From page to pitch: Quidditch tournament swooping into Barrie

Well known from the Harry Potter novels and movies, Tourism Barrie official says Quidditch could ‘become the next pickleball’

A fantastical sport made popular in the pages of the Harry Potter novels — and later on the big screen — is coming to Barrie in October.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, muggles from across the province will hop on their “brooms” and seek to find the Golden Snitch as they compete in Quidditch Canada’s Central Divisional tournament in the hopes of securing a spot in the Eastern Regional event in Oshawa and then nationals in Edmonton.

“It’s very exciting. It’s obviously a niche sport that not a lot of people have heard of, but we are excited to bring it to the city,” said Steve Bowie, sports tourism development officer with Tourism Barrie. “A niche sport like this gives us an opportunity to welcome a national event to Barrie in a reasonable capacity.

“I remember when pickleball was still a niche sport and now it’s blown up. We like to be able to welcome these types of things to Barrie and then maybe we will see (Quidditch) become the next pickleball,” he added.

The sport was first played in the US, with the first teams in 2005 and is based on the game played in the Harry Potter series, explained Alex Downey-Ging, who is the membership and events director for Quidditch Canada. The first Canadian Quidditch team was established in 2009, but Quidditch Canada was not formed until 2014. Prior to that, all teams registered directly with the International Quidditch Association.

“The game is a full-contact, mixed-gender sport with elements of rugby, dodge ball and tag. In a game, the chasers and keeper work to get the volleyball — also referred to as the quaffle — into the opposing team’s hoops, racking up points (and) each goal is worth 10 points,” she said.

In addition to this, there is a ‘snitch runner’, which is an impartial official dressed in yellow donning a tail that the seeker on each team works to catch to gain an additional 35 points.

“The tail is essentially a tennis ball in a sock. Two teams play on a field and all players have to keep their broom between their legs while playing, which now are PVC pipes… we no longer use bristles as they make a mess and scratch people’s legs.”

While the game is played there are players on each team, referred to as ‘beaters’, who use dodge balls (bludgers) to knock players out of play. If a player is hit by a dodge ball or comes off their brook, they have to go back and touch their hoops before they can return to play, she added.

Bowie told BarrieToday the sport gained popularity during its time in university, where it was actually played as one of the school’s intramural sports.

“I have heard of it being played not just in the book series, but also in reality for a while now. When I saw it could be an option for (the city), I thought it could be a great opportunity to show a new sport to the people of Barrie,” he said.

The upcoming weekend-long event is expected to host four teams with more than 20 players per team, as well as staff and officials.

“We are really excited to get the community out to watch and they’re excited to show people what it’s all about. These are going to be some of the best players in Canada,” Bowie said.

Last fall was the league’s return back to the field since the pandemic and they are working hard to rebuild, Downey-Ging told BarrieToday.

“Last season, adapting to the changing demands of sports with the pandemic we came up with divisionals, a smaller regional competition, with no regionals or nationals. This year, we are excited to be running divisionals again this fall, with Central Divisionals taking place in Barrie, and have brought back regionals and nationals,” she said.

“We were impressed with the facilities… as well as the involvement from Tourism Barrie in connecting us with local businesses to make this an event teams would be excited to attend,” Downey-Ging added. “We have not previously hosted an event in Barrie , there is not an existing team in the area, but we would like to see if there is interest in starting a local team.”

Bowie anticipates the event to have a pretty significant economic impact on the city as well, telling BarrieToday he’s anticipating nearly $120,000 to make its way back into the Barrie community through direct and indirect spending.

In addition to the tournament on the Saturday, the weekend will include a practice of the Canadian National Quidditch Team on Sunday, Oct. 9.

“It’s a very interesting sport. It really does involve a whole bunch of different athletic abilities and I think that’s what people are going to find so exciting,” Bowie said. “There’s just so much going on and, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’re going to see a sport you’ve always wanted to see, but even if you’re not, you can admire the athletic qualities these people have juggling so many different talents at once.”

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