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Roller derby returning to Springhill's community centre

SPRINGHILL – The roller derby is coming back to the Richard Calder Arena at the Dr. Carson & Marion Murray Community Centre.

The Derby for the Cure is taking place at the Springhill arena Saturday, Aug. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to celebrate the return of roller derby after two years of COVID-19 restrictions, while it’s also a fundraiser for a cause so important to so many of the event’s participants.

“Roller derby has been growing across Atlantic Canada, but especially in Nova Scotia, for 12 years, but because of the pandemic we weren’t able to play,” even organizer Denice Nicholson said. “We’re a very close-knit community of mostly female athletes ages 16 to 60.

“During the pandemic, several of the players were diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, while some of the members lost loved ones to breast cancer. We thought this event would be a way to bring our community back together and raise money for breast cancer research.”

Each team is paying an entry fee to participate in the roller derby, while admission to the event is by donation with proceeds being donated to breast cancer research. There will be a silent auction and 50/50 draws during the roller derby and roller night that follows.

“It’s going to be fun for the whole family and it’s open to everyone,” Nicholson said.Eileen Davage, the Municipality of the County of Cumberland’s marketing officer, said bringing roller derby to Springhill was too good to pass up.

“It’s a great opportunity to introduce area residents to a new sport, either as a spectator or as a participant,” Davage said. “We are working hard to attract new and exciting events to the Dr. Carson & Marion Murray Community Centre. Roller Derby is fast-paced, action-packed and a lot of fun to watch.

“It’s definitely an alternative sport - one you certainly don’t see everyday, not taught in schools and isn’t very well known in most sporting circles.”

The centre is also bringing wrestling back to Springhill when Live Pro Wrestling returns on Saturday, Aug. 20 with the doors opening at 7 p.m. and bell time at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

Some of the participating stars include: ‘Dream Killer Troy Merrick, JP Simms, Kimba, Andrew Love, Springhill’s own Dave Boyce and some of the stars of Turnbuckle, the newest TV film available on Swearnet.com.

It will feature a Coal Miner’s Glove match.

Davage said Cumberland County is fortunate to have the community centre in Springhill as a place to host events such as roller derby.

“We look forward to welcoming residents and visitors to our community centre,” she added.

Nicholson, who goes by the derby-name Ice Queen Sandwich, said the group is excited about hosting its first big event in more than two years and is thrilled it’s happening in Springhill. While there are roller derby teams in Moncton and New Glasgow, she would love to see a team be created in the Cumberland and/or Colchester areas to join in on the fun and competition.

“There is a league in Moncton and a league in New Glasgow and if there were interest in Springhill there would be a lot of help,” Nicholson said. “A lot of people would be willing to go there and help it out.”

Since things reopened following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, roller derby teams have hosted small matches with two teams going head-to-head. This is the first time more than two teams have congregated for an event since before COVID-19 in 2019.

“We’re excited to be getting back together because there are so many long-standing and long-distance relationships in different provinces. It’s really awesome,” she said.

In roller derby, two teams of five players are on the track at any given time. Each team has four blockers and a jammer, whose job it is to score points. Jams are a maximum of two minutes with a 20-minute time limit on each match.

The jammer skates through the pack and for every blocker they pass, they get a point.

While there won’t be any flying elbows or clothesline takedowns, as seen in movies, Nicholson said it’s a very physical sport. There is a penalty box and offending players are sent off for a 30-second break in the sinbin.

“It’s full contact and it’s a lot of fun,” Nicholson said.

The Springhill jam will feature six teams from across the Maritimes participating. Both the Halifax and Moncton teams will feature internationally-ranked players.

Kim Manthorne, whose derby-name is the Kim Reaper, said roller derby has been popular for many years. Now a referee, her derby-name is Reffy Sctuff.

“It’s not a mainstream sport or a sport you hear a lot about. It’s one of those underground things, but it’s been around,” Manthorne said. “The pandemic stunted its growth, but now that we’re coming out of it, it’s going to begin to sprout again.”

She said roller derby is very athletic, whereas before many people thought of it as being like WWE on wheels.

"It appeals to a lot of people,” Manthorne said. “People who are involved in it are from every economic background and every profession. Anyone can do it.”

While it’s a physical sport, Manthorne said, it’s a safe sport to participate in with the proper equipment.     

The roller derby will be followed that evening by a roller nite from 6 to 10 p.m. that’s open to everyone to come out and try out roller-skating. Coffin Skate Shop in Halifax will be bringing roller skates for people to try and there’ll be music playing so people can strut their stuff on the arena’s ice pad.

“Stephanie Coffin, who is also a roller derby referee, and Coffin Skate Shop are bringing their skates and their expertise to Springhill,” Nicholson said. “It should be a lot of fun.”

Nicholson said that while roller derby events could not be held during the pandemic due to gathering limits, roller-skating itself underwent a resurgence as people found it was an activity they could do themselves or in smaller groups. While there will be roller-skates available for rental on Aug. 6, she said people can bring their own skates or inline rollerblades to participate.