Montrealers cheer on return of roller derby league

"You pick a new persona, then you’re on the track,” says Mareen Will, coordinator of ‘Haunting on Mount Royal Hill,’ Montreal Roller Derby’s first big-league flat-track roller derby tournament since the pandemic. Diona Macalinga reports.

The Montreal Roller Derby league is back in full swing this year for the first time since the pandemic, with six teams competing at a Thanksgiving weekend tournament.

“It feels great to be back playing,” said Gruesome Gracie, a roller derby player with the team New Skids on the Block. “This is our first tournament we’ve hosted so it’s been great to have so many people come up and play good roller derby.”

Montreal’s first flat-track roller derby league, Montreal Roller Derby, was founded in 2006 and grew to become what many Canadian roller derby players claim as the best in the country and even one of the biggest in the world.

“I’m new to Montreal and it’s one of the best leagues in the world,” said Radish Loos, also know as Raging Radish. “I’m just so grateful to be learning with them. And the games yesterday were so hard – my body is sore today.”

Montreal Roller Derby league tournament Oct. 8, 2023. Team featured: New Skids on the Block. (Diona Macalinga, CityNews)

Roller derby players decided to bring back a big-league Halloween-themed tournament for Thanksgiving weekend – “Haunting of Mount Royal” – with seven games over three days at Arena St- Louis in the Mile End.

And it was a full house to kick off the first games.

“The last comparable big event was the championships in 2019, then the pandemic hit, and now we’re slowly coming back,” said Mareen Will, who coordinated the tournament alongside Raging Radish.

In flat-track roller derby, each team has four blockers and one jammer. A team wins a point every time the jammer – also known as the “ball” of the sport – passes through an opposing team’s blocker.

The Montreal Roller Derby league prides itself on its inclusivity.

“It’s for everybody. All genders, all bodies,” said Raging Radish.

“That’s a big plus. It’s very inclusive,” added Will,  also known as Panty Slayer. “You just come as you are. You pick a new name, you pick a new persona, then you’re on the track and that’s it. It’s just wonderful. The first time I put on skates, I knew I didn’t want to be without them anymore.”

Montreal Roller Derby will be back with a mixed-gender tournament Oct. 28.

Montreal Roller Derby league tournament Oct. 8, 2023. Teams featured: New Skids on the Block (green) and Tri-City (black). (Diona Macalinga, CityNews)

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