During the winter in Toronto, you can find pick-up hockey virtually any time of day on one of the city’s free outdoor rinks. Shinny is a freewheeling version of the game played without a timer, referee or scoreboard. There are no fees, no registration and no need to be particularly skilled. The game is reduced to its essentials: the crunch of skates digging into the ice, the feel of the wind in your face, the weight of the puck on your stick. And then there’s the instant connection that comes when a collection of neighbours is transformed effortlessly into a team.
The same is true for Winnipeg, head to any community rink in the city and you're bound to find a group of people looking to play shinny.
Despite professional hockey's reputation for violence, shinny is the most egalitarian sport I've ever played. I've played with guys 10+ years older than me and kids just learning to skate (boys and girls). No one complains about being placed on the team with the kid who can't skate and always passes the puck to an opposing player, they have fun anyway and hopefully the kid will learn a thing or two.
Sociologists could make an interesting study of your local rink. It's truly amazing that people manage to assemble without advance notice and manage to make teammates out of strangers. Rules are rarely discussed in detail, instead it seems they are instinctively known. It's the closest thing to an anarcho-collectivist organization I've ever encountered. There are no politics, no egotistical squabbles, just a desire to work up a sweat and maybe score a goal.
*Photo by Jory Hasselmann