The Yukon Roller Girls defeated North Pole, Alaska’s Babes in Toyland 252 to 243 in a hard-fought season opener on Saturday night at the Mount McIntyre curling rink.
Roughly 200 fans came out to watch Whitehorse’s girls in pink battle the elf-green Alaskans on the flat track course.
And what a battle it was. The Babes came out hard against the Roller Girls, taking an early lead right from the first jam.
They pushed hard, notching an 89-48 lead over the Yukon team by the mid-point of the first half.
“We can tend to be a little distracted and we’re usually not super strong in the first half,” said Yukon’s jammer and head coach, The Fighting Mongoose (a.k.a. Amil Dupuis-Rossi) after the bout.
“We were a bit frazzled because we were hosting the bout as well, and that requires a lot of responsibility and planning,” said ‘Goose.
The Roller Girls also got into too much penalty trouble, she said, allowing the Babes to ratchet up points with a number of back-to-back super jams.
As the first half wore on, though, the rush of skate wheels on concrete and scraping crashes were drowned out by the Whitehorse fans cheering as their Roller Girls picked up steam.
On the heels of ‘Goose’s wheels, the Roller Girls pushed through their own series of jams, racking up enough points to take the lead and end the half at 133 to 110 in their favour.
“In the locker room at half time, we had to sit down and sort of shake everyone’s nerves out,” ‘Goose said.
When the Roller Girls came back after the break, they practically owned the second half.
The team tends to be stronger in the second half at most of their bouts, ‘Goose said.
“We’re a relatively fit team, so we tend to tire out the competition as the bout goes on.”
That exhaustion was apparent on the faces of nearly every skater, especially the jammers.
Quick and agile, it’s the jammer’s job to try and break through the pack of other skaters, called blockers, and skate as fast as she can around the track. Every time she laps the pack and breaks through again – just like in the school yard game Red Rover – her team earns more points. The blockers, meanwhile, work together to impede the other team and try to obstruct the opposing jammer by essentially crashing into them or running them off the course. It’s a chaotic scramble, and one that isn’t entirely safe.
About halfway through the second half, exhaustion, panic and nerves collided in a crash that put one North Pole Babe on the ground, hard.
Amy Spiers hit the deck awkwardly, and it was immediately obvious that it wasn’t a simple crash.
“My shoulder’s broken, or maybe my arm,” she said matter-of-factly, as the other skaters slid to a stop on their knees, checking to see if she was OK.
Paramedics rushed onto the track and examined Spiers while players gingerly removed her helmet and skates.
In obvious pain, Spiers held it together incredibly well as she was wrapped in a sling, placed on a stretcher and wheeled off the track to the accompaniment of cheers and applause for her grit.
Players were a little shaken, but the bout got back underway nonetheless, with the Roller Girls continuing their assault on the Babes scoreboard.
A final push by the Babes in the dying minutes of the game threatened to tie the match, but the Roller Girls’ jammer, ‘Goose, managed to hold them at bay.
“In the second half, they really beefed up their walls. Their defence was amazing, and their jammer, Mongoose, holy man. I’m impressed,” said the Babes’ Blunts-B (a.k.a. Amber Schlesinger).
B said as the game wore on she could see both teams learning each other’s tactics, and the play improved on both sides.
“I think that we both wised up. We learned from each other. I feel really good about the game,” she said.
“The Whitehorse ladies have been so wonderful and accommodating. They’re so nice and friendly, we couldn’t have asked for a better crew to play against here in Whitehorse,” said Alaskan skater Boom.Saint (a.k.a. Riley Dukes).
Losing a player to injury didn’t seem to faze anyone on the track.
“It’s just part of derby,” B explained. “It’s awful when it happens, but you have to accommodate it. It’s a full-contact sport, so it’s part of the risk,” she said.
The Roller Girls don’t have any other official bouts planned, so they plan to focus on attracting more players to their scrimmages, the first of which will be held on Oct. 23. Tonight, the Jedis referee crew is holding a referee and non-skating official tryout at the Canada Games Centre, and the first “Try Derby” skating night is set for Sept. 25, also at the games centre.
Contact Jesse Winter at