Every spring and summer since 2007, hundreds of thrill-seekers gather at Aréna St-Louis every other week to drink their way through "beeramids" of Pabst Blue Ribbon and watch badass girls roller-skate their butts off around a track and smack each other. What’s not to like?
Heck, just checking out the pun-happy names of the various Montreal Roller Derby League (MTLRD) players is a lot of fun: Georgia W. Tush, Wrath Poutine, Al Strapone, Hymen Danger, Ninja Simone… And wait until you see them in action!
Ewan Wotarmy, who’s been playing roller derby for three years and who now acts, in her own words, as the "scrappy little media and promotions head" of the MTLRD, vividly remembers her debut in the league. "I was in the process of looking for a new rec hockey league to play with when I saw the  championship bout and recognized that this was a sport like none other. The place was packed and cheering madly for amateur women athletes. In all my years of sport, I had never seen that level of public support for women athletes. Further, having had a history of playing both rugby and hockey, derby was like a coming together of a number of sports that I loved, with humour and spectacle thrown in for good measure."
In many ways, roller derby is one of the fastest growing sports in Montreal. The number of players and the level of play, for instance, are rising every year, 2011 being no exception. "We have 26 new skaters and they are all really strong, fast and dedicated," says Wotarmy. "Our home team play is going to change considerably with all this fresh energy. Further, our travel teams have been to Seattle, Boston, New York, Toronto and London [U.K.] to play in the last few months, and each time we come back with new and interesting approaches to the sport. We’d like to see more of our league members have the opportunity to play teams from various cities and cultures. It’s very exciting."
While the girls in travel teams New Skids on the Block and Les Sexpos enjoy being on the road, they’d also like to be able to play more teams from outside the country at home, but that can be challenging due to things like passport issues. There’s also the fact that the MTLRD may eventually outgrow its beloved Aréna St-Louis. "It would be great to get a larger venue, as we continuously sell out these days – and there are still so many people in this city that have no idea that this sport exists, let alone thrives here in Montreal."
BEAST OF THE EAST
The 2011 season of the Montreal Roller Derby League will officially begin this weekend with the fourth edition of the annual Beast of the East event, a tournament during which 16 teams from Eastern Canada face each other in a series of fast-paced 20-minute games. Naturally, you should be rooting for the three home teams: La Racaille, Les Filles du Roi and Les Contrabanditas, who’ll try to make the teams from Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener and London (Ontario) regret making the trip here.
"The Beast of the East is an opportunity for home teams to compete against the home teams of other leagues," says Wotarmy. "We are used to seeing these teams [La Racaille, Les Filles du Roi, Les Contrabanditas] compete in intramural competition. They only rarely get to compete with teams from other cities – that is normally reserved for travel teams like the New Skids on the Block and Les Sexpos. So this is an excellent way to expose some players to different styles of play and to build team spirit in a tournament setting."
Wotarmy continues, "Again, it comes back to aiming for excellence in Canadian roller derby. We have to play each other to get better and this kind of tournament makes it easy to be exposed to many different teams in a very short period of time. It’s also a lot of fun and a great way to launch our home season!"
Beast of the East 2011
At Aréna St-Louis (5633 St-Dominique), April 30 to May 1