The Red Deer Belladonnas are rollin’ with the big dogs. Not only are they ranked fourth in Canada but two of their jammers have been named to the Canadian Team.
Oh, you didn’t know there was a Canadian Roller Derby Team? Well now you know. You see, in December countries from around the world will converge on Hogtown, (Toronto, for the nickname challenged) for the first ever Roller Derby World Cup.
“We’re really excited two of our girls got chosen,” said Amy Thompson a.k.a ‘Gunpowder Gertie’.
“It’s always been my dream to represent my country in an athletic sport like Roller Derby,” adds Stephanie ‘TAZ’ Hansen.
For those not in the know, here’s a quick history lesson.
Roller Derby has been around since 1930s. At that time it was more sports entertainment than true sport.
There were mixed leagues, men’s leagues and of course women’s leagues. This Roller Derby was even televised in the 80s and 90s. (I know because I used to watch roller derby back in the day on a satellite dish).
I enjoyed this type of derby for a few reasons. One it was cool seeing how fast these athletes could maneuver on roller skates. Secondly, it was physical. And lastly, they had characters, similar to the WWF (the name at the time).
You would have blockers that would turn and clothesline some skinny jammer. It was fantastic!
Now that was quality television. I found out later in life that it was all staged. But, no more.
“Back then there was a lot less rules and less equipment,” said Gertie.
Even with the extra equipment there are still injuries, nicks and bruises. “Players will play through pain, strains and bruises and stuff like that. Some girls have had bruises on their hips the size of your head.”
The sport made a change in the early 2000s.
They became more sport, and less sports entertainment. So any injuries are all too real. The only thing staged these days are alter egos.
We’ll get to that in a second.
But first, the oversimplified rules.
“Each team is allowed four members on the floor at one time,” explained Gertie.
These four team members are blockers. Their goal is simple – they block jammers.
Each team has one jammer on the floor at a time.
“Their objective is to go through the pack of the eight girls essentially. And they score a point for every girl they pass on the opposing team.”
Back to the alter egos. Now as much as this sport has left its sports entertainment side in the past, they have managed to hold onto a small portion of that life — the nicknames, or alter ego. Which is part of the fun. “When I was a kickboxer, I used to do a lot of spinning and jumping around in order to not get hit, I had to move a little faster. And then people started saying I spin so much like the Tazmanian Devil in Looney Tunes,” said Hansen.
Some girls get their alter ego names from nicknames they’ve had all their lives. Yes, there are names like ‘Freaken Stein’ and ‘Debbie Downer’.
While others get their names from drunken parties like ‘Kiss N Tell’.
(Ok, I made that up at rollergirlthebook.com/namegenerator).
However, for Gunpowder Gertie (Amy Thompson) she found her name a different way.
“I went to a search engine. And it said find your pirate name. I typed in my name, which is Amy Thompson. And it came up Gunpowder Gertie, it just kinda stuck from there.”
And you know what else sticks? These girls. The roller derby girls are a close bunch that stick together through a lot of thick and thin.
Over the July long weekend, Gunpowder Gertie and Taz, two Red Deer Belladonnas went for a tryout in Calgary and impressed the Team Canada coaches enough to make the team.
Hopefully they’ll impress local audiences enough on Aug. 27th when they take on the Oil City All-Stars at Westerner Park.
If you are impressed then you can donate to help them with expenses that will accrue for their trip to Toronto in December.
Visit www.teamcanadarollerderby.ca for more information.
Then you can utilize your alter ego ‘Hooka Sisterup’. And hopefully they will hook us up with a gold medal win.