Quidditch takes off at Dalhousie

Teams are chasing snitches all across Canada

DUQA plays their first match of the season. Photo: Elizabeth Whitten

Quidditch has flown off the pages and into the real-life sporting community. It’s one of the more enduring effects of J.K. Rowling’s children books.

Quidditch has been played at Dalhousie University on-and-off since 2008 but it was in September 2014 that students formed an official society.

Paul Gour is the founder and president of the Dalhousie Quidditch Association and he’s actively campaigning to get more teams started up in the area. The aspiring quidditch society has a challenge: the closest legitimate team is at McGill. Ontario has dozens of teams, but the Dal association is the only team on the east coast.

Quidditch Rules

Often called “muggle quidditch,” players have had to adapt to the fact they don’t have magic. When creating the rules for muggle quidditch, the goal was to keep it as close to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world as possible.  Seven members from each team are allowed to be on the pitch at one time. Each team has three chasers, two beaters, a keeper and a seeker.

Players must hold a wooden rod between their legs as the run around the pitch. There is no enchanted snitch to chase, so a player dresses in yellow with a sock attached at the waist that seekers on either team must grab.

Gour wants people to see quidditch as a real sport: “We’re an athletic, co-ed, full contact sport that has every right to be just as legitimate as soccer, basketball, football or rugby.”

Magic-less muggles have been playing quidditch since 2005. According to the International Quidditch Association, there are more than 300 teams in more than 20 countries.

Quidditch also has the unusual stance of being co-ed. Instead of having men and women play in different leagues, quidditch has regulations where two out of the seven members have to be a different gender.

DUQA warms up before first quidditch match of the season. Photo: Paul O’Brien


The demands of the game

It takes more than just a love of Harry Potter to get players through this game. Quidditch demands that players be athletic and comfortable with being knocked to the ground.

Members come from many different backgrounds; wrestling, hockey, soccer and rugby.

Damir Allen is a chaser on the team and he doesn’t identify as a Harry Potter fan. He credits quidditch with getting him back into sports: “It’s fun, really athletic, and it’s a lot rougher than you’d think.”

Gour describes quidditch as “a more savage form of rugby.”

“Rugby is cute and all,” he says. “But we’re running around with really hard sticks. And you add beating batons in.”

Quidditch has a reputation for injuries, which can scare away potential players. Concussions, broken limbs, and scraped flesh are all possibilities. Gour recalls an incident where a seeker broke his fingers while catching the snitch.

“That was part of my inspiration for starting this, because I saw him and he was in excruciating pain and he looked up and asked me, ‘Was that catch legal’?”

Getting away from Harry Potter roots

Evan Hamilton is a captain of the Edmonton Erumpents, which isn’t an official Quidditch Canada team. He’s been put off by some of the lengths teams are going through to be considered a legitimate sport.

Hamilton knows he looks “100% ridiculous” but he tries to take the game seriously.

“Half of the appeal of the game is how silly it is,” he says.

Expanding league

At the moment Gour is drumming up support for quidditch in the Maritimes. He’s headed to P.E.I. for the East Coast Student Leadership Conference. While there, he hopes to create more contacts and interest in forming more quidditch teams to form a larger league.

The society has about 50 members. It’s divided into two groups with the more casual players from Dalhousie’s association and the more serious players in Tiger’s Quidditch. Since September, they’ve played a Dalhousie-against-Dalhousie match and participated in the Greek Council Charity Tournament. They’re hoping to compete in the Movember Cup in late November.

“These athletes are the true heart and soul of what quidditch is becoming; a legitimate, tough as hell, fast paced, full contact sport, that is played in more countries than baseball,” Gour states.

Dal vs. Dal in their first Quidditch match at Dal. Photo: Paul O’Brien