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Photo by Willis Hoff

Unique sport of bike polo a must-see summer activity

By Kristy Koehler, June 21 2018 — 

There’s no shortage of eclectic recreation opportunities in Calgary, with the city housing leagues and clubs for sports like fencing, cricket and quidditch. There’s a good chance, however, that you’re less familiar with the sport of bike polo.

Bike polo takes the established sport of traditional polo — played on horseback with a mallet and ball and requiring keen balance and hand-eye co-ordination —  but replaces the horse with a bicycle and the well-manicured lawn with concrete courts. In Calgary, avid cyclists gather on Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Inglewood Community Association to take part in the sport that can most easily be described as “hockey on bikes.”

Players meet at 6:30 p.m. and play until, as long-time Calgary player Willis Hoff puts it, “It’s either too dark or we’re too tired.” North American Hardcourt, the governing association for bike polo, publishes a lengthy rule book for the sport. Hoff broke the game down into simple terms.

“It’s kind of like hockey but three-on-three with no goalie. Each team is trying to score as many goals as possible. The nets are pretty much just street hockey nets and we play with one of those hard, orange ball hockey balls,” he said. “To score, you have to put the ball in the net. You can’t touch your feet to the ground and if you do you have to sprint back to the centre line and touch your mallet to the red line on the boards.”

If you want to try your hand at the sport, the group welcomes newcomers, ensuring each player gets time on the court with the ball. Not just a friendly bunch, Calgary Bike Polo relishes in inclusivity, actively promoting under-represented athletes in their community. And as a testament to the quality of Calgary’s female bike polo players, local Jessica Arndt was recently crowned MVP at a United States tournament.  

Not much equipment is required to enjoy the sport — just a bike, a mallet and a helmet. Any bike will do, as the group says they’ve seen single-speeds, mountain bikes and even a fatbike on the court. That being said, a low gear ratio helps players gain speed fast and most participants prefer a front brake to stop quicker

If you want to see the game in action, Calgary Bike Polo is hosting the Stampede Showdown tournament at the Inglewood Community Hall on July 14–15. For more information, visit bikepoloyyc.com.

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