The Kootenay Kannibelles were not surprised that they found themselves skating in the championship game of the Klash in the Kootenays.
“We’ve been working so hard for this,” said Bobbi Barbarich aka Beretta Lynch. “Our coach Phil-Yer-Pants has been incredibly diligent in analyzing everything we do and giving good feedback, so to be here was the goal. We wanted to have a better showing against Terminal City Roller Girls than the last time we played them.”
The Kannibelles took on Vancouver’s Terminal City Roller Girls in Sunday’s championship match up, which finished 159-75 for the visitors meaning the Kannibelles took silver in the tournament.
“There was a ton of excitement,” said Barbarich, who also took home the award for the tournament’s most valuable player.
“There were lots of nerves. To have a hometown crowd, and to be able to show this calibre of roller derby and to be in the finals and play such a good game against a team that has been top ranked for five years. To do that in front of a home crowd was an amazing experience. I played worlds in December and I would say for me this was comparable.”
The Kannibelles started the Western Canadian tournament on Friday with a bout against the Okanagan-Shuswap’s Raggedy Rollers.
The West Kootenay defeated the Raggedy Rollers 292-70.
On Saturday, the Kannibelles took on the Red Deer Belladonnas taking another win 259-48 and sending the local skaters to the gold medal round.
“We were ranked second in Canada coming in,” said Kannibelles’ coach Phil Loosley aka Phil-Yer-Pants. “We knew the Belladonnas would give us a tough game. That was the main focus, to get past them to get into the finals [Sunday].”
Loosley echoed Barbarich’s excitement about the weekend.
“This weekend was amazing,” he said. “I was involved not only as a coach but a member of the organizing committee. With both roles the week leading up was crazy with practices and then making sure everything was set and ready to go.”
Loosley said the Kannibelles did everything they wanted to do during the tournament.
The Kannibelles had nothing to lose Sunday when they took on the Roller Girls for the gold.
“They are a very experienced team,” said Loosley. “Our plan was to go out and play our game and not let them intimidate us and boss us around and we did that.”
The West Kootenay Roller Derby League is the largest in Canada in terms of teams involved in the sport.
The league has seven home teams and the Kannibelles who are the travel team.
“I think so many of our communities are filled with women who are already active and sporty,” said Loosley. “A lot of women who are mountain bikers, skiers, snowboarders and horse back riders are used to falling down and not getting hurt. They are tough and incredibly fit.”
Loosley said he is often asked by other coaches how he gets his players to train outside of derby and he said he doesn’t have to, they just do.
“I feel like that is how it is across our league,” he said. “We have so many amazingly fit women and it just goes hand in hand with the lifestyle that people are living in the Kootenays.”
Barbarich who has skated as part of the national roller derby team and is also the co-captain for Salmo’s Babes of Brutality said women in the Kootenays share an assertive determination that lends itself well to derby.
“I’ve thought about what draws Kootenay women to derby because it draws a huge spectrum of people with all different personalities. But I think the thing that connects them all is an aggressive determination. I mean aggressive in terms of an assertive determination,” she said.
“That’s the prevailing personality of people in the Kootenays, because you have to be determined, stalwart and things aren’t always easy living in a small town.”
Even though there are six different communities represented in the West Kootenay Roller Derby League, Barbarich said they all have an attitude of “we can survive huge snow storms and pretty much anything you can throw at us.”
“Roller derby is really complementary to that and the other side of it is people who live here pull together and that’s what you need to do to run a grassroots sports league. All of the skaters are running it for themselves and their families are helping out and that’s what you do in small towns,” she said.
Despite the aggression that is seen during games, players from opposing teams were exchanging hugs and smiles throughout the game.
“There is a phrase ‘derby love,’” said Loosley. “The Terminal City Roller Girls are now the biggest competition we have, but they are also probably the best friends we have. There is a philosophy in the league to share the love and the knowledge to make the sport better and we really see that here.”
The Kootenay Kannibelles will now move on to the national championships.