Hips, elbows, and bodies were flying Saturday night at the Encana Events Centre as the Mile Zero Mercy – Dawson Creek’s Roller Derby Club - held it’s first-ever event.
Derby girls from Northern B.C. and Alberta brought their talents to town for the Mile Zero Mercy Mixed Massacre, showcasing the sport and giving fans a live taste of derby mayhem.
The event was a ‘mixed bag’ as they say in roller derby, which means competitors were split-up evenly into two teams based on experience – not according to hometown or derby club.
In the end it was Team Black that won with a score of 178-70, dominating Team Red. While the track was lop-sided, the Mixed Massacre brought a good show that impressed a sizable Events Centre crowd that cheered at every spill.
Unofficial attendance numbers were believed to be over 700 for the derby.
“It was awesome, it looked like a lot of fun,” said Aundrea Wright of Fort St. John, who travelled to Dawson Creek to attend her first derby. “Compared to most girls they are pretty tough.”
She said her only experience with roller derby comes from the movie Whip It starring Ellen Page, which helped popularize the sport.
“I expected it to be a little more fast-paced,” said Wright. “There were no Hollywood effects, but it was still awesome.”
Wright said she couldn’t wait until she can try derby herself.
Another fan taking in his first derby, Phil Dyck, said he would definitely like to see more derbies come to Dawson Creek.
“It was pretty good, I would definitely come back,” said Dyck. “It’s an alternative sport, I’m not a big hockey fan, so it’s nice to come to the rink to see something other than hockey or curling.”
Flat-track roller derby is a throwback to the sport’s glory days in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, where teams score points by having a ‘jammer’ (scoring player) lap ‘blockers’ of the opposing team who make their way around the track using their bodies to jockey for position and prevent any attempting jammers to pass.
In the ‘70’s roller derby later became a form of sports entertainment, with scripted outcomes. Its popularity waned until a revival in recent years with grassroots clubs popping up everywhere including the Peace Region. There is the Mercy in Dawson Creek, the Energetic City Roller Derby Association in Fort St. John, Grande Prairie has a league, and Chetwynd is forming a club as well.
And the fact that it is predominantly female oriented seems to be the attraction.
“It’s growing huge, even little, little towns have derby,” said Terri Craig (aka. Ripper) of Grande Prairie, who has been competing in roller derbies for three years. “It’s a growing sport for women, we finally have something that is for just us.”
She is not at all surprised by the sport’s growth.
“There are lots of women out there that like the contact,” she said noting that she’ll derby for as long as her body will allow it.
Head Referee David Chapman of Red Deer said in the four years of officiating derbies he has seen the sport grow immensely.
“From an Alberta standpoint there was four leagues when I started, now there is over twenty, and you’ve seen even bigger growth in B.C,” said Chapman, who also goes by the pseudonym Papa*Razzo.
“There are leagues popping up left, right and centre,” he noted. “It’s hugely popular and all it takes is a big flat space, and the will to start a team.”
“It’s a good strong environment for women to get into,” added Papa*Razzo.
He said that from a referee’s standpoint the Mixed Massacre, which featured many experienced competitors as well as some ‘fresh meat’ (rookies), was a difficult one to officiate.
“Anytime you have girls with that different of a skill level it can be hard to play, and from a referee’s standpoint it’s hard to judge if a hit was a good hit on a weak skater, or was that hit a penalty,” explained Chapman.
For newcomers Tina Hill and Lorna Merrick of the Mile Zero Mercy, the Massacre was one they will never forget.
“Initially I was scared, but once I got skating I was good to go, I’m absolutely hooked,” said Merrick, who goes by the name Lornado Tornado.
She was one of three Mercy girls that raced, along with Hill and Sara Irvine.
“It was awesome, a lot fun, and all the girls from out of town they were very supportive and encouraging,” she said.
Hill (aka. Rosie Whipeter) was also nervous for her first jam.
“At first I didn’t really know what I was doing because I don’t know all the rules, but the more I did it the more I wanted to get out there again,” she said. “I’m so hooked.”