Chasing snitches at BC Highland Games in Coquitlam

Playing quidditch in a book store may have been taking the game’s literary roots a little too, er, literally.

But that’s exactly what Calvin Ng did last year in a space cleared out in a Chapters store to help promote the publication of the written version of the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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On June 17, Ng and a troupe of chasers, beaters, keepers and receivers from around Metro Vancouver will have a proper pitch to showcase their unique sport at the BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival at Percy Perry Stadium.

Quidditch is a fictional sport played by characters who attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy in J.K. Rowlings’ renowned serialization of the life and perils of a young wizard-in-training named Harry Potter. But for Ng and a growing legion of players in more than 20 countries the sport is very real. It has a worldwide governing body, the International Quidditch Association, semi-professional leagues, national tournaments and even a World Cup. In 2014, the sport’s most prestigious tournament was held in nearby Burnaby where a team  from the United States was crowned champion.

For now, Ng’s aspirations are a little more modest.

He wants to grow the game in the Tri-Cities, and showing off a proper match to a captive audience is the best way to win people over, said Ng.

Quidditch is like a mash-up of rugby, dodgeball and European handball. While students at Hogwarts used magical brooms to fly around the aerial playing field, the real life version is a lot more grounded; players run around the 55-yard long field clutching a broom between their legs. Points are scored when chasers or keepers are able to throw the quaffle, or slightly deflated volleyball, through one of three hoops at each end of the playing area. Defenders can prevent that from happening by hurling bludgers, or dodgeballs, at them to take them out of the game temporarily. Teams can also score by catching the snitch, a rogue impartial player with a flag, or sock, tucked into their hip who must spend the entire match hiding and eluding capture.

It’s a high-speed test of tactics and tackling, said Ng.

Oh yes, the co-ed sport is full contact. Which can be difficult and awkward to achieve when clutching a four-foot broomstick between the legs.

“Once you learn how to run with the broom, though, it becomes a part of you,” said Ng.

For most of the past year, Ng has been hosting informal training sessions every Sunday at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody. Attendance has waxed and waned according to the weather, and the quidditch enthusiasts were forced to take the winter off when the field was unplayable because of ice and snow.

Ng said the quizzical stares of park-goers often turn to curiosity and questions when they realize what the group is playing.

“It looks like a bunch of people running around with broomsticks,” said Ng. “You have the people who make fun of you, and you have the people who think it’s cool.”

Quidditch is most popular on university campuses. That’s where Ng first tried the sport, at Simon Fraser. He said the sport’s literary origin attracts a certain type of player who might not otherwise be keen to play competitive team sports.

“It’s like a bunch of nerds playing,” said Ng.

But accomplished players are anything but bookworms.

“There’s lot of cardio because of the continuous flow of play,” said Ng. “You need to know how to tackle, and you have to be able to catch a ball with one hand while running. That’s where the athleticism comes in.”

The quidditch demo will take place at 1:30 p.m. on the main field at Percy Perry Stadium. Tri-City Community Quidditch practices every Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Rocky Point Park.

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