Six U.S. cities are hosting tournaments that will determine the field for the International Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Championships in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 4-6. Venues in Wichita, Kan.; Lansing, Mich.; Montreal; Columbia, S.C.; and Vancouver, B.C., hosted Division 1 or Division 2 playoffs beginning in August; the final playoffs tournament was held in Madison, Wisconsin, in late September.
These events are held in mid-sized arenas, and the sport appears to be building a new-generation fan base. “Montreal Roller Derby has been a really popular league in the derby world,” Plastik Patrick, organizer of Montreal’s WFTDA playoffs tournament, told Canada’s Global News. “I think the sport has really grown. It’s become like a professional sport. It needs to find its audience.”
“It’s kind of a big deal — not just for our team, but for Lansing,” Sarah Wardell, a member of the Lansing Derby Vixens, told City Pulse newspaper. “Roller derby is really a grassroots sport.”
Modern roller derby, in which two teams of five skaters score points by passing members of the opposing team in an oval, was in the mix as a potential sport to be added to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (and is still a possibility for the 2024 Summer Games). It’s come a long way from what you saw on TV in the Seventies, which was a theatrical “sport” in which mean-looking women skated around an oval, followed scripted storylines and staged fake fights.
Meanwhile, more good news: Roller derby is now legal in Maine.