BATL running axe throwing for local residents

“Everyone wants to throw an axe, they just don’t know it yet”

Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

A doctor, a landscaper and a theoretical physicist walk into a bar. The punchline? They just finished a night throwing axes and drinking beer.

The Backyard Axe Throwing League, better known as BATL, was founded in 2006 after a cottage trip time-killer inspired a business opportunity. Now nearly a decade later, BATL has opened seven locations across southern Ontario and one location in Calgary. Lucky for those in the Waterloo Region, BATL set up shop in Kitchener near the Grand River Hospital this past April.

The basis of the game is quite simple: participants compete one-on-one by throwing an axe at their respective target. The closer they get their axe to the bullseye, the higher the points they receive. Think of it like curling for lumberjacks.

Wearing plaid is optional, but it is certainly a cultural element among members of BATL’s nightly leagues.

Despite the convenient proximity to medical care, no participants have required trips to the emergency room thanks to BATL Kitchener’s impressive safety track record. Quite the feat, especially given the fact that participants are allowed to bring and consume alcohol on the premises.

Nick LaFace, the general manager of the Kitchener location, noted that safety is a top priority.

“One of the reasons why we exist and why were so good at what we do is because of our safety track record,” LaFace said.

The throwing lanes are separated by metal fencing to ensure no axe collisions occur, and the organizers have put rules in place to negate the possibility of injury. It appears BATL has it down to a tee on how they protect their guests.

As with any sport, minor injuries do occur.

“The worst I’ve seen is a knick on the finger,” said one seasoned league participant of the Monday night league.

Both employees and participants alike were enthusiastic to emphasize the diversity of people coming through their doors and trying their hand at the sport.

“It’s rare to find a PhD, a chef and a real estate broker all in one room,” said LaFace.

When speaking to members of the Monday night BATL league, it became clear each participant has their own unique motif for returning every week. Some use it as a means to extend the weekend, while others participate with family members as a way to strengthen their bond. One new member of the league noted he joined because he was new to the city.

It’s difficult as someone in their 20s or 30s to forge new friendships when coming to a new city. Community sports are one thing, but often times joining an adult league can be daunting unless you’ve had lengthy experience in the sport. BATL presents an opportunity for many to forge meaningful bonds without the need of experience or natural skill.

Throwing axes is not simply a means to release your aggression after a hard day’s work. In fact, LaFace noted BATL prefers to associate the sport with its strong community rather than violence and aggression. Whether you hit a bullseye every throw or you can hardly make a dent in the wood targets, the empathetic and welcoming attitude will ensure that every participant feels part of the community, regardless of skill level.

As Matt Wilson, the founder of BATL, puts it: “Everyone wants to throw an axe, they just don’t know it yet”

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