What’s in a name? Well, a lot, now that you mention it.
Since its birth in the mid-1930s the game known as roller derby has won thousands of fans and participants alike. Despite this, there is concern about the game’s reputation as a legitimate sport.
Kitchener-Waterloo’s own derby league has been competing in the region since 2008 and consists of three cleverly named house teams – the Venus Fly Tramps, The Vicious Dishes and the Total Knock-Outs, as well as the Tri-City Thunder (an all-star travel team) and Plan B (also a travel team).
Originally known as Tri-City Roller Girls, as of March 19 the league has officially changed its name to Tri-City Roller Derby. In a recent press release media co-ordinator Stacie Jones made it clear that the league wants recognition as a legitimate sport, not just a fad that comes in waves.
There’s a little more to the name change than what one can garner from the press release, Jones said.
“The name change is a transition that many leagues around the world are making to make it clear that we play roller derby. There are still so many people locally that are unaware K-W has a roller derby league,” she said. “We find that the image the term “roller girl” conjures up just isn’t really an accurate representation anymore.”
“Removing ‘Girls’ makes it inclusive of everyone. All that and really, it just sounds more professional.”
For those of you who don’t know, points in roller derby are earned by lapping members of the opposing team. Each game is known as a bout, which consists of multiple jams. These are like periods in a hockey game; you get two minutes to score points until the next jam.
There are five members on the floor at any one time, the jammer (the point scorer), the blockers (playing defence) and the pivot, which is basically the head defender.
Roller derby is a full contact affair, but you can’t trip other players or block with your forearms or hands.
It’s like a fantastic blend of speed skating and hockey. Jones described what it’s like to step out onto the track and play the game.
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. We spend so much time practising for these games – and we finally get to see the payoff for all that hard work. You never truly know what to expect from a team, so the first jam is always a little terrifying, regardless of how great you and your team are.”
The game of roller derby has experienced a revival in the past two decades, now allowing men’s teams as well as junior teams to experience the thrill of the track. This is just part of what adds to the sport’s newfound legitimacy, according to Jones.
“The rules have developed tremendously. The amount of time we spend not only on skills, but complex strategic play has really legitimized the sport,” she said. “The level of competitive play has also increased as skaters begin to realize that in order to become stronger players and further develop in the sport, a great deal of cross training is involved.
“Basically we’ve begun to treat our bodies like we are athletes because that is what we are – athletes.”
Tri-City Roller Derby is holding its Season Opener Extravaganza on April 12 at the New Hamburg Arena. Anyone who attends can expect to see the Tri-City Thunder and Plan B go up against the Brandywine Roller Girls from Chester County, Penn.
The game promises to be an exciting one as both teams are evenly ranked. This match will also be the first to be hosted by Tri-City Roller Derby since their name and logo change.
“We’re super excited to show everyone how hard we’ve been working,” Jones said.
If you want to learn more about Tri-City Roller Derby or buy tickets to their season opener, you can visit www.tricityrd.com.