No one knew what to expect at Smackdown in Derby Town.
The Sea to Sky Sirens from Squamish, B.C. didn’t expect to face such tough competition. The Yukon Roller Girls didn’t expect such a huge crowd — and such a rowdy one.
Many in the crowd, attending their first roller derby bout, had no expectations whatsoever.
No one seemed disappointed.
“They did surprise us. We knew they hadn’t had a home bout in a while, certainly hadn’t bouted as much as we had, and they had some rookies, but it didn’t feel like that,” said Sirens captain Jessie “Purrfect Lee Legal” Cameron. “It didn’t feel like they hadn’t played in a while.
“This was not easy. They were super hard hitting and we really had to play our hearts out. They were really, really good.”
Smackdown in Derby Town was the Yukon Roller Girls’ first hometown bout in three years. They were on the bad end of the smackdown, losing 220-76 to the Sirens, but the event was still a win in their books.
Despite the lopsided loss, roller derby was welcomed back to Whitehorse with open arms by almost 400 spectators Saturday at the Mount McIntyre Rec Centre.
The crowd roared with every successful jam by the home team.
“Our spectators are amazing,” said YRG captain Lindsay “Bonanza Babe” Agar. “You saw them come out in hoards tonight and we hope to carry this energy to future bouts. They were amazing. I’ve never heard such a loud crowd before.
“The families we saw here tonight, the kids, the young girls seeing empowered women on track doing a super awesomely fantastic sport — hopefully future girls who will join our league.”
Some of the loudest cheers came for the return of the Mongoose.
Former YRG Amil “The Fighting Mongoose” Dupuis-Rossi, who now plays for Squamish, returned to Whitehorse for the bout. To shore up the numbers Dupuis-Rossi once again donned YRG pink and jammed for her former team among loud calls of “Goose!” from the crowd.
“It was amazing being received and being invited to play again for the Yukon team. I felt like I never left and that was because they are such an inviting team,” said Dupuis-Rossi. “I’ve been through a lot up here and had a lot of really supportive people, so I think that was a lot of the community I’ve made over the years coming out. I have no words for how touching it is. It just made everything more fun.”
The Sirens were the heavy favourites. They went into the bout with a 6-2 win-loss record following a 175-99 win over Sunshine Coast Roller Girls the previous weekend.
Not only was the bout the YRG’s first at home in three years, it was just their second in that time, losing to the Sitka’s Shee Devils last June in Alaska.
The YRG, who briefly led 9-4 in the opening minutes before the Sirens went on a 45-point run, had two skaters in their very first bout.
“We came into this bout wanting to play our rookies. We feel it’s important to invest in our rookies, so you’ll notice we didn’t play our veterans all the time,” said Agar. “The Sirens have been on a wicked winning streak. Their rookies have been playing all season. So we still have a few months, even a year, to get back to where they are right now.
“The score is a little lopsided, but there’s always the after party and YRG girls are known to win that.”
YRG Bethanna “Aurora Gorealis” Cavey was one of bout rookies. She had some nerves to overcome, but cheers from the stands helped out with that.
“If felt really great to have such a positive, cheering crowd that’s excited roller derby is back in the Yukon,” said Cavey.
“I was thinking stay low, get back up when you fall, keep your arms in. And also, don’t panic. It’s a fun game with a friendly team. Everyone was happy to play and be here. I was really nervous though.
“I’m excited that the first one is done and the next one is going to be even better. I think it went really well. Both teams played really well and played really safe and everyone was really respectful.”
The YRG club was founded in 2010 and over the next three years hosted numerous bouts in Whitehorse. After a successful 2013 season that saw the YRG win Alaska’s state championship, numbers began to drop as players moved out of the territory or left because of injury and pregnancy.
They still haven’t fully recovered. The team is still in a recruitment stage, said Agar. They will host a “try derby” night on Sept. 21 if anyone wants to lace up some skates and give it a go. (More information can be found on the YRG Facebook page.)
“We feel this game is the beginning of great things to come,” said Agar. “It’s our first bout in three years here in town and we feel this is a great beginning for our league and we’re excited about what will come in the future.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org