Roller derby ready to rodeo

The action-packed, full-contact sport of roller derby is a star attraction at this year's Cloverdale Rodeo.

The Mainland Misfits flat track roller derby league hosts Cowgirls and Rollerskates this weekend during the Cloverdale rodeo.

The action-packed, full-contact sport of roller derby is a star attraction at this year’s Cloverdale Rodeo.

B.C.’s only co-ed roller derby league, the Mainland Misfits, present Cowgirls and Rollerskates, a two-day derby May 21 and 22 at the Cloverdale Curling Club, the league’s home track.

The Mainland Misfits are made up of two women’s teams, the Anarchy Angels and the Doomsday Bunnies, plus a men’s team called – tantalizingly – the Vancouver Murder.

“We really want to build up our following and our fan base, and we really want people in the community to come out and join us,” says Fort Langley’s Tawnya Wood, co-captain of the Doomsday Bunnies.

The sport is growing so quickly, it’s gone viral, with 19 B.C. leagues and growing.

“People see it once and they want to come out and play, or they want to ref or they want to be non-skating officials,” says Wood.

“It’s full contact, and very competitive. Also, people have a lot of fun,” says Wood, who skates by the moniker Tee Kayo. Teammates’ names include Boo T Slamma, Devoida Taste and Backstabbing Bettie, to name a few. The Anarchy Angels sport monikers like Mya Diction, Rolla Sassin and Mala Justid.

Roller derby is theatrical, even kitschy. The colourful costumes are legendary, as are individual displays like fishnet stockings and face paint – but it’s also an athletic sport involving strength, agility and strategy.

Mainland MisfitsIt’s also family-friendly, as fans old and new will discover this weekend, when they’ll get their first look at the Misfits during the Cloverdale Rodeo Parade, followed by Cowgirls and Rollerskates, a four-bout derby Saturday and Sunday, in support of the charity Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver.

“We really want to build our following and our fan base and we really want people in the community to come out and join us,” says Wood.

Amazingly, the men and ladies teams share the track during some bouts, although Wood is careful to note the teams themselves are not co-ed.

There’s no shoulder checking during co-ed bouts, but hip checks are allowed, leading to spills and wipe outs, and times when players even land on one another.

“I’m not going to lie, when we were first thinking of merging, I wasn’t too sure,” she says. “It’s been so good for the sport. We’ve learned a lot from the men, and I think they’ve learned a lot from us.”

In flat track derby, the track is flat (in this case, polished concrete), not banked.

Players wear roller skates, elbow and knee pads, mouth and wrist guards, and helmets.

The rules are simple.

Two teams take part in a bout. Each 30-minute half is broken into shifts called jams.

The eight players at the front are called the pack and act as blockers. The two jammers – one from each team – take off after the pack once the whistle blows, trying to make it through.

Once past the pack, the jammers sprint ahead to catch up with the pack again. Jammers must complete a second lap in order to score points by passing opposing players, who, in turn, try to block their progress.

“Roller derby is an incredibly strategic game,” Wood says.

It’s also one of the fastest-growing sports in North America – and beyond.

The players on Wood’s team run the gamut, from punk rockers to business executives, artists and homemakers aged 21 to 50.

“Derby is a sport that embraces all shapes, all sizes and all athletic abilities,” she says. “We are serious athletes – It isn’t about wearing fishnets. It isn’t about how you look.”

The players train hard, focus on their sport and not the spectacle of roller derby, striving for empowerment, athleticism and fun while being active in the community.

The physical challenge of the sport, the theatricality, and the chance to blow off steam in an accepting environment has huge appeal for women.

“We are strong women. A lot of us have children. You go out, have a two-hour practice and you get some hits. It’s a hard workout. There’s nothing like this. Then you go home and you’re a great mom.”

Saturday, May 21, there’s a men’s all star invitational from 1-3 p.m., followed by Public Frenemy vs. Doomsday Bunnies from 4-6 p.m.

On Sunday, May 22, the Sea to Sky Sirens take on the Anarchy Angels from 1-3 p.m., with a coed all-star invitational closing out the derby from 4 to 6 p.m.

Free with fairgrounds admission ticket. Look for the Mainland Misfits at the Cloverdale Curling Club – inside the Extreme Zone.

The Misfits also present One Lump or Two, an Alice in Wonderland ‘Mad Hatter’ themed derby, June 4 at the Cloverdale Curling Rink, when they’ll host two teams from Vancouver’s Terminal City Rollergirls.

The Mainland Misfits are pleased to announce a partnership with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver for their upcoming June 4 and July 16 bouts.

Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.

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