Like bowling, but with axes

League combines medieval sport with backyard spirit

It’s like darts, but with axes; the Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL) is a league of men and women who throw axes for fun.

BATL started off in 2006 in the backyard of a Torontonian Matt Wilson, and Wilson currently serves as its CEO. BATL moved from backyard to mainstream in 2011 when the first official BATL location opened for business in Toronto.

Mike McConnell, who was part of BATL when it was being held in a back yard, said, “It’s an amazing feeling—having your axe stick into the wood.” BATL opened up its Calgary location on July 6, 2015, and is currently midway through their first league.

League play lasts eight weeks with the first seven being a round robin to decide the best sixteen players that will face off in the final week of double elimination to decide the champion.

The mechanics of the sport are simple. The player throws an axe at a wooden bullseye—styled target. Like bowling, there is a line that if the player crosses while throwing the throw is forfeit. The axe must land and stick into the target for the player to score.

Along with league play BATL has become a popular destination for group events. McConnell commented about seeing corporate events coming.

“[It’s great] seeing them let loose and not be that stereotypical businessmen.”

Cameron Sutherland, the GM at BATL Calgary, wouldn’t describe BATL as an extreme sport because of all the safety involved in the operation.

“It’s just a sport. There’s nothing extreme about it when you look at the safety that goes into the facility, the coaching, and overall how we run our business.” The BATL facility is built around making the sport as safe as possible. A steel net surrounds the throwing lanes, the spectating areas do not impede those participating, and whenever someone is throwing there is a BATL coach present.

One of the goals of BATL when it went public was to maintain the backyard spirit. Cameron Sutherland said BATL has never had criteria for who can and cannot throw an axe.

“We can teach anyone to throw a axe.”

“It’s a place where anyone can come and feel like a community.”

Luke Dewolf, who comes to Sunday league night with his wife, said, “I didn’t know it was going to be this organized and this well put together.” Peter Branden was a Hapkido black belt, but had to give up any sports that involved physical contact or heavy physical exertion for health reasons. Throwing axes at BATL’s league nights is something he can still do.   BATL currently has seven locations open across Canada. Information surrounding league play or booking an event can be found at BATL’s website: www.batlgrounds.com.


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