Self + Body

June 18, 2011

Why You Should Care About Roller Derby

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Written by: Alex
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I have never been a fan of sports. Call it a mix of being too busy reading and a series of high school miseries. So imagine my delight when I found a sport that I not only loved watching, but even (gasp!) understood. That sport is… roller derby! And here’s why you should start caring about your local roller derby league:

Campy Fun

Where else can you watch a team of athletes with team names like The Montreal Sexpos or the CN Power, dressed in neon glittery spandex and tackling each other on roller skates? How about teams of zombie cabaret dancers or 80’s boy bands? Mix in the occasional drag queen announcer, cheerleaders dressed as ninjas carrying fake dismembered hands, more alternative lifestyle hair then you can shake a flat-iron at, and you have the campiest, most fun sporting event outside of the Out Games.

Impressive Skillz

Don’t get fooled by the sport’s shiny lamé surface: the competition is fierce and the athletes hit hard. Watching a skater get tackled to the floor can be cringe inducing. The crowd gets riled up and the athletes display impressive technical skill and strategic thinking. A bout is fast-paced and adrenaline-pumping: the athletes break a sweat and can suffer serious injuries. You could bring your sports-enthusiast friends and they would have a great time.


Simple to learn

I’m not exaggerating when I say my sports experience is pretty much limited to this one time I accidently caught a football and managed to score a touch-down in gym class in high school. So the fact I picked up the jist of the rules in about 10 minutes is nothing short of extraordinary. And proof that anyone can figure out how the sport works. Of course, it helps to go with a knowledgeable friend like I did, or do a quick wiki search first, but I promise you that you won’t be left scratching your head the whole time. Sure there’s a bunch of complicated rules that nobody understands, but not having a rule book handy won’t take away from your experience.

Shattered expectations

If you haven’t been to a bout yet, prepared to be surprised. For the uninitiated, the prevailing image of roller derby is a bunch of angry post-punk riot grrrls skating around a tilted track. Or maybe you’ve only ever seen the movie Whip It and think it’s full of Ellen Paige types discovering themselves in a feel-good environment. There’s probably a combination of both elements going on in the roller derby community, I’m sure, but the athletes aren’t just there to beat the crap out of each other and it’s not Lilith Fair on wheels (although I’d pay to see that too). Canadian roller derby leagues are members of WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association), is played on a flat track, and is allows for more strategic bouts than the old fashioned tilted tracks. The crowd is not at all like a seething mosh pit, nor is it the least bit cliquey. Everyone is just there to have a good time and let others do the same. So go to a bout and leave your preconceptions behind.

Affordable awesomeness

In Montreal, tickets are only $15 at the door, or $12 for advance online purchases. That’s basically the price of a movie ticket, but for something way more awesome. You can buy snacks or beer at the bout, and buy some cool merch too. The WFTDA roller derby league is not-for-profit, and all the proceeds go back into the league to pay for things like travel expenses or space rentals.

WFTDA has leagues all across Canada, including Montreal ( , Toronto (, Vancouver (, and Kitchener (, not to mention dozens of leagues in the United States and even one in the UK. Check out each league’s website for the lowdown on the teams and players (pro tip: they’re all awesome). The Canadian roller derby season is short and generally runs from about May to September (some lucky cities get longer seasons), with bouts occurring roughly every two weeks. In fact, there are only a few more bouts left, so don’t wait! You’ll be kicking yourself if you miss them, trust me.

See you there.

2011 Season Bouts

Vancouver: August 13 & 28, September 10
Kitchener: July 23, August 13 & 27
Toronto: August 20
Montreal: July 23, August 6

More information about all of the WFTDA leagues can be found at

Feature Photo: Whip It (2009)
Photo 2: Support Local Roller Derby
Photo Credit 3: Montreal Roller Derby League

About the Author

|Montreal Contributor| Alberta born, currently living in Montreal. He keeps busy by taking care of his vegetable garden and finches. Otherwise he can be seen putting his MA to work by watching TV, playing video games, or reading something postmodern. If for some reason you want to, follow him on Twitter @alexkristof.



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  1. So, I like derby, but sometimes I go, and unless I am with a HUGE group of friends or really drunk I feel a little… out of the loop. Like I feel like the sober ugly person at a big party because everyone seems to know each other, they are all part of the “in” crowd, and they have their special lingo and their special everything.

    • Alex

      There’s always going to be some of “those” people at any big event, but I’ve even seen families (with babies) and tourists at bouts (and once a guy dressed as a wizard). I don’t wanna suggest there’s some enormous community feel-goodery all the time (it’s hard enough to make every feel included at a BBQ), but that there’s no bouncer at the door keep the “uncools” out.
      I think the best example of how open the community really is, is if you take that extra step to get involved: they have roller blading lessons, volunteer opportunities, and workshops, in which people who know nothing about the sport are encouraged to learn about it and skate with the pros.
      I suggest trying to see thier special lingo/everything not as an exclusionary tactic but as an expression of their enthusiasm in an underrepresented pastime.
      And screw any of the meanies in the crowd; they don;t get what the sport is actually about.

  2. Kiki Von Carnage

    Great article for raising awareness of an awesome sport. Derby is finally becoming mainstream again and new leagues are dropping up across Canada. I would be remiss if I didn’t draw you attend to derby in Ottawa.

    Ottawa has three (3), yes three, Roller Derby leagues: Ottawa Roller Derby, Rideau Valley Roller Girls and Capital City Derby Dolls. And they’re bouting all summer long!

    Rideau Valley Roller Girls (RVRG) is bouting July 23rd.
    Ottawa Roller Derby (ORD) is hosting a bout on August 6th.
    Capital City Derby Dolls is bouting on August 6th.

    Kiki Von Carnage

    • Alex

      Awesome! Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for passing on the info. People should definitely go see as many bouts as they can this summer. It’s nice to hear from an insider that the sport is gaining in popularity.

  3. Lady Slatternly

    YAAAY! I would just like to express my love of this article :) I’m a Capital City Derby Doll, still in my first bouting season, and a veteran of several different sports, team and individual alike (soccer, wrestling and track and field). Of all of them, and despite a certain amount of success I may have enjoyed in the others, I think roller derby is the sport I’ve been looking for my whole life.

    The beauty of derby is in its combination of multiple elements: it’s rough, it’s strategic, it’s difficult, and it’s a little bit theatrical touched with a smidge of sexy (I mean honestly…our booty shorts and tights are AWESOME!!). There’s nothing quite like thinking, “I look hot in these,” and then laying out some chick on the other team with a well-placed – and legal – shoulder check.

    I encourage all ladies to give it a try, because you will find a place on a derby team :)

    Derby love,
    Lady Slatternly

    • Alex

      Happy to hear another Capital City Derby Doll enjoying the article. I agree that the gals should definitely get involved however they can. And the guys out there can always volunteer to be a NSO (Non-Skating Official) or ref, they should all run and contact their local league.

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