BY LIAM RAZZELL
The first match of the day begins with Victoria’s Daisy Pushers and Marysville’s Grave Danger in a frenzied scramble to block opposing players, known as jammers, from passing. The players skate at breakneck speed, ramming opponents with their shoulders and elbows, linking arms to create walls, sending opponents sprawling with thunderous hits. Eventually, a jammer barrels through, earning their team points. Roller derby is all about speed and action, and that’s the sport’s draw.
Roller derby can be traced back to the roller-skating endurance races of the 1880s and marathons of the 1930s. Since then, the sport has seen waves of popularity, with its most recent renaissance started by women in the early 2000s. Today, 427 teams of female and female-identifying players on six continents are members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the sport’s governing body, including Victoria’s league, the Eves of Destruction.
The Eves are the successors to the Dead City Rollers, who got derby rolling in this city in 2006. Back then, they skated in parking lots; today the Eves of Destruction practise weekly at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt. The Eves league is a non-profit organization that comprises six teams that compete across Canada and internationally: Belles of the Brawl, Daisy Pushers, Margarita Villains, The A-Team, The Hard Cores and The Rotten Apples.
They play in 30-minute halves on an oval flat-track. Two teams field five players at a time in two-minute “jams.” The scoring player — called a jammer — earns points by skating and checking their way past opponents known as blockers. Teammates fluidly shift from playing offence to defence and back again, depending on circumstance. This unpredictability is part of why roller derby is such a thrill to watch.
Players’ personalities shine on the track. While some focus entirely on the game, others wave and smile at fans to amplify enthusiasm. Players refer to themselves using nicknames like Natural Born Spiller or The Wife of Wrath. In this way, they transform into bigger, badder versions of themselves, and that’s part of the spectacle.
Unlike most stadium sports, a $15 ticket will buy you a seat two metres from the action. You see players’ determination seconds before they ram opponents. You hear their excited voices. You feel their joy when they’ve made a great play. And that’s $15 well spent.