A road hockey game that sprung up in Toronto is going viral. In most ways, this scrimmage was just like the road hockey games of your youth — some friendly competition, a bright orange ball for a puck, and sudden breaks in the gameplay to let a vehicle pass. But there was one major difference: this game was taking place on King Street, one of the busiest and most iconic streets in Toronto’s bustling downtown core.
So why would players choose a major downtown roadway for a street hockey game? It turns out the event was actually a protest of a city pilot project. King Street is the busiest transit route in the city besides the subway, and due to traffic, transit routes along the road have a reputation for being late. The King Street Transit Pilot, which has been running since November, is meant to give priority to streetcars and buses, limiting private vehicles’ use of the street.
However, local business owners complain that the project has hurt sales and that the street has been dead since the initiative started.
“King Street is empty enough to be able to play a game of hockey on the street!” tweeted one of the players.
Al Carbone, owner of the Kit Kat restaurant, spearheaded the protest game. He’s been protesting the project since soon after it began, claiming it has hurt his business’s sales. His previous protests have included ice sculptures (“Make King Street Great Again,” one reads) and free food for metropass holders, presumably to lure commuters out onto the street.
“It’s such a ghost town down here, we want to take advantage of the street. So the boys decided to play road hockey,” Carbone told the CBC.
“We’re not impeding traffic, we’re trying to get attention,” Carbone said. “This is not working. The transit needs a lot of help and a lot of repair.”
Of course, some disagree. One person responded on Twitter that the hockey game only showed how the pilot project was making the street more “people friendly.” Others have said their transit rides are much more punctual, and a few days ago, transit advocates descended on King Street restaurants to show their support for local businesses.
Still, local business owners are worried by the changes. “We’re pro-transit, but there was better solutions,” said Robert Garabedian, owner of the sushi restaurant Maki My Way. “There will be some impact if something doesn’t happen soon.”
People on both sides of the argument have been passionate but amicable in their disagreement — much like opposing teams in a game of hockey. But whichever side you’re on, it’s hard to hate on a street-hockey protest. A game of shinny in downtown Toronto is a touch of small-town charm in the heart of Canada’s biggest city.