Roller derby rolls in Red Deer this weekend

When the Chuck Norrisettes are matching up against the Bad Girlfriends, you know you’re not at your average sporting event.

When the Chuck Norrisettes are matching up against the Bad Girlfriends, you know you’re not at your average sporting event.

There will be plenty of flying elbows and spectacular spills as the women of roller derby show their stuff in a series of bouts in Red Deer this weekend.

A dozen of the more than 25 roller Flat Track Women’s Roller Derby leagues across Canada are sending players to the city for a daytime boot camp and competitions at night on Saturday and Sunday.

“There are 130 girls coming into town from all over Canada for the boot camp,” said Michelle Skorjanc, also known as Cherry Jamm. “We have girls from Toronto, Vancouver, Prince George, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan and Medicine Hat.”

Organized by the Canadian Women’s Flat Track Women’s Roller Derby League, this is the first boot camp of its kind in Canada. The women will be put through their paces by Quadzilla and Hollywood, a pair of U.S.-based male coaches widely known in roller derby circles.

Four tracks have been set up in the Stockmen’s and Prairie Pavilions at Westerner Park for training, said Skorjanc, who is a blocker with The Belladonnas, the Red Deer team formed last fall.

The first of two evening bouts starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday with a showdown between The Belladonnas and the roller derby association’s rookies. At 7:30 p.m., the Chuck Norrisettes and the Bad Girlfriends will face off. Two more bouts will run on Sunday night at the same times.

Roller derby has been around since the 1930s and had its heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s when it got regular TV coverage and drew legions of loyal fans to the races on banked wooden tracks. Rising costs eventually brought down the sport. But it has seen a rebirth and skater-owned and operated leagues have sprouted up across the country following a non-profit, do-it-yourself approach.

The league now boasts teams with like Calgary’s Thrashin’ Lassies, Medicine Hat’s Gas City Rollers, the Pile O’ Bones Derby Club of Regina, and the Reign Valley Vixens of Lower Mainland, B.C.

Courses are laid out flat on the floor. Banked tracks fell victim to the logistics of finding suitable venues and there are none in use in Canada, although they can be found still in the U.S.

Skorjanc said spectators will be treated to a full-contact sport. “Adding to that, derby is all about individuality. Whatever your derby persona might be, you’re going to see costume-like attire.”

The association was formed to boost the sport’s profile and last year sent the first all-female Team Canada to compete in Scotland and England for the first time since the 1970s.

Most of the leagues are for women only, although the doors are opening for male skaters and there will a co-ed bout on Sunday evening.

Participants must be at least 18 years old and willing to devote three nights a week. Skaters supply their own helmets, mouth and wrist guards, and skates, knee and elbow pads.

Advance tickets cost $10, or $12 at the door for the bouts. To get more information, go to www.cwrda.ca or buy online at www.rollergirl.ca

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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