Poison NV

© Marc Henwood Photography

© Marc Henwood Photography

Roller derby requires financing a lot of gear but the real investment in the sport isn’t money, it’s time. Through practices, travel, overnight stays and the actual bouts, derby hours add up. If you’re a captain or “fresh meat” (new recruits) trainer, each week could be 20-30 hours devoted to your love.

This might be stressful for players with other loves, such as a family. For Poison NV, however, roller derby binds her family ties even tighter, especially with her daughter.

Spectacularly, this Saint John skater only put on roller skates less than a year ago and quickly qualified for her city’s travel team, one of the winningest groups in Atlantic Canada.

Here’s #218 to tell about her choice of poison: roller derby. 

Pepe LePunch: You look very natural on roller skates. What was your athletic history prior to derby?

Poison NV: I literally grew up in a hockey rink. I started off figure skating and then switched to hockey as soon as my parents allowed me to. I played on a boys hockey team because there were no women’s teams at that time. I stopped playing hockey because as the boys grew bigger I stayed small, and it was getting to be too big of a variance for me to handle at that age. But I never stopped skating and playing road hockey, or fun pickup games with friends whenever I could. I also played rugby in high school. I love contact sports and the feeling you get from pushing your body to the limits.

PLP: That explains why your league mate, Josey Ramoan, recommended you to me. She said you’ve only been skating about a year but flew through fresh meat, made the Razor Girls, scored a spot on the travel team, and now coach fresh meat yourself!

PNV: Wow… It looks kinda crazy when you see it spelled out like that! I knew after watching my first game that this was a sport for me. The first time I put skates on at the FCR [Fog City Rollers] meet and greet, I fell and got a very big derby bruise. For some, that might have been a moment to reconsider doing this sport. For me, it made me feel proud to have earned my first (of many) bruises.

© Richard LaFortune

© Richard LaFortune

I was encouraged by my fresh meat coach, Brad Pittiful, to try out for the travel team right away. This wasn’t something I even thought was possible to achieve, but with his encouragement I gave it a try. I had nothing to lose, really. I did make the team on my first try! It was an amazing feeling. I actually played my first official roller derby game at Nationals in Edmonton this past March.

 I decided to take the challenge of coaching fresh meat (along with Allie B Bashin’) because I wanted to give to our new recruits what was given to me by my coaches: encouragement, goals, challenges, knowledge and love of the game. 

PLP: How did you get interested in this sport?

PNV: I used to drive by the LBR [Lord Beaverbrook Rink] and see the sign advertising for derby games and I was actually too intimidated to even go and watch.  Then, serendipitously… I bought a T-shirt from Ryder Wrong’s store Heartbreak Boutique. She added me on Facebook and I started seeing her posts about derby. I was so intrigued that I decided to go check a game out. About two minutes into the game I said to my husband, “I am joining this league. I have to give this game a try!” I planned on being a fan but couldn’t resist joining in on all of the fun!

PLP: At one point during Slay of Fundy, I was standing by the top railing and a high school-aged girl beside me yelled, “Go, mom!” You were that mom. What did your family initially think about you joining derby life?

© Roy Crawford Photography

Poison NV with daughter Kahlan // © Roy Crawford Photography

PNV: Oh my gosh! This question brought tears to my eyes! My husband, Jamie, has been incredibly supportive. I spend four days a week away from home either practicing or coaching, and on weeks that we have a game you can add another day away to that. He never, ever makes me feel guilty for the time and money I spend on this sport. He always tells me that he can see how much this sport gives to me and that is worth it to him.

My parents weren’t surprised by my decision to play this sport and they come to watch my home games. They used to worry about me getting hurt but now they see that I throw more hits than I take most games. And my daughter Kahaln is my biggest fan! Always bringing friends to come and watch me play!

PLP: And now your daughter’s enrolled in fresh meat! When high-school aged, most teens go the opposite direction of their parents. How is roller derby giving you an extra connection with your daughter?

PNV: Okay, more tears! Yes, Kahlan fell in love with derby, too. She is 17 now and, as many moms know, as your babies grow older they spend less and less time with you. Derby has caused us to spend more time together. (Just another gift that derby gave me). She travels to away games with me, she comes to all my home games, and she also comes and watches my practices, occasionally. And the best part is… she decided she wanted to train to referee and is currently in my fresh meat class!

It amazes me to watch her skate. It is such a gift to be her coach and see her interact with the other girls in her class and in the league. We watch games together, we study rules together, we shop for gear and talk about gear together. To have my very own derby girl right under my roof makes me so proud. I can’t wait until we can finally play together.

© Richard LaFortune

Poison NV interviewed by Global News at Nationals (March 2013) // © Richard LaFortune

PLP: I think some keyboards are going to short out from happy tears. So, what’s a strength of yours in derby? 

PNV: I think my biggest attribute is my willingness to learn. I am still very new to this sport, being in my first season as a player, and there is endless strategy and technique to learn and practice. I trust my teammates and my coaches, and that goes a very long way on the track. I think I have natural instincts about how to hit and stay in front of opposing jammers. I do jam occasionally with both Razor Girls and Sirens, and doing this allows me to see the game from both sides and makes me a better blocker.

PLP: What elements do you focus on to improve your blocking?

PNV:  I never give up on wanting to stop the jammer. I hear my coach Dan’s [ZZ Slop] voice in my head saying, “Stay in front of the jammer!!” I take practice seriously and treat each one like a tryout. I focus on staying in position and trusting my teammates to take care of their side of the track. I focus on supporting my teammates in maintaining their position and knocking the jammer out.

© Marc Henwood Photography

Poison NV (left) and teammate Hammer Slammer hold back an opposing jammer // © Marc Henwood Photography

I also try to do something derby related every day: watching games, working out or skating. And now that I have some playing experience, I find it very helpful to watch game footage and look at pictures of games I have played in. Sometimes what you think you are doing and what is really happening on the track are two different things. Seeing it for yourself is a great learning tool.

PLP: Is there a derby talent you wish you had?

PNV: This is a great question. There are many girls I play with that have unique skills that I admire (or NV… haha). Hammer [Slammer] is such a talented skater; I admire her skating form. [Debee Lee] Downer is amazingly focused on the track and shows very little emotion in games. Auburn [Rubber], Ginger [Rocket] and alien [she] have really great leadership skills. [H-Two] OhNo! has outstanding track awareness. Really, there is something from everyone that I wish I had. I see these talents and I work towards building my own.  

PLP: People really scrutinize the Saint John-Moncton games because both teams are so talented, but the Lumbersmacks always seem to get the edge over the Sirens! How much are you looking forward to knocking off Muddy River Rollers in a match?

PNV:  Honestly, I want to win every single game and don’t allow myself to focus on only beating the Lumbersmacks. I think both teams are lucky to have each other close by because we give each other such great competition. Playing them is always intense for the players and the fans, and that is what derby is about. On any given day either one of us could win; we are very evenly matched.

© Alex Tabor

Saint John’s Shipyard Sirens battling Moncton’s Lumbersmacks // © Alex Tabor

PLP: Such an intelligent answer. What do you most value in your SJ teammates?

PNV: I value my teammates because we are so open and honest with each other. It is cliché to say we are like family, but it is very true. We train hard together, we laugh often together and we help each other grow. We spend countless hours together, but beyond that, we have the same goals. 

Because of that, there is an understanding that you can give or receive advice and encouragement, and know without a doubt that it comes from a good place. Being a part of this league is a safe place to be yourself and be accepted.

© Marc Henwood Photography

© Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: You’re the first to get this question: Do you have pre-game or post-game rituals or superstitions?

PNV: So… ummmm… well…. I have lucky underwear. Okay, so now the world knows!  I also make sure I get a good night’s rest, I eat a good breakfast and drink a Blueberry Pomegranate Xenergy drink 2 hours before every game.  

PLP: Definitely adding this question to the rotation from now on! Thanks, Poison NV. Here’s the “5 in 25” to finish up.

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5. Answers  25 words.

PLP: (#1) If someone were looking for a vacation spot, where would you suggest they go?

PNV: St.Kitts is the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever been. Go there!

PLP: (#2) If someone came to your house for a meal, what would you cook up?

PNV: I am a vegetarian and my favourite thing to make is pasta sauce. So, you would get quinoa and homemade veggie sauce.

PLP: (#3) What is your plan for a fantastic afternoon or evening?

PNV: Sitting with Jamie and Kahlan and my dogs, watching a derby game!

PLP: (#4) What’s a favourite song or album of yours?

PNV: I love Rise Against, and Endgame is my favourite album of theirs. They are the reason my husband and I are vegetarians, actually.

PLP: You know, your brother-in-law [musician Jay Vautour] is going to see this…

PNV: I love PITH and Jon Epworth, too!

PLP: (#5) Do you have a motto? 

PNV: Live each day like it is a new day. No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worry can change the future.

© Roy Crawford Photography

© Roy Crawford Photography

Loose N Lawless

Loose N Lawless

© Roy Crawford Photography

Loose N Lawless skates in Fredericton’s Capital City Rollers league. Her talent as a roller derby player also qualifies her to bout with CCR’s travel team, the Daisy Cutters.

You’ll spot her on the track for the final jam of close games. The blocker also contributed greatly to the team’s fourth-place finish at the recent Muddy River Murder tournament in Moncton (July 6 & 7, 2013), where she earned Most Valuable Player (Blocker) in two of the team’s six matches. 

As an original member of Fredericton’s league, and a highly likeable and eloquent individual, I figured people should be introduced to CCR’s #88.

Pepe LePunch: How did you get involved in roller derby?

Loose N Lawless: Approximately three or four years ago I was attending CrossFit, a local gym here in town, and one of the members mentioned the fact that roller derby was coming to Fredericton.

PLP: You became a founding member of Capital City Rollers in 2010? 

LNL: I didn’t actually found the league but I’m one of a handful of members who are currently in their third season with Capital City Rollers. I was the first president of Capital City Rollers in the 2010-11 season.

PLP: Who are the other skaters that started out with you?

LNL: Édith Paf is the only other skating member at this time from the original season. Actually, Linsanity Lohan has just returned to our league and is once again skating with us. She joined that summer, too.  One of our coaches, Ripya Nu1, who is on maternity leave, is also one of the founding-season members, as well as Mo’Rocko, who is currently on leave from the league.

PLP: I only know Ripya Nu1 as being pregnant; I’ve never seen her on skates.

LNL: She was a force! [laughs]

PLP: What’s your athletic background?

LNL: I’ve always been athletic. I was a competitive synchronized swimmer and also a competitive badminton player.  At both sports, I competed at an Atlantic level during school.  I was also a lifeguard and swimming instructor for 12 years, swam Masters [Swimming Canada] competitively and played rugby.  As an adult, I am an avid downhill skier, and prior to joining roller derby I worked out at CrossFit Fredericton.  So, I’ve always, always been involved in sports.

Loose N Lawless

© Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: You are a blocker for the team. What is your best move on the track? (I think I already know the answer…)

LNL: My best move is a full body check, taking girls off the track. I generally don’t focus on hips or shoulders (although I know sometimes I should), I generally use my full body. I’d say that’s my signature move, if you will. [laughs] I’m not much of an agility or finesse skater, although we’re constantly working on our weaknesses. But I am quite effective at taking a girl off the track.

PLP: Can you explain why it’s so important to move a player not just down but off the track?

LNL: When you move a roller derby player off the track, the only way that they can re-enter the track is in back of the person that put them off the track. What’s even more important when you move them off is to back up. It takes them longer to get back on the track so your skaters have one less person to deal with for just a little while longer.

PLP: What would you say is more important for a blocker: size or fitness level?

LNL: I’d definitely say fitness and comfort on skates. Good blockers come in all shapes and sizes. What makes a true blocker fantastic is knowledge of the game and agility and comfort on skates. I’ve seen tiny blockers able to contain giant players because they have a knowledge of physics and the game. They’re very comfortable on their skates and they work with their centre of gravity.

PLP: I consider [CCR player] Penny Traitor a great blocker because, although she’s lithe, once she puts a player out she skates back very fast.

LNL: Yes, and she’s very agile. So, somebody like Penny Traitor, who’s tall and thin, when she bumps somebody off the track she has that immediate burst of reaction to spring back 10 feet and drag the other player back 10 feet.

PLP: What’s your favourite thing about playing with this team?

LNL: Fredericton is known for its sense of fair play and its great attitude on and off the track. Wherever the Capital City Rollers go, we’re greeted with open arms and we’re greeted with high-fives because we’ve truly become friends with most of the other leagues.

Punchy O'Guts

Punchy O’Guts (second from left) with Black Eye Candy, Penny Traitor and Édith Paf (Daisy Cutters) // © Ramo M [hckygrl]

PLP: Your team is unique in that you don’t have a regular coach. Saint John, Moncton, Halifax… they’ve got regulars. Who’s been coaching you recently?

LNL: In the past year we’ve gone with a different model. We’ve hired a coach called Amy Martin. Her derby name is Punchy O’Guts and she skated with the Port Authorities. [The Port Authorities are Maine Roller Derby‘s WFTDA-sanctioned “all-star” team.]. Punchy is sent video footage of our team and has been coaching at a distance for about 10 months. She travels to coach us for the week leading up to a game or tournament and provides us with a post-game strategy.

PLP: You’ve also been coached by the famous (infamous?) Lime.

LNL: That’s right. We’re not refusing any help. When and if there’s a visiting roller derby coach in the area we take advantage as there’s always something we can learn. When Coach Lime has been in the area before we’ve hired him. We’ve also spent some time with Bonnie D. Stroir [of San Diego Derby Dolls], Shirley N. Sane [founder of Roller Derby University] and Georgia W. Tush [of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and owner of Neon Skates], which are all notable roller derby players or coaches. They’ve given us various parts of the game to work with. We also have a coaching committee comprised of skaters that have stepped up to provide interim coaching for us, but what we don’t have is a regular off-skates coach the way a lot of other leagues do.

PLP: Has your family seen you compete?

LNL: My son has seen me play roller derby several times. He thinks it’s a marvelous thing and he always tells me that I need to hit all the girls and make them fall.

PLP: Yep. You’re teaching him a great lesson.

LNL: Right. And my parents have seen me play once…

© Roy Crawford Photography

© Roy Crawford Photography

PLP: I remember this game. [laughs]

LNL: … during which time I was ejected for a gross misconduct. [LNL bumped an opposing player while entering the penalty area. Whether intentional or accidental, rules declare this a “gross misconduct” and the player is ejected from the game.]

PLP: What was a highlight for your folks?

LNL: What they would say was a highlight, aside from the ejection, is that they really underestimated the amount of skill that has been acquired by roller derby leagues throughout Canada in the last three years. They had watched roller derby on TV as Rogers covered it on a few occasions and I remember their comment being, “Everybody just falls down all the time.” When they came to our game [Daisy Cutters versus Moncton’s Daughters of Anarchy; May 4, 2013] they actually saw that the skill level has increased extraordinarily over the past three years. There are actual plays and strategy and there’s a significant amount of skating skill. They were struck by that; they said it repeatedly.

PLP: What’s your favourite derby memory? We discussed Winter Warpath 2013 recently. 

LNL: Winter Warpath, yes. [LNL earned the third-place medal with teammate Epileptrick in the skills competition.] I think my favourite moments change all the time.  My most recent favourite derby memory is that I developed a friendship with Annie Biotix, a skater from Prince Edward Island. As soon as we finished our game against Moonshine Maidens at Muddy River Murder, and we were still doing that post-game congratulatory handshake-slash-hug, I looked up at her because I knew she was getting Most Valuable Player (Blocker) and I said to her, “Listen up, you’re going to hear your name.” And she looked at me and said, “Listen up, you’re going to hear YOUR name.” And it was a wonderful recognition that we’ve both come so far. It was a moment that combined derby and friendship together. It was incredible. [At Muddy River Murder, each team chose the MVP Jammer and MVP Blocker from the opposing team after each bout.]

PLP: What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

LNL: I played my very first roller derby bout at the age of 35. I hadn’t roller skated (either inline or on roller skates) since the age of 13 and I hadn’t ice skated since my late teens. So, at the age of 34 I bought my first pair of roller skates, and at the age of 35 I played my first bout.

Loose N Lawless

© Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: Yes, I was really surprised about that as I started discovering more about the Fredericton players. #1: Everyone looks younger than they are (good answer, me). And #2: Based on ability, I assumed people had been skating six or seven years; I then I found out they first put on the skates 12 months prior.

LNL: I mean, we have some skaters that have figure skating background or hockey backgrounds but we have just as many if not more that had roller skated or ice skated a little bit as a kid but just decided that this was something they really wanted to do. The first time I strapped on roller skates I had to use the walls at the Capital Exhibition Centre to hold me up. In three short years I’ve gone from using the walls…

PLP: To putting players into the walls.

LNL: Yeah, hitting players into the walls and being on the track at every game.

PLP: Do you have a favourite rival team?

LNL: The number one and two teams in the region: Saint John and Moncton. We learn so much when we play them.

PLP: Let’s end with favourite song at the moment.

LNL: A pretty popular summer song is “I Love It” by Icona Pop. It embodies our group of girls and probably a fair amount of derby girls. One thing that most derby girls have in common is that they throw caution and convention to the wind, and they throw general stereotypes to the wind to strap on a pair of skates and have some fun.