Just one game.
That’s all it takes to get hooked on roller derby.
Many of the current participants in the Toronto Roller Derby league (ToRD) started as faces in the crowd. Taking in the sport evolved into a need to be a part of it.
“I watched the games, loved it and then decided I wanted to get involved,” said ToRD member Nicki Nine Lives, who, like all involved participants, uses a derby name. “So I became a referee.”
Currently a part of ToRD’s “zebra mafia”, Nine Lives first became a spectator of the sport when her ex-boyfriend was the head referee. She immediately knew she wanted to take part, but didn’t know what to expect when she started.
“It was a little nerve-wracking at first,” Nine Lives said. “I was absolutely terrified that I was going to be terrible and I was just going to fall flat on my face but I picked it up pretty quickly.”
Though the flat track holds only the women of the sport, the Derby Nerd found himself in the same situation as Nine Lives after his first encounter with the game in 2007, and he found a way to get involved.
“I was just immediately taken by the culture and the atmosphere of the sport,” Nerd said. “I continued to be involved from there.”
Nerd writes a blog for his own website, along with recaps and previews of games for the ToRD site. He also works as a reporter for ToRD TV, doing interviews for the web.
Not only has he found a place for himself in the female-dominated organization, but he has found his niche.
“I’m kind of a sports nerd but I’ve never really found my sports community,” Nerd said. “I’m not that jock-y but I just really love sports.
“Roller derby for me was a sport that was in its infancy [when I came across it] so it was fascinating to watch. And it’s continuously evolving.”
Miss Kitty La Peur, a member of the Gore Gore Rollergirls, took in her first roller derby match at the beginning of the last season and immediately wanted to take it on.
“After watching that first game I thought, ‘I need to be a part of this’,” La Peur said. “I love skating. I love competitive sports. I like contact competitive sports and there’s not a lot out there for women.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to try something new.”
Trying the sport wasn’t exactly what La Peur expected it to be.
“I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it actually is,” La Peur said. “I thought it was just dressing up and skating around and lightly hitting people. I started to learn that there’s a lot of skill, a lot of work and it’s a very big time commitment as well.
“It’s completely the opposite of what I expected and I love it.”
Nine Lives thinks that most people would be surprised to find out what really goes on in the hangar.
“It’s an actual sport,” the referee said. “It’s not just girls in fishnets and mini skirts pushing each other over for fun. There are rules, there are penalties. It’s really intricate, it’s really unique and it’s a lot of fun.”
Exceeding expectations is something that roller derby seems to do best. La Peur was most impressed by the relationships she has been able to build during her time as a derby girl.
“What surprised me most was the camaraderie in the group,” La Peur said. “You learn to rely on these girls. It’s like a sisterhood.”
As Nine Lives pointed out, the sisterhood is one with women from all walks of life.
“You see women who are five feet tall, six feet tall, 200 pounds, and 100 pounds,” Nine Lives said. “They are people who you wouldn’t look at and think ‘this person is an athlete’ but it’s very accepting.
“There are people of all kinds in this league which is just one of the things I love most about it.”