Skip to main content

Kids play street hockey on Norris Crescent in Toronto on March 14, 2012.

Toronto's city council voted to lift a ban on street hockey in the city on Friday, scoring a win for fans of the popular community sport.

Street hockey is welcomed in many other major cities but was prohibited for years by Toronto's bylaws for safety reasons.

Debate over the sport reached a crescendo this week as city council readied to consider scrapping the controversial ban.

On Monday, Ontario's new minister of children and youth services sent an open letter to city councillors asking that they vote to strike down the ban.

But city staff wanted council to keep the prohibition in place, citing safety and possible liability if anyone gets hurt or if private property is damaged.

The majority of city councillors, however, eventually voted to scrap the ban, clearing the way for neighbourhood games of shinny.

"Game on! City Council has lifted ban on street hockey," Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted after the vote. "Hockey is Canada."

Michael Coteau, the provincial minister who had weighed into the discussion, also expressed his approval.

"Victory!" he tweeted. "Excited to hear that the City of Toronto has lifted its ban on street hockey! Hoping others follow."

While street usage is governed by municipal bylaws, not provincial legislation, Coteau had urged the city to set an example for other jurisdictions that prohibit street hockey. He had lauded the health benefits of the game and noted that social skills, compromise and teamwork can also be learned through sport.

The fight against the street hockey ban was spearheaded by Coun. Christin Carmichael Greb after residents in her ward received violation notices from the city last fall for having hockey and basketball nets on the roadside.

After looking into the issue and finding that a bylaw banning street hockey dated at least as far back as 1978, Carmichael Greb set out to change the rules around the sport.

"Kids are playing street hockey and basketball now anyway. I would rather have them do that without the fear of being fined or getting in trouble for it," she said.

"We have big problems now with obesity rates in children and to put things in place that prevent them from being active I think is something that we really need to look at."

With the ban now lifted, residents can play street hockey on local roads with a speed limit of 40 kilometres or less, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. during daylight hours.

The debate around the issue appeared to have struck a chord with many who saw the street hockey ban as inhibiting a famous Canadian pastime.

"Most of us grew up playing hockey in the streets and most people know you yell 'car' if there's a car coming and you get out of the way, then you come back and play again once it has gone by," Carmichael Greb said.

"It's something that most of us have grown up playing and it's part of the fabric of Canada."

The National Hockey League Players' Association was among those who praised the vote, tweeting: "Great to see Toronto city council lift the ban on street hockey! Game on!"

Interact with The Globe