Liz Nail’er

Liz Nail'er profile

© Richard Lafortune

For my second go at announcing derby, I travelled to Moncton to shill both games of a double-header. That evening I worked under the wing of four announcers, one of whom was LaManna Cornuda. He mentioned at one point that his wife was in the current game. I asked, “Which one is she?” Then Liz Nail’er cleanly laid out an opposing blocker right in front of us. “That one,” the happy husband replied. 

Liz Nail’er blocks – hard – for Moncton’s Muddy River Rollers league. She plays for the Daughters of Anarchy but I mostly know her as a key wheeler with the Lumbersmacks, the city’s travel team.

As an original member of the MRR league, a former team captain, a competitor at the national tournament, and a wonderful illustration of the term “derby community,” I wanted to highlight Moncton’s #12XU, Liz Nail’er.

Pepe LePunch: How did you get into roller derby?

Liz Nail’er: My best friend had been trying to convince me to start a league with her. I researched it and it was far too daunting a task for me to undertake with two small children. They were four and seven at the time I think. [Daughter] Sophie was in therapy for 20-plus hours a week.  When we heard Carole [Burn’N RubHer] was starting one we jumped at it. I have been all in ever since.

PLP: What’s your athletic background?

LN: I have none really. I was a majorette for years. Is that a sport? I was a baton twirling fool. When it came to team sports I was that fat kid who gets picked last for teams in gym class. I rode the bench on the soccer team for a couple of years.

PLP: Whenever I see letters added to a jersey number, I’m always curious. What’s your “12XU” mean?

LN: It’s a Wire song. Most people don’t know it. I met a girl who skated up to me at a training camp in Toronto and yelled out, “1-2-X-U!” We became fast friends. (Hey, Honey Boom Boom!)

PLP: So, it’s “one-two,” not “twelve.”

LN: All numbers have to be called like that. “111” should be called “one-one-one.” Still, refs call me “twelve.” If letters are the same size as the numbers, they are part of your number; if they are smaller, they are not.

PLP: Tell me a little about your Daughters of Anarchy team.

LN: We joke that we are Team Fertility. Over the last three years we have had, I think, five “Babies of Anarchy.” We are expecting two more at the moment. Needless to say, we have a lot of turnover; we constantly seem to be trying to find our footing. We had to cancel our game scheduled for last night because we currently have seven contact-cleared members on skates.

© Richard Lafortune

Slay of Fundy II championship game // © Richard Lafortune

PLP: You were DoA’s captain last year. During a bout, what’s a derby captain’s role?

LN: During a game you are a liaison between your team and the ref team. You call for timeouts and official reviews. If your team has issues with the way things are being called, you get to address them along with the alternate captain. Calling timeouts gets strategic in close games. It is best to have someone on the bench with the A [alternate captain]; it is easier to see everything from the bench.

PLP: Outside of a bout, what else does the captain do?

LN: In MRR, the captains are part of the training committee. They plan and run practices along with the coaches, decide who will play each game, who to put together on lines, things like that.

PLP: I’ve witnessed the commitment you inspire from others: your husband, your brother Adrian, players from all teams. What characteristics do people enjoy about you?

LN: That’s hard to answer. I am pretty straightforward, sometimes to a fault. People either love that or hate it. I am very loyal. I stick up for what I think is right. I have blind enthusiasm for new things. And I am pretty fun. If you ask those people they might say something different, though.

PLP: How’d you come to settle in Moncton with your American husband and derby announcer LaManna Cornuda? 

LN: In 2003, we were newlyweds, living in Vancouver with a new baby. We were having a hard time with Brian’s landed immigrant paperwork. We were broke. All of my family is in the Maritimes, and Brian’s is in New Jersey. When someone offered him a (not entirely above the table) job here, we decided to move. This way Gabe & Sophia get know some grandparents and extended family. Brian’s family are much closer, too.

© Kevin Molyneaux

Roller Derby Association of Canada Nationals 2013 // © Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: I’ve seen you at every bout I’ve been to. You, your husband and often your children travel to games outside of Moncton, sometimes just to watch. In a given week, how much of your time goes into derby planning, practicing and playing? 

LN: It really depends on the week. 20-plus, easily. The derby girl motto is: “I can’t. I have derby.” Between two teams [Daughters of Anarchy and Lumbersmacks], the board of directors, events committee, fundraisers, emails…  It is something I am trying to cut back on, honestly. I have been VP since almost the start and I don’t plan on running again in October. I think we need a bit more of a life/derby balance at Casa LaManna.

PLP: You’re also part of the league’s travel team, the Lumbersmacks, which has really been the dominant team in Atlantic Canada since the New Brunswick leagues started up in 2010. What are you doing  that makes you so successful?

LN: I don’t really know.  We’ve had a lot of outside guidance from the start. Dr. Johnny Capote [Canuck Derby TV], Georgia W. Tush  [of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and owner of Neon Skates] and Lime have all been instrumental in helping us find our way from the start. We work hard. Burn’N, the ‘Smacks captain and league founder, is really a driving force, too. She is always striving for the next thing and that is inspiring. We go to training camps when we can. We’ve hosted training camps. We watch derby. We try to bring stuff in from all over and see what works for us. We don’t want to lose our spot on top, so all the other teams in the Atlantic region really help motivate us; they are all working hard and it shows. It’s getting harder to be the dominant team, that’s for sure.

PLP: Can you describe how your team practices? I hear Moncton even has “rules nights.”

LN: We do have rules nights. They are more frequent after rule changes. Lots of leagues do them; we are not breaking new ground here. We change things up often. Last season we had separate team practices but this year we do all the league together, followed by Lumbersmacks.  We have scrimmage 101 for newer skaters on Sundays. Practice typically lasts about three hours. What we work on is always changing. Evolve or die.

Liz Nailer with team

Liz Nail’er (12XU) with Burn’N RubHer (45) and Lumbersmacks teammates // © Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: I assume a lot of people feel roller derby is a chance for women to get together and have a good time. But are these Atlantic Canadian leagues aiming for fun or competition? 

LN: That is different for each player. I am in it for fun, but I am not a very competitive person. Also, I am pretty old in the derby world. I have teammates who are the exact opposite of me. I think in our region right now there are some growing pains. If you want to be on a travel team, just showing up at practice is no longer enough. You have to work out, eat right, be an actual athlete. Derby everywhere is struggling to be accepted as a sport so it’s not as much for the misfits and the punks anymore. It is much more for the straight-up athletes, and that’s not how it was three years ago.

PLP: What is your favorite derby memory?

LN: A bunch of us went to the first Roller Derby World Cup [Toronto, December 2011]. It was an amazing experience. Watching the best in the world play, I felt like I got better just watching. The derby love was palpable.

Also, the Lumbersmacks got to play The New Skids this winter. I really look up to each one of them as skaters, and their league as a whole. So, to play them and actually score 100 points was awesome, super fun.

PLP: Okay, to end off, here’s my “5 in 25.”

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5. Answers  25 words.

PLP: (#1) If someone were looking for a vacation destination, where would you recommend?

LZ: Brian [husband] and I went to the ice hotel [Hôtel de Glace] in Quebec. It was beautiful, like being in a fairy tale. I highly recommend it.

PLP: (#2) If someone came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare? 

LZ: If my guests are vegetarian, I make a mean chana masala. If not, my pulled pork is divine.

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

LZ: Good friends, good food, good drinks and good conversation. I am an extrovert so I live for that stuff.

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

LZ: I really love Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones. Late night party or Sunday drive, it works for everything.

PLP: (#5) Do you have a motto?  

LZ: “Why not?” It goes well with blind enthusiasm.

PLP:  Thanks, Liz. I enjoyed your straightforward answers, just as you promised. See you soon for some pulled pork and chana masala!

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.