The Montreal Gazette ran a bike polo story this week.
Bike polo is very likely, the best game you have never played.
At 9:00pm on Tuesday evenings in Point St. Charles you can join in on the the highly entertaining and exceptionally enjoyable game of bicycle polo. Hidden in Parc Leber on Rue Fortune just east of Wellington is a nearly perfect regulation hockey rink which serves admirably in ice-free weather as a bike polo venue complete with sideboards, lights and bleachers.
To the uninitiated, mallet swinging and manic one-handed pedaling might seem a difficult (emphasis on cult), frustrating and potentially painful pseudo-athletic diversion into sado-masochism. However, I submit to you that any able bodied person with a bicycle and a shred of curiosity will rediscover the simple joy of playing which was taught out of us from the time we learned to keep score.
In bike polo, everyone wins.
Beyond the compulsory bicycle there is little in the way of special equipment necessary to get in the game. A polo mallet can be assembled for next to nothing or borrowed from someone who is giggling so uncontrollably that they need to sit out for a few minutes. A ball, goal markers, as few as three other people and you’ve got a polo match.
I have had the good fortune to play with different groups in different cities and each has its individual local flavor. Whether on concrete, grass, dirt or ice using street hockey balls, lighted whiffle balls or mini soccer balls riding fixed gear bikes, tall bikes, BMX bikes, tandems, mountain bikes or mini bikes the glee-factor is always off the charts. While cycle polo has long existed and there are official international rules, the regional differences and house rules are what make life interesting.
In Montreal’s Tuesday night games (also Sunday afternoons at Chambord/Marie Anne, @5pm), players tend to use fixed gear bikes, street hockey balls and small cones about one bike length apart as goal markers. Teams are chosen at random and are changed up to provide balanced play. Players can use either hand to hold a mallet and goals count only when scored with the circular mallet end, not with the tubular mallet length. Emphasis is on skill, finesse and encouragement rather than aggression and violence which makes for an approachable game accepting of men and women experienced or not. The penalty for touching the ground with your foot is to ride out and tag a designated location before re-entering the field. As with most things in Montreal, helmets, wheel guards, eye protection and keeping score are optional.
If any other groups are out there playing in different parts of town, a tournament is in order.