Voodoo McQ

profileHow do you get a roller derby league going, especially when you and your friends have never even played before? VooDoo McQ worked through this as she helped develop Highland Derby Dolls, a fledgling league in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.

A blocker for Kickin’ Vixens (the league’s sole team), #34 explains the effort in gaining support in her area, the fortune she found in Atlantic Canada’s derby community, and the “selfish” reason she joined the sport.

Voodoo McQ works her magic – with enthusiasm – for you here.

Pepe LePunch:  What’s the history of your league?

Voodoo McQ: We still have that new car scent! We are just over a year old as we formed in July 2012. Our league is filled with girls primarily living in Pictou County, NS, which is smack-dab between Truro and Antigonish. Although we all live in this small county now, our league is filled with girls originally from all over: Ontario, NB, NFLD, and one of our coaches is from Houston, Texas. We’re like a spice rack of personalities.

Pictou County, Nova Scotia // © Wikipedia

PLP: The match I announced for you [August 2013] was a combined team of Riptide Rollers [Annapolis Valley] and Highland Derby Dolls. You faced PEI’s Twisted Sisters. For some players on your joint team, that was their first full game, right?

VDM: Yep, for us five from Highland Derby Dolls, for sure, it was our first full game.

PLP: What expectations does a new player have in her first bout?

VDM: The word SURVIVAL came to mind!!! The thing about us participating in that first bout was, number one, we were forming a team with girls we had never met before. They were still pretty fresh, as well, with only a few games themselves. But we were stoked about that. We chatted about being nervous and so forth but in the end we decided to just take it all in, learn what we can and bring it back to our mates and teach them what we learned from it all.

PLP: Late in the game, some players were looking… wobbly. [PEI announcer] Austin Tatious and I mentioned to the crowd that skaters’ legs can get weary near the end. Could you explain the stamina it takes to complete 60 minutes of contact derby?

VDM: Wobbly would be a fairly accurate description near the end of that, no doubt. It takes a lot of stamina for derby, period. It’s an all-over workout, that’s for sure! Derby is like anything, though; you get out of it what you put into it.

You really have no idea what it’s exactly going to be like until that whistle blows and there you are in the depth of it. Adrenaline is pumping big time, I will say that, and you’re on and off the bench so much… It’s a definite high that I loved!!!

PLP: What were your players saying after that match against the Sisters?

VDM: Our players were so hyper with pride!!! It was that accomplished feeling of participating in your first bout. Regardless of the score or mistakes made, we were here in PEI playing against the Twisted Sisters, which has been the goal the whole time: to play!

Highland Derby Dolls and Riptide Rollers joint team in PEI, August 2013 (Voodoo McQ: front row, second from right) // © Alex Tabor

VDM: What we learned… hmmmmm. Transitions come to mind. Ha!!! We learned that PEI is a classy bunch and, although the score got away from us, that every team was once where we are right now, and that we only grow from here.

PLP: What are some challenges in setting up a derby league? You just download a checklist and it’s pretty easy from there, right?

VDM: Challenges??? Nah, it took a solid two hours and then we just started skating!! Ha! Starting a league is a crazy, time-sucking machine!!! It’s everything you think, then more, way more. It’s so much work: contacts and research and mistake after mistake, and it takes a lot of people to make an extreme commitment to get it on the go and keep it going. We have a great bunch of girls who help out with tons of stuff and that helps big time. That said it’s so rewarding and becomes your baby in so many ways. It’s ridiculous how derby swallows you up. Even when you thought you were busy before derby, now it’s so much more than that. But you love it so much that most days it doesn’t matter; you find the time.

PLP: How is it finding training and game facilities in your area? That can be challenging, even in a city the size of Fredericton.

VDM: Finding facilities to train and bout in has been a struggle. Tons of calls, emails, meetings, etc. We live in a very small town. Roller derby has that age-old stigma against it, going in right off the hop. Our challenges were to convince people that this is an actual sport. There are no pre-planned plots and hyped-up theatrics (okay, maybe some). We did a lot of smiling and shaking our heads “NO” to comparisons to WWE and Skinny Minnie Miller.

PLP: But you succeeded

VDM: Once we explained the growth of derby, not only in the Maritimes but all over the world, we slowly got more attention. We stressed the idea of what we believe derby to be: an actual sport for woman that was super competitive but in such a positive way. We’ve been lucky to have the support of our local community college and one local rink. They have let us grow and build our skills over the past year, which we are very grateful for.

PLP: The idea to start a league is easy but where do you get the guidance to help it grow?

VDM: Guidance… right!! We started this league with not one person with any kind of background in derby, which I think happens in many places. When this happens you really get creative. At first we used what we had, which was internet: Facebook, YouTube tutorials, league web sites, etc. It wasn’t until we got out there and made contacts that the ball really started rolling, and when it did we were flooded with help from all over. It was fantastic.

1385657_10153525605630727_556904704_nPLP: Who helped you through the learn-to-skate and contact training?

VDM: Naming everyone would be crazy insane but there are people we MUST thank.

Shreddy Crocker [Moncton-based referee] is from this area and came down with the girls from Dieppe very early on. Countless visits, emails and Facebook guidance never stopped from him.
• Invites from Muddy River Rollers for a closed-door scrimmage was an awesome opportunity, with email help from Burn n’ Rub’her (we love her & MRR peeps).
• Invites from Capital City Rollers to participate in the Scrimmage 101 put on by CCR and Punchy O’ Guts, with email help from the awesome Penny Traitor. Help from her and CCR has been endless.
Fog City RollersRyder Wrong has been a super email/phone buddy of mine and ours as a league, and she has given awesome advice and derby info, which is so helpful. I love her!

PLP: I should ask you to stop as it’ll take me forever to tag everyone in this article.

VDM: This is going too long; I hear the music in the background! So, in short: Riptide Rollers, Tar City Rollers [Cape Breton], PEI, Moncton, SJ, Freddy and Hali have all been a huge loving ball of help from the get-go. And lastly, I’d like to thank the Academy… Geez, sorry that went long but, hey, if we didn’t have the help of these people we would still be skating in a circle without skill.

PLP: Well said. How’s your fan base in New Glasgow? Do the crowds get into it like they do hockey?

532078_10153361749025657_690969745_nVDM: Our fan base is growing, for sure, as our name gets out there. Our first home bout was awesome – well over 200 people, which for this small place is great and we know it’s only going to grow.

PLP: Wow, 200-plus is actually a fantastic number.
VDM: Our biggest supporters are our family and friends; we are very lucky that way. Also, our local media (radio and newspapers) have been very much on our side!

PLP: Why did you get involved in derby?

VDM: To find myself again. Since moving here I’ve been “Dawson’s mom” and “Cory’s wife,” which is awesome, but I lost “me” in all of that. Sometimes we – as moms and wives – we forget what interests us because we put our family up front so much. In derby I found myself again. I’m so glad to be back!

PLP: You’re from Ontario, you mentioned to me. What was your neighborhood living there? And how’d you get down to Nova Scotia?

VDM: Yep, from Toronto. Raised in Etobicoke. Love where I grew up. So many friends, so many great memories. Etobicoke shares a special spot in my heart! My derby is 34 – the number of the building I grew up living in: 34 Riverwood!!! Whoot!!! My derby name is also a play on words with my maiden name. Guess derby brings out the kid out in me! Family took me to NS in 1995 and love kept me here. Awwwwww.

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Voodoo McQ and regional skaters in Fredericton for Scrimmage 101 with Punchy O’Guts // © Ramo M [hckygrl]

VDM: My son LOVES watching me play derby. He tells me I’m the coolest mom ever. How can that not make a mom smile, eh!!! Looking forward to having our 18-year-old watch me this season. As moms are so busy, practice is always family-friendly. Someone’s kids are always hanging out and that’s cool; we put them to work, and they are our future derby players.

PLP: What advice do you have for people curious about trying derby out?

VDM: My advice is don’t cut yourself short before you try. Derby is for everyone: all sizes, all personalities, all athletic abilities, etc. I’ve seen the most timid of girls not only become a kick-ass player but a force of strength you can’t slow down. I’ve never been a part of any sport that has been this positive, and that’s the truth. There is even a lot of cheering-on from your opponents. I have made some wonderful friendships from derby and it’s something I’m so glad to be a part of!

PLP: Thank you, Voodoo McQ. Love your passion. Here’s the 5 in 25 and then you can skate on outta here. 

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.

PLP: (#1) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

VDM: That I am a vegan. Just jokes – pass the bacon!!! Also, scared to death to drive a car but working on it.

PLP: (#2) What is a peeve of yours?

VDM: Negativity. Don’t allow it in my life. Period.

PLP: (#3) If someone was looking for a vacation destination, where would you recommend?

VDM: Toronto. No place like home.

PLP: (#4) Do you have a motto? 

VDM: Do I??? Yes, yes, I do!! Love quotes/mottos. “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great!” 

PLP: (#5) Finish this: Nothing better than… ?

VDM: … a hand-written letter, hearing my kids laugh, and that sound your wheels make on the track! 

Atom Bombshell

© Richard Lafortune

© Richard Lafortune

Atom Bombshell laces up her skates for two teams in the Halifax Roller Derby Association: Las Bandidas Locas (league) and the Harbour Grudges (travel squad). I know she’s a happy human who studies hard, loves a quality brew, and adores glitter. But I wanted to find out more about two serious issues: the derby injury that took her out of this season both physically and mentally, and her media involvement in addressing the St. Mary’s University “rape chant.”

In life and on the track, she’s light, lively and sets a pace tough to follow. This is Atom Bombshell.

Pepe LePunch: Where was your neighbourhood growing up?

Atom Bombshell: I’m from a small, isolated railroad community in Northern Ontario called Hornepayne – about 1,100 km northwest of Toronto, for perspective.

PLP: What was your athletic history before joining roller derby?


AB: I figure skated from the time I was four until I broke my ankle as a young teen and never went back. I usually sat out in gym class and didn’t really have much interest in organized sports until derby.

london violet femmes

Atom Bombshell skating with the Violet Femmes out of London, ON // © Sean Murphy

PLP: With not much interest in sports, what led you into roller derby?

AB: My interest was piqued as I was living in Minneapolis and saw the community surrounding the MN Rollergirls. I was only 16 at the time, though, and had to wait another two years until I was both back in Canada and old enough to join a league. I started out with the London Violet Femmes in London, Ontario, and shortly after turning 18 I was playing regional tournaments in the London/Kitchener/Toronto area.

PLP: You’re a jammer. What’s your thought process as you approach the back of the pack?

AB: My thoughts are usually focused on where the other jammer is, because her position determines what my approach will be.

PLP: What’s your strength or best attribute/move out on the track?

AB: I’m speedy and nimble. I’m not too difficult to knock over; the hard part is trying to catch me.

PLP: I believe you might be the youngest captain in the region. What exactly earned you co-captain status of Las Bandidas Locas?

AB: When Block ‘n’ Deck Her was elected captain, she had the idea to form a strong leadership team with two co-captains: myself and Clutch Cannon.

hrda

© Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: You’re enrolled at SMU in Halifax. What are you studying?

AB: I double-major in anthropology and criminology, and I’m finishing up a diploma in forensic science as well.

PLP: Why are you pursuing so many interests?

AB: I love studying such a diverse range because every day is different – one day I’m out digging up bones, the next I’m playing with chimp skeletons, and the next I’m out in the community doing ethnographic research on labour.

PLP: Speaking of community, you were very involved in the SMU chant debacle. What radio/TV press did you do?

AB: Oh, wow, that’s a big question. Haha. I did about three or four regional press interviews a day, so I don’t remember all the specifics. The more memorable stuff was the interview with MacLean’s magazine, The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti, and a radio show panel for a talk show out in Vancouver.

PLP: Why do you feel people should be more engaged in addressing an event such as that chant?

AB: Because it’s a systemic issue that affects everyone, not an isolated incident or just a campus problem. The culture surrounding rape and victim-blaming and the flippant attitude towards them can ensnare anyone, and it’s a really easy attitude to fall into.

PLP: You suffered a derby-related head injury in March. What happened?

AB: It happened in a split second. It was an accident in practice. I landed hard on my tailbone and my neck snapped forward, giving me severe whiplash and rattling my brain pretty hard.

PLP: I watched you play at Slay of Fundy in June 2013 and didn’t suspect anything. Do you still feel repercussions from the concussion?

AB: I do. My mental health has certainly suffered, so I’ve been extremely cautious and follow up with my doctor as often as I can. Slay was actually my wake-up call to be more careful. I didn’t even play my games in full because I got uncharacteristically anxious and really easily frustrated, but I see a therapist to work through some of those symptoms. Marc Henwood actually captured a really crazy picture of me kneeling and crying on the track that I still can’t really look at, but it’s comforting when I’m reminded that I actually got up from it and continued playing.

on knee on track

Atom Bombshell recovers from a play at Slay of Fundy 2013 // © Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: What challenges confront you after a serious injury like this?

AB: It’s been a long process of recovery, and I’m slated to return to practices this month. For me, it’s been the combination of keeping up with my doctor, my therapist, my physiotherapist and my coaches that’s kept me accountable and healthy and working towards coming back fully. I played two for-fun bouts with the Halifax Misfits over the summer and seemed to be making a lot of progress, so I’m hoping to be back in full swing for the next Winter Warpath.

PLP: I really enjoy the Halifax-Fredericton games as they’re close competitions. Do you have a favourite rival team to play? Or player?

Atom Bombshell (blue) enjoys an in-game rivalry with Fredericton’s Edith Paf (black) // © Richard Lafortune

Atom Bombshell (blue) enjoys an in-game rivalry with Fredericton’s Édith Paf (black) // © Richard Lafortune

AB: My favourite team on the east coast to play would have to be Fredericton [Capital City Rollers], actually. I’ve faced them on three occasions, and I’m always both impressed and terrified. I love skating against Édith Paf, because she’s a really intense opponent and always challenges me, and because our off-track relationship is so friendly that the dynamic is really always fun.

PLP: The HRDA players always seem so positive and friendly, even on the jam line with opponents. I often wonder what you guys say to opponents out there during a bout. 

AB: We’re usually discussing the afterparty and how we’re going to be the victors of it. Or, I’m discussing how badly I can’t wait to eat pizza and watch TV at the hotel!

PLP: I appreciate your time and candor, Atom Bombshell. As always, the afterparty in these interviews is the 5 in 25.

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.

PLP: (#1) Can you tell about a couple of your hobbies or after-work activities?

AB: I embroider vulgar rap lyrics onto throw pillows sometimes. I like to go dancing 
and fishing and enjoy late nights in the lab.

PLP: (#2) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

AB: I make all my own beauty products in my kitchen. It’s why I smell so pretty on 
the jam line.

PLP: (#3) What is your favourite food and/or drink?  

AB: I love fancy burgers and birthday cake and bitter, hoppy beer. Preferably all at 
once.

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

AB: I can’t stop listening to Childish Gambino’s Camp album right now.

PLP: (#5) Which well-known figure do you most admire?

AB: Jane Goodall is a badass.

© Roy Crawford Photography

© Roy Crawford Photography