Anyone for Quidditch?

McGill’s Quidditch team shows no signs of hanging up the brooms for the season.  The down to earth version of the game came to McGill in September. / Photo: Owen Egan
McGill’s Quidditch team shows no signs of hanging up the brooms for the season. The down to earth version of the game came to McGill in September. / Photo: Owen Egan

Muggle version of Harry Potter game takes off, sort of

By Jim Hynes

It’s the campus sports craze that’s sweeping the nation.

Quidditch, or the Muggle version of the high-flying team sport born in the imagination of Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, has come to McGill.

Rowling’s Quidditch, like many real sports, combines elements of other games. It has the chasing part of tag, the ball (or quaffle) through a hoop scoring method of basketball, and the bean your opponent with a ball (or bludger) part of dodgeball. Oh…and it’s played while flying through the air on a broomstick.

Muggle Quidditch features many of the same elements and rules, minus the flying. Instead of getting airborne, players race about the playing field with broomsticks between their legs. This down to earth version of the game first appeared on U.S. college campuses about four years ago.

In early September, a group of first year McGill students started playing in the courtyard of their residence, Douglas Hall.

“We started with Dollorama brooms and hung cheap hula hoops from tree branches as goals,” said Reid Robinson (U0 Economics), the 18-year-old New York native who serves as the team’s captain or, more officially, Chief Warlock.

Yes, these folks take their Harry Potter pretty seriously. The co-ed team’s activities are overseen by a Wizengamut, the wizarding world’s version of a senate or governing council. Its finances are handled by a Gringotts Goblin and meeting minutes are taken by a Quick-quotes Quiller.

The team, whose Facebook group now contains over 100 members, is currently an interim SSMU club but is well on its way toward gaining full club status. About 20 players regularly show up for the practices and games the team holds on lower field, a number that is growing steadily.

At the end of October, 14 team members headed to Middlebury College in Vermont, considered by some to be the birthplace of Muggle Quidditch, to take part in the second annual Quidditch World Cup. Fourteen schools entered this year’s event. McGill was the only non-U.S. school to participate.

“We woke up and put on our uniforms and capes, walked in the parade and saw the first match, going on and thought, ‘Oh my God’ we’re actually in a Quidditch tournament and we’re going to play Princeton,” Robinson said.   “I was a bit nervous going into that first game, but once the action started I felt so energetic and happy.”

After a close loss to Princeton, whose big play was a late game capture of the Golden Snitch (a cross-country runner in a yellow outfit in the Muggle version), the team won its second game of the tournament over the University of Washington before losing to a more experienced squad from Louisiana State University in the quarter finals.

“We were extremely happy with our performance, and just to be able to go down there was great,” Robinson said. “We really enjoyed the atmosphere. There was all kinds of entertainment, everything was just amazing.”

The team returned to McGill full of enthusiasm and big plans for the future. And they show no signs of quitting for the season either. Reid says the team will play through rain, mud and even snow. In fact, they just put in an order for 14 brand new “Nimbus 2000” brooms that they hope to be “riding” about lower field on in the coming days.

Reid and his fellow Quidditch organizers welcome anyone who is interested in joining in the fun to contact them through their Facebook group, “McGill Quidditch.” They hope to have enough players by the spring to form a McGill Quidditch league. The team has also been in touch with other Canadian universities, including a few here in Montreal, about forming a Canadian league. It has actually formally applied to the University for permission to host the first Canadian University Quidditch Cup in April 2009.