Halifax roller derby league growing faster than ever

Haley Ryan, Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - Abbey Ferguson is excited to be fresh meat.

Roller derby skaters (from left) Lyndsay Anderson, aka "Bloxie Hart" and Abbey Ferguson pose for a photo in their gear at the Dalplex.

Ferguson, a 19-year-old university student, laced up her red skates and adjusted her elbow pads as she talked last week about going through the 12-week “fresh meat” program with the Anchor City Rollers derby league.

“It looks scary, but you have to look at how much gear we’re wearing in comparison to rugby, where you put on a pair of cleats and say ‘Okay, go run,’” Ferguson said.

“You can’t even stand up without your gear on.”

Ferguson heard about the league in high school, and has been waiting ever since to turn 19 so she could start the bootcamp.

The four-year-old Halifax Roller Derby Association was renamed Anchor City Rollers during a launch party last Friday, when a new B team was also announced to handle the growing number of players.

Anchor City Rollers spokeswoman Christina “Skatey and the Tramp” Shaffer said the league now has over 100 skaters, referees and volunteers and two travel teams that compete around the Maritimes.

Originally revived as an “underground, do-it-yourself” women’s contact sport in the early 2000s, Shaffer said derby is becoming more mainstream.

“It’s a sport kind of unlike any other … It’s been fantastic to really kind of grow my confidence,” Shaffer said.

Halifax’s own Ellen Page helped bring derby to the masses in Whip It, a 2009 film where she plays a small-town girl who gains confidence when she joins a derby team.

There are five skaters on each team, including one jammer who scores points by lapping the other team’s skaters who try to block using body contact or positioning during “jams.”

Part of the fun is creating a unique derby name, often using a pun. Ferguson only has ideas at this point, but can pick one once she’s been drafted.

Lyndsay Anderson, a.k.a Bloxie Hart (inspired by Roxie Hart from the musical Chicago) has been with the league since it began four years ago and often sings showtunes on the track to distract the other team.

“Belting into ‘Oklahoma’ while we’re sitting between jams, people are like ‘What is she doing,’” Anderson laughed.

“It was love the first time I laced up my skates.”

All agreed the close friendship and sense of community among players is a special part of the sport.

“It’s a safe space for all different types of women,” Anderson said. “It’s inclusive to different types of body types, lifestyles.”

Shaffer said with the league’s “great success,” the goal is to keep growing the sport in Halifax and get the A team to nationals one day.

“It’s been a lot of fun, so we’d just like to see that continue,” she said.

Roller derby lingo

Don’t be fresh meat: check out these roller-derby terms and you’ll be able to watch and discuss the bouts like a pro.

Bout – Derby games are called “bouts” and are made up of two 30-minute halves

Fresh meat – A rookie player

Jammer – One jammer per team, and only these players can score the points. They have a distinctive star cover on their helmet.

Blocker – The other four skaters on a team are called “blockers.” They try to stop the other team’s jammer, while helping their own pass the rival blockers.

Pack – The group of blockers.

Skater – The general term for a derby player.

Splash zone – Area of the track where players could slide and crash into the audience.

Whip – A move where one or more players transfer their speed to a jammer using their arms.

Lead jammer – The jammer who gets through the pack first is lead jammer. They can call off a jam at any point, like to keep the other team from scoring points.

Jam – A short round of game play when each jammer can score points. It ends after two minutes, or the lead jammer calls it off.

Pivots – Blockers that wear striped helmets. They can become jammers if they receive the star helmet cover.

Quad Skates – Derby skates have four wheels in two pairs side-by-side instead of four in a row like roller blades.

Whistles – One long whistle by the referee means a major penalty. Four short whistles mean the jam is over.

Organizations: Halifax Roller Derby Association

Geographic location: Halifax, Anchor, Chicago Oklahoma

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