Hockey sisters support street-reclaiming pilot
Local women would like to see StreetPlay project introduced in North York by Jo-Anne Craine
It was on the road in front of their home near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue that the five Asmi sisters learned to play ball hockey. They often played together against the neighbourhood boys in a game of shinny or two, and that has only made them better.
Husnah, Haleemah, Sajidah, Nuha and Asiyah now play competitively on the same team for the Toronto Women’s Ball Hockey League. In August they played together in the Ontario provincial championships for the second year in a row, this time making it to the semifinals.
“We’re very familiar with the way each of us plays and what our strengths and capabilities are,” said one of the sisters, Husnah.
Until about a year ago, the sisters could have been fined by the City of Toronto for impeding traffic or for keeping hockey nets and equipment curbside outside their home. Fortunately for them, and other ball hockey enthusiasts across Toronto, the ban was successfully appealed in 2016. Now, there is even a pilot project happening in Midtown that allows residents to block off access to their street for a few hours each week to promote outdoor play.
Deb Doncaster, president of Earth Day Canada, created the StreetPlay project and secured an Ontario Trillium Grant of $75,000 to develop and implement it. The pilot started in May and continues to the end of October. The research findings and recommendations will be presented to Toronto City Council after that.
“It’s a necessary intervention I hope will shift the culture [in neighbourhoods],” said Doncaster.
She said she’d like to move toward “a child-friendly city or a play charter, where the invisibility of children comes to the forefront.”
Husnah said she, for one, would like to see the StreetPlay project rolled out to more neighbourhoods, like hers in North York.
“I don’t really see a lot of kids playing on the street any more. That [StreetPlay] could help encourage it. It would be great,” she said. “[Outside play] helps to create a sense of community and closeness to your neighbours.”
In the meantime, the Asmi sisters plan to continue playing ball hockey with the support of their community.
Husnah said she hopes to start a team at Ryerson, where she studies, to encourage the sport. And she’d like to see more girls get into ball hockey on neighbourhood roads.
“I don’t really see a lot of kids playing on the street any more.”