Resurging sport gains new ground
Marc bence/for metro Edmonton
By day she’s a mother, hairdresser and student.
But on any given night, Sherry Bontkers puts on a mini skirt, a pair of torn fishnets and a pair of rollerskates before barrelling and pushing her way around the track to earn her Edmonton roller derby team some much-needed points.
The 36-year-old, known as Sour Cherry by her teammates with the Oil City Derby Girls in Edmonton, helped bring the resurging sport back into the city last year and now the squad is saying the rough and female-dominated game is really catching on.
“Your body really takes a beating, but the adrenalin rush is just amazing,” said Bontkers. “That’s what makes roller derby so exciting.”
Just like it was in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S., roller derby combines a vicious mix of bodychecks and trip-ups as players race around a flat track at high speeds, scoring points when a designated player, called a jammer, laps a pack of blockers.
Bontkers watched roller derby religiously as a kid, but said the sport simply “died off” as she got older.
After seeing a league re-emerge in Texas four years ago, other cities across North America are catching on to the retro sport that includes nine cities with roller derby leagues across Canada, said league president Leslie McDonald.
“We’re at that stage in Edmonton where people are still shocked that roller derby is back,” said McDonald, who is also known as Hoochie Mama with the Oil City Derby Girls.
“Sooner or later, you know that it’s going to catch on.”
McDonald says the Texas league turned around roller derby after changing the rules to allow for flatter tracks and has also made it more affordable for players to get into the sport.
“This is a very fast-paced sport that requires you to use your head along with being able to watch your back,” said McDonald.
“And you get an enjoyment out of hitting other chicks … This is a sport for women who have that aggressive side to them.”