toronto mini stick

Toronto tourist forced to leave toy hockey stick at airport after security declares it a weapon

A Swedish sports broadcaster who recently visited Toronto has a hot and hard-earned travel tip for any international travellers who might want to bring home a souvenir from the Hockey Hall of Fame: Don't.

More specifically, don't buy a hockey stick — not even a really small one — if you can't put it in your checked baggage when flying out of Pearson.

Tobias Emmerdahl, a hockey enthusiast and athlete who works for the sports streaming service Viaplay in Stockholm, was recently travelling with colleagues for a MotoGP event in Austin, Texas.

"Instead of rotting away in Houston to wait for a flight to Frankfurt we decided to fly to Toronto and have a seven hour layover," he told blogTO.

Having visited Toronto with his Swedish hockey team back in 2005, Emmerdahl remembered some cool spots to show his colleagues, all of whom were in Canada for their first time ever.

"First we went for lunch, then we headed to see both city halls, then to the Hockey Hall of Fame and Spirit of Hockey store, before going to Scotiabank Arena (I liked it better as ACC)," he tells blogTO, demonstrating an even better knowledge of Toronto culture than he realized (We all liked it better as the ACC).

"Then we went up both levels of the CN Tower before getting a cab back to the airport. My friends were very thrilled with the visit, and they all filled their bags with gifts for family and friends. Hockey jerseys, pucks, miniatures of the CN Tower."

Emmerdahl, 32, picked up some souvenirs himself, including a Toronto Maple Leafs mini stick and puck combo for a friend's one-year-old son.

"Me and my little brother have both visited Canada several times for hockey tournaments in our peewee years. Playing mini sticks in the hotel room was a lot of fun, so I figured a mini stick with HHoF logos on it would be perfect for my friend's one-year-old son," he says.

"He already shows the energy and determination that a good hockey player needs!"

Unfortunately, the little guy would never get his gift, because those tiny plastic hockey sticks all the boys used to play with in Grade 6 are considered a weapon by Canada's federal government. And you can't bring weapons on a plane.

Emmerdahl was says he was stopped while going through security at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on April 11 around 6 p.m. when a guard noticed the sealed mini stick and foam ball in one of his trays. 

"The employee in charge of speaking to me was walking around swinging the mini stick like a hatchet. Probably to feel how it could be considered a weapon," he tells blogTO.

"When I got pulled aside from security I was told that no hockey sticks are allowed on flights. I argued that a mini stick is not a hockey stick."

He explained that it was a toy for his friend's kid, but another employee interjected to point out that "it says hockey on the stick, so it's a hockey stick."

Emmerdahl says he was told that the item could be checked, but would not be allowed in his hand luggage on the plane, presenting a bit of a predicament for someone on a layover whose checked baggage was already well within the bowels of the air travel system.

A manager arrived and confirmed that the mini stick is in fact considered a weapon by airport security — specifically the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), a federal crown agency responsible for screening people and baggage at airports in Canada.

Toronto Pearson later confirmed that it's entirely up to CATSA, not the airport, to decide what's allowed as carry on based on Transport Canada regulations.

Under CATSA's rules, the toy is considered a "non-permitted item." The agency describes this class of item as something that isn't illegal and "may seem harmless but can pose a threat to security." Like more than 100 ml of shampoo.

When faced with the option of trying to mail the  (which retails for about $19.99) to Sweden, turn back from the screening checkpoint and miss his flight, or simply abandon the item, he chose the latter, telling the CATSA agents that they should bring it home to one of their kids. "My gift," he said.

Fortunately, Emmerdahl was able to bring a teddy bear from the Hockey Hall of Fame back to Sweden for his friend's kid. He was cheesed about the stick snafu, but still very much enjoyed his time in Toronto.

"I found the whole situation silly. It's very unfortunate for the self-proclaimed home of hockey to have an airport like this," he explained. [but] "Toronto is a great spot, especially when you're a Swede."

"The border security guard praised Mr. Salming and Mr. Sundin as great ambassadors for Swedish and Maple Leaf hockey."

A representative for CATSA sent the following statement to blogTO shortly after this article's publication: 

"We confirm that mini hockey sticks are permitted in carry-on luggage.  We take complaints seriously and have reached out to the passenger. With no further information available at this time we cannot comment further."

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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