Jamie Maclean might be a rookie for Hammer City Roller Derby but she is not new to contact sports. Maclean used to play hockey but wanted something new. When she was at a Take Back The Night march last fall she was introduced to a new sport that would become her passion. At the march, she met members of Hammer City Roller Derby.
Maclean attended Derby 101, an introduction for new skaters and found it was “a very good transition” from ice skating to roller skating.
When comparing roller skates to ice skates Maclean said, “The edges are a lot different so instead of being able to glide over your edges you have four hard wheels.”
Although she says she is nervous, Maclean hopes to play in her first bout May 6 when Hammer City hosts its first home game of the 2017 season at Dave Andreychuk Arena.
Hammer City has an intake of new skaters three times a year: spring, summer and fall. New skaters must go through a ten-week training program. After completing the program, they must pass a test to make sure they have acquired the minimum skills to play in a game. Roller derby is a rough contact sport and it can be more dangerous if skaters do not possess competent skills.
Hammer City Roller Derby is an organization comprised of skaters, officials, volunteers and fans. To reflect the diversity of everyone involved they recently changed the name from Hammer City Roller Girls.
Skater Maggie Middleton said many of the people involved “do not identify with the word girls.”
Middleton explained, “We wanted something broad and very inclusive so we decided to change the name.”
Along with the name change, the look of roller derby is changing. The players have always felt it was a serious sport but in recent years there has been a move towards a “mainstream look and mainstream processes” according to Middleton.
“You’ll see people wearing more athletic leggings rather than fishnets.” Middleton said, “You see more people skate under their legal name rather than using a derby name and I see that as taking a niche sport and making it more mainstream so it can appeal to more people.”
Middleton who skates under the name Typhoid Maggie is “mourning those days when there was a little bit more theatrics” but is “really, really happy that roller derby is gaining that acceptance.”
Even with the move towards the mainstream, roller derby remains under the control of the players. According to Hammer City’s head referee Deuce Willis, “The skaters are in control of their own space. The skaters choose the rules of the game. The skaters are in charge of their own marketing. There are no rich guys in suits telling them what they want the image of the sport to look like.”
Willis says he enjoys being an official as it gives him a chance to “have fun on roller skates and get some close perspective on the game play.”
Men’s roller derby leagues have become more popular recently but Willis says he has “never tried it and I’m just not that interested. I just like refereeing.”
The spring thaw means Hammer City Roller derby’s wheels are rolling again and they are looking for new skaters. The next 10-week learn-to-skate program starts April 12. More information about signing up can be found at hammercityrollerderby.ca or on their Facebook page.
For people who would like to get involved but are not sure they would like to roller skate there is always a need for non-skating officials, also known as NSOs, to volunteer time to make sure bouts run smoothly.
The last thing the league needs is local fans to cheer them on. Their home schedule starts May 6 with a double-header at the Dave Andreychuk Arena when the Hammer City Eh! Team and the Dundurn Hassle will take on Orangeville Roller Girls and GTA Rollergirls.