Toronto councillors put access debate on ice

The issue of hockey arena access got iced on Tuesday night after city council decided it lacked the details to make an informed decision.

After hours of debate Tuesday night, Toronto city councillors decided they needed specific statistics of who uses the most ice time in public arenas. However, the lack of details didn’t keep city council from discussing the issue.

Mayor David Miller said for years city council believed their equitable access policy was being properly enforced. Miller, a father of two, said he knew his kids enjoyed playing in house hockey leagues.

“And I’m proud to say in the arenas that we own and run – as opposed to the arenas that are run by community boards – we’ve taken remarkable steps to make sure the girls have equitable access.”

Council’s chambers were packed with young girls who look forward to the changes. Most wore red and white Leaside Wildcat jerseys.

One Wildcat, Veronica Moore, 11, had some complaints.

“We never get to play at North Toronto Memorial,” Veronica said. “One time we actually were given ice time but then when we got there the boys were already playing.”

The debate over equal ice time broke open when Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association (TLGHA) launched a petition on Nov. 19.

The petition stated that the TLGHA wants city council to enforce its policy for equitable access to ice for city-owned arenas by Jan. 15, 2010. The petition also demanded that city-owned arenas have a policy in place to ensure equitable ice allocation by 2010/2011.

The topic of discussion Tuesday night was publicly run boards. Councillor Janet Davis, Ward 31, Beaches – East York, is the Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

If drafted into law, the item will ensure the arena boards provide details about ice allocation. The arena boards will also have to give their proposed schedule for the next season. The boards will have to submit their plans for any changes made regarding ice allocation policies to Davis to give final approval.

Many councillors, including Frances Nunziata, Ward 11 York South – Weston, were convinced that Miller was rushing to make this a law. The councillor sits on the board of George Bell Arena and said that they have worked hard to allocate equitable ice time for both girls and boys.

“You can’t accuse all of us for (not giving the girls enough ice time),” Nunziata said. “Let’s hear from all (the boards) first.”

North Toronto Memorial Community Centre players were also present at the meeting. Veronica said that she didn’t understand why the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) posted a statement on its website. They statement made some changes to how to deal with the city’s ice allocation policy. The GTHL said they agree that a policy should be put in place for equitable ice time.

“We aren’t asking to get more ice time than them, we just want our fair time,” Veronica said. “I’m hoping that the councillors will understand that we just want time on the ice. We don’t want to have such a hard time getting it.”

Her hopes faded as the night went on and city council continued to argue minor details of the possible law. Councillor John Parker, Ward 26 Don Valley West, argued that his entire ward was struggling for ice time. He was concerned that the issue had turned to girls vs. boys instead of equitable ice use for all sports.

“Everyone wants ice time,” Parker said. “How about figure skaters or other people who just want to use the ice?”

Coun. Davis asked council to reconvene and discuss the possible ways to make the public arenas equitable.

City council will resume this morning at 9:30.