You see, roller derby was new to Sudbury and I was intrigued and wanted to see exactly what the sport, touted as the "new old school sport", was all about.
The roller derby scene is exploding all over the world, and let me tell you, this is not your mother's roller derby, where the theatrical elements commonly overshadowed the athleticism. Today's roller derby is faster, tougher, and more exciting.
When I entered the arena for the first time and watched the players skating around the flat track before the bout, I wondered how rough it would be. The players were dressed in typical derby girl attire, consisting of booty shorts/skimpy skirts and T-shirts, accentuated by fishnet stockings and brightly coloured socks.
Many players are adorned with tattoos and macabre makeup designed to intimidate their opponents.
The safety gear worn consists of only knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a helmet and mouth guard.
I couldn’t believe just how rough it was. This is indeed a full-contact sport and injuries do happen.
After that first bout, I was hooked and attended most bouts of last year's season, including one in Espanola, where Sudbury's Sister Slag took on the Soonami Slammers from Sault Ste. Marie. At intermission, I held my breath as I photographed one of NCRD's toughest "jammers," Ashley "Smashley" Rachkowski, as she did a jump over the Mayor of Espanola, as well as three other people, who were lined up on the track on their backs, much to the crowd's excitement.
After having met a lot of the derby girls as well as the zebras (referees), coaches, and merchandise salespeople, I have come to realize that NCRD is a tightly knit "family" who encourage and support each other as they grow as a team.
Many whom I have met are professionals in their everyday life. Perhaps this is why they love to adopt a persona and get life’s frustrations out on the track. It looks like a great stress reliever and excellent way to stay fit.
NCRD has three home teams: Sister Slag, Sudbetties and Smelter Skelter. They hold their bouts at the Dr. Edgar Leclair Arena in Azilda. Spectators are able to sit in a "suicide seating" area if they wish, six feet away from the flat track.
It could be dangerous as wipe-outs and tangle-ups occur, and as the women "hit" the track, you can hear the thud the impact makes. These women knock each other down and don’t apologize. I know I am not tough enough to play, but I love to watch.
Roller Derby is not for the faint of heart. These dedicated ladies train long and hard to play in a competitive contact sport and real injuries happen. Players are allowed to check other players using their shoulders and hips.
As the season progresses, the derby girls proudly show off their hard-earned bruises and "rink rash."
NCRD is a community minded league. A portion of their ticket sales goes to local charities. They also participate in the annual Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival and Santa Claus Parade and also organize a Zombie Walk.
The first bout of 2012 will take place on April 28 in Espanola, and I can't wait to see everyone again, including the new recruits who have been training hard to make it in the derby world. I encourage everyone to attend, you will not be disappointed, I promise!
NCRD is currently seeking "Fresh Meat", or new recruits to play in the league. Women must be 18 years of age or older to join the league and no experience is necessary. They will teach you what you need to know before you become a member of a team.
The first fresh meat intake of 2012 takes place on Feb. 15.
Roller derby is a competitive sport where physique doesn’t matter as much as strength, agility and speed.
Now is the time to take the plunge into roller derby if you've been interested.
For more information, visit their website at www.ncrd.ca. It's a great website where you can read about the rules of the game, the teams and players, keep track of events and view a gallery of photos from past bouts. You can also contact them at [email protected], as well as on their Facebook group - just search Nickel City Roller Derby.
Janet Young is an amateur photographer who likes to share community events with Sudburians.