First, Campbell River embraced roller derby as a spectator sport. It only makes sense that, after it arrived in the community, the players would follow.
“I think I was looking for a challenge and looking for some sort of team sport that was different,” said Stacey Larson. “I had known some people who were doing it and had been to some bouts, but it had always been in Courtenay-Comox.
“So when it came to Campbell River, it was a game-changer for me.”
Larsen was among the newcomers to roller derby who completed the Campbell River Rink Minx first “Fresh Meat” program last Tuesday at Rod Brind’Amour Arena. The eight-week, introductory course wrapped up with a presentation of team uniforms and hugs as Rink Minx veterans welcomed the newcomers to the family.
“Roller derby is like a way of life for us,” said Jen Calla, aka Sweet Sufferin. “We eat, sleep and breathe roller derby. It’s a great community.”
And it has found a home in Campbell River after the team lost its facility in the Comox Valley last year. An exhibition show at the Brindy last summer drew a raucous, all-ages crowd of 700 spectators, giving the women hope that they could find a home in the city.
A deal with the Campbell River Community Centre to host Sunday evening practices followed, and Strathcona Gardens added the Fresh Meat course as part of its recreational activity schedule earlier this year.
Jen “Sweet Sufferin” Calla, centre, distributes team T-shirts to graduates of the Rink Minx Fresh Meat roller derby program following their final session at Rod Brind’Amour Arena Tuesday, June 9, 2015. — J.R. Rardon/Campbell River Mirror
Campbell River’s newest team will reward that partnership on July 4 when it hosts Scar Wars, the Rink Minx’s second local bout and first as a true hometown team. The event begins at 5 p.m. at Rod Brind’Amour Arena and will feature bouts against the Pow Town Roller Girls of Powell River and against the Harbour City Rollers of Nanaimo.
A sneak peak at the team and the sport will be offered on Canada Day, when the Rink Minx take part in the parade, a derby demo, and a pub crawl.
The team will also begin its second Fresh Meat series June 30 at the Brindy, open to both newcomers and the intermediate skaters who completed the debut course last week.
“The session we just did is more basic — learning how to skate and how to be comfortable on your skates,” said Calla. “The next session, we’re hoping to introduce a higher level of skating; backward skating, more hitting, more contact.”
Roller derby is a high-energy, contact sport blending elements of sexy and macho, with players boasting provocative or mock-violent derby names and sometimes costumes, or “boutfits”. It had its initial heyday in the mid-20th century in the U.S., but declined after the competitive aspect gave way to showmanship and scripted bouts.
A grassroots resurrection of the sport began in the early 2000s, and now there are more than 1,200 amateur leagues worldwide.
“I used to skate when I was a kid and I loved it,” said Catherina “Celtic Crush” Schofield. “I stopped after I had my children, but seeing it signed up here I wanted to do it because I’m very competitive.”
Lauren “Titty Kitty” Thuja said she was drawn by the desire to play an all-girl, contact sport. Aolani “Mean Machine” Delorme has essentially discovered an alter-ego when she straps on the helmet and pads and laces on her skates.
“It’s something to expand my horizons and step out of my box, which is normally quite small,” said Delorme. “I wanted to do something that’s just totally opposite to me. I just love it.”
To learn more or to sign up for the next Fresh Meat introductory session, visit Rink Minx Roller Girls on Facebook or email email@example.com.