Deathbridge Derby Dames ready to crash into new roller derby season
The ice at the Lethbridge Curling Club has been replaced by a pair of roller derby tracks — home to the Lethbridge Roller Derby Guild, whose women’s team will kick off the 2019 season on Friday night.
“Last year, we won a couple and lost a couple more,” said Tracy Reid, former Derby Dames captain and current president of the Lethbridge Roller Derby Guild. Reid, who goes by the derby name “Knotty,” has been with the team for almost 10 years.
“We were rebuilding last year, which was a little difficult, but this year we have high hopes,” she said.
An influx of new skaters has the Dames optimistic while facing a fresh start against a familiar foe, as the B52 Bellas make the trip down from Calgary.
“We have had fluctuating years,” Reid said. “Our numbers used to be quite high and then we kind of dipped down. Last year, we only had about nine skaters; this year we’re up to about 14 for the adults, or maybe a few more.
“It’s really exciting to see those numbers. We have some new skaters and some returning skaters.”
One way that the Derby Dames find new skaters is through a very successful junior program, with teenagers coming up through the ranks and then joining the adults.
“Juniors are broken down into three levels,” Reid said. “Eight years old and up, when they hit 16 they can actually play with the adults, but we like them to stay with the juniors as long as they can. Once they hit 18, they age out and have to come with the adults.
“Our juniors are both male and female. We take anybody — ages, shapes, sizes, colour, orientation — we don’t care. We love people and if you want to play derby, then we’re going to let you do it.”
Watch below: (May 5) Vancouver roller derby league calls for more rink space
For the kids at the track, there’s a lot to love about roller derby.
“I like hitting people, I can’t play a sport without hitting people,” said junior Shane Kress, or “Kidddanger.”
“I like how you can work as a team but you also get to do your own thing at the same time.”
Kress has been playing roller derby for six years, and says that he plans to continue moving up as he inches closer to adulthood.
“There’s five of us, besides me, that all started on the same day,” Kress said. “We have all moved up together.”
One such skater who has grown up with the sport is Madison — or as she is known affectionately at the track, “Mad-Dawg” — Dovell, who has taken a step back from playing with the Dames to join the coaching ranks.
“It started out when I was 16. I was a member of the first Lethbridge junior team, which was super cool and a great opportunity,” said Dovell. “I was getting a lot of penalties playing with the juniors because I was quite a bit larger than them, so then I transitioned into playing with the adults.”
“It’s been a really wonderful experience.”
Dovell says that in her time around the sport she has seen the growth of the game go through ups and downs in Lethbridge, but she’s noticed a certain stereotype about roller derby start to fade away.
“We don’t do anything too crazy,” said Dovell, “If you’ve seen the movie Whip It, it’s not like that.”
Reid agrees that the theatrics have died down, as those involved in the game try to prove to people that it’s a real, high-impact sport.
“There are people who are really hoping to get it into the Olympics one day,” said Reid. “The names are still there; the costumes people are getting away from. You will still see the odd people in their fishnets and booty-shorts, but a lot of people are trying to get a little bit more realism to derby.
“It is not what people used to see on TV; there’s no clotheslining people, there’s no hitting people with chairs. You do definitely have to follow the rules or you end up in the sin bin.”
Reid says that the nature of the sport — being full-contact — is what fans appreciate about derby.
“It’s a full-contact sport,” Reid explained. “The best thing I’ve heard somebody call it is, ‘you’re playing chess on skates with bricks being thrown at you.’
“It’s a lot to think about, and people are hitting you while you’re doing it.”
But off the track and away from the bodies being thrown, the Deathbridge Derby Dames are mostly excited to spend another season together.
“It’s high impact, super fun,” said Dovell, “but the best part about derby for myself is the community. That’s one thing I really missed when I took a step back, so being able to coach has allowed me to rejoin that community.”
The home opener is Friday, May 24th at the Lethbridge Curling Club in the ATB Centre.
Watch below: (Aug. 24, 2018) Edmonton roller derby team ranked as one of the top 50 in the world
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