Recreational axe throwing has taken Canada by storm. Leagues and arenas dedicated to tossing axes are springing up in towns across the country; encouraging Canadians to channel their inner plaid clad and blow off steam the woodsmen way – with an axe and adrenaline filled physical activity. It might sound dangerous – or even crazy – to get your friends together on a Friday night to target practice with axes, but the sport is quickly becoming the modern age’s game of darts – with a fresh edge. The home of axe throwing since 2006, the

The home of axe throwing since 2006, the Backyard Axe Throwing League offers a uniquely casual atmosphere for individuals to experience the thrill of axe throwing with the help of experienced coaches. Established with over nine locations throughout Canada, BATL has transformed this primal outdoorsman sport into an indoor recreational activity targeted towards all skill levels with one pure mission: to show people the power of being good to each other, using the axe as a tool to build community inspired by our backyard roots. And now, BATL has brought the art of axe throwing to Niagara. Helping pave the way in Niagara Falls is Kyle Little – a Sports Management graduate who fell in love with axe throwing following a corporate event that was held at one of BATL’s Toronto locations.

“I was hooked on it right away, like immediately,” says Little. “The next week I joined a league. I knew this is what I wanted to be a part of.”

The newly appointed manager of BATL Niagara is making it his mission – alongside landlord Keefer Developments – to not only draw attention to axe throwing, but help attract locals and traffic back into the once vibrant Queen Street – only minutes away from the lively tourism district of Niagara Falls.

“[Keefer Developments] is really trying to develop this area and bring it back to life,” said Little. “[Keefer Development] did an axe throwing event in Burlington and fell in love with it instantly as well. So they approached us with the idea to bring it here.

“We are so excited to be part of the redevelopment of this area,” said Little.

Thus making the Niagara mission two-fold; focused on promoting the region in tandem with their leagues while showing the power of axe throwing as a team building event.

Hosting eight targets within two arenas, the Queen Street location is the ideal intimate setting for getting acquainted with the axe. The location currently employs nine BATL trained coaches, assigned to each group to help train and guide them during the extent of their event in order to ensure every member of the group is able to not only throw the axe safely, but effectively as well.

“Anyone can throw an axe with the right instruction – but our coaches are still with your group through the whole event,” said Little. “It is not just a simple introduction and then they are gone. They stay with the group and are constantly giving them tips and adjusting their throws – because once you get comfortable with something, your axe may rotate a little quicker or stronger so the coaches have to adjust throughout the event.”

“Our coaches are trained to be able to pick up what each individual needs to do in order to be able to stick the axe,” said Little. “So we make sure that every single person that comes through will be able to stick an axe and get that thrill.”

Each arena can hold up to 30 throwers at a time – 60 may reserve the whole space – making BATL an ideal location to host your next team building or corporate event.

“Our mantra is to ‘Use the axe as a tool to facilitate community’,” said Little. “Really bringing people together in one space; having a good time and being respectful and fair to one another. We use that mantra towards the corporate groups to really bring everyone together.”

Events run between two – two and a half hours in length and cost $45 dollars per person. Included is a half hour introduction by the assigned coach and individual instruction before commencing a round robin tournament amongst the group.

BATL Niagara also plans to host drop-in nights for throwers as well as organized leagues throughout the week. The top four throwers from each league on the year will then be invited to compete in the National Axe Throwing Championships held in Toronto annually each February.

“For this region it is really going to be unique because no one has really ever competed in leagues before,” said Little. “We are very inclusive. We throw all skill levels, ages and both men and women together.”

This unintimidating atmosphere combined with knowledgeable staff – and fully licensed bar in 2017 – is the ideal hot spot for hanging out with friends and learning a new sport.

“The bar is the continuation of that social aspect of the backyard axe throwing league,” said Little. “Everything we do stems from the original backyard roots of our beginning. We are a big family; that is what we cultivate and we are very passionate about it.”

Founded in the backyard of CEO Matt Wilson, BATL began as a personal passion, stemming from a rained out camping trip which turned into an axe throwing tutorial by one of his friends.

“They started throwing axes at trees and Wilson really got into it,” said Little. “It was such a great time that [Wilson] knew he wanted to share it with people. So he threw up some targets in the backyard of his west-end Toronto home and had a couple of people come out, and then it started to grow really quickly.”

The rapid growth of the backyard leagues forced Wilson and his team to move their targets indoors and out of their residential backyard.

This instant love for the sport has helped foster its growth across the country. Today, BATL has helped thousands of people experience the thrill of axe throwing; the league only continues to grow in tandem with recognition for the sport.

“It is hard to understand until you get up there and you stick an axe,” said Little. “The thrill of being able to stick an axe is great fun; everyone gets into it. And once your team starts sticking bull’s-eyes, the whole group is into it. You can’t not get into it.”

By: Gabrielle Tieman