I recently sat down with Shove, Frosty, Viris, and Cheeks.
These are not your Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, or Peter.
They’re hard-core serious athletes who kick ass on the roller derby track. But while they are fast, tenacious, focused, balanced, and strong, they are also welcoming, friendly, and supportive of their teammates and their opponents.
According to Roller Sports Canada, roller derby “helps the young to grow up, and older persons to regain their youth.” It’s a sport that can be played for both recreation and competition.
The Toronto Roller Derby League (ToRD) is the largest flat-track derby league in Canada, with four house teams, an all-star travel team, and a developmental farm team. There is also a “Fresh Meat,” or learn-to-play program for those new to the sport.
The four house teams, The Smoke City Bandits, Death Track Dolls, Chicks Ahoy!, and the Gore-Gore Roller Girls, come from all walks of life, have various athletic backgrounds and body types, and range in age from 19 to the mid-50s. The women’s careers range from baristas to students, from stay-at-home moms to brain surgeons, and everything in between. But as the athletes I met explained, “everyone is equal on the rink.”
The game (and this is the most basic explanation) involves two teams which each field five participants at a time on an oval track. Each team has a player called a jammer whose goal it is to skate a full lap. The jammer’s teammates defend against the opponents who are trying to stop her jammer from making her way around the track. At the same time the players are attempting to stop the opposing jammer from making their way around the track. A point is awarded for each lap the jammer manages to complete. Skaters are allowed to use their hips and arms to make room for their jammer or to obstruct opponents from blocking their jammer. While it may be a physical game, players are quite protective of their own teammates and those on the opposing teams.
This is no longer the staged, theatrical game of the 1970s. This is real competition with no fake brawls or predetermined outcomes.
On Saturday, July 20th, the Toronto Roller Derby League is coming to Leaside with their Summer Smasher Tournament, being held at the Leaside Gardens. Tickets are $12 for early bird tickets, $15 online or $20 at the door. Kids 9 and under are free with a paying adult (two kids per adult). Visit torontorollerderby.com for more info.