Ryder Wrong

ryder wrong profile 02

© Marc Henwood Photography

Unless they’re showing Razor Girls colours, Ryder Wrong loves punishing jammers and blockers on the derby track. But what’s she doing when not skating? Her name comes up so often that it seems everyone already knows: she runs her independent shop (Heartbreak Boutique) in Saint John, adores the rockabilly community, and proudly fields questions from friends and new faces about (of course) roller derby.

Although Ryder & I went to the same high school and university, I never had the pleasure of connecting with her until now. So, saddle up for Ryder Wrong!

Pepe LePunch: You’ve been with Fog City Rollers since its beginning in 2010. How did you get into the grand world of derby?

Ryder Wrong: I wish I had some awesome, epic story for you but, honestly, I just happened to meet Sarah [Darla Derringer] and Bry [Susie Skinner], the founders, at a bar one night shortly before it all got started and they told me they were going to start derby here and I was all, “Frig yes! I’m in!!” And then I worked up the courage to show up for that fateful first “practice” at the skate park and that was it – I was all in!

PLP: What athletics had you done before derby?

RW: For all intents and purposes, none. I mean, I played sports in gym class and joined the rugby team for about five minutes in high school (really, I think I played one game). Other than that I just did stuff on my own at the gym, so this whole “sports team” thing was totally foreign to me. And, honestly, now that I’ve experienced it I regret not getting involved when I was younger. The sense of comradery is such a confidence booster – that feeling of belonging, that feeling of being part of something. I think it’s really important and could be so helpful at a younger age. But better late than never, right?

PLP: Yes, some people never get the fortune of experiencing it. However, many people have experienced being bruised badly by you. What do you feel is most satisfying about being a blocker?

RW: Getting a really solid, clean hit. When the timing and the angle and the power you get behind it all aligns, and you shake your opponent’s soul, that feels fantastic! Also, when, as a team, a play works out perfectly, when you keep the jammer back lap after lap, that’s pretty darn satisfying, too!

ryder wrong jammer block

Holding back a rival jammer // © Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: How far have you travelled for a game?

RW: Newfoundland is the farthest I’ve traveled for derby so far, which was one of my top favourite derby moments. I grew up in St. John’s, NF, so it was awesome to get to go back to visit AND play derby. It was like my past and my present colliding, and it was fantastic! And the 709 Girls [Newfoundland & Labrador’s first league] are awesome! Aside from that, I’ve only travelled within the Maritimes.

PLP: Because of your business, Heartbreak Boutique?

RW: With the shop, I have been pretty limited to how much and often I can travel. I am my only employee so I’m here six days a week. Next season, though, I am hoping to be able to travel more. Possibly check out some training camps. There are a lot of our girls, like Hammer Slammer & Alien She, who have travelled all over Canada and the US for training camps and have brought back oodles of awesome plays and training info for us!

PLP: R.I.P. Razor Girls and Scarlet Swam: Fog City has a new format for its teams next year. What’s your place in it?

RW: I will be starting the season on our newly formed (and yet to be named) ‘B’ Team and will be chartered on the ‘A’ Team, so if they need an extra player I could be “called up” for a game. I am also hoping to become a new member of our board of directors. [She was elected the week after this Q&A.] I am excited for this new evolution in our league and want to help move us forward in this new structure.

ryder wrong razor girls team

Razor Girls 2013 // © Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: When I asked Voodoo Mc Q who helped Pictou County start its league, she included you in her list. She said you advised on meetings, practices, gear and safety, and added that you’re “smart and supportive and caring.” Why do you invest so much time in the derby community?

Ryder Wrong with Highland Derby Dolls' Voodoo Mc Q

Ryder Wrong with Highland Derby Dolls’ Voodoo Mc Q

RW: Because the people in the community are amazing and they have been so awesome and supportive right back, which I am incredibly thankful for! I have gotten SO much from derby and I want to see it continue to grow so that other women (and men) can have that same experience.

By the way, Voodoo Mc Q is one of my very favourite people I have met through derby and I am so excited about what they’ve accomplished. When we started here in Saint John, it was hard to imagine derby being played in places so much smaller because of the hurdles we had to deal with in a city our size. They’ve done an awesome job with training and running Highland Derby Dolls. I hope they are super proud.

PLP: You own and operate Heartbreak Boutique in uptown Saint John. How do you describe it to people who haven’t been in? Would “pinup fashion” be accurate?

RW: Pinup fashion would absolutely be accurate. My tagline is “Where Classic Meets Quirky” because on the boutique side (the shop is about 50/50 pinup clothing and derby gear) I have very classic vintage-inspired pieces, but then right next to that I have a dress with wiener dogs all over it! It’s funny because sometimes people get confused and think the entire shop is for roller derby and they ask, “Do you wear this to play?” and hold up a pencil skirt. Or they think they aren’t “allowed” to wear the clothes because they don’t play.

PLP: How do you politely help a customer who isn’t so knowledgeable about her style? Like, say I’m a woman and just walked into your store: I’m wearing leggings as pants and a loose fitting top – TUCKED IN. And I don’t have a belt. (Obviously.) How do you save me? Go!

RW: HAHAHA!! This might be the best question ever! If someone a little “fashion challenged” comes into the shop, I usually let them look around and try a few things on for themselves, and if I feel like they need (and are open to) a little guidance, I’ll ask if they’d like some suggestions. It’s usually a matter of women not knowing how to dress their particular shape. It’s one of my very favourite things about my job when a woman comes out of the change room KNOWING she looks fantastic. You can see it all over her face. And it’s usually accompanied with a little twirl.

© Alicia Robichaud Photography

Heartbreak Boutique // © Alicia Robichaud Photography

PLP: Before you get to that level of customer service, you need to get your doors open, of course. For friends with a business idea, what should they first do to move from concept to reality?

RW: I truly believe your first move should be talking to other entrepreneurs. They are typically very generous with their knowledge, tips and stories of what not to do! Also, they are fantastic people to bounce ideas off of.

I would also suggest looking into what resources your town/city has. I was super fortunate to be able to take advantage of a program called Enterprising Women through the Saint John Community Loan Fund that covered pretty much everything you need to know when you are looking to start a new business. Enterprise Saint John has been an excellent resource for me, as well.

PLP: An upside is that your sales extend to the derby world, right? Mollie Kill’her Watts [of Fredericton’s Capital City Rollers] said you’re fantastic about the orders and you keep in touch with customers.

RW: Oh, that’s so sweet of her! I am always happy to share any info that might be useful or helpful to customers, especially for derby gear. It can all be pretty overwhelming to new girls so I like to break it down for them and will help them pick what’s right for them. It’s great to have a chance to meet the new batch of girls starting up in our area. They are always so enthusiastic. It’s totally contagious. I love it!  

Also, it can be difficult to keep up on the new gear, even for experienced skaters, so I do my best to keep up on new goodies so that I can help them get the most bang for their buck. I’m not about the upsell; I want to make sure my customers leave the shop feeling like they got what they needed and understood WHY it was the best option for them.

© David Hodges Photography

© David Hodges Photography

PLP: What are your best-selling derby items? Booty shorts? I’m guessing booty shorts.

RW: Nope, not booty shorts, but good guess! I’d say toe stops, wheels, bearings – the stuff that needs to be replaced and/or upgraded on a pretty regular basis.

PLP: I hear your name sometimes accompanied by “she and her husband are rockabilly!” So, I think of a swing beat and Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. But what do people mean when they say you’re “rockabilly”?

RW: Well yeah, I guess we are pretty “rockabilly.” We kind of look like your stereotypical “rockabilly couple”: he has the slicked-back “greaser” hair, black tee and jeans uniform pretty down pat, and I am usually sporting a ‘50s style dress and pinup-style hair.

We’re also really into rockabilly music (Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Jean Vincent, the Stray Cats – and J.D. McPherson, for something a little more current) and we attend a lot of rockabilly festivals, like Viva Las Vegas and the Maritime Rockabilly Shakedown (MaRS) in Amherst, so I guess that’s what they mean.

Also, my derby name is after a Wanda Jackson song (who’s the queen of rockabilly) called “Right or Wrong.”

PLP: In Japan, I’ve seen the rockabilly guys dancing in Yoyogi Park (near Harajuku). What do rockabilly hounds do for fun in Atlantic Canada?

RW: Your questions are the best! The rockabilly scene in Atlantic Canada has definitely grown over the last few years, so it seems like there are lots of opportunities to check out all kinds of great music. Like, I just mentioned MaRS is a really fantastic festival that has a ton of local rockabilly bands like the Shakedown Combo (also the organizers), Whiskey Kisses (from Halifax), Memphis Knights (also from Halifax) and the Royal Tones (from Moncton). There was also a festival in Halifax this past year called the Rockabilly Riot that we unfortunately couldn’t attend, but I heard great things about it.

It’s exciting to see the community growing; just like derby, it’s very grassroots, underground – whatever you want to call it – so everyone is working towards the same thing and wants to help each other. It’s good to see.

PLP: Along this line of rockabilly and derby: like so many in the derby world you wear tattoos, and one of yours has a rockabilly hook. Can you tell about your “Fearless Hearts” inking?

RW: I know people are always advising against matching tattoos, or putting your significant other’s name on your body, but we said to hell with both of those things! My “Fearless Hearts” tattoo is one of a matching set; the other is on my husband’s chest. It’s after “our song” by Steve Earle, “Fearless Heart.” It just kind of spoke to us when we first started our relationship.

PLP: Thanks so much for your time in this busy business season, Ryder Wrong. Here’s your 5 in 25 and then you can return to curing the world of leggings.

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.

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

RW: I used to be very shy. I hid behind my hair until I graduated high school. Hard to believe, I know!

PLP: (#2) What is a peeve of yours?

RW: Bad customer service. And when I find the Brita in the fridge empty. Infuriating!

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

RW: Newfoundland: it’s one of the most beautiful, friendly and original places you’ll ever visit.

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

RW: I’m listening to one right now! American Slang by Gaslight Anthem.

PLP: (#5) Do you have a favourite website or magazine?

RW: National Geographic because our world is incredible and so beautiful and mind-blowing. I’ve always said being an NG photographer would be my dream job.

ryder wrong & steve earle

Ryder Wrong with Steve Earle

– December 19, 2013

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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! 

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

Josey Ramoan

© Marc Henwood

© Victoria Van den Broek

Josey Ramoan hangs her helmet in Saint John with the Fog City Rollers. Within the Port City’s league, she plays for the Scarlet Swarm.

After knowing about Josey for years through many mutual friends, I sat to watch one of the recent Slay of Fundy II bouts with her. Through this, I wanted to make her one of my first Q&As due to her affection for three things: derby, photography and drumming.

So… a-one, a-two, this is #1234!

Pepe LePunch: How did you get into roller derby?

Josey Ramoan: I remember going to the very first meeting three years ago, at a hole-in-the-wall bar uptown, to get some photos for an article for HERE magazine. I didn’t know anything about roller derby. I ended up bumping into some people I knew there, who explained the game to me, and I basically wanted to sign up immediately. But I had an extremely hectic work schedule, and knew at the time that I couldn’t commit. I became a super fan, though, and went to every home game every season after that. This past year, my work life has calmed – the schedule, not the stress, mind you – and so I went for it!

PLP: What’s your athletic background?

JR: I played some varsity volleyball in junior high, but then I discovered cigarettes… These days, I’m a pretty dedicated runner, and definitely don’t smoke anymore.

PLP: Tell me a little about your team, the Scarlet Swarm.

JR: I’m a rookie, and am having a blast getting to know these girls. They’re the underdogs, having gone through a lot of changes over the past year. In the few months that I’ve been skating with them, there have been broken bones, pregnancies, girls who have left the league, and a coach who decided he could no longer put the time in. But through all this, they still show up for every practice, and are itching to play every game. They are all heart, and throw every part of themselves into this game, into this community, and that is really inspiring.

PLP: What’s your favourite position to play, and why?

JR: I love being a jammer. I get so nervous that I want to barf, but scoring points is awesome!

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

JR: I don’t even know… My teammates tell me I’m sneaky. And I think I’ve gotten pretty good at hopping around on my toe stops. 

PLP: What aspect of your game do you want to improve? 

JR: Um, there is so much. I used to think I was fairly strong, until I started playing derby. These girls hit effing hard. When I played my very first game, during my very first jam, I got a big ol’ booty block to my ribs and went down hard. I couldn’t breathe. I was so mad! At myself! I need to toughen up, I need to hit way harder, I need to skate faster, and I probably need to practice patience, which may be the most challenging for me.

PLP: You’re from Bathurst. How did you get to be living in Saint John?

JR: Things have fallen into place quite well career-wise for me. And that is kind of a rare thing for a kid who went to art school to become a photographer. Even before finishing my degree at the [New Brunswick] College of Craft and Design in Fredericton, I started freelancing for the Daily Gleaner and the Canadian Press. From there, I moved to Toronto for an internship with The Star. When that finished, a photography position opened up at the Telegraph-Journal, and I’ve been there ever since. I have amazing friends, I’m part of an über-talented music community, and I met my darling of a husband in this town. I wouldn’t go back and change a thing, even if I could.

PLP: I’ve known about you for a long time via your interests outside roller derby. Can you tell me about your photography (recreational and professional)?

JR: I’m a news photographer, and have been doing this job now for 10 years. 10 years! Damn! So, I get to shoot a lot of different things… portraits, spot news, sports. I like the variety that comes with my work (I get bored easily) and still get a little jazzed when I see my photo on A1 (dork!). A few years ago, my photog co-workers and I had a show at the Saint John Arts Centre. I hope to have another gallery show in the near future. I don’t do much photography just for myself anymore, except for Instagramming pics of my dinner or my cats. (Yes, I’m one of those people. Frig off.) 

PLP: Your derby name, Josey Ramoan, hints at musical interest. I saw you drumming recently with Foreverband during its awesome B-52s cover-song show. Your bandmate Chuck Teed told me that “Kâté is a solid drummer, nails down the groove, and works hard at her craft.” How did you get started with this talent?

JR: I don’t know if I would call it a talent…I pretty much just try to keep up with the rest of the band. For real, I kind of feel like a fraud. My whole life, I wanted to be a “cool musician” type. And I do try really hard when I’m playing with people, but practicing on my own is something I don’t really have the discipline for. I started playing the drums a few years ago with Tune in Tokyo, an all-girl band. We were together for a couple of years and played shows around the Maritimes. I’ve also recorded with my husband Chris, and we always talk about playing more together and touring Canada. Currently, I’m trying to get a project started with a couple of friends. It’s in the very early stage of “Hey, let’s get together for some jams and see if we can get something to make sense” kind of stage. 

PLP: Thanks for your interesting and fun answers, Josey! To finish up, here’s my “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? 

JR: I really, really love to garden, but I totally suck at it. My flowers die a lot. 

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

JR: I have severe road rage.

PLP: (#3) What is a peeve of yours?

JR: Bad drivers (see above).

PLP: (#4) Which artistic figure do you most admire?

JRDiane Arbus. Her photos are so full of empathy and beauty. Her subjects let their guard down for her. It’s hard to look away.

(#5) What is your favourite food and drink? Least favourite?

JR: I love pastries: doughnuts, turnovers, pies. All that. All of the pastries. And red wine. I hate meat, and haven’t eaten it for 17 years.

PLP: I was interviewing Lawrence Gowan a long time ago and some college kids interrupted with, “If you could be any kind of pastry, what would you be?” I thought he’d ignore it but Gowan said, “I’d be honey cruller.” I didn’t get it but a few seconds later he added, “Because I’m so TWISTED.” Strange animal, Gowan. And quietly brilliant.

Okay, bear claws all around next time we meet. Thanks, Josey!

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.