Bob Noxious reflects on the evolution of roller derby and his visit to Nelson
The roller derby teams may have packed up their tights, face paint and skates, but the Klash in the Kootenays left a lasting impression on all involved.
“Roller derby is all about empowering people, giving them confidence and doing something that nobody else does,” said Bob Noxious.
Noxious is a roller derby consultant who was hired by Brown Paper Tickets to help with the Western Canada derby tournament earlier this month.
“Seeing individuals and teams walk away with brand new skill sets and things to work on, knowing that I’ll probably get to see them next year and it will be that much better is amazing. Just to be a part of the history and be able to walk up to people and say ‘I remember when,’ and ‘Gosh, look at how far you’ve come.’ That’s what is rewarding for me,” he said.
In late 2004 Noxious became involved in derby with the Madison, Wisconsin Mad Rollin’ Dolls.
He began as an announcer when the Mad Rollin’ Dolls were only the fourth or fifth team to skate publicly at the time, now there are 1,200 teams worldwide.
Noxious gradually became involved in various aspects of the sport from coaching to business and marketing, which has taken him from his home league where the Bruise City Bruisers skate in Milwaukee to the West Kootenay.
“I love working for the Bruisers where we sit in an arena with 4,000 people and it’s amazing, but at the same time it’s still fun to get out and see really good derby played in more obscure areas and smaller venues,” he said after the championship game. “You get that whole feeling of the DIY, which is where we got started, that resonates when you go back to those roots.”
Nelson hosted eight of the best teams from all over Western Canada at the weekend tournament.
The West Kootenay Roller Derby League is the largest in Canada in terms of teams and is the fastest growing sport in Canada.
Noxious said it is not difficult to see why the sport is drawing women in huge numbers.
“The draw for the women is definitely the opportunity to do something vastly different,” he said. “It is the opportunity to not have necessarily played sports before, but be accepted in what is maybe the most physical in all women’s sports immediately. It gives them a peer group.”
Skaters come to roller derby from all walks of life and Noxious said they are often looking for something that hasn’t helped complete them as many of them hit their late 20s or so.
“What ‘that’ is is different in all of them,” he said beginning to choke back tears. “I see people leave the sport many times with a lot of confidence, sometimes business skills they have acquired because they had to be on a committee that helped market the league or promote the league. Just knowing that they can do whatever they want to because when they got started they couldn’t even skate and then some of them are skating at a level that is so unbelievable. You just can’t imagine that ride.”
Noxious announced the championship match-up between the Terminal City Roller Girls and the Kootenay Kannibelles.
He had first seen the Kannibelles skate at last year’s Best in the West tournament.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to announce most of their games last year in Kelowna. They came in and nobody knew who they were and that was one of the reasons why a lot of people didn’t want to play them because nobody knew what to expect,” he said. “To have gone from darlings of the tournament and finishing in the middle of the pack to now going to the national championship, that’s crazy. That shows a lot of commitment and a lot of work. It’s almost unbelievable to me to make that amount of progress in that amount of time.”