Wheels of fury

Roller Derby gives women a fast-paced, full-contact sport of their own

“I’d rather be dead than wear fur.”

That’s what the Death Track Dolls blocker/pivot, known as Lucid Lou, says of her leopard-printed rivals, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, in pre-game smack talk at Downsview Park’s Hangar.

The Beacher has been a member of the women’s Toronto Roller Derby[/url] league for two bouting seasons and is active behind the scenes, sitting on 10 committees.

She got started in roller derby through the observations of her 11-year-old daughter.

“My daughter is the one who saw the roller girls and freaked out and thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Lou says.

But what really drew her to the derby was its competitiveness.

“Just the athleticism and getting out and being active and hanging out with a very eclectic group of women,” Lou says. “Most of it is tattoo culture, but there’s a lot of girls out there: we’ve got doctors, lawyers — everything.”

Two teams take to the ellipse, measuring 16 by 27 metres, with five players each: one pivot (wearing a stripe), three blockers and one jammer (wearing a star) for two 30-minute periods.

An initial whistle is blown and the ladies push off, setting the speed for each two-minute session called a jam. Another two whistle blasts send the opposing jammers on their way, scrambling through the pack to become the lead.

Once there is a legal lead jammer, they control the jam. Teams earn points on the jammer’s second trip through the pack: every player passed garners one point. The jam is called off by a repeated tapping of the hips by the lead jammer.

“It’s an intense, intense sport,” Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ blocker D. Rail says. “Whether it’s the practices you do, the feelings you have during games or the injuries you receive afterwards.”

Indeed, intensity is the name of game as the ladies practice three–four times a week for normal league play. If they’re on the all-star team, CN Power, it’s five times a week.

“It rules your life,” D. Rail adds with a laugh.

When it comes to the names of the bouters, it’s all about personality. And the choice of one can be tough.

“It’s actually kind of hard because they have a site online of everyone’s name in the world,” D. Rail says. “You can’t pick anyone else’s name. It has to be completely unique.”

The names add to the antagonistic antics on the track.

“It’s run by women and they’re naturally aggressive towards each other, I think,” D. Rail says.

But don’t expect any donnybrooks to break out.

“Our league takes (rules) more seriously than most leagues,” says D. Rail, who suffered a knee strain during the bout against the Death Track Dolls and had to be carried off. “With roller derby, you have a hard time balancing entertainment factor and the sport.

“Certain leagues decide they want more entertainment so they allow fights,” she adds. “If anyone ever fights in this league, they’d get ejected immediately.”

Teammate Brim Stone agrees.

“There are some limitations to what you do to another player,” she says. “You couldn’t go and elbow someone or trip someone if it affects the gameplay.”

The petite Brim Stone’s eyes grow as large as roller wheels and her lips curve into a mischievous grin when she talks derby.

But don’t let her girlish smile and size fool you: She will drop you like yesterday’s bran muffin.

“In this league, we usually get along pretty much until we get on the track,” she says. “When we’re on the track, all of a sudden all that friendship breaks down and you become enemies just for that game.”

For those ladies brave enough to strap on the wheels and scrap it out in the Hangar, be prepared to feel like a piece of meat.

“We call our new recruits Fresh Meat,” says Brim Stone. “Sometimes girls will come out to the games and become interested in the sport.”

But the lamb chops are not thrown to the lionesses right away. They go through rigorous training before entering the arena. And rest assured, the derby’s aggressive nature is all part of the game’s spirit.

“It’s really amazing how we can come together for this common sport,” Lucid Lou says. “Obviously, unless it’s rugby, you’re not getting a full-contact sport with women.

“It’s setting a new pace and new standard for extreme sports as far as women go.”

The ladies lace up for their next match between Gore Gore Rollergirls and Smoke City Betties, Sept. 20.

About this article:

By: Brian Baker
Posted: Aug 19 2009 11:57 am
Filed in: Sports
Edition: Toronto