Leaside Girls Hockey a symptom of lack of ice rinks: Toronto city council

by Bradley Featherstone

Dec 2, 2009

After three hours of debating a lack of equitable ice time at Toronto’s eight privately run rinks in the council chamber Tuesday night, this game is going into overtime.

A referral motion set forward by Coun. Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) to have this issue heard by the community development and recreation committee at a Jan. 8, 2010 meeting failed to pass by a vote of 24-14, leaving this issue up in the air for another day.

Stintz told council Tuesday that other user groups such as figure skaters and skating clubs, mostly consisting of girls, would be hurt if the council made a rushed decision without their input. She suggested these other groups would be able to represent themselves at the Jan. 8 meeting so they could deal with the issue of equitable ice time collectively, instead of pitting boys against girls.

“They need to be able to make their case heard at the community and recreational development committee, because that’s where these issues should be heard,” Stintz argued.

This all started when the Leaside Girls Hockey Association president, Ron Baker, sent a letter to Mayor David Miller on Oct. 30, threatening a human rights complaint of sexual discrimination against the city. Their argument was that girls aren’t being allowed to play in some of the city run arenas.

But councilors argued this isn’t a boys vs. girls battle: the real problem appears to be a lack of ice rinks in Toronto, as no new rinks have been built in the city in over 20 years.

“We had Ted Reeve arena last year, they had given us ice at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings for house league. They took that away and said “Here, you guys should go over to Beaches at the same time’, well that’s great but 10 a.m. now on the Beaches there’s adult hockey there,” said Frank Becker, as he tied up the skates of a young girl on the sidelines of the ice rink at Nathan Phillip Square. Becker is a manager of several teams in the Leaside league and has a couple of daughters who  play in it as well. “When guys like my age are playing hockey, for instance, let’s say at Forest Hill at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning  it’s not right, no one can tell me that that’s right, it’s wrong.”

This lack of ice time in some arenas  is not only affecting girls. The Greater Toronto Hockey League had to turn down 30 teams who applied to  join its league this year because of a lack of available ice.

The issue of equitable ice time only concerns the eight privately run ice rinks. The 40 other ice rinks in the city are owned and run by the city and already follow a strict ice allocation policy that states, “equitable distribution for males, females, persons with disabilities, etc.”

The goal of the original motion set forward by Coun. Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York), with support from Miller, was to simply have these eight privately run arenas show the city how they allocate their ice time. If, after inspection, they have not followed city policy, then the arenas would have to work with the city to create a more equitable ice allocation policy for next year. Debate over Davis’ motion is set to continue on Wednesday, time permitting.