Men following the four-wheeled footprints of women
by Kevin Rushworth
Replace violent Mr. Blonde and Mr. White with quad roller skates, knee pads, mouth guards and two parts rough and tumble, and you are stuck in the middle of a whole different squad of Reservoir Dogs.
They still wear matching suits — albeit t-shirt versions of the finest of threads — but the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs are currently the only men’s roller derby team in Calgary.
Imagine combining short-track speedskating with football and you have roller derby, said team captain Jim Bourne — who skates under the pseudonym Dev Null.
“It’s not just a women’s sport,” he said. “If you have the balls to do it, come out and try. It is not an easy sport to learn and it is not an easy sport to take part in.”
Bourne, who works in IT at Mount Royal University, said the team started in January 2010 after an invitation to a derby bout in Edmonton, hosted by the Oil City Derby Girls.
“Quite a few of my coworkers, they know what I do,” he said. “They think it’s kind of bizarre. It is a fringe sport and not something that everyone does.”
Derby has always included a sort of role-play aspect and the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs team is populated by such characters as Dick Pounder, Buttons McBoomboom, Demolition Herbie and Mr. Fantastic.
Ben Dugdale, a student at MRU who skates under the name Nom Chompsky, said he enjoys the sense of community within the team. He said many people are surprised, yet interested when hearing about his sport of choice.
“With the women’s derby, I think it’s a little bit more prevalent, but with men’s, people are continually astounded that we actually have a team,” he said.
Bourne explained that in roller derby there are four blockers on a team and one jammer. With two teams, that’s 10 players on the track. The blockers role is to help their jammer move
through the pack, and to stop the opposing jammer. The jammer scores points based on how many blockers within the main pack he or she can skate past.
Penalties are given for using arms and for tripping, hitting from behind, hitting with your head or sprawling in front of other players.
“The goal that I’d like to see, personally, would be within the next couple of years, to gain enough support and to have enough men on the team to actually allow us to do some travelling,” he said.
The closest men’s team is in Red Deer and, after that, the next teams are in Vancouver, Montreal and scattered throughout the United States. Although Bourne likes the fringe nature of the sport, he said it would be a milestone to become mainstream. He said they are having difficulties finding players, officials and raising money in order to travel to play bouts.
“It would be nice to be away from all that and just concentrate on the sport,” he said.
Roller derby sprung out of the feminist movement and the initial teams were owned by women, said Bourne. While he has no issue with it being a woman-dominated sport, he said he’s received negative comments from others.
“There have been comments that people don’t want men to come in and take over the sport, which obviously is not going to happen,” he explained. “I would like to see more co-ed, where you have men and women playing on the same team.”
Tania (Mamasita) Martinez, who plays in the women’s league, also helps coach the men’s team and is married to one of the players. Although the women’s league doesn’t play against the men’s teams, she hopes that the men can build a fanbase based on their own merits.
“Some people have different opinions, but me personally, I feel like roller derby is a sport for everyone and there shouldn’t be any limitations on it,” Martinez said. “It’s already going above and beyond expectations in terms of the body types that play, so I don’t see the big deal in male and female — it doesn’t matter, it’s all for the love of the sport.”
In addition, safety is a key component of both men’s and women’s roller derby. Bourne said players must be benchmarked in order to play, meaning they have to show they are at a certain level of fitness. Quad roller skates and safety gear are necessities; as well, the team members are insured through the Canadian Women’s Roller Derby Association. For more info on the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs roller derby team, check out grdrd.com. The team practices with the women’s league at Beltline Gym every Saturday from noon until 2 p.m.