Formed in 2011, they’ve grown into something of an underground phenomenon. What began as a few ladies aiming to incorporate the fast-paced roller sport locally, quickly turned into well-supported organization for all ages.
Patrons lined up outside the Bill Burgoyne arena Saturday night for a chance to see family, friends and strangers compete on quad roller skates, pads and a helmet – as the sport requires some physical play.
The ladies then hit the track – some in warpaint – all with clever derby nicknames. For two minute bursts, they begin to move the pile, while one lead skater makes her way around the track. Jammers, blockers and the pivot all play a vital role in securing the win, each strategically planned between teammates.
The match saw the Seaway Sirens take on the Vineyard Vixens, something that happens almost once a month in Niagara, where competitors shoved one another around, while maintaining their balance on wheels.
When they did fall, smiles were quick to go around, as the women truly love every aspect of roller derby.
Stephanie Jones, a resident of Fonthill, started skating with the launch of Niagara Roller Girls.
“We were all beginners so it was more about teaching us to skate as first,” Jones said. “That brought a great sense of togetherness, as everyone was starting from scratch.”
Roller derby’s have always been apart of everyday life across the country. A boom before 1970 saw roller rinks expand before fading out due to the rise of television. However, it was the big screen that once again popularized the sport in the 2009 flick ‘Whip It’. Quickly after, leagues began reappearing across the globe.
Jones, who will be leaving Niagara to teach at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, plans to continue racing once she’s settled in her new environment. However, she’s not surprised by the second-coming of the sport, stating the roller derby commences excitement and adrenaline.
“It’s all about speed and strategy. I like to think it’s something like rugby on wheels.”
The full-contact league continues to grow and remains on the lookout for newcomers. The diverse group of competitors offers a unique experience that ultimately results in an hour of fun.
“Getting the chance to race against those you’ve grown up learning the sport is nothing but fun. It can be competitive, but in the end we’re all aiming to have fun during the race.”
The next race is on Aug. 8 at the Bill Burgoyne arena in St. Catharines. For more information visit www.niagararollergirls.com.