I happened across this little news item yesterday, and it grabbed my attention, as neighbor (or neighbour) squabbles tend to do. It's like rubbernecking around a car accident. When neighbors start feuding, it's tough to resist the pull of the drama, and apparently Quebec is no exception. The national media got wind of a backyard hockey rink fracas Tuesday, and the CBC reports that a bylaw supposedly intended for mixed-use commercial and residential rinks is being enforced in a residential area:
Jean Christophe Bossé of Sherbrooke has been building a neighbourhood rink in his backyard for the past five years.
Every year he toils for hours, outfitting the 40-by-60-foot rink with boards and lights.
But there will be no hockey this winter. The City of Sherbrooke said the structure contravenes area zoning bylaws and told Bossé he had to take it down or risk receiving a hefty fine.
"The [complaint] doesn’t hold water. It was a family rink," he said. "All this kind of decision from the city does is encourage other people to make complaints."
Bossé said the bylaw in question doesn’t outlaw residential rinks -- just rinks destined for mixed commercial and residential uses. Even so, he complied.
Neighbour Normand Grenier is relieved. He said he doesn’t like looking at a big white wall and netting for half a year.
"I found that, in my kitchen or in my dining room, it created a significant visual impact. My land is 12 feet lower than his… It caused me visual harm," Grenier said. [CBC]
Now hear me out, because I don't want to get bogged down in the legal issues here. It seems to be a fairly clear case of what the zoning ordinances actually prohibit along with any applicable HOA-type regulations. It seems odd that Bossé would take down his rink if the law doesn't actually prohibit it, but perhaps he's just being neighbourly while the issue gets sorted out. It's hard to say without more information. If there are regulations that do prohibit the rink, and Grenier is (as he says) harmed by its presence, then it's a black and white issue, and it should stay down.
The thing is, when I hear about stories like this, it makes me wistful for my childhood. Our house was next to this church parking lot, so I spent a lot of time playing there, riding bikes around it in laps without anyone caring. My friends and siblings and I were often hitting tennis balls over other neighboring fences, ringing doorbells asking for a stray frisbee or football (tennis balls weren't worth retrieving) and often yelling and screaming around the neighborhood in general. We would have Nerf gun wars that involved half the block's acreage, and I'm sure you could still find some of those stray darts to this day, assuming the foam product Hasbro used to make them withstood the time underneath all those juniper bushes. We would hide behind cars on the street playing capture the flag, and our "prison-rules" basketball matches in the Barnes's driveway often went until ten or later on summer evenings.
But I probably feel the most fortunate for the street hockey matches my brother and I (and others, occasionally) would play using rusty pipe-and-chicken-wire goals. We had an absolute blast out in that parking lot, and you can bet your sweet bippy that I would have ridden my bike five miles if there were a rink in town where we could have played actual, real, honest-to-goodness hockey.
Again, I get it. Grenier isn't compelled to forfeit his view or his peace and quiet for the sake of his neighbours' enjoyment. Perhaps Bossé isn't very considerate; maybe he's one of those "sick celly, bro" guys that you just can't stand to play hockey with anyway. Maybe he never lets anyone else play on the rink. There could be a dozen reasons why we would do the same thing if we were in Grenier's shoes, really. Don't discount that.
Joy is a real thing, though, and I think it's infinitely more valuable to be the neighbor who lets kids hit baseballs into his yard all day long than to have the best-kept yard on the quietest, cleanest block of nice houses. I think that way in large part, I know, because of the privilege I enjoyed as a kid, running amok underneath the largely benign smiles of adults who saw kids having fun and let them go on with it.
I hope this situation can turn into one where the presence of a backyard rink--and go read Jack Falla's Home Ice right now if you don't totally get what a backyard rink can mean to a home and a neighborhood--becomes something to be proud of for all the neighbours on the block. Here's hoping that the residents of this Quebec neighbourhood can find a way to hear the joy in the sound of pucks banging against the boards, whether or not they can see it from their kitchen window.
* * * * *
Wednesday Links are better than the second period of last night's game, probably.
Mike Heika concludes that the Stars are running out of "reset" buttons. [DMN]
Arctic Ice Hockey is feeling good. Winnipeg is better than the Stars this year, especially in goal. Try not to gag when you read that. [AIH]
Speaking of crying--or was that just me?--find out which movies elicit tears from the lacrimal ducts of hockey players. [THN]
The Stars put up a good sign of a turnaround against Montreal, which was great while it lasted. Sighsighsighsighsighsighsigh [The Hockey Writers]
Mike Heika mentioned in his chat yesterday that the goalie tandem was probably Mike Valley's idea. [DMN]
Chris Stewart was healthy scratched--for Buffalo, no less--and he avoided the media with a shopping cart. You had to be there. [Buffalo News]
Sean McIndoe is beginning what I hope is a regular series, looking at some of the more interesting teams from years past. This entry is on the Gretzky/Hull St. Louis Blues of 1995-1996, and it's fabulous. [Grantland]
Finally, Jean Beliveau was honored by Montreal last night. It was a touching tribute: