Road hockey opponents missing the point

A few days ago, Toronto Star columnist Jim Coyle wrote a piece on the issue of road hockey, debating it’s merits and wondering why politicians are considering banning the great Canadian tradition. Even though it’s not an ice hockey story, I felt this is an important subject to bring up with the HockeyTradeRumours.com community, because I’m sure many of us had played road hockey (like I did) and because so many of our hockey heroes played the game to get better at their ice game.For those of you who don’t know, there was a Hamilton court case back in November where Nadia Ciuriak defeated Gary Kotar on the issue of road hockey, with a “cease and desist” order on Kotar and his son Ryan prohibiting them from playing road hockey in front of her house. Naturally, many people- like me- have been mystified and disgusted over the issue, wondering why anyone would ever have a problem with the great Canadian game. Legally, road hockey doesn’t stand much of a chance because there’s only so far tradition can go and it can’t go too far if there is a risk of property damage. However, socially, the road hockey opponents are missing the point: it is a great Canadian tradition and shouldn’t even be up for consideration for banishment, let alone actual banishment.

The first question to ask is why this issue even went to court. Many adults and children alike wondered in bemusement to the Star why the Kotars and Ciuriak couldn’t resolve this on their own, “like good neighbours should”, according to road hockey player Tyler Taberner in his letter. Taberner says his parents taught him to always respect their neighbour’s property, and it is a teaching many of us in Canada- including myself have been taught and I’m sure even 10-year-old Ryan Kotar got that same message from his parents. After reading that same passage from Coyle, I came to that same realization myself: this is more of a matter between neighbours and not between judges, and I can tell you that Ryan and Gary would never have wanted to damage any of Ciuriak’s property. I could see a problem developing if the Kotars had willfully damaged Ciuriak’s property and/or even after damaging the property, they wouldn’t claim responsibility for it. That would be a case for the courts because the Kotars are witholding something that Ciuriak really deserves, but since I don’t get that impression from the case, this seems to be a non-issue: no one is willfully or neglectfully damaging property, and I’m sure that if damage was done, I’m sure those involved would willfully pay to have it restored.

Of course, Ciuriak and her few supporters (believe me, there are very few) don’t seem to think that way. I remember she wrote to the Star saying that she did everything in good intentions and doesn’t want to be viewed as “the enemy” as some had called her. I too believe she’s a great person and by no means deserves to be maltreated, but I still don’t agree with her stance. Another writer wrote to the Star saying that road hockey players were a nuisance, saying they obstruct his path while driving, and slow him down even when they move out of the way. He’s also the same person who wrote to the Star saying he can’t watch hockey because he can’t stand the fact that grown men contort themselves like cavemen in engaging in hockey fights. Of course, it’s easy for a non-hockey fan to say that because he doesn’t like hockey, so his views have been obscured in bias and thus we cannot consider his point fully. Even so, road hockey is rarely ever played on main roads where all the traffic is located (if at all), and all the housing neighbourhoods it is played on people usually don’t drive on anyway unless they’re getting out of their driveway. Also, how long does it take for kids to move out of the way? A couple of seconds? I remember learning in a driving theory course (getting my driver’s license) about the value of patience, and I remember the teacher, repeatedly saying “even though I’m in a hurry I can wait a few seconds”, telling us patience is much more important than hastiness if it results in safety. A few seconds won’t hurt anyone’s drive, and, through simple logic, you can understand that, as a driver, you’ll rarely ever get into those situations because the game is almost never played on main roads.

What else can the game bring? According to some road hockey supporters, it is a great way to expend energy and exercise, and, without it, according to Paul Doherty in his letter, Canadians would turn into “big, fat, lazy good-for-nothing slobs”, and wrote both in opening and closing “I am Canadian!”. Doherty is right that it is an excellent way to generate exercise, but you can exercise in so many other ways as well, plus there are several Canadians who are out of shape (though no one is “good for nothing”), even with road hockey. A better point is raised by Terry Groves, who said that the great hockey players got great by practising, and since winter is getting warmer, there is less ice for ice hockey, so road hockey is a necessity. Vanessa Carpino wrote that this should have been resolved by “reasonable people without going to court”, and said that since road hockey is played increasingly by adults as well, she says the game allows those who can’t afford hockey equipment to play hockey. Bobby Orr himself also worked on the campaign for road hockey, and Kelsey Kappel had a good reason why: no stats, no leagues, and, most importantly, no parents. Danielle Danbridge said that respect here is tantamount and if both sides are respectful more can be done.

Those are all great points but there is something Coyle and his letter writers had missed: the fact that it is one of Canada’s few traditions. North America is one of the most tradition-less societies I’ve ever known, and, coming from an Italian who’s experienced Italian culture and known what it is like in the cultureseque European continent, Canada and the U.S. are “boring” compared to the rest of the world. Sorry, but I have to say that, and it is appalling to even note that as a Canadian citizen. However, Canada has a few definitive traditions that seperate it from the U.S., which has very little (if any), and one of those is ball hockey and hockey itself in general, one of Canada’s last bastions of culture.

My main problem with the North American society is an increasing urge to do away with traditions in order to “improve” society, creating an utillitarian, ultra-technological but very drab society. Quebec City is probably Canada’s (and by extension, North America’s) most picturesque cities but any town in Europe could trump it any day. Most Canadian cities are filled with ultra-conservatively designed buildings and houses, all with the purpose of utillitarianism and not that of beauty and grace. Europeans, on the other hand, always want to ensure their society remains beautiful because that is what their tradition dictates, and, considering Europe’s (recorded) history is about three or four times longer than North America’s, they have a lot to draw back on. North American society, as a whole, seems less appreciative of tradition than Europeans, and, considering that the early North Americans were more willing to brush aside the Natives instead of embracing them back when the foundations of Canada and the U.S. were set, history here hasn’t set a good precendent. This is where road hockey fits in: as one of the last bastions of Canadian culture, it should be kept and nurtured because it is so dear to Canada and is one of the last definitive Canadian cultural item, not “kicked to the curb” for utillitarin purposes. North American culture has taken too much of a beating from utillitarian politicans and businesspeople, but, if we raise our voices together, we can put a stop to it, so no one else will ever have to go through what the Kotars and Ciuriak went through on those demanding November days.

-DG

(Source: Toronto Star)

World Issues Page announcement: my article has changed. It now deals with high school and how the proposed idea of bringing in uniforms does nothing to help the situation. You can read more about it here or at the “DG’s World Issues” link under the “HTR Affiliate Sites” section just above the link to canucks.com.