Is street hockey the answer?
I have read with great interest many of the wonderful ideas Torontonians have suggested to improve the city. Although the upcoming municipal election is unlikely to solve all our issues, perceived or real, it does have the capacity to set us on the right course for the next decade.
And why is the next decade so important? For many reasons, but perhaps none so important as that we expect have close to 1 million more people arrive in Toronto over that time, and many of those coming from other countries. How and how quickly these newcomers embrace Canada and Canada embraces them will have a lasting effect on the quality of life in Toronto.
This is where street hockey comes in; and it's a personal story.
Last month I was moderator at the Get Active Toronto Summit. At the summit some of our panel participants shared stories about how sport affected them and, in some cases, changed their lives. It got me thinking about my own story.
I moved from London, England to London, Ontario in the late 1960s. I arrived in the late summer, as an anomaly; a young South-Asian boy in the heart of hockey central in Southwestern Ontario. In the late fall, I was on skates, and loved it. I would have loved it more had we known to sharpen them. Well, you live and learn.
Since I was an only child at that time, my parents and I were constantly on the lookout for things to keep me busy. Most days I was sent out to play - to just go and play. One particular day my mother could see boys playing road hockey in a parking lot across the street from where we lived. She told me to go and join them. So, since I feared her more that them, I wandered over not knowing what to expect. I was still the new kid on the block, and very obviously so.
I watched in amazement as the ritual began. All the kids tossed their sticks into a pile at "centre ice." So I did the same. The big kids started throwing the sticks, one to the left, and one to the right - voila two teams. I saw my stick fly into a pile. I stood and stared. Then I heard the voice that may have changed my life. You can never really be sure, but if what happened didn't happen, things may very well have turned out differently.
A kid looked at me and screamed - "Hey, you're on our team - let's go!" At that moment I became a Canadian. I picked up my stick and never looked back. I spent many years experiencing the sweet, oh-so- Canadian pain of frozen tennis balls against frozen jeans, yelling "car" and adopting the pose a la Ken Dryden, and praying the games would never end.
I embraced Canada quickly, because Canada embraced me. Those are the type of opportunities that we need to create, because they will have a lasting impact on the type of city we have. Maybe street hockey is the answer, if not, we need to find one, and fast!About Rahul Bhardwaj