Tyler Fleming, CTV News Ottawa
Move aside, pickleball. There’s a new racket in town—sport, that is.
It’s called padel, and its popularity is exploding in Europe. A Hockey Hall of Fame nominee who has a passion for the game has set up a court in Ottawa for anyone who wants to learn.
It’s quick and played in pairs. Scoring is the same as tennis, but the court is three-quarters the size, enclosed like racketball, and the walls are fair game.
Padel is quickly gaining popularity in Sweden. Former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who spends his summers there and has been playing for years, decided it was time to bring the sport across the Atlantic.
“It’s the fastest-growing sport in Sweden. It’s just exploded from six courts in 2014 to now over 5,000 this year,” Alfredsson said. “The ball can bounce on the ground, hit the wall, you can hit the wall again over you can volley directly. So there is a lot of aspects, it’s very dynamic and a lot of moving things all the time.”
The padel racket is smaller than a tennis racket and there are no strings. It is thicker, filled with cork, and has holes for airflow. The ball looks identical to its tennis counterpart, but is less dense, reducing bounce.
“It doesn’t look like when you are watching people playing that you’re running a ton you do not run as much as tennis, but you definitely get a good work out,” says Alfredsson, adding that another appealing aspect of padel is that it can be picked up quickly.
“It’s so easy to learn compared to tennis. Tennis takes a lot of practice and time to be good and a lot of time on the court. Here you can take a beginner and give him lessons for forty minutes and they can play a match and when people try it once then they’re hooked and they keep coming back.”
This year, Alfredsson and his brother Henric teamed up with the Rideau Sports Centre to install a court that does not require a membership to play. A one-hour court rental is $55 which includes all the equipment.
“Padel for me is fun because it is an easy learning curve,” says Nicki Bridgland, RSC founder and CEO. “We also provide the opportunity for people to learn how to play through programs so there is a chance to meet other people who you can play with if you don’t know anybody who plays padel and a chance to learn the sport.”
Bridgland says that the court will be open until October and plans to continue the partnership with the Alfredssons for years to come, as the court has been a popular addition at the centre.
“It’s a perfect date night or family night or friend night,” says Bridgland. “We have a restaurant on site called the Bridge Public House so you can continue the fun off court after your game and have a chance to socialize and have fun together.”
While Alfredsson says padel has not surpassed his love for tennis, it’s getting close. And he hopes to get some Ottawa Senators players interested in the sport.
“I’m not a huge fan of doubles tennis, but padel we always play doubles and I love it,” he says. “The social aspect when you are four players on the court all the time and you’re always involved … it seems like it correlates a lot to hockey.
“Obviously the boards and anticipation and it’s really good for your hand-eye coordination so I can see why it’s that popular among the hockey players and it’s something we’ll try to get some of the Sens guys out here for.”
If you’re interested in playing padel ball, visit the Rideau Sports Centre website.