The ditch is back. Normal service has returned for a Manitoba tradition of the past 40 years.
Ditchball has been played annually on the University of Manitoba campus by architectural undergrads since the mid-seventies.
Last year however there was a break from tradition after some health and safety people became involved and declared the ditch to be dangerous.
Not for the participants, they always get hurt. But someone thought that spectators may fall into the ditch.
So last winter’s event was re-named Qui-Ditch and played on a ditch-less icy field featuring some very Harry Potter-ish style goal posts.
Last November though high level meetings were held between students and faculty and permission was secured to construct another ditch.
Putting their architectural skills to work, a ditch was built with small bleachers and a safer viewing area for spectators.
So on Fri. Mar. 6 the sport, a cross between a bar brawl and a hockey fight, resumed as normal.
Co-ed teams of six players all wear full hockey equipment and commence battle at the bottom of the ditch that is about ten feet wide and eight feet deep.
Each end of the ditch has a strap straddling it, the object being to get the beanbag style ball and throw it over your opponent’s strap.
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.
Imagine Dragons blasted out from the PA system as the sun shone down on campus. At -6C it was a nice mild sunny day as spectators stood along the top of the ditch for a close-up view of the action.
The umpire tossed the rhombicuboctahedron, the official name for the beanbag ball used for ditchball, 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 beanbag is purely incidental.
Players slip and slide around on the ice at the bottom of the ditch and after a while one will break free of the scrum. This lucky player can then pick up the beanbag, saunter nonchalantly down the length of the ditch and casually toss the ball over the strap for the big score.
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.