Hard hits, fishnets, and the occasional tutu
Correction 4-15-11: The original version of this story assigned the two players interviewed below to their rival teams — it's been changed to reflect the correct lineup.
For the last six months, the Nelson Killjoys and the Lumber Jackies have skated, strategized and scrimmaged together twice a week in the Trafalgar gymnaisum.
But when Nelson’s two roller derby teams go head-to-head for the first time this Saturday, no one’s planning to pull any punches.
“Even though we like each other, we’re not going to be gentle on each other either. We are all very competitive,” says Killjoy Jenna Goodwin—known on the flat track as Te Ammo.
“It’s just afterwards we’ll all get together and be like, ‘wow, when you whipped me and I flew into the chair it was awesome!’”
Formed back in October, the Jackies and Killjoys are the first expansion teams in the West Kootenay Women’s Roller Derby League to compete in front of a crowd. The Nelson-on-Nelson match will open a double header at the Rossland Arena. League elders Gnarlies Angels (Rossland) and the Babes of Brutality (Salmo) will rekindle their rivalry in the second bout of the night.
The league also boasts outfits in the Slocan Valley and Castlegar, who will debut later in the season, as well as a junior team.
Saturday’s match — already sold out — is the first for the league since a packed bout between the Angels and Babes last fall.
It’s that match which sparked the creation of the Killjoys, and much of the derby-related enthusiasm simmering in the community since.
“My sister-in-law after that decided she was going to start a derby team in Nelson,” explains Goodwin. “And I’d already said, ‘oh yeah, if there was a team in Nelson I’d totally play on it.’”
She and Lumber Jackie Lauren Strudwick, alias MissTreat, were two of the 40-some women who turned up to the initial Nelson practices last October. In addition to the buzz created by the Rossland-Salmo matchup, both say derby’s mix of hard hits, fishnets, body slams and the occasional tutu was a big part of the allure.
“It’s the aggressive side of it and also the feminine side of it,” says Strudwick. “It’s got both qualities, and it’s really nice to see both. It’s tough and sexy.”
Before moving to Nelson, Strudwick spent years following the derby scene on the Lower Mainland but never made the leap to playing the game. In the early days, she says the two local teams had lots of enthusiasm, but a ways to go in technical skills.
“There were a lot of Bambis on skates. A lot of people just bought skates and didn’t even know how to stop or stand. There were a lot of women holding each other up,” she remembers.
Since then, members of the Babes of Brutality have whipped the two crews into shape. But with the teams working together for much of the pre-season, who will have the advantage is anyone’s guess.
“I just think it’s going to be such a close, high intensity game,” says Strudwick, suggesting the first bout may come down to which team can hit hardest under pressure.
“Everyone’s so amped. We all started in October and it’s out first game in a sold out arena with music and fans. It’s going to be nuts. It’s going to be awesome.”
“I think the fact we started together and we both get to play our first bout at the same time against each other is pretty amazing,” adds Goodwin. “It’s coming to a mini climax.”
Tickets for the bout sold out so quickly, some derby members say they barely managed to buy them for family. But derby fans who’ve missed out take heart — the league is planning three more double-header bouts, as well as playoffs and league finals, between now and September.
SO YOU WANNA WATCH ROLLER DERBY?
All seats are not created equal: While you’ll still have fun from the bleachers, for the best view of the action grab “suicide seats” on the track floor. If you really want in on the fun, try to sit by a corner — the spot where you’re most likely to come face-to-face (or elbow-to-face) with a derby girl who’s been knocked off course.
Dress up: Not required, but how many sporting events can you attend in fishnets and a tiny top hat, as Zorro, or while dressed as a caveman? All these clothing options were spotted at the last Rossland bout.
Get educated: If you’ve never been to a derby bout before, the most important thing to know is that the players with the stars on their helmets are scoring the points, and it’s everyone else’s job to hinder or help them. If you’d like a longer crash course, we suggest picking up 2009 indie-flick Whip It or checking out the numerous derby how-tos on YouTube — but keeping an eye on the stars should get you through the night.