The Calgary Roller Derby All Stars have a championship title on their minds as they prepare to take on teams from around the world at the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) playoffs.
Part of the Calgary Roller Derby Association (CRDA), the All Stars will be headed to Malmo, Sweden, in September for the Division 1 Playoff tournament.
The Calgary Roller Derby All Stars are ranked 35th in the world. Team coach Nazanin Phaff told the Calgary Homestretch that her team just made the cut for the tournament where the best teams battle for a shot at the Championships this November in Philadelphia.
Phaff said the All Stars will have their work cut out for them when they take on Rainy City Roller Derby from Manchester, U.K., in their first match.
"Well at this point I believe they are ranked 17th in the world, so we're coming in sort of as the underdogs in that game," Phaff said. "We're really excited to play them. I think this is the highest-ranking team we've played…so it's going to be an intense match up. We've been training really hard and we really want this win."
Phaff says the sport has come a long way from the staged matches of the '70s and '80s.
"We like to say that the hits are real and the athleticism is real," Phaff said. "Yes, the earlier versions of [roller derby] were kind of like wrestling. Like, the fake version of it and things were planned (with) more drama."
"Now it's more similar to hockey — there are big hits, it's definitely full-contact but within a set of rules."
Phaff said roller derby has grown in popularity and become more accepted by the mainstream in recent years.
"It started almost sort of like a punk-rock revolution but it's really morphed into a focus on athleticism, on gameplay, on strategy," Phaff said. "We've really taken it to the next level."
One part of the sport that has passed the test of time is the roller derby nicknames athletes use to intimidate the competition when hitting the track — names like "Easy Break Oven, "Rocca Fellon" and "Fluster Cluck."
Phaff skates under the name "Monster Maggie," a nod to her favourite character on the television show The Simpsons.
While the Calgary Roller Derby All Stars may be a top-tier team, roller derby athletes are still far from a major-league pay day.
Phaff said the team is independently funded and they do not get paid for games, so team members have to raise funds for every tournament they enter.
The Calgary Roller Derby All Stars have started a GoFundMe page where people can donate to the team and help them reach Sweden.
Phaff said the CRDA is accepting new applicants for both men's and women's teams in the fall. The sport is open to both men and women and Phaff said the CRDA will be starting a junior league in September.
More information on how you can get involved with the CRDA is available on their website.
The WFTDA Division-1 Playoff Tournamnet runs from Spet. 8 to Sept. 10 in Malmo, Sweden.
For more information on the tournament visit the WFTDA homepage.
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With files from the Calgary Homestretch