Montreal dad to fight fine for loud street hockey game
Children and adults play street hockey outside the Dollard-Des-Ormeaux Civic Centre as a form of protest on Monday, March 22, 2010.
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 23, 2010 7:02PM EDT
MONTREAL - After being fined in a dispute during a street-hockey game, a Montreal-area dad is wrapping himself in the flag of Canada's national pastime and fighting back against city hall.
David Sasson is contesting his $75 fine in court, conducting media interviews, and launching a petition calling on his suburban municipality to change its bylaws.
But city hall says the dispute has little to do with hockey -- and everything to do with the fact that he literally asked for a fine when city officials showed up to warn him about a noise violation.
They say players were making enough noise during a game that a neighbour complained, then, when a municipal worker showed up and asked that the game be moved to a nearby park, Sasson said he'd rather be fined.
Street hockey is technically illegal in the suburban municipality of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, as it is in many other places across Canada, but like most places the bylaw is never enforced.
Sasson wants the bylaw changed. And he's contesting the fine.
Sasson's cause has picked up steam since the Mar. 13 incident and has been advanced through the social-networking website Facebook.
Sasson has said in media interviews that he was unaware a bylaw was on the books, but that he would have broken the rule anyway. He said he would have understood if his residential street were actually a major artery.
"It's a bit ridiculous," Sasson said in one interview.
"Kids should not be cooped up in the house," he said in another. Sasson said his battle is not about money, but rather about promoting a healthy lifestyle for children.
While it's a pretty common sight on most suburban Canadian streets, the noise and public-safety issues related to road hockey has created controversy in municipalities across the country.
Halifax considered a bylaw in 2006, which prompted Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby to intervene.
And, in 2004, Bobby Orr did the same in a newspaper interview where he protested a proposed street-hockey ban in Rothesay, N.B.
The Ontario Highway Traffic Act technically outlaws all game-playing on public streets. Some cities also have such a rule on the books, but it's only enforced on the rare occasions when someone complains.
The Montreal suburb insisted Tuesday that hockey was not the cause of the intervention.
Dollard's director-general said the hockey bylaw is never enforced. In fact, he said the incident two weeks ago marked the first time since the bylaw was enacted 32 years ago.
But Jack Benzaquen said the fine was levied because of a noise violation after a neighbour complained to say the loud play had been a nuisance on a number of occasions.
More than a dozen adults and kids were playing on the street.
When a municipal patroller showed up and told the group it risked being fined unless it moved the game to a nearby park, Benzaquen said, the hockey dad said he'd rather be fined.
"He just told the public security officer to give him the ticket and that the game would continue, but the patroller explained to him that it didn't work that way," Benzaquen said.
Benzaquen said even police were called and the patroller, caught in a situation where he had no choice, finally had to fine the dad.
Benzaquen said public-security officers aren't in the business of going around targeting kids playing in the street.
But he added that in this case, there was no compromise and little choice after the woman who filed the complaint refused to back down.
He added that the law is in accordance with Quebec's highway safety code.
For his part, Sasson says he didn't stop the game out of principle.
About 200 people attended a protest near city hall, organized by Sasson's supporters and a local radio station on Monday.