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Quidditch showcase: Teams meet for exhibition in Park Ridge

Quidditch showcase: Teams meet for exhibition in Park Ridge
Andrew Axtell of the Indianapolis Intensity moves to score in an exhibition quiddich game at Hinkley Park on June 17. (Eric P. Davis/Pioneer Press)

Hinkley Park was host to an exhibition match between two quidditch teams on Saturday.

Jeffery Siwek, who is from Park Ridge, was dressed in the bright orange and yellow jersey of one of the teams, the Indianpolis Intensity. The team is part of Major League Quidditch, an organization of teams throughout the country playing an adapted version of the game that appears in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series.

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"This is a full contact, co-ed sport that is kind of like a mix between basketball, dodgeball, and a little bit of rugby," Siwek said.

In the novel and film series, the sport is played by wizards riding flying brooms who are divided into two teams and attempt to score points by hitting or throwing one of the balls into one of the other team's three ring-shaped goals. Players can do this with three balls flying around: a Quaffle and two Bludgers. The game ends when one of the players catches the Golden Snitch.

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Since flying brooms aren't readily available, the game is adapted using sticks that must be held between players' legs while they attempt to score points and block the opposing team's attempts to score.

Players who are hit by a Bludger, which in this case is a dodgeball, or fail to hold onto their stick are temporary knocked out of the game to simulate the way wizards are knocked off their flying brooms in the books and films.

And the Golden Snitch, which typically flies around the playing field with a mind of its own in the books and films, is adapted to a player who runs around the field during gameplay.

Major League Quidditch includes 16 teams across four regional divisions. It is a summer league, and many teams are comprised of players who are also members of a different regular season league, U.S. Quidditch, which has 200 teams typically based out of college campuses spread out over eight regional divisions.

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"This is my fourth summer of playing quidditch," said Siwek. "I go to Illinois State University, and one day while I was walking I saw it on the quad. I went to go check it out, and once I looked further into it I started playing."

The team playing against Intensity on Saturday was the Minnesota Voyageurs, which are unaffiliated with Major League Quidditch. Siwek said the Intensity won the match.

"Typically, summer is the off-season since the beginning of the sport," says Luke Zak, one of the Voyageurs' team leaders. "A few years ago, some very dedicated and involved members of the community decided to create MLQ to fill in the gap in the summer to create a competitive outlet."

Members of Voyageurs drove to Park Ridge from the Twin Cities through a rainstorm in order to play their first exhibition match against the Intensity.

"A majority of us started playing quidditch because of the 'Harry Potter' books, but we have people who have never read the books who like playing this because it's such a physical sport," said Emily Selway, the team photographer for Voyagerus. "And it's co-ed and so inclusive. I've seen 5-foot-5 girls go and tackle 6-foot-5 guys without hesitation."

Alex V. Hernandez is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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