Ram Jam’s Black Betty roars from the speakers as roller derby rivals from Red Deer and Calgary warm up in front of a record crowd for this year’s season opener at Westerner Park.
Hoping to attract maybe 800 people, which would still have topped last year’s capacity by 350, organizers from the Red Deer Roller Derby Association watched in awe as 1,100 people lined up to watch their Belladonnas tackle Calgary’s Thrashin’ Lassies on a tiny flat track drawn in the concrete.
So many people were coming through the doors that the match was delayed for eight minutes to give as many as possible the time they would need to find their vantage points, including a few dozen left standing because the organizers ran out of chairs.
It didn’t hurt that the Belladonnas, after a slow start, handed the Lassies a sound thrashing with a final score of 200 to 58.
“They’ll wear their bruises proudly,” said Pat “General Thruster” Zahn, one of the referees for the Saturday night match and a member of Red Deer’s up-and-coming men’s team, the Dreadnaughts.
There were no major injuries on Saturday, but bumps and bruises are part of the game, which is why there is always a strong contingent of medics standing by to nurse wounds and haul people to the hospital if necessary, said club spokesman Damon “Nomad” Roth.
The fan base is steadily growing for a sport that traces its revival to Texas in 2002. Established only two years ago, Deer Roller Derby now has three travelling teams with the introduction of the Dreadnaughts last year.
It’s a little scary watching your daughter compete, but it’s also a lot of fun said Maureen Coveny, whose daughter, Lindsay “Linzifer” Jurman plays for the Red Deer Nightshades, sister team to the Belladonnas.
While she worries about the injuries she know her daughter will suffer, Coveny said roller derby has been wonderful in helping the young woman meet new friends after moving to Red Deer from her father’s home in Edmonton.
As aggressive as the players are when they’re in competition, roller derby is really a big family whose members respect and look after each other, said Zahn. He was wondering what there is to do in Red Deer when he moved here from Vancouver. He found his circle of friends within the Roller Derby Association.
Watching roller derby can be a bit confusing at first, said Angie “Gigi Vonrollher” Gosselin, one of two Belladonnas sidelines with broken legs suffered earlier in the year. Gosselin smashed two bones below the knee in her right leg while attending roller derby boot camp in Hawaii earlier this year while her teammate Danielle “Holly Wood” Frey broke her leg while going down some stairs on a fun skate.
Roller derby does become a life style for people who get involved, said Dreadnaughts Captain Jeff “Just Some Guy” Whyte, who met his wife, Alison — aka Brutally — while following roller derby on Facebook.
They were married last May and are expecting a baby boy early in April.
Red Deer’s next match pits the Nightshades against Winnipeg’s Murder City Maidens in Winnipeg on Saturday.
The next home game is back at Westerner Park with the Nightshades hosting the Lethbridge team, Deathbridge.