FORT MCMURRAY – Health experts are applauding Fort McMurray for hosting PlayOn! – Canada’s Largest Street Hockey Tournament on June 25-26th.
This is the first year the tournament will take place in Fort McMurray. Approximately 5 KM of road space at MacDonald Island will be closed for the two-day event; a move by the municipality which Dr. Kim Raine, Co-Director of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Cancer Prevention (APCCP) believes should be encouraged. “When cities allow for temporary street closures for events such as PlayOn!, it showcases their commitment to support the health of residents by promoting physical activity” says Dr. Raine.
PlayOn! marks the second road closure in less than a month for MacDonald Island, a positive sign that the municipality is motivated to create new opportunities for residents to be active. Christina Dauphinee, a local Be Fit For Life Coordinator, thinks these municipal actions come at a critical time. “We know kids are not active enough to stay healthy. According to a recent study, Canadian youth are physically active for a mere 14 minutes between 3-6 pm2 . We have a responsibility to make it easier for kids to be active by providing safe and supportive environments in our community” comments Dauphinee.
Under the current road and transportation bylaw of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, residents are banned from play on any street or lane within the municipality. But Fort McMurray is not alone in having this policy. According to a recent survey, 96% of 24 major municipalities surveyed in Canada reported having policies restricting street hockey, cycling and roller-skating on streets and sidewalks1.
The APCCP is urging local governments, including the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to complete a careful review of these policies and other existing traffic, noise and nuisance bylaws. “While these bylaws are intended to maintain the safety of citizens, cities can make amendments that support kids to engage in safe and unstructured recreation in outdoor spaces” notes Raine.
Dr. Donald Voaklander, Director from the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research agrees. “Amending bylaws to support physical activity in residential areas where traffic patterns are significantly lower is a reasonable action. Playing street hockey, for example, in cul-de-sacs, driveways, back lanes or alleys is less of a safety risk than playing near a busy street with lots of traffic”. In 2008, the community of Kingston, Ontario amended their street hockey bylaw to allow kids to play on residential streets where the speed limit is less than 50 km/h, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
These kinds of policy changes would be well-aligned with the passion Fort McMurray residents have for the game of street hockey. The community already has a ball hockey league and is home to the Fort McMurray Northsiders – an elite team who turned heads in Edmonton’s PlayOn! tournament last year.
Nate Beford, PlayOn!’s local event coordinator is pleased with the Municipality’s commitment to promote physical activity in Fort McMurray. “They have been extremely supportive of events such as PlayOn! at MacDonald Island” says Bedford. “PlayOn! is one way residents regardless of their skill level or age can be active and have fun. It’s for everyone in our community.”
About the APCCP
The APCCP is the primary coalition on cancer and chronic disease prevention in Alberta representing a broad range of practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and community organizations who have come together to coordinate efforts, generate evidence, and advocate for policy change in order to reduce cancer and other chronic diseases in Alberta. Organizational members include key organizations such as the Alberta Centre for Active Living, Alberta Center for Injury Control and Research, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT & Nunavut.
Available Media Spokespeople
Fort McMurray Play On! Event Coordinator and Events & Program Supervisor with MacDonald Island Park
Be Fit for Life Coordinator (Keyano College)
Dr. Kim Raine
Professor at the University of Alberta and Co-Director of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Cancer Prevention
Dr. Donald Voaklander
Director with the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research (ACICR)
ACICR Guidelines for Safe Street Hockey
- Active Healthy Kids Canada. Healthy habits start earlier than you think. The Active Healthy Kids Canada report card on physical activity for children and youth. Toronto; 2010. p. 1-80.
- Active Healthy Kids Canada. Don’t Let This Be The Most Physical Activity Our Kids Get After School. The Active Healthy Kids Canada 2011 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Toronto, ON: Active Healthy Kids Canada; 2011