The Sk8mare Before Xmas
By Hannah “WillKillSome” Wilkinson
Derby Frontier Contributor
On November 24th I was lucky enough to skate in Sk8mare Before Xmas #6. I say lucky because they had wait lists for all three games! I had heard a bit about Sk8mare over the last couple years from girls in my league, and they all said that it was awesome. So as soon as registration was announced this year, I sent mine in.
In the weeks before heading out, I exchanged emails with Pamtera of the Oil City Derby Girls to find out a bit more about Sk8mare. She sent me a whole lot about the history, so I’ll summarize that here for you guys.
The first Sk8mare was held at The Grindhouse on November 24, 2007. They wanted to bring in new fans, so they brought in some bands, and aimed for a rock concert feel. The game had the two house teams playing on a doughnut shaped track. Despite their efforts, it was very cold, and the game ended up being on the same night as an E-Ville game. So it didn’t quite work out as planned.
The next year, they decided to have an invitational event each year. Skaters from across Alberta and Saskatchewan were invited to play in Sk8mare #2. There were enough skaters that year for a mixed level game. The next year, there were enough skaters to have rookie and advanced games.
For Sk8mare #4, the Oil City Reffing Crew decided to hold an annual ref clinic to coincide with Sk8mare. The next year, OCDG was able to hold a triple header, and Sk8mare #6 was able to do the same with rookie, co-ed, and advanced games. Sk8mare #6 also included an NSO clinic with Nine Inch Wheels (Oly Rollers). They also invited skaters from the Yukon this year.
HW: Sk8mare is a pretty major event. Has gotten easier over the years? Is OCDG a well oiled Sk8mare machine now? A lot of leagues on the derby frontier are newer, and starting to want to organize events like this.
Pamtera: The bouts are usually difficult to organize with cancellations and waiting lists. We fill in the rosters with over 14 a side so more people can skate, and if people cancel day of, we still have skaters. It’s difficult to have at our current venue as it seems a bit small for all of the skaters and fans coming out to watch. Oil City would love to have it grow and be able to move this event into a larger venue and have even more bouts, including junior’s and men’s bouts too. We talk about Sk8mare being a learning tool. We invite new coaches, rookies, and officials in to learn about derby and make it better for everyone.
HW: Approximately how many people came out last year (skaters, refs, and fans)?
Pamtera: Over 110 skaters, 60 Officials. Fans? I don’t know. It was FULL! Over 500 is my guess.
I headed out on the Thursday before the game. The only people from Saskatoon going were some of my ref friends, QT Sly and Kurz So Good. They were going to the clinics, so that gave me a free day and a half. I got to go to Ikea with my sister-in-law! I love Ikea! And I had fun hanging out with my sister-in-law, too. QT and Kurz said the clinics with Seymoure Carnage (Rat City) and Dev Null (Terminal City/Chinook City) were really great. They learned a lot about how to be better refs.
Fast forward to Saturday. GAME DAY!!!! I stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s place on Friday night, so my usual game day rituals were a little off. They usually are at away games, though. I forgot my headphones, so I couldn’t even listen to my game day playlist! I did, but it was on the regular phone speaker, so it didn’t sound so great, and it didn’t help that my in laws don’t listen to my pre-game type of music. At all. I felt very conspicuous getting all derbied up, carrying my phone around with me, playing my weird music. But I didn’t really care. It was GAME DAY!!!!!!! I got there just after 4:30, at which point, I transferred my Ikea purchases into Kurz’ car, and got my gear.
When I signed in, I was put on the red team. The Sugarplum Scaries! We would be playing against the Nutcracker Sweeties. I started gearing up. Hopefully I didn’t seem too anti-social. I was in my Zen Derby zone, and I’m not so good at meeting new people. As the only skater from my league, I was a little socially awkward. I went out to warm up, and found that the floor was as slippery as I heard. I had brought the wheels that I usually use on cement, but I could have used a notch or two softer.
We gathered by the bench to meet our coaches, and pick a captain. No one volunteered to be captain, so I said I could. I am one of the captain choices for my rookie team back home, so I might as well do it here. Everyone was pretty impressed by that, and I started to realize that I was by far the most experienced player on my team. I kinda felt weird about it, so when a girl asked me how many games I had played, I was like, “Ummm… A lot…” Finally I low balled the number, and she was shocked and asked why I was playing in a rookie game. “I’m not good enough to play in the other games. And… I’m not so great at sports…” Like I said. Socially awkward.
Derby was completely different when I joined. There was no recruitment. I asked when practice was, and showed up. There was not a lot of training geared towards new skaters. I had to claw my way up out of the depths of my non-existent skating skills. Haha. I had some help along the way, but nothing like what our league does now.
Anyways. So I was the captain. I was so far into my Zen Derby zone, that I missed going in for a challenge or something. Someone told me about the next one, so I got in on that. I didn’t know what we were challenging, though, because Zen Derby says that you shouldn’t really watch the game. I’ll have to figure out how this works when you have to pay attention for captaining purposes.
It was cool being a more experienced skater. A lot of the girls had never played a game before, so I helped them run some sweet plays that will now be obsolete. We bridged out to get a slow start so our jammer could get out of the box. We took a knee to get a fast whistle when their jammer was in the box. We did some great defending of our points during opposing power jams, and we did some wicked attacking to get our jammer through on a power jam. We were also able to force “out of play” calls by letting our jammer push the opposing blockers forward. I felt I played really well. The one coach handed me the pivot panty almost every time I was up to block. I’m pretty sure he did it on purpose, too.
The score for that game was 126-199 for the Nutcracker Sweeties, so that means that my team lost, but I don’t care. We played so well together. We all had so much fun. In my head, we won. We all felt like won because we had such a great game. I don’t really know much about my teammates, but I’m proud of them.
I had some medical issues, and had to head to the near by walk in clinic after my game, so I missed the co-ed game. I was disappointed because I really love co-ed derby, but I needed to take care of myself. I got back to the Grindhouse just in time for the advanced game.
Before the game, I was sitting with Racy Rae from Grimshaw Roller Derby. It was her first time at Sk8mare, as she’s only been skating for a few months. She’s not benchmarked yet, so she was there to support her teammates. She told me that in the rookie game, it was great seeing the learning curve throughout the game for the players. The co-ed game (Candy Cane Crushers vs. Santa’s Slayers) was “impressive and terrifying.” I asked her why it was terrifying, and she told me that it was really fast, and there were a lot of hard hits. Kurz So Good confirmed this for me later on. Racy Rae had never seen co-ed derby before, but it sounded like she enjoyed it. The score for this game was 102-167 for Santa’s Slayers.
The advanced game had Dancer’s Destroyers against Dasher’s Bashers. There were some impressive hits, and a lot of great strategy to see. I really enjoyed it. I’ve seen some of the players at boot camps I’ve been to over the last couple years, and I’ve heard some of them mentioned by girls in my league. It was a lot of fun. I enjoy watching the higher level games because it helps me see the plays I’m learning in action. Then I can see how it’s supposed to look. I wish I could tell you all some more details, but I’m writing this two weeks after Sk8mare because I’ve been sick since I got back. The final score was 55-170 for Dasher’s Bashers.
After I got home, I shot off a quick email to Pamtera.
HW: How did the event go from the organizer side of things? Did you learn anything new this time around?
Pamtera: I think the event went well from organizer standpoint. It was a bit harder to choose teams that would make a good match up. The co-ed bout was a blow-out. We did have some small hiccups, but we are always learning and making things better each year. I was happy with the flow of the bouts, how the announcers, skaters and officials were able to keep things running smoothly, and without long breaks. We had a really long night last year.
HW: What was the turnout this year?
Pamtera: We had over 500 people through the door, 75 officials (Skating and Non-Skating) attended our clinic, and over 100 skaters played. I would still love to move this event to a larger venue as I saw the fans were really crowded and it was hard to find a seat.
From a participant’s perspective, Sk8mare Before Xmas #6 was awesome. They had everything that I needed. It was tough to find a seat in the track side seating, but there was enough room in the bleachers for latecomers to find a spot. It was amazing to have a coach! Even better to have three! We don’t have an official coach person right now, so it was really cool to have a coach who is actually a full time coach. The after party was fun, and had karaoke! I was so tired by that point, I just got some food, and sat around chatting. If I was more awake, I would have been singing like a crazy person! There were some good singers at that place, though. It took me a while to realize that it was karaoke.
I had a really great weekend at Sk8mare, and I hope I can go back. I guess it depends on how much I improve over the next year. It would be weird to play in a rookie game again since I was so much more experienced than the other girls this year. It wouldn’t be fair to the girl that would be on the waiting list because I took that spot. I’m glad I went this time, though. I had never been to the Grindhouse before, so that was exciting to finally go there. I hope I can keep you all updated next year, when it’s time for registration. I’m really glad that I went, and hopefully I’ll be able to go back to play in a non-rookie game soon!