If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to throw an axe in Ottawa, you’re not alone. Since the first leagues opened in the city a couple of years ago, it’s caught on like wildfire and inspired a truly devoted sports community. The Senators may be known for their relationships with their fans, but Ottawa axe throwing leagues seem to have taken sports fandom to new levels, going well beyond the game. Players have taken up decorating their own hatchets, making axe-inspired cakes and art, and started fundraising for local associations and other amateur sports teams.
The game itself is fairly straightforward, and a lot like darts or archery. The target, for example, is a bullseye surrounded by two rings, each worth fewer points than the last (5, 3, and 1, from the bullseye to the outer ring). Players go head-to-head and throw five times per match. On the last throw, they can go for the clutch, two green dots above the target worth 7 points. As the hardest target to hit on the board, the clutch is the Hail Mary pass on this pitch. It can either be the underdog’s way to an upset or the only way to secure a lead against a skilled opponent.
There’s nothing more at stake than bragging rights, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred its devotees. Just take a look at the customized hatchets players have been making at Batlgrounds.com/axe-throwing-culture/. (Game of Thronesfans might appreciate this reinterpretation of the show’s Iron Throne, made out of used target boards.) Even though the venue asks walk-ins and group events to use the house’s hatchets, league players throw their own axes in Ottawa, and it’s led to some inspired designs. Like they say on GoT, “All the best swords have names.” The players’ devotion to their axes isn’t all that strange, harkening back to the tool’s Viking history.
While they have only been in Ottawa for a few years, the first Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL) venue accessible to the public opened its doors in Toronto in 2006. Its founder credits its appeal on more than just the novelty of throwing real hatchets through the air. A large part of its spreading popularity seems to be based on its emphasis on socializing. Like any good league, the players often make fast friends with their competitors. The sport also appeals to people from all walks of life, genders, and ages. Despite the beards and tattoos, a number of players who first went for corporate team building events seem to have decided to keep coming back to leagues like BATL.
The sport’s revival has been driven by its devoted league players, which is also often where they find instructors for their walk-ins and group events. It’s an event that’s become popular across Canada for birthdays, bachelor parties, staff events, and even weddings, but it’s all held together by dedicated players. It’s something everyone should try at least once in their life; and you never know, you might find you just can’t get enough.