Me and "Lunchbox” of the Gore Gore Rollergirls. Photo by Rannie “Photojunkie” Turingan.
I’d only seen roller derby on TV – hidden deep in UHF-land — and never in real life, so when I got an invitation from “Lunchbox” of the Gore Gore Rollergirls to play the national anthem at the start of the first roller derby match of the season, I jumped at the opportunity.
The Ginger Ninja and I showed up early at George Bell Arena so that I could meet the organizers and get an advance look at the setup. We had a look around the arena and hung out in the beer room for a while. While there, I played some Nine Inch Nails at a friend’s request, which was a good warm-up for my performance.
Game time rolled around, and after Crankypants, Toronto Roller Derby’s master of ceremonies introduced the teams – the Gore Gore Rollergirls and Chicks Ahoy! – he introduced me to the audience as “Joey deVilla, the Accordion Guy”, and led to me to the dual-microphone setup.
I decided that since we were in a hockey arena, it was only fitting that I played both the unofficial and official national anthems. I started the original Hockey Night in Canada theme, which I thought would please the crowd. I was right – they cheered so loud that they drowned out the final notes. I followed up with O Canada and was joined by the players and referees, who sang with great pride and gusto. I closed with the classic hockey fight chords, took my bows and then joined the audience to catch the match.
Here’s the video of my performance:
You can watch the game from the stands, which a lot of people did…
…but if you really want a nice close-up look at the action, there’s an area right on the rink called the “Suicide Seats”. I highly recommend it:
I knew that roller derby players took on a nom de guerre, and but I didn’t know that they could also take on oddball numbers, such as 7-11, the Roman numeral XVIII, or <3. One player even had the mathematical expression e raised to the power of pi times i, which is the left side of Euler’s formula.
Not only do the players take on names; the refs do too! Here’s one of them, “The Big Leboutski”:
Here’s another one, going by the name of “Lou’s Yer Daddy”:
All local hockey arenas have a sort of time-warp feeling to them. The architecture, signage and seats always make you feel as though you’ve stepped back into the late 1950s. I kept half-expecting to see the Hanson brothers waiting for some ice time. The crowd was a friendly, interesting mix; it was as if the families and friends of Junior A hockey and Queen West tattoo shop customers teamed up to throw a party. The overall vibe is an odd combination of small-town charm and big city “alternative”. It occurred to me that roller derby would make a great setting for a film, but a little searching revealed that Drew Barrymore had the same idea and ran with it.
Here’s a Gem City Rollergirls video that explains the rules of roller derby:
And now, some photos from the bout:
Although Chicks Ahoy managed to get an early lead in the bout, the Gore Gore Rollergirls rallied and won with a score of 93-87.
We managed to catch up with Lunchbox after the bout..
…where she was only too happy to chat with the fans, pose for pictures and sign autographs.
All in all, a great evening. I’d gladly play the anthem and see a bout again!