Hammer City Roller Girls
Mountain Arena (Dave Andreychuk) 25 Hester Street

When the Tour began a year ago, one of the first local groups to reach out was the Hammer City Roller Girls. We didn’t even know Hamilton had a roller derby league (HCRG was founded in 2006), so we were excited to hear about it and that reinforced what we set out to do – get to know our hometown better. Going to a game was something we all wanted to do together; unfortunately, our schedules didn’t sync up last summer to make it happen.

This summer, I kept a close watch on their game dates and knew I just had to hit a game. Then, a coincidental connection happened, as it keeps happening throughout the Tour. When Avishka and I attended the Media Relations Summer Camp at The Spec, two of our fellow campers were Leah Visser (Miss Carriage) and Krista Lee (Wild Rice) of the Hammer City Roller Girls. We were happy to finally meet and it was there that we made plans to come to a game. An interesting fact we learned from the girls at camp is that roller derby is being taken into consideration to become an official Olympic sport, which would be fantastic!

My knowledge of roller derby was limited to the movie Whip It. But that gave me a feel for the rock’n’roll edge to the sport, which I love, and is something that drew me to it. Each girl’s individuality and personal flair is embraced, as shown through their style and creative roller girl names. We were honoured to be bestowed with nicknames of our own – the HCRG tweeted us our noms-du-rink, as Leah put it – I am now Heartless Hammer and Avishka is Whip Lasha Kasha! Thanks, girls!

Adding to the rock’n’roll ambience, the game was scored by a kickin’ soundrack. Songs like Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll,” The Black Keys’ “Howlin’ For You” and Florence and the Machine’s “No Light, No Light” blasted through the arena as the girls sped off around the track and it really added to the atmosphere of the game. I even started brainstorming a potential roller derby playlist in my head. Shout out to the trombone player on the sidelines – that really added to the sounds as well! Another honourable mention to the mix – the Rocky Horror classic “Time Warp” was played in between games. That had me, right there. Also complimenting the rock’n’roll feel, the after parties (which I want to hit one of these games) are hosted at the grungy This Ain’t Hollywood, one of my faves. That’s a match made in roller derby heaven.

This game was a double-header, and first up was the Junior Roller Derby Expo which saw leagues from Toronto and Buffalo duking it out. I was concerned at first, looking at the size of some of the little girls, but although they may be juniors, these girls do not mess around! Leah spoke to us about wanting to set up a junior league. I think the sport is so empowering for young girls and it would be great to see this come together in Hamilton. It worked out well that this was the first game we witnessed. It got us into learning the rules, so when it was time for the second game, we were ready!

It was the Hammer City Harlots versus the Tri-City Total Knock-Outs. I like how the teams are introduced at the beginning of the game – by skating around the rink as a group, with the announcer calling out each player by her roller girl name. We also got a kick out of the announcer – decked out like a construction worker, Tedstosterone contributed to the high energy level with his commentary. I was also so impressed by the refs and volunteers; I don’t know how they kept track of everything! They were constantly moving about and tallying up the scores, not missing a beat.

When it got to halftime, the score was not looking good for the Hammer. I knew I had to get closer to the action, so I climbed down from the stands and onto the rink. I’m so glad I did! The energy was heightened down there; I can see why people opt for bringing chairs and sitting rinkside. You really feel part of the game. I got ready to document with some photos, videos, and tweets. It was hard to capture as the girls whizzed by (announcer Ted even liking the game to speed skating at one point!) but I hope I was able to do the game justice with my video, which you can watch below. Speaking of rockin’ soundtracks – thanks to friends The Dirty Nil for providing the tunes for that one.

I chose the right time to take to the rink, because it was in that second half that the Hammer City Harlots really kicked things into gear! Lead jammers Scooby Doom, Dicey, and Ginger Wilde consistently racked up the points, doing laps around the other team. They were on fire! The final score was 165 Hammer City Harlots and 118 Tri City Roller Girls TKOs.

First roller derby experience in the bag. Now this is a sport I can get behind! It’s exciting, fast-paced, and it doesn’t take long to become fully invested in the game. We couldn’t help but holler and clap every time one of our girls took the lead. We were on the edge of our seats as the scoreboard steadily shifted in our favour throughout that second half. Although the crowd was small, and that’s something we need to see change, everyone was involved and put their energy into the game; you could really feel it.

It’s also really inspiring to see a group of women being so powerful, all while working together as a team and supporting each other. Another important part of HCRG is that they are a not-for-profit organization. They are dedicated to giving back to the community, particularly causes that benefit women and children.

Check out the last HCRG home game of the season, August 18th, and support our roller girls! See their official website for more info.

– Kristin

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (www.ihearthamilton.ca), where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing a social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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