Edmonton Doesn’t Like To Play Nice

Roller derby voted the city’s "Best Alternative Sports Experience"
Craig Janzen

When most people think about sports, often the first ones that jump to mind are the mainstream sports like soccer, hockey, football, basketball, and baseball. These sports take the spotlight, and make other sports like roller derby less well known.

For Katie Murphy, however, from the moment she first saw the sport there could be no substitute.

“I went to a fundraiser with one of my best friends, because her boyfriend was playing in the halftime show,” Murphy says. “Automatically I was hooked.”

And Murphy clearly isn’t the only one. Roller derby was voted “Best Sports Experience” in SEE Magazine’s annual poll.

But is it the sport, or the cute costumes that has grabbed Edmontonians’ attention?

“It was probably the outfits at first,” says Murphy, laughing. “I wanted to look really cute while doing a sport. I think it was [also] the camaraderie of the women together. It’s a really empowering sport.”

Although she hadn’t skated before, a couple weeks later she visited a practice, borrowed some skates and, as she says, “the rest is history.”

Now, three years later she is the captain of the Los Pistolitas, one of the house teams in the E-Ville Roller Derby League. The league gives girls over the age of 18 a chance to play against each other in matches called bouts.

The bouts have two halves which are broken into two-minute long “jams.” During the jams, teams score points by having a single player on their team, called the jammer, pass players on the other team. She doesn’t get any points the first time she passes through the pack of “blockers”, but every opposing player after that gets her team a point. The opponents try to stop the jammer from passing through the use of body checks. The blockers are quarterbacked by the “pivot”, who acts as the brain telling the other blockers what to do. The leading jammer can either keep going trying to pass more people until the time runs out, or she can place her hands on her hips to signal the end one jam and the beginning of another.

For Murphy the season is now over. For the E-Ville Roller Derby League though, there is still one more game to go: The Gage Cup on May 14.

The Gage Cup is a very emotional game for all those involved in the league. It was started in memoriam of Gage Splawinski, who was the son of one of the women in the league, as well as an avid fan of the sport until his death at age 11 due to an severe asthma attack on June 10, 2009.

“He would refill water bottles, help us with our drills, and [encourage us],” says Laura Holowchuck, a co-founder of the league. “Anything he could do to be involved he would do.”

Holowchuck says the memorial is fitting.

“I think it suits him well,” she says. “He was a really big fan of roller derby and very involved and I think he would be proud to see that we honour him in such a way.”

Even though the Los Pistolitas won’t be in the Gage Cup this time around, Murphy had a chance to play in it last year, so she knows first-hand just how emotional the game is.

“It’s a really touching game,” she says. “Everybody is really honoured to skate in it.”

This year, the two teams participating will be the Bezerkhers and the Slice Girls.

Although she will have to sit this one out, Murphy says when it comes to roller derby in general, the experience of joining a team has truly enriched her life.

“I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing if I hadn’t found roller derby. It’s a huge part of my life and I love it so much.”


All Content Copyright © SEE Magazine 2008 About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use Contest Disclaimer