Quidditch has quietly been gaining popularity outside of the ‘wizarding world’ of Harry Potter and is slowly spreading into western Canada.
Eastern Canada has been in on the fun for over five years, but the game is still fairly new to Alberta, where three major teams are now established. These teams include the Edmonton Aurors, the Calgary Mudbloods and the Central Alberta Centaurs.
Members from all three of these teams, as well as several other smaller teams, came together at the Abbey Master Builder Centre in Blackfalds for a round-robin style tournament last weekend.
“We have three teams in Alberta right now that are fairly well-established. We have the Central Alberta Centaurs, which is our local club. We primarily do drop-in on Tuesdays at the Collicutt Centre. We have a kids’ club in the spring and fall, and our adult club runs all year round,” said Central Alberta quidditch captain Jillian Staniec.
“I started playing at Harry Potter conventions, although you don’t have to be a fan to play. I am, but you don’t have to be. I came back from a convention in Florida and thought, why should I only get to play in Florida? So I bought some equipment and tried to get things started.”
Staniec started a team with her spouse and a friend of theirs and she said that they have been picking up members ever since.
Along with several municipal quidditch teams throughout the province there is also a provincial team called the Alberta Clippers.
“The Alberta Clippers is our provincial travel team. We went to Western Regional Championships in Moosejaw recently, where we won the number one spot for Western Canada. We’ll be heading to Burnaby at the end of March to play in nationals,” Staniec said.
This national competition will be the first time in Canada where teams across the country are playing against each other, as opposed to mostly only teams from the eastern provinces getting together. It’s the first year of a national organization, Quidditch Canada.
“As Quidditch Canada, we are here to organize the sport and help it grow and spread, especially across western Canada where there aren’t that many teams yet,” Staniec said.
Each team consists of at least seven players, both male and female, who fulfil different roles. There is a seeker, who chases and catches the snitch to score points and end a game. The seeker grabs a ‘snitch’ that is attached in a near flag-football style to a person’s running shorts.
There are three chasers who are the goal scorers of the game. They use a ball called a quaffle and try to get it through hoops by either throwing or kicking the ball. A keeper defends the hoops.
The team’s beaters, two per team, use something called bludgers to disrupt the game play. When a person is hit with a bludger, they must run to their home side of the pitch and touch the goal hoops.
The snitch of the game is a person who runs around with a tennis ball tucked into a sock-like piece of fabric, which is tucked into the rear waste band of a player’s shorts. Seekers attempt to grab the tennis ball to end the game.
“What I love about quidditch is that there is so much going on. I thought I didn’t like sports growing up, it turns out I was just bored. There are three different types of balls, five balls on the pitch at any given time, at least 14 people in a full game – there is just so much going on,” Staniec said.
“The game has a variety of positions for people with different skills. There are seekers, who can be really physical, fast types. Chasers are all about accuracy for throws and passes and speed and endurance because they do a lot of running back and forth along the pitch. Beaters are actually a bit more of an intellectual position in that it’s about when to ‘beat’, when not to, where to get the ball from – it’s strategic. As a beater, I enjoy trying to figure out exactly what to do and when and then communicating that to the team.”
When the game is played outdoors, full contact is allowed. When the game is played indoors on a hard surface, touch rules are practiced.
Staniec stressed the fact that not every person who plays quidditch is intensely athletic or a fan of the Harry Potter franchise. She said there are always people who don’t care about the origin, only that it’s a fun game to play.
“I think that the main misconception about quidditch is that you have to know about and love anything and everything to do with Harry Potter to like the sport. With the people who are here today, probably most of us do enjoy Harry Potter and things like that, but there are definitely people here who aren’t into it. They just came to try something fun,” Staniec said.
“My main hope is to get more people interested in quidditch in Central Alberta. We have options for different ages and levels. It is a lot of fun, even if it can be confusing to an audience member.”