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Roller derby packs a mean punch

Full contact sport fastest growing and most misunderstood
Roller derby packs a mean punch

by Blonde Slambition (aka CaroleAnn Leishman)   VIDEO    – Where do you find girls with alter egos in fishnets, helmets, mouth guards and padding speeding around a track on roller skates playing a full contact sport? Welcome to roller derby.

Roller derby is the fastest growing and most misunderstood sport in the world currently with 1,400 leagues worldwide. POW! TOWN formed a league in June 2011 without even knowing the first thing about roller derby and in a short time a lot has happened. But let’s start at the beginning answering the question “What the heck is roller derby?”

Far removed from roller derby of the 1970s and earlier, the sport has evolved into more of a serious athletic sport and has moved away from the World Wrestling Federation-style spectacle it was back when coaches tossed chairs in temper tantrums, no one wore helmets and fighting was a common occurrence. You won’t see any of that now. The sport is now governed by Women’s Flat Track Derby Association which has developed a set of rules to make the game play much safer. There are up to seven skating referees per bout and can easily be 12 non-skating officials (NSOs) keeping track of all the penalties, points and score. And they developed the game for a flat track which makes it much more accessible for leagues to start up wherever they have access to a rink or gym.

Each team has four blockers and one jammer who wears a star on her helmet and who is the point scorer on the track per two-minute jam. The jammer’s job is to skate through the pack of blockers and lap the pack to start scoring points just by passing opposing players. It is each blocker’s job to trap and hold the opposing jammer, making it obvious where the game gets physical. All this is done while trying not to receive penalties for elbowing, back blocking or track cutting to name a few common ones. It’s harder than it looks not to mention a really good workout.

POW! TOWN Roller Derby has been averaging between 40 to 50 registered members since inception and holds strong. Skaters have been participating in scrimmages on Vancouver Island since October, which have been a really great training ground, and have held two scrimmages here in Powell River at Oceanview Middle School gymnasium. The last scrimmage held here boasted skaters from Courtenay, Cumberland, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Sechelt and the Lower Mainland as well as referees and NSOs seeking more training.

In February a dozen skaters and officials from POW! TOWN went to the Blood and Thunder Camp in Abbotsford to train with skaters and coaches from the Roller Derby World Cup Championship Team USA. This brought the skill set to a whole new level, training with skaters like Teflon Donna, Frida Beater, Smackya Sideways and Iron Maiven who are all well-known heroes on the derby world circuit.

In early 2012 POW! TOWN joined forces with four Vancouver Island teams to form the Salish Sea Rollers League which will give all the teams the ability to combine forces with officiating, training and scrimmaging as well as helping each team host its own public bouts. This past weekend four POW! TOWN players—Syn Denied, Mia Tushslappa, Dawn of the Red and Blonde Slambition—joined a Salish Sea Rollers pickup team to play in a bout against Reign Valley Vixens in Abbotsford. Two NSOs Jamaika Me Crazy and POW!d Her Blue and Referee Rhinoceref from Powell River officiated in the game which ended in Salish Sea being defeated 185 to 70.

Coming up this spring there will be a Fresh Meat Bootcamp to recruit new skaters. The local group is always looking for more girls ages five to 17 to join the junior derby program. Later this season skaters look forward to training with Team Canada Players Luludemon and Eight Mean Wheeler to hone skills even more. It won’t be long before Powell Riverites will be able to come out and watch some home team bouts in the rink once the ice comes out.