Imagine a game that’s a cross between UFC and a bar brawl with all participants wearing full hockey equipment. Then try and imagine what would happen if such a game got out of hand.
That’s business as usual for Ditchball.
This Manitoba phenomenon has been played annually on the University of Manitoba campus for the past 38 years.
It is rumoured that the “sport”, and I use the term loosely, originated on Hecla Island four decades ago when a group of architectural students became restless whilst standing by the side of the road.
Why ? We can only wonder.
This year however there was a break from tradition. Seems the health and safety people had some concerns. Not for the participants, they always get hurt, but someone thought that spectators might fall into the ditch, so some minor modifications were introduced. Like the absence of a ditch.
The game this year was re-named Qui-Ditch and was played on an icy field surrounded by small snowbanks featuring some very Harry Potterish type goalposts at each end. Other than that, it embraced the true spirit of Ditchball using the traditional ball as opposed to quaffles and snitches.
Did I say a ball? A beanbag may be a more accurate description. The official ditchball is actually a two feet diameter heavy multisided object that is known as a rhombicuboctahedron. That is a real word and I think it covers every geometric shape known to man.
It is played by two teams of five persons each and yes, women play too. The object of the game is to get the ball through the hoop of your opponents’ goalpost.
If you saw the game being played you’d probably be very surprised to learn that there are actually some rules, not many though.
Every player must wear a helmet, opponents must not be struck, or at least not be struck on purpose and inappropriate behavior will get you ejected from the game. You can only guess as to what may be construed as inappropriate behavior though.
Phillip Phillips blasted out from the PA system as the sun shone down on campus. At -21C it was a cool day as spectators lined the side of the ice covered field for a close-up view of the action.
The umpire tossed the rhombiwhatchamacallit into play and the melee began.
Strategy is to place a death grip upon someone from the opposing team whilst one of his or her teammates exerts a similar vice-like grip on you. The ball is purely incidental.
Players slip and slide around on the ice and after a while one will break free of the scrum. This lucky player can then pick up the ball, saunter nonchalantly down the length of the field and casually toss the ball through the goalposts whilst his teammates are totally oblivious to this.
It may not be an Olympic sport, but it’s a Manitoba tradition and if you’re an architecture student it’s a rite of passage.