2010/05/10 The Clipper Weekly
May 11, 2010
Women’s roller derby smashes into Beausejour May 29
By Mark T. Buss
This could be ‘The Brawl That Started It All’.
The Winnipeg Roller Derby League will be making their rural Manitoba debut at the Sun Gro Centre May 29 as part of the inaugural “Beausejour Brawl” – the first of what organizers hope will become an annual roller derby event at the local arena.
Presented by The Clipper Weekly and the Beausejour Beavers hockey team, the Beausejour Brawl will feature approximately 35 WRDL skaters on two teams racing around the Sun Gro’s cement arena floor with the element of danger at every turn.
WRDL spokeswoman Michelle Nyhof – who goes by the derby name Portage ‘n’ Maim – believes the event will catch the community’s attention like an elbow across the nose.
“The people had better get their tickets fast and hold on to their seats,” Nyhof said. “We’re going to be bringing the big hits to Beausejour and they’d better be ready.”
Looking to highlight a new and exciting event for the local social calendar and raise some money for charitable projects, Clipper publisher Kim MacAulay believes Beausejour Brawl more than fits the bill. It will also bring another recreational acitivity that is growing in popularity to the Sun Gro Centre during the facility’s off season.
“We wanted to do something different for the community and this seemed like the perfect project,” MacAulay said. “We approached the (WRDL) with bringing their sport to Beausejour and they were very receptive to the idea.”
A television mainstay in the 1970s, roller derby has experienced a revival in the last 10 years, most recently due to the blockbuster movie Whip It.
Co-founded by Nyhof in 2008, the Winnipeg Roller Derby League has grown to more than 90 members with the top-14 forming the competitive team, the Murder City Maidens.
The Maidens sold out their inaugural “First Blood” bout in March at the Winnipeg Convention Centre where they took on Thunder Bay’s Babes of Thunder in front of 1,900 spectators.
“We sold the place out a week before the event so we had our tickets selling on Kijiji for $50 and $60,” Nyhof said.
“We knew roller derby was going to be well received but we really weren’t prepared for the overwhelming response.”
The Maidens next play host to the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls on July 3 in Winnipeg.
Blockers and Jammers
Each two-minute event or ‘jam’ consists of two squads of four ‘blockers’ and one ‘jammer’, each playing on four-wheeled skates.
With blockers helping their jammer pass the pack of players to earn points, they also try to stop the other team’s jammer from advancing by any legal means.
With full body contact allowed on the flat track, skaters often sacrifice skin and bone as they slam their bodies into the other team’s players.
“The events that we’ve had, people have been surprised by the high energy and how physical it is,” Nyhof noted. “The events are also very family oriented. We’ve had parents tell us they enjoyed themselves, the kids were entertained and they would be coming back.”
Booing is common in roller derby, with the WRDL bringing their own travelling jeerleaders, The Cold Cases.
The league is open to anyone who wants to play and the WRDL regularly announces tryouts for ‘fresh meat’ on the league web site at winnipegrollerderby.com. Nyhof said the crew is an eclectic mix of professionals, full-time-moms and women of every age, size, skill level and occupation in between.
“Women don’t have a physical sport they can get into later in life when they’re 35 or 40 and they’re finding that here,” she said. “There is also that alter-ego aspect where they can put on the uniform and escape from real life for two hours.”
Beausejour resident Krystal Wenzoski is one skater who has joined the fray in recent months and is planning to take part in the Sun Gro event.
“It’s a wonderful group of girls, I’m meeting new people and I’m getting some exercise,” Wenzoski said. “Monday used to be the start of the work week, but now Monday is also roller derby day so it’s been wonderful.”
“I haven’t been doing it long but it’s really become part of my life,” she added.
The Beausejour Brawl opens its doors at 7 p.m. with roller derby action hitting the arena floor at 8 p.m.
As an added bonus, Winnipeg’s premier rock-a-billy band The Rowdymen will be performing following the roller derby action.
Proceeds of the event will be going to community projects including the Beausejour Outdoor Recreation Facility.
Tickets are only $10. As a licensed event, tickets must be purchased in advance at The Clipper office at 27 Third Street South in Beausejour (268-4700), the Beausejour Hotel at 610 Park Avenue or in Winnipeg at Ragpickers Antifashion Emporium at 216 McDermot