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Ditchball, a Manitoba tradition for almost 40 years

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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 architecture students became restless while 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 built to accommodate the sport, so some minor modifications were introduced. Like the absence of a ditch.

The game this year was re-named Qui-Ditch and was played Feb. 28 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-foot diameter, heavy, multi-sided object known as a rhombicuboctahedron. That is a real word and I think it covers every geometric shape known to man. 

Qui-Ditch is played by two teams of five persons each and yes, girls play, too. The object of the game is to get the ball through the hoop of your opponents’ goalpost.

If you saw it being played you’d probably be very surprised to learn that there are actually some rules.

Every player must wear a helmet, opponents must not be struck (or, at least, not struck on purpose) and inappropriate behaviour will get you ejected from the game.

It was cold on Feb. 28 as spectators lined up to watch. 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.

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.

 

Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights. You can contact him via email at smitht@mymts.net

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