The Kootenay Kannibelles women’s roller derby team will be sharpening their skills as they get set to consume the Calgary Roller Derby Assocation All Stars (CRDA) on Saturday in an exhibition match at the Flat Track Fever (FTF) tournament at the George Blunden Arena in the Alberta city.
Kannibelles captain Nicole Courson, aka Courtney Shove, has skated for the West Kootenay All Star team since its inception three years ago, and says the competition with the CRDA All Stars will be fierce.
“They are pretty good,” said Courson. “They are very physical. We have a reputation for being a really tough physical team, just because we came out of the derby scene really strong, but the Calgary girls are big and they are tough and they play hard with big hits.”
As a result, the Kannibelles have been working on their speed, team work, and strategy in their practices before going head-to-head against their formidable opponent.
“Derby’s kind of like other sports there are only so many new things you can do strategically, it’s a matter of reaction time, and being able to work with your teammates in such a way that you all see what’s happening and you all know to do the same thing at the same time. It’s a really team-dependant sport and that’s where we try to draw our strength from working together.”
While the game is an exhibition match, it is dubbed as the “showcase bout” of the FTF tournament, and will be well-attended by visiting teams.
As for the Kannibelles’ squad, it has seen some changes since taking fourth place in a national tournament in Edmonton last year. But statistically the team looks good, says Courson, improving remarkably since opening the season with a victory over Avalanche City before suffering two close losses at Spokarnage in Spokane last month
“We’ve only been around for a few years but because we’ve been consistently strong, we’ve won enough games to give ourselves a good ranking, that it gives us a good advantage against a lot of teams that we haven’t played. But I think we have the potential to do really well, we have a lot of really talented skaters and the improvement over the season has been insane.”
The 27th ranked team in Canada is well-represented by players from all corners of the West Kootenay and practices twice a week in arenas in Rossland, Trail, Castlegar, Salmo, and Nelson.
Their dedication is likely what sets them apart from teams from larger centres. Not only do the players travel long distances to practice and to play matches, but they spend much of their time raising funds, promoting, organizing and running events for the All Star team as well as their house teams in the West Kootenay Roller Derby League.
“The Kootenays isn’t really on the way to anywhere, so you have to travel quite a bit to find games, but its worth it,” added Courson. “We fund raise as much as we can and try to represent the Kootenays whenever we get a chance.”
Despite the hectic schedule for most skaters the time spent is well worth it.
“It keeps me really busy for sure. There is always a running joke among derby skaters that if we could get paid to do derby we’d all quit our day jobs because we spend most of our hours doing this anyway.”
The Kannibelles have a series of road-matches and tournaments in Surrey, Armstrong, Spokane, and Coeur de Laine ahead of them, but will host their own triple-header in Castlegar on July 19 against bitter rivals the Belladonnas from Red Deer and the Lilac City All Stars from Spokane.
West Kootenay Roller Derby action continues in Trail May 31 with the Rossland Trail Roller Girls versus Valley Brutality at 5 p.m. and the Dam City Rollers take on the Nelson Killjoys at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.