Roller derby is on the rise around the world and proof of that can be found right here in the East Kootenays.
According to Bryan Mcwilliam, manager for Canada’s national roller derby team, it’s a combination of factors that has helped propel derby to its current status.
“The switch from a sideshow act, similar to professional wrestling, to a more [legitimate] sport has kept people coming back,” Mcwilliam wrote via email Thursday afternoon. “The sport allows people who may have lost their window in sports such as hockey, figure skating or anything else, to continue to play an amateur sport at a competitive level.”
According to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the global governing body for women’s roller derby, the number of derby leagues across the world increased from one in 2001 to 1,100 as recently as 2012.
The East Kootenay Roller Derby League (EKRDL), established in 2011, is one of those leagues and housed three teams in 2014.
Invermere’s Killer Rollbots took home the 2014 EKRDL title, defeating Kimberley’s Bavarian Barbarians July 5 at Marysville Arena. The Elkford-based Wildcat Brawlers finished the season in third place.
The Fernie-based Avalanche City Roller Girls left the EKRDL as league champions in 2013 and have kept the momentum rolling ever since.
RollerGirl.ca maintains extensive statistics and rankings for roller derby teams across the country. As of Aug. 14, Avalanche City was 12th in the country amongst 128 travelling derby teams ranked by RollerGirl.ca, proving that East Kootenay-based clubs are beginning to make a name for themselves in the national derby conversation.
Kimberley’s Bavarian Barbarians find a place in the national RollerGirl.ca rankings, edging into the non-travelling ranks in 75th position out of 78 ranked teams.
Pamela “Rock ‘N’ Rogue” Nevlud is in her first full season with the Barbarians and was drawn to the sport for the reasons Mcwilliam outlined — it allowed her to continue participating in sport at a high-level of competition.
“I went out to my first bout last year,” Nevlud said. “During the game, I was just like, ‘Wow, I need to play this sport.’ And I joined the next week.
“It’s a really different sport. It’s a sport that has a lot of attitude and people like that.”
If you have yet to experience roller derby, you have one last chance to do so before the Bavarian Barbarians shut things down for the 2014 season.
The Barbarians host the Jaw Breakers, from the Lil’ Chicago Roller Derby in Moose Jaw, Sask., to conclude the 2014 season, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. at Marysville Arena.
“Girls in fish nets hitting each other, and beer gardens, that’s kind of our big draw,” Nevlud said with a laugh.
The Moose Jaw-based squad ranks 70th out of 128 travelling derby teams and should present a formidable opponent for the local club.
After Saturday’s bout, the Barbarians will shut things down as they head into the winter offseason. Training for next season will fire up in January 2015 with regular-season play getting underway in April.
While the Barbarians go on winter break until January, roller derby isn’t leaving the global sports scene anytime soon.
“Derby isn’t going anywhere,” Mcwilliam concluded. “The sport continues to grow.
“I envision every major city in the world, and even a number of minor ones, having a derby leagut to call their own… In order for it to keep growing, we all need to continue to work our tails off to make sure everyone knows about it.”