Calgary Roller Derby players are hoping to unite the derby community at their first home event in two years.
It’s a sport that leaves players battered and bruised, but that’s all part of the fun according to participants.
“Hitting people is first on my list. It’s an outlet for aggression,” Carla Walquist, AKA Scarla Maim and co-president of Calgary Roller Derby, said of her favourite aspects of the game.
“It’s very rough. It’s very intense. There’s tons of skill involved, tons of rules involved. Agility and speed and endurance.”
Roller derby is back on again in Calgary after COVID-19 shut the sport down for two years.
“I was grateful we got our last scrimmage back in March of 2019, but it was kind of heartbreaking actually, to be honest,” Walquist said.
Members of the Calgary Roller Derby are thrilled to be back at their weekly practices in West Hillhurst.
“Nothing really beats the fitness that we do here and the intensity, the community — all of the stuff you just can’t find in a home gym,” Walquist said.
The sport involves two teams, with one jammer from each team, who can score points by passing opposing team members as many times as possible within two minutes. Blockers stop the opposing jammer by any legal means necessary while helping their jammer get through.
“It was amazing and it was nerve-racking,” said skater Jessica Hafeli, also known on the track as Jigz, about her return to practice.
“I have never not skated this long in my life in 10 years, so there were definitely a lot of nerves mixed with excitement.
“Not sure if I was ready but as soon as I put skates on in the first practice it was like ‘OK, cool, let’s go!'”
Hafeli said she appreciates the sense of community in the Calgary roller derby scene.
“I enjoy the athleticism mixed with the empowerment. I really appreciate that this community is so diverse and very much supports the empowerment of women and the female-identified. It’s not like any other community or sports community that I’ve ever been a part of.”
She added there’s also a lot of strategy involved in the sport.
“The ability to have really good strategies that you’ve practiced and then go into a game and execute it perfectly is the best,” she said of the game. “When you’re working together and you’ve been working so hard at this one play and it comes out beautifully in a game — there’s nothing like it.”
It’s taken some time for skaters to come back and feel comfortable enough to be in close quarters to return to full-contact drills and scrimmages. As a result, the local association isn’t back to full strength just yet and the Calgary derby community is looking to recruit.
“The whole derby community worldwide is suffering. We are suffering for players, for games and events and fans,” Walquist said.
“We are just trying to build that back up and get it out there again so people know we are still at it and just get them excited about derby.
“We just want to get people to come out and see it once and then I think they will be hooked and they will come again.”
Calgary Roller Derby is hosting a double-header women’s invitational on June 11 in Calgary at the Acadia Recreation Complex, called Roller Derby Revival-Smash Hits.
The games will be themed around music genres with punk vs rap and metal vs country. Both participants and audience members are encouraged to dress the part for the team they are playing or cheering for.