Men's roller derby finds a home in Calgary
‘This could be for everybody, you don’t need to be exclusive with it,’ says female player
Being in the Canadian armed forces, Brangwyn Jones's life is full of structure.
"As a military guy, I wear the same uniform day in, day out," Jones said.
"It is very by the book."
And it is perhaps that structure, that made roller derby appealing to him.
"Here is this sport that allows me to be who I am."
Jones was posted to Calgary in the spring of 2012 from CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick.
He was driving on Crowchild Trail when he saw an ad for Chinook City Roller Derby.
Within a few months, he was lacing up and hitting the rink.
Chinook has a team that is mostly men, the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs.
'Called out to me'
Having a military background made picking a derby name easier, Jones says.
He chose G.I. Jones.
"The action packed fun in it, the calling, the fun involved is just an incredible thing," Jones explained.
"That called out to me."
And he's not alone.
Game is changing
Men's roller derby is growing in Calgary. In fact, this summer the city will host the Men's Roller Derby World Cup.
But to some, roller derby is a women's game.
James Bourne, who goes by Dev Null when he's playing the sport, says that is changing.
"Every once in a while you will hear somebody say, isn't that a girl's sport," Bourne tells CBC News.
"But that doesn't happen very much, at least not in the last three years or so."
He says, in fact, he left playing another fast-paced, full-contact sport because he found derby more exciting.
Derby more exciting than hockey
"[Roller derby is] a very aggressive and fast-paced sport. I used to play hockey, but I found men's hockey was a bit slower paced because guys need to go to work on Monday so not a lot of contact, not as much speed," Bourne explained.
"I found it kind of boring."
Chinook City Roller Derby has teams for men and women.
Carla Fedje, whose derby name is Negative Nancy, is a co-captain of Kill Jills.
She didn't play team sports growing up and says derby has changed all that, including her relationship with other women.
"I have changed so much as a human being," Fedje said.
"Being a part of a team, I was never friends with girls before I started roller derby so it was a little rocky in the beginning."
'We are not held back by anything'
Now she does her best to contribute to an environment that is inclusive for all.
"Derby is a very feminist space where we get to just be people at our maximum and we are not held back by anything," Fedje explains.
And she says men in derby, has just made that better.
"They are really enabling and fostering of our skills too. They bring us all up. It is a really symbiotic relationship," she said.
"The men have been helping us to get bigger and grow."
Men have grown the sport a lot
She doesn't see men entering a previously mostly female domain, as threatening.
"It has changed over the years. Derby girls have become more accepting of the men and embracing of men," Fedje said.
"The men have grown the sport a lot."
Bourne says the sport has evolved since its peak popularity decades ago.
Not your mother's roller derby
"A lot of people still believe it is the way it was in the 1970s with the televised sport," he said.
"That was more of a WWE kind of atmosphere. There were a lot of theatrics involved. There are no theatrics involved in today's flat track roller derby. We take real hits, we give real hits. Some of us train four to six days a week, plus skating."
Chinook City Roller Derby hosts Flat Track Fever next weekend at the Acadia Recreation Complex. The action starts Friday at 1:30 p.m.
The Men's Roller Derby World Cup gets under way in July as teams from more than 20 countries descend on Calgary for bragging rights.
'Be who you are'
For Jones, it's about finding a space that allows him to be him.
"I am kind of a quirky personality, I am out in left field often ... roller derby gives me that chance to be that 'out in left field often' person," Jones said.
"It is awesome to be who you are."
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With files from Kate Adach