replace steeds in urban polo
Soccer fields and parking
lots host sport of new kings
By Tonya Zelinsky
Calgary Herald, September 27, 2007
The first time Justin Gullickson saw a polo match, he was smitten.
He fell in love with the intensity of the game, the challenge of
competition and, most of all, the fact he could play it while riding
This wasn't your average game of polo on horseback, traditionally known
as a sport of kings. This was bike polo, and the only rulers were the
ones who managed to stay on their bikes.
For the past 13 years Gullickson, 34, has been a bike courier in
Calgary, spending his days weaving in and out of downtown traffic. It
wasn't until a trip to Montreal four years ago for a bike courier race
that he discovered he could do more on his bicycle than deliver
packages and mail.
"In between races, I saw riders playing (bike polo)," he says. "When
they needed someone else to play, I gave it a try. After that first
game I pretty much played every chance I got the rest of the weekend."
A variation on the traditional game of polo, bike polo players compete
on a field or pavement court while trying to score goals with a mallet.
Teams are made up of an equal number of three to five players. The most
important rules of the game: respect the rider and respect the bike.
Mallets are usually handmade by the players using old golf clubs or ski
poles and a head fashioned from PVC pipe.
When Gullickson returned to Calgary from Montreal, he started a pickup
game every Wednesday night in the parking lot of Sacred Heart School
(1312 15th St. S.W.) Most of the players are bike couriers, but he
welcomes new players to drop in.
"I always encourage anyone to come out and play," he says. "The bike
part of (the game) is pretty easy, but it's the ball handling, stick
handling, shooting and accuracy that's hard. After awhile you learn
tricks like how to pass the ball underneath your bike while you're
riding and using your wheels to block shots. It's like hockey in a lot
The sport of bike polo is thought to date back more than 100 years in
countries like England, India and the United States. Currently there
are bike polo organizations around the world, including the
International Bicycle Polo Federation, which hosts the World Cycle Polo
Canada has competed since the championship's inception in 1996 and took
home its third gold medal in 2006.
Bill Levesque, 43, has been playing bike polo for the past 15 years. An
avid cyclist, the mortgage specialist started playing when a friend
came across some bike polo mallets in the stockroom of a local bike
"It's a great sport in terms of its physical challenges, the
coordination required, the skill set, as well as the risk -- that's
what makes it so much fun," says Levesque.
Playing on the soccer field of Queen Elizabeth Elementary School (402
18th St. N.W.) Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings, Levesque's game
varies slightly from Gullickson's. This version is the same as the one
played during the World Cycle Polo Championships. The field is much
larger than a pavement court, is played at a faster rate and the passes
Every so often Gullickson joins Levesque and his teammates for a game
on the field.
"Our game is a little rougher because that's the way we play,"
"When someone crashes on the field, everyone usually stops to let the
guy get up. When someone crashes on the court, we just keep on riding
and laugh and point."