Sisterhood on Wheels – The GTA Rollergirls part two

Here is the second part of On Deadline’s look at GTA Rollergirls. Last year we took in some GTA Rollergirls roller derby action and came away very impressed. The action was fast and hard but the personalities which make the league and competition possible is what compelled us to take an even closer look.

Photographer extraordinaire Mike Pochwat captured the action wonderfully with his lens of this grassroots roller community, hopefully our words will entertain you as well.

If you would like to see or meet members of the GTA Rollergirls family, catch them on April 4th in the Beaches Easter Parade or check out Come Get Down-N-Derby on April 8 at the El Mocambo.

Here is the final part of our look at the GTA Rollergirls.

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‘I get to leave that ‘good girl academic’ I am in the day behind and…with derby…let go on quad skates in the evening.’

A new Debutante this past season is Liz “Canadian Psycho” McFarland, a PHD student in architectural history from Cornell University. She chose to finally suit up for a derby squad, after watching a friend’s squad in Ithaca, New York.

“I lived in quad skates as a kid but had not worn them in 20 years. It has been a bit of change but tonnes of fun,” says McFarland. “The speed and contact of the sport is actually quite humbling, even coming from an inline speed skating background. The track is so small and tight and the speed is really deceiving when you watch it from the stands.”

A pleasant discovery for McFarland as she practiced leading up to her first taste of match action this summer was the escape and camaraderie the sport provides.

“I get to leave that ‘good girl academic’ I am in the day behind and have the chance with derby to let go on quad skates in the evening,” explains McFarland with a smile. “The girls have really been great and supportive, we are like a big family. Also, it is a great way to alleviate writer’s block.”

GTA Rollergirls was formed in spring of 2007 and is a separate entity from the Toronto Roller Derby league that has six resident Toronto teams. GTA Rollergirls and its current sole representative, the Derby Debutantes, instead face off against select teams from across Ontario who skate and crash about in their own home independent leagues. The Debutantes season consists of home and away matches against squads like the Thames Fatales (London), Slaughter Daughters (Ottawa), Capital Carnage (Ottawa) and TCRG Thunder (Kitchener-Waterloo).

The Derby Debutantes clash against Ottawa's Capital Punishment at Ted Reeve Arena last summer.
“There are plenty of community based leagues and that is who we really want to play,” explains Kirk Narayansingh, Debutantes coach. “We think this is great exposure for the sport and is appealing for fans. It is nice to have visiting teams coming into town and fans can see something different every weekend.”

Narayansingh, also known as the Marquis de Slammer, is an optometrist and his wife, Brooks, drive the organization and outreach for GTA Rollergirls. The league proudly boasts its transparent practices of full disclosure of expenses to its entire member players and sharing the load of those expenses across the board.

“We have monthly fees which are assessed on the operating costs for that month, in summer it’s a bit more and little less in winter,” he notes. “About 95 per cent of our costs are based on building rentals and costs.”

A primary goal over the next 12 months for the league is to secure a venue where they can practice and play in the winter as well. Ted Reeve Arena has been a great venue to roll in but like most arenas in a hockey mad nation, by the end of the summer, ice goes in for hockey. Beyond that, it is steady as she goes around the flat track for the GTA Rollergirls.

“We are on the cusp of growing bigger but we have seen a lot of explosions and implosions when it comes to roller leagues,” says Narayansingh. “Some leagues grow quickly to four teams and the next thing you know the whole thing collapses, usually over control issues. You want to do it in a way that hopefully your players and you all see the same big picture.”

The Derby Debs banner flies high.
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