Image by thelastminute.
You read that correctly – last week the RCMP was called in to break up a game of road hockey in Enfield, a suburb of Halifax, Nova Scotia. From the Halifax Chronicle Herald [emphasis mine]:
Ryan Jefferies and his buddies enjoyed playing road hockey almost every free minute in front of Ryan’s house here. But anonymous complaints recently put an end to that.
Ryan’s mom, Debbie Jefferies, said Monday she has no idea who complained or why, but the games came to an end last Thursday when an RCMP officer showed up at their door.
“He just said they had received two complaints, I believe, of the boys playing hockey . . . and he just said they had to stop playing,“she said. “That was the end of it. It broke my heart.”
Jefferies, who wrote a letter to the editor of The Chronicle Herald about the issue, said she was thrilled that Ryan, 12, and eight or nine of his pals spent many an hour playing road hockey instead of vegging out in front of the TV or on the computer.
Const. Tamu Bracken, an RCMP spokeswoman, said police can move kids off the road under the section of the provincial Motor Vehicle Act that deals with pedestrians failing to yield.
Bracken said officers know that youngsters enjoy the activity, but police are concerned about safety and prefer they play elsewhere.
This story is part of a disheartening trend, which includes an Ottawa-area
school which recently banned balls from the playground, and
numerous schools in both North America and the UK which have banned
bikes, skateboards, and scooters altogether due to safety concerns. The good news, however, is that the issue seems to be sparking outrage among the citizenry, including Nova Scotia Transport Minister Bill Estabrooks:
“It’s a tradition in this country, and it should be allowed to continue,” Estabrooks said at Province House.
“Do you want them playing ball hockey out in public, or do you want them hanging around in the back of the store?”
Amen. Just about everyone that I’ve spoken to agrees with Minister Estabrooks, and realizes that this was a
ridiculous thing to do, and an obvious waste of police resources, especially given the money that Nova Scotia is investing in promoting childhood physical activity. Some could argue that the kids would be better off playing in a parking lot rather than the road, which is true. But most kids don’t live near empty parking lots, and as is noted in the Chronicle Herald article, it’s not so easy to carry a hockey net, sticks, and goalie gear more than a few hundred meters, especially when you’re a 12-year old. Believe me – like all stereotypical Canadian youth, I spent hours and hours (and
hours) playing road hockey with my buddies in a court at the bottom of
my street, and that gear is not meant for commuting. And don’t even think about carrying a hockey net on your bike – again, trust me on this.
And of course some could argue that the road is meant for cars, not kids. In legal terms, this is obviously true. But I’ve never seen anyone start up a road-hockey game on a busy thoroughfare; these games almost always take place suburban in courts and quiet side streets (as it appears was the case in Enfield). Why? Frankly, because kids aren’t stupid. But just as important, it is because every time a car comes by you have to move the nets out of the way, and this can really slow down the action. To see exactly what I mean, check out this classic clip from Wayne’s World (the clip also nicely illustrates why you shouldn’t bike on the sidewalk, but that’s a topic for another post):
This issue obviously cuts a little deep for me personally, because I remember exactly how depressing it can be to have a grumpy neighbour ruin your dreams of road hockey supremacy. And as someone who spends their days researching and advocating the importance of childhood physical activity, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to hear that someone has gone out of their way to prevent kids from being active. As the Nova Scotia Ball Hockey Association (yes, that is a real organization) has noted:
[Ball hockey] is one of the cheapest sports to play; it provides
excellent exercise, a great way to meet new friends and it is a lot of
What more could you ask for?
So, what to do? Well, if you live in the Halifax area, I’d suggest you contact your city councillor or MLA and tell them what you think of the situation. When the school here in Ottawa banned balls from the playground, the public outcry was enough to spur a reasonable resolution, and it is almost certainly capable of doing the same in Halifax. Nova Scotia is usually among the most progressive provinces when it comes to initiatives related to physical activity, and it would be great to see them use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to promote childhood physical activity, even when it makes life slightly less convenient. I think we can all agree that these kids should be able to yell “Game on!” without the police knocking on their doors.