Brantford roller derby set for real first year

“Do you believe it is time for Brantford women to represent sisterhood, strength and sport with passion and commitment?”

For Tasha Buscombe, that time has come.

Buscombe, also known as Stella Flash, is the co-chair of a new local roller derby league that started with a Facebook campaign that asked women in the Brantford area if any interest existed in bringing the sport to the city.

Now, in the spring of 2011, the Belle City Roller Girls are recruiting players and practicing in preparation of the upcoming summer schedule that will see Belle City travel across Ontario for competition.

Roller derby is a sport that has taken off in recent years, which Buscombe feels could be a result of an increase in movies about the sport.

One example of this is the Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page hit derby movie Whip It, which helped bring international attention to the sport. It seems to have worked. Buscombe says that the past two years have seen new leagues pop up across southern Ontario, from Guelph all the way down to London. In fact, the league out of Hamilton, which was just established in 2006, is Canada’s oldest.

Buscombe says that the idea to bring a team to Brantford started at the grassroots level, where she just went to members of the community to see if interest existed.

“A Facebook group was started to see if girls were interested in starting [a league] in Brantford, and once we had enough interest last summer we organized our league, and started practicing last summer,” Buscombe said. “It’s been a really fun year trying to get this started, and we’re excited for our first ever season, it’s taken a lot to get here.”

Sarah Byrd, the treasurer and representative for the Canadian Women’s Flat-Track Roller Derby Association (CWRDA), says that the group was started just to test the waters, but the response was great.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Belle City team is the vast background that its players come from.

“We’ve got teachers, nurses, accountants, students, we’ve got everybody, some people who have never been on skates before,” says Byrd. “We train you right from the beginning, explain the rules, so that you can come in not knowing anything and still be involved.”

The rules of roller derby can be, as is the case with any sport, a bit intimidating to “fresh meat,” the derby term for new players. The main objective of the sport is for one player, known as the jammer, to pass as many players of the opposing teams as possible during each two-minute jam. Each player passed is worth one point. Also on the track for each team are three blockers, and one pivot – another blocker who may turn into the jammer later in the round – whose job it is to stop the jammer from passing. These blockers can also attempt to help their own jammer through the opposing team to gain points. Whichever team has more points at the end of the jam, scores. Each game is made up of two 30-minute periods, and the team that has won more jams at the end of that time frame is declared the winner.

Byrd says that the team is still trying to get everything ready for the upcoming season. Right now, they are waiting for the ice to be removed from their home rink in Burford, and are looking for more fresh meat to come out and play this year. She also notes that those who are turned off by the idea of the levels of contact can still participate, as the league is looking for volunteers and referees for the sport,

For now, these Brantford roller girls, often nicknamed the Belles of the Brawl, will have to wait until they begin their season May 28th which will see them travel to Toronto to take on the Chrome Mollys in their first ever game.

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