Amazombie’s spider-like legs take long strides as she steps over a pile of downed victims. Ms. Shell Shockk slams into a woman who’s approaching from behind and instantly knocks her to the ground. Tiki TimeBomb ducks and dodges her enemies as one after another they try unsuccessfully to hit her off her feet.
No, this isn’t a sci-fi zombie attack movie with robots and explosions. This is roller derby.
And it’s the sport I’ve been involved with for more than five years – the strange hobby I’ve been deeply committed to, especially over the last two years since I’ve been with Vancouver’s Terminal City Rollergirls (TCRG).
I’d never played sports before joining roller derby. I hated PE class in school and was far too nervous and lacked the confidence to be on a sports team as a kid.
But roller derby was different. The fact that it is played on roller skates (not inline skates) piqued my interest, so I joined and soon learned what flat-track roller derby was all about.
For those of you with old-school roller derby memories, I would like to point out that today’s roller derby is not like it was in the ‘70s. There’s no elbow-throwing (that’s a penalty), there’s no tripping (also a penalty), and there’s no punching or fighting (that would be an expulsion). Roller derby is a legitimate, hard-hitting, full-contact sport consisting of athleticism, strategy and dedication — and a whole lot of fun.
Last year I was drafted to the TCRG’s Faster Pussycats — a frisky team of skaters with serious interests in grammar, arts, computers, math, first aid and potluck dinners. It was the nerd team, and I fit right in.
On the track my name is Hydro-Jenna Bomb, or H-Bomb for short. Amazombie, Ms. Shell Shockk and Tiki TimeBomb are all on my team. We also have 8-Mean Wheeler, Mary Queen of Shotz, and IonA BeerWagon. In the world of derby, everyone has a nickname and that’s what you’re known as to your team, your coaches and your league.
When I joined the Pussycats in 2010, they had not yet won a TCRG league game. They were always in last place, always the team that could be beat. During that season (my rookie year on the team) we continued to lose every single league game.
But that didn’t matter. We made goals at the beginning of the year, one of which was to win an inter-league game. We succeeded.
This year we made different goals — we wanted to win an intra-league game. Again, we succeeded. The first house team we played and beat was the new, rookie-heavy gang called Public Frenemy. We even shut them out in the first period, a first in TCRG history.
But it didn’t stop there. We played and won every game this year leading up to the championship. We were undefeated and there was a good reason for it. We worked hard for eight months to improve as a team and to perfect our game. With two or three on-skate practices a week, in addition to several off-skate exercises, we built up our skating skills and our fitness levels. We focussed more on game strategy and how to be smart on the track.
Championship game day arrived this past weekend, on Sept. 10, and we were playing against (will you believe?) rookie team Public Frenemy. They too had worked incredibly hard to get to the same spot as us Pussycats. But we weren’t going to back down.
After winning the team introduction (by audience applause), featuring a spectacular and well-synchronized figure-eight movement to the tune of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, and winning the crowd’s hearts, we won the championship game. We, the Faster Pussycats, who had never won a league game in TCRG’s five years of existence until this year, won the championship trophy. We wanted it, and we deserved it.
In the two years I’ve been a Pussycat, never once did my team let one another down. Never once did a teammate disrespect another teammate. Never once did we argue.
We simply worked hard and fought together to earn what was rightfully ours, the Mercury Shield. And just like the Stanley Cup, we each took a turn hoisting it proudly above our heads as we skated around the arena Saturday night. That night, I’m sure each of my fellow cats thought about our journey of building a team with zero wins to a team with zero losses.
Going from underdogs to cats with the upper paw sure feels great.
Jenna Hauck is a photojournalist with the Chilliwack Progress