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.

15084_10152888434860727_936107028_n

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! 

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.