It is roller derby season, and local women and men are strapping on their old school roller skates and (literally) hitting the track.
According to Karin Gilchrist, also known as Mulan Bruise, a member of the Red Deer Roller Derby Association (RDRDA), roller derby has been springing up in towns all over Alberta.
“It just takes a few girls who are really interested and want to skate to get together and start a league.”
On Aug. 25 the Westerner Park will host the Summer Grudgen III: Clash of the Titans bout. This is going to be the first sanctioned bout in Canada where it is men vs. women.
“We are a really close league and we just thought it would be a really great experience to play each other.”
The RDRDA formed in late 2008 when the first group of girls laced up their skates and hit the floor at the Collicutt Centre in Red Deer. The original league was made of one team – the Belladonnas. One year later two house teams were formed, the Heavy Duty Chicanicks and the Death Roll Derby Dolls. In 2010 a men’s team hit the track with the creation of the Dreadnaughts.
Roller derby is an American invented contact sport that was originally created by Leo Seltzer in the 1930s. He was looking for a way to capitalize on the popular past time of roller speed skating so he held a roller skating endurance race, similar to bicycle races that had become popular during the Great Depression.
As the races Seltzer put together gained popularity, teams replaced the endurance and long-distance skating, a point system was introduced and certain forms of physical contact were allowed.
According to The Roller Derby Resource web site, the 1970s were recognizing the sport for its entertainment qualities. Bouts were often playing to sold-out stadiums and were broadcast on television. The teams relished the showmanship and theatrical antics that riled up the crowd.
Modern day roller derby has moved away from the ‘scripted bouts’ of the 1970s and is now a true full contact sport that focuses on athleticism and agility.
There have been a number of revivals of this sport since the 1930s and the most recent revival started in 2001. However, roller derby did not make it to Red Deer for another seven years.
Meanwhile, the local league has continued to grow and is currently comprised of four divisions. The Competitive Division is made up of the Belladonnas, the Nightshades and the Dreadnaughts. The Freshmeat Division is a gateway to roller derby. It’s an intensive three-month introduction to the sport.
The newly-formed Recreational Division offers less competitive matches and casual skate opportunities. And finally, the Junior Division will be launched later this year.
An average team will have 14 skaters on their roster. The Belladonnas currently have 11 members on their team so they are currently recruiting.
Bruise, who is also a player for the Belladonnas, has been skating for almost one year and has come to appreciate the sport. “It is an aggressive sport, which I really, really like and it is challenging and you get a lot of exercise. It is something I have just fallen in love with,” she said.
The players get to create their own roller derby personalities and creative names to be identified by. Many of the names are a play on words and quite witty.
“It is a chance to find your alter ego,” said Bruise “You find something that grasps the essence of who you are as a player and just go with it.”
In this weekend’s bout, the Belladonnas face off against the Dreadnaughts at 6 p.m., doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.