Inaugural roller derby ‘bout’ dubbed success

Dan Falloon

Just as the name of the event—“Bordertown Shutdown”—suggested, Bordertown did get shut down at the inaugural roller derby bout here Saturday night.
And in more ways than one.
On the one hand, the negative one, the local “Kraft Milfs” dropped a 178-82 decision to the “Paper Milfs” of the Winnipeg Roller Derby League.
On the other, the positive one, some parts of Fort Frances may have shut down as a raucous crowd of 333 fans made it out to the ’52 Canadians Arena to watch the first edition of roller derby here in Fort Frances.
Despite borrowing a pair of ringers from the Winnipeg team, “Frosty Peaches” and “Killendula,” the Winnipeg team was just too much for the locals to handle as star jammer “Kris Myass” was able to sneak through the Fort Frances pack and earn several points for the visitors.
After trailing 96-37 at the half, the locals were able to rally in the second half, tallying 45 points while holding Winnipeg to 12 fewer (84).
Team organizer Crystal Caul, a.k.a. “Mora Pobitch,” was glad the event was well-received, noting it had to be delayed briefly in order to allow the line of fans in the Memorial Sports Centre lobby to make it to their seats.
“Everybody I talked to afterwards said that they had a great time,” noted Caul.
“Everything went smoothly.”
Members of the visiting team also raved about event, including Winnipeg Roller Derby League co-founder Michelle Nyhof (a.k.a. “Portage ’n Maim”), who emceed the bout along with local radio personality Randy “Scoop” Thoms.
“As far as inaugural derby bouts go, the ‘Bordertown Shutdown’ was top-notch,” Nyhof enthused in an e-mail.
“The event ran smoothly, and the skating was some of the best I’ve seen from a novice league.
“I think the Fort Frances community should be really proud of their new derby [team], and I’ll bet my favourite pair of fishnets that derby will be a permanent fixture in the Fort Frances’ sports scene for years to come.”
Nyhof added all 20 Winnipeg league members felt welcome in town, and hope to return at a later date.
Being the first-ever such event held here in Borderland, not everything went off seamlessly. But all plans eventually were worked out by the time the teams took the floor for the start of the “bout.”
“At the last hour, there was a little bit of a crunch but we got it all done,” Caul said.
“Just getting the scoreboard working and making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, and everyone showed up to do what they were supposed to be doing,” she noted.
Caul was the only local player with roller derby experience, having skated in one event with the “Babes of Thunder Bay” team earlier this year before moving back to Fort Frances.
Even so, she still felt butterflies before action got underway at her first hometown tilt.
“At first, I was nervous,” she acknowledged. “Before you get introduced, I think the most nerve-wracking part is standing there waiting.
“But once you get out, it’s awesome—to hear everybody cheering and having fun,” she enthused.
The crowd began to get more into the flow of the game as the evening progressed, given there are aspects that are unique to the sport.
For example, both teams can score during one “jam,” or two-minute interval in which points are accumulated by jammers based on how many opponents they pass during the session.
As well, in a twist for hockey lovers, penalties are called on the fly, with the guilty party’s sentence only starting once she reaches the penalty box.
“At first, it was quiet in there, but then once people got the gist of the game, and could understand more how it worked, then people started to get more into it,” Caul recalled.
“Usually once you hit halftime, then everyone can talk to each other.
“Everyone puts the pieces together and the second half, they can sit back and actually really enjoy it.”
Caul also was impressed with the locals’ spirited play during the “bout,” especially considering the team only formed in the spring and began practising in May.
“I was impressed with everything, really,” she remarked. “Everyone went out and did their best and gave it their all.
“I think we held our own.
“All the girls did awesome, and they did really good blocking and hitting,” she lauded.
“Even the jammers got up. When they got knocked down, they got right back up again and just keep going.
“I was super-proud of everybody. We’d all worked hard to get to that point and everyone did amazingly well—beyond expectations,” she concluded.
Being a rough-and-tumble sport, the local squad did sustain some injuries, including a sore finger and a broken tailbone.
Meanwhile, Caul was encouraged not only by the attendance but also by the way the team was embraced by those who turned out.
“Thank you to everybody who came out and gave derby a chance because without the support of the community, it wouldn’t be possible to play,” she reasoned.
“It was worth all the work.
“For the last three weeks, it was like every waking minute that I wasn’t at work, I spent trying to get everything organized and ready, and now I can just sit here and relax,” she said.
The “bout” also saw some spin-off benefit as the squad donated half of its profit–$1,140.52—to the local “Community Chest.”
The team will be invited to Winnipeg for a rematch sometime in the next year, but needs a place to practise in order to keep training given the ’52 Canadians Arena no longer will be available once the ice is put in at the end of the month.
Caul said she had caught wind of a couple possibilities after Saturday’s “bout,” including a church basement, but is still open to other suggestions.
She can be reached at 274-8483 or via e-mail at