Athleticism isn’t often the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about the Harry Potter book series, but Quidditch Canada defied expectations and thrilled a small crowd by kicking off the recent Fan Expo weekend at the Downtown Metro Toronto Convetion Centre with a rousing, competitive quidditch match.
Quidditch, the popular wizard sport from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is traditionally played midair and on broomsticks, but non–magic-users have since adapted the game into a dynamic mix of rugby, basketball, dodgeball and wrestling that has been attracting a growing level of interest and credibility. In fact, quidditch now has the same level of certification in Canada as ultimate frisbee.
The first real-world quidditch team was founded at Middlebury College, Vermont, in 2005 and the first Canadian quidditch team started just three years later at McGill University. Now there are over 25 teams in Canada—including Valhalla Quidditch, a community team, and scholastic rivals Ryerson Quidditch and the U of T Nifflers, all located in Downtown Toronto.
“It’s a lot more intense than people think,” said Valhalla’s Sarah Bascinano, “They just assume we run around on brooms, joking and talking about Harry Potter all the time, but it’s actually a sport of its own. You don’t have to know anything about the books to want to play the sport.”
Real-world quidditch gameplay is complex and multi-disciplinary. Points are scored when chasers throw the quaffle (or volleyball) through the opposing team’s hoops without getting hit by bludgers (dodgeballs thrown by the opposing team’s beaters). The game ends when one team’s seeker catches the snitch (a tennis ball concealed in a sock) by snatching it from the waistband of the snitch-runner, a neutral player committed to keeping away from both seekers for as long as possible.
Valhalla’s Devin Dutt stumbled upon the sport at his school’s club expo six years ago and initially thought, “That’s not a real thing. That can’t be a real thing.” He was convinced to give it a try after learning it was full-contact. He now considers quiddtich to be the most inclusive and entertaining sport he’s ever played.
Perhaps due to its unorthodox origins, quidditch has managed to draw a remarkably wide range of athletes, establishing itself as a progressive, supportive environment. Quidditch is one of the only mixed-gender full contact sports in the world and Quidditch Canada has implemented a welcoming policy regarding players of different gender identities and sexual orientations, as well as players of different athletic backgrounds and skill levels.
“It’s definitely a mixed bag. We have a lot of people who’ve played sports in school, especially coming into university,” said Quidditch Canada communications director and referee Clare Hutchinson. “We also have a lot of people who never really considered themselves athletes before and what they find they can accomplish in a supportive environment is really surprising. We see a lot of people surprise themselves with abilities they didn’t know they had.”
To learn more, or to find a quidditch event or team near you, visit quidditchcanada.com.