Street hockey bylaw rarely enforced

By Steve Dominey

An Ottawa bylaw might forbid street hockey on local roads, but the director of bylaw services says the city won’t be calling any major penalties on kids who choose to break the rules.

“Essentially, road hockey is illegal in Ottawa, but we’re not proactively going out and looking to shut down the games,” says Susan Jones, director of

bylaw services for the City of Ottawa.

Ottawa’s traffic and parking bylaw is accompanied by a provision in Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act that outlaws game-playing on all public streets in the province.

“The intent is we don’t have people being run down by cars or have vehicles getting in accidents,” says Jones.

While safety is the main concern, she says the city receives about 200 street hockey

complaints each year, most stemming from issues unrelated to safety.

“The complaints are usually about compromising or respecting the property of others,” says Jones.

“You’ve got hockey pucks or balls going into people’s yards and gardens, or hitting their cars and causing damage.”

She says the complaints, which mainly come in the spring when the snow has melted and the National Hockey League playoffs have begun, are dealt with reasonably.

“We resolve the situations by having parents and neighbours talk to each other and work it out themselves,” she adds.

She says a situation has never escalated like a recent Hamilton story that garnered national


In the high-profile case, a woman charged her neighbour, a father who routinely played hockey and football on the street with his two kids, for breaking a similar street bylaw.

The judge dismissed the charge that hockey and other sports played on the street by children are disruptive, but

noted she was not trying to set a national precedent.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a charge laid in Ottawa or any of the former cities,” says Jones.

Ottawa Police Services Staff Sgt. Leo Janveau also views street hockey as harmless when played safely.

“If the kids are not bothering anyone or aren’t in danger of getting hit by a car, chances are we’ll just leave it be,” says Janveau.

“If there’s a safety issue, the officer may intervene and move the kids to a dead-end, schoolyard or parking lot.”

Somerset Coun. Elisabeth Arnold calls street hockey a non-issue in Centretown. “(My office) hasn’t had any concerns one way or the other, either from people who are concerned with others playing hockey or by the players themselves,” she says.

As a member of the city’s health, recreation and social services committee, Arnold agrees with how the street hockey bylaw is being enforced.

“I think people should be able to play games on streets as long as they are safe, that’s the bottomline,” says Arnold.

“As someone who used to play on the street out in front of my house as a kid, I can appreciate the attraction.”