Derby doesn’t discriminate anymore.
Roller derby used to be just for women, but there are increasing opportunities for men to get out on the track, too.
It’s noticeable in Nanaimo, where two members of the Harbour City Rollers – Dan (Dan-O-Mite) Zimmer and Kris (Gingerdeadman) Bennett were named last month to Canada’s 2016 men’s world cup team.
“It’s kind of a role reversal between the way a lot of sports work,” said Bennett. “It was built mainly as a women’s sport and men quickly realized that it’s a hell of a lot of fun.”
He got involved in roller derby a few years ago in Red Deer, Alta.
“As I was getting older, playing hockey was kind of losing its shine,” he said. “Especially in Alberta, it was just turning into which redneck has the most testosterone.”
So he tagged along to his wife’s co-ed roller derby practice, donning his rollerblades.
“I got taunted into buying some quad skates and it pretty well went from there,” he said.
Zimmer started much the same way, as an ex-girlfriend’s enthusiasm about roller derby caught his interest.
“I’ve been skating forever, so I thought, well, I can probably skate,” he said. “And then I just kind of caught the bug.”
Men were limited to refereeing at first, but more programs are becoming co-ed and men’s teams are forming. Both Zimmer and Bennett coach and skate with the co-ed Rollers, and also play for the Vancouver Murder men’s team.
Women’s roller derby is a rough and tough sport; men’s derby, more so. But violence isn’t necessarily the name of the game.
“Strategy is taking over very quickly,” Bennett said. “Still, the hits tend to be a lot harder in men’s derby, [but] no real malicious hits.”
For example, he said he’s never seen a roller derby fight except on YouTube.
“It can get extremely aggressive and it escalates quickly, but it’s not as scary as you think,” said Zimmer. “A lot of times, if you have somebody clean your clock, you’ve got enough protective equipment on that you’re not going to get injured. You’ll get bumps and bruises and you’ll be stiff and sore and what not.”
But all that is worth it, especially for the two Rollers men who are now bound for the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary next summer. Making Team Canada was a long-standing goal for both men. Tryouts were held in three locations across the country and there were 80 guys at the Vancouver tryouts.
“Not everybody is going to get to be able to have that in their life, where they get to represent their country in a sport that they love to play,” Zimmer said. “I’ll definitely embrace every minute of it.”
For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/harbourcityrollers.