By Medicine Hat News on September 11, 2019.
For all the games they’ve played over the years, roller derby athletes in Alberta have never truly had a provincial championship trophy to gun for.
And wouldn’t you know it, the first squad that gets to hoist it will do so in Medicine Hat.
Teams from Calgary, Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Lethbridge will join the host Gas City Regulators Sept. 21 and 22 for Alberta Roller Derby Provincials.
“The Alberta Roller Derby Association is newly-formed, we just got this governing body finally which is a really big step for roller derby in Alberta,” said Sasha Kolesnik, who plays for the Regulators and is helping to promote the upcoming event. “Everything’s sort of falling in to place, we’re getting the last touches on that done up. Now I can start looking at the training aspect of it because I’m playing in it too.”
The inaugural championship for B-level teams will take place at the Cypress Centre, a five-team round robin with points scored – not wins – being the deciding factor in who winds up first place. Each team will play two games a day, an exhausting schedule given the physicality of the sport.
Skating in circles would be one thing, but the number of bodychecks, last-gasp sprints and whips will test their stamina.
“These are some pretty good teams that we’re playing against,” noted Kolesnik. “We’re really amping it up during our practices, focusing on strategies and working really hard.”
Known by her derby name Rushin’ Russian, Kolesnik first played in her hometown of Brandon, Man. some nine years ago. Life got in the way but after she moved to the Gas City and saw a poster for a roller derby game last year, the pieces fell back in to place.
“September I saw that they were doing a new skater intake, I just kind of hopped on board,” she said.
Derby’s rule book is exhaustive, far from the no-holds-barred way the game was played 50 years ago. It serves to allow pretty much anybody to participate – Medicine Hat has a junior program with more than a dozen new players signed up this year, and Kolesnik’s 5-foot-3, 120-pound frame is a good example that size doesn’t equal success.
“You can be any body type, and the great thing about that is that every body type has ways you can use it to an advantage,” she said, noting men can play as well (though not at these provincials). “You don’t have to feel bad about being big or small because we can use it all for this sport.”
It’s also one of the few full-contact team sports for women to play in Medicine Hat. The local rugby association hasn’t been able to field a full team despite some valiant attempts, while a few recreational hockey groups exist.
“Part of what I want to do with getting derby back out into the community and reminding people that we’re here is that women tend to lack that outlet, or a way to be physical,” said Kolesnik. “Physical health is really important, it’s bonding with a team, there’s something really fulfilling about going to a practice, getting really sweaty and tired and pushing really hard, feeling good about what you can do with your body and feeling powerful.”
Games begin at 10 a.m. Sept. 21 and 9:30 a.m. Sept. 22, with games all day both days. There’s a junior scrimmage capping off the action at 6:45 p.m. on the first night, then the trophy will be handed out following the Regulators’ 4:30 p.m. game on the 22nd.
Admission is $10 per day, $15 for the weekend or free for kids 12 years old or less.