Gnarlie’s girls leave the Brutal Babes in their angel dust

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
April 21st, 2011

With a sold out arena of 800-plus costumed, red and raucous fans the country’s largest roller derby league kicked off the season in style. Before the loud and supportive crowd rocking the Rossland Arena the Gnarlie’s girls put their hard work to the test and bested Salmo’s Babes of Brutality to kick off the season with a victory.


Still smarting from their inaugural match loss to the Babe’s last September, the Angels put in a winter of practice, endless hours on wheels and added a new coach. This season they’re out for blood.


“We’re like a completely different team now compared to the first game last September,” commented team captain Canuck Norris. “Most of us had only been skating for three or four months at that time. We’ve been practicing three to four times a week since then and focusing on strategy, working on our power jams and playing a clean game. The win wasn’t for lack of hard work that’s for sure.”


If you’re unfamiliar with the sport of Roller Derby, points are scored as two players on each team called “jammers” aim to lap members of the opposing team whose job it is to slow down and hold back the jammer either with blocks or full on body checks. The jammer starts each jam behind the pack made up of four players from both teams. When the whistle blows starting the jam the jammers must fight their way through the pack and pick up four points for each lap. If one jammer is in the penalty box the other team is on a powerjam in which their skater scores an additional point for a total of five points for each lap.


Maximizing their power jams, the Angels pulled out a hard-fought game that remained tight right up until the final jam The final score when the whistle blew was a 145 – 111 victory for the Angels.


Although finishing with a 34 point spread, the match remained close with Salmo hanging around within striking distance right up until the final jam of the night.


“I didn’t start feeling I was out there as the jammer in the last jam,” recalled Norris. “There was only maybe a twenty point difference we were up by at that time. Twenty points is not a lot in derby; that can be taken back quite quickly. When I saw that our team had their jammer absolutely stuck in that last jam and not going anywhere I just kept skating around and around until time ended and it wasn’t until that point that I felt relieved and comfortable that we had it.”


The girls played a clean match keeping their jammers out of the penalty box for most of the night as one of their keys to victory. Playing clean didn’t mean taking it easy out there, though, as Shannon Marion recalled, “I’ve got lots of bruises to prove it!”


“It was all so fast-paced, well-conditioned and everybody was in such good shape. It was such a better game than last September. The best part was seeing everybody on their feet at the end wearing red jumping around with cow bells. It was fantastic!”


Two players’ performances stood out for team captain Norris as part of their overall complete game effort.


“Jenny Rator, one of our pivots, did phenomenal,” added Norris. “She kept control of her pack and was making some phenomenal hits and plays. Scarlett Bloodbath, another one of our pivots, well, the game was definitely different when she was out there. There were no jammers getting through when she was on the floor.”


One of the biggest changes during the offseason for the Angels was the addition of a new coach. Cousin Vegas whose partner plays on the team, had been coming to some of their practices and taking in the action. When the Angel’s previous coach wanted to take some time off, Vegas stepped in during December to take over the reins.


“He’s all about the derby,” commented Marion. “He researches drills and makes sure that we do lots of cardio. He’s really whipped us into shape.”


The girls’ next bout will take place in Castlegar on May 6th at the double-header event being promoted as Sinful de Mayo. Taking on the upstart Nelson Killjoys, the Angels will look to make the season 2 and O. Joining the league six months ago, the West Kootenay Roller Derby League now proudly boasts the largest league in the country.


It all got started with the brutal babes of Salmo. However, derby fever has caught on and this season will feature six league teams and one all-star travelling team. Joining the babes will be Castlegar’s Dam City Rollers, Nelson’s Killjoys, the Nelson Lumber Jackies and the Slocan Valley’s Vendetta’s along with Rossland’s Gnarlie’s Angels. The region’s traveling team is the Kootenay Cannibelles.


What’s driving the resurgence of the eight wheels of fury? The simple fact that it’s an all-girls event might have something to do with it.


“The secret to its success is quite simply that it’s a girls’ sport and something boys can’t do,” added Marion. “Deep down we’re all sweet and happy mothers, wives, girlfriends and co-workers, but when we get on the track, everybody has a little bit of agro in them to get out. It’s a healthy entertaining way for us to do so.”


As the league gets set to move to Castlegar in a couple of weeks, the hope is that girls and spectators around the region will continue to get infected with the West Kootenay’s latest craze.


“It’s going off right now for sure and lots of people are getting on board with it,” concluded Marion. “We’re just hoping to spread Derby Fever all over the Kootenays and get people to come out, support us and have a good time.”

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