby intervened to oppose local bylaws that would have hindered street hockey in the Maritimes.

Controversies have popped up in Ottawa, Kingston, Ont. and Calgary as disputes became public or laws were modified.

But the biggest brouhaha hit Hamilton, Ont., in 2001 when a neighbour grew tired of having balls pelt her car and flower garden. She pressed a complaint all the way to municipal court. Nadja Ciuriak had been locked in a six-year disagreement with her neighbour, Gary Kotar, and his street-playing kids.

A justice of the peace tossed the case out in 2002, but it had become a cause célèbre. A rally was organized in Winnipeg in support of street hockey. Ms. Ciuriak received threats and the story made it to the United States, where such disputes often involve stickball, the street version of baseball.

Sam Merulla, a Hamilton city councillor who took up hockey's cause, felt sorry for Ms. Ciuriak and had to call for calm.

"There has to be a consensus among neighbours that they want to have a game on their street. If someone wants to spoil it, they can, it's their right," said Mr. Merulla, who grew up playing street hockey. "Some people are too sensitive. But they usually can negotiate common ground."

The Hamilton dispute was eventually settled among neighbours when the game moved up the street. Zoé Bayouk, acting mayor of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, said Mr. Sasson should have resolved the situation with a similar compromise.

"If she'd come out and opened the door and said 'Guys, I don't feel well, do you mind moving,' we would have, who cares," Mr. Sasson said. "But the fact she went the route she did, I went the route I did."

Ms. Bayouk also chided Mr. Sasson for setting a bad example in front of the kids by disregarding the bylaw and officers enforcing it. He could have taken the high road, she said.

"This should be settled among neighbours, but this didn't happen. It should be a two-way street," Ms. Bayouk said.

Follow on Twitter: @Perreaux

 

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