The first-ever world cup for women’s flat track roller derby will take place this December in Toronto, and a former Terrace resident will be lacing up for Team Canada.
Brie Birdsell, or Bone Machine, was shortlisted to a team of 40 players before making the final cut to join 19 other women on Team Canada.
And they will be taking on teams from Argentina, Australia, England, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden and the U.S.A.
“It is quite an honour to be chosen,” Birdsell said. “It’s a new sport and growing. It will be very interesting to play other teams from around the world.”
Apart from a practice before the tournament, Team Canada is practicing regionally, but not as a whole.
“It will be interesting to see how that plays out, because I know teamwork takes a long time to build,” Birdsell said.
Currently Birdsell lives in Montreal and is the co-captain of the roller derby team there, The New Skids on the Block.
Birdsell said most of the Skids did not have to attend round one of tryouts as their skill levels shortlisted them as well.
The team started six years ago, and was the first Canadian derby team to join the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), which was started in the U.S.
The team is now ranked fifth in the WFTDA’s east division.
Birdsell is a blocker for the Skids. In roller derby, blockers are important as they prevent the opposing teams jammer from passing though the group, while helping their own team’s jammer to make it past the pack.
Points are scored in derby by a team’s jammer making laps around the other players who skate together around the ring.
Birdsell talks about the camaraderie involved in roller derby, explaining that after a bout (match) both teams will get together and talk about ways they can all improve.
“It’s a really strong community of just advancing the sport as a whole,” she said.
Head coach for Team Canada, Paul Perez, said he divided the country into three zones to find players for the team.
“We basically matched everyone up and found the best possible combination of all those different skills and abilities,” Perez explained.
He says Birdsell is a great player all across the board.
“The Skids are a great team. They have worked really hard over the years to get to where they are now,” Perez said.
And he would know, Perez has been involved in the resurgence of roller derby since the beginning, when the sport was re-vamped in Austin, Texas in 2000.
Perez’s Phoenix Arizona team was the second league to join the WFTDA in 2003, and he oversaw the first-ever bout between two different leagues in the United States.
Perez has taught roller derby in New Zealand, Canada, the United States and England. “[There are about] 90 leagues total that I have been to. I have coached all over,” Perez said.
He says it was in 2009 that talk first began of hosting a world cup. Organizers decided to host it in a country other than the U.S. because of the Americans’ head start on the sport. And so, Dec. 2-4 at the The Bunker at Downsview Park in Toronto became the final decision.
“Ultimately we would like to see this sport become Olympic, and what we do now is going to set the tone for the future.” Perez said.