These axe-wielding Canadians know how to fell a jammer or two
Men’s roller derby may have started in the USA but their Canadian cousins soon followed in pulling on a pair of quad skates and set of pads. Team Canada actually first formed way back in 2008 when The Maple Beats, as they were also known, travelled south of the border to play the Puget Sound Outcasts.
“Within a year or so we began to focus on developing local teams and leagues soon popped up in Vancouver and Montreal,” says Jeff Tichbourne, of Vancouver Murder. “Three more quickly formed in Alberta with another in Toronto.
“Canada now has ten men’s teams, from Vancouver on the West Coast to Saint John on the opposite side of the country. Our newest leagues include the Pack Men located in London, Ontario, the Wheel Men from Saint John, New Brunswick and Team Sask, which gathers male skaters from across Saskatchewan.”
The huge distances have kept most of the Eastern and Western leagues away from each other, but a tournament in Calgary this May will finally bring the likes of the Murder, Calgary’s Reservoir Dogs, Red Deer Dreadnaughts and Edmonton’s River City Riot together with the eastern teams for the first time.
Jeff admits the geography has been an obstacle to training as a team too, though regional practices and scrimmages have been held in Vancouver, Alberta and Ontario.
“The internet has been a useful tool though to keep our coaches on the same page in terms of strategy and focus. And all of the guys have their own training routines that have been bolstered and intensified going back to the announcement of their being named to the team in mid-2013. The entire team will then gather for a game and a practice in Montreal prior to travelling to Birmingham in March.”
The Canadian squad that will make the trip includes a mixture of new talent and veteran skaters, such as Jeff, Stan DaSide and The Rev, who all have extensive tournament experience playing in the USA and Canada. The team also has a rich athletic past. Many skaters have previous experience playing ice hockey, while there are also former speed skaters and even competitive basketball players in the ranks.
Leading their development as derby players are head coaches Lime and Jess Bandit. “Jess hails from Montreal where she is a leader with the New Skids on the Block, a member of Team Canada Women’s and a coach with the Mont Royals men’s team,” explains Jeff.
“Lime helped to form Team Canada Men’s Roller Derby and skated with them for a couple of years. He has extensive experience coaching and training with leagues across Canada dating back to 2007.
“Assistant coaches include the Dreadnaught’s Demolition Herbie, a familiar name in men’s derby on both sides of the border and the talented Bruiseberry Pie from Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power, who is a founding member of their men’s league.”
Their biggest challenge though may be overcoming the travel logistics to make sure the team arrive in England in March. “Getting 20 skaters and four bench staff from all over Canada across the ocean by trains, planes and automobiles has been almost overwhelming. Taking 24 people to Birmingham isn’t cheap, we’re looking at spending roughly $50,000 on this trip.
“The team is all ready to go [though]. The tickets are booked, the hotel rooms reserved and our guys are extremely excited to represent our great nation. We will have loads of family and friends watching from back home and we want to make them proud.”
Who will the Canadians be watching at MRDWC?
We are excited to show what we can do on the track, of course, but we also look forward to seeing teams from across the world bringing their best. Japan will be a treat, no doubt. England’s Ballistic Whistle is always a blast to watch and we are looking forward to slowing down France’s Mr. Furieux. And of course, you can name any skater on Team USA, they will be impressive.