Since its beginnings in the 1930s, the sport of roller derby has seen ebbs and flows in popularity, but each generation seems to at some point re-discover the game and fall in love all over again.
For the Highland Dames roller derby team, formed in 2011 and later becoming part of the Grey Bruce Roller Derby League, the recent wave of popularity for the sport has meant stiff competition and ever-growing crowds of spectators in the arenas.
“Roller derby is a full contact sport played with two teams fielding four blockers and one jammer on the oval track where the teams battle for points scored by the jammers,” explained Meaford resident and Highland Dames team member Denise Whaley. “Games or 'bouts' are broken into two 30 minute periods. Plays are known as 'jams' and last up to two minutes. Jammers score during a jam by passing players on the opposing team with their body. Blockers try to block the jammers from scoring, help their jammer by blocking other blockers - playing both offence and defence within the same jam.”
Confused? While the lingo used in the sport might feel alien, the athletes are anything but. Whaley says that the Grey Bruce Roller Derby League has attracted women from all walks of life, from those in their early 20s through to their 50s who roll, bang, and crash their way around the oval track with the intensity of any other high-paced sport.
This year the Highland Dames are part of a new inter-league cooperative known as SODA (the Southern Ontario Derby Alliance) composed of six teams from Guelph (two teams), Woodstock, Norfolk, London, and Grey-Bruce.
On Saturday, May 12, they will be rolling into the Meaford arena for a family-friendly event that will see two bouts – the first between the Killer Queens and the Thames Fatales at 5 p.m., followed by the Highland Dames against the Norfolk County team. Tickets cost $10, and kids under age 10 are admitted free. There will be a cash bar along with snack tables and vendors. Doors open at 4 p.m.
The Grey Bruce Roller Derby League is a non-profit, and proceeds from fundraising, sponsors and game ticket sales help offset the costs of travelling to games for the skaters.