About 20 years ago my brother Greg introduced me to a sport, Ultimate, that was one of the neatest I had seen or played in a long time. I know the Summer and Winter X-Games feature all sorts of great new sports but Ultimate [or Frisbee football] has a simple infrastructure [all you need is a frisbee and open field plus 8-12 players] plus an elegance and flow that is most appealing. Well this year, on Janes Walk in Toronto I got introduced to another elegant sport that is catching on in the urban environ – Bike Polo.
Actually I had seen Bike Polo in Vancouver about 5-6 years ago when I was at a meeting on the UBC campus but by the time I got out of the meeting and had a chance to investigate the players had long vanished from a hockey rink/tennis court. So it was at a Janes Walk in early May within Trinity Bellwoods Park which inadvertently re- introduced me to Bike Polo.
Scrum for the ball
This game was being played on the otherwise near empty tennis courts in the park. There are 3 players to a side, their mounts are bikes, and they play with a mallet which has a hollow plastic head. The teams here were playing games of “first to 5” and that is just about the extent of the rules that I could puzzle out and pick up in a quick 15 minute watching of the game.
Mallets used in Bike Polo.
The real skill in Bike Polo is maintaining balance on the bike in the constant stop and go that is part of the game. For example, at first the game looked like PeeWee Soccer where the kids gather like bumble bees all around the soccer ball. There seemed to be little positional play. But after awhile I got used to the rugby-like scrum and the ability of crafty players to break away from the scrum and rush “down field” for a break away pass.
player even slightly bobbles a pass the opposition is on it and can either create their own return break away, or at the least, get in position to defend their goal. Very quickly one could see that a wide range of skills including mallet dribbling and passing, wheel blocking, and vision of play are each important in the game. If I had not agreed to meet a friend for another Janes Walk this same day, becoming steeped in the subtleties of bike polo could have become a whole afternoon’s delight. Like one bike polo player noted, “what is bike polo to me? No doubt – like a second woman”.
No wonder that Bike Polo is catching on in Toronto area. See the story here in the Toronto Star which neatly profiles the game.
Where to go in TO for Bike Polo:
Pickup games like the one I saw occur on deserted hockey rinks and tennis courts; but the following schedule shows where “official bike polo” takes place in Toronto.
Dufferin Grove Park hockey rink:
Wednesdays 7pm Rookie night, 9pm open to all.
Thursdays 7pm to 11pm (vets).
Fridays 7pm to 11pm (vets).
Sunday afternoons, 3pm-7pm.
EVERYONE WELCOME. Bring a bike, we usually have spare mallets with us. We run beginner nights, follow us on facebook or twitter for updates.