Halifax Harbour Grudges rollin’ out for their first internationally ranked home bout | The Coast Halifax

Halifax Harbour Grudges rollin’ out for their first internationally ranked home bout

The Grudges will face off against the Aroostook BiohazARDs at the Mayflower Curling Club on Saturday, May 25

The Halifax Harbour Grudges face off against the Aroostook BiohazARDS on Saturday, May 25 at the Mayflower Curling Club at 3pm. This will be their first internationally ranked bout on their home territory.

  The Halifax Harbour Grudges roller derby team will be taking the track by storm this weekend in a ranked match—the first on their home turf.

The Grudges, associated with the Anchor City Rollers in Halifax, are an A-level roller derby team competing internationally against 139 teams in the North American Northeast division of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). They’re currently ranked 84th with three losses in three games played.

On Saturday, they’ll be facing off against the Maine-based Aroostook BiohazARDS, ranked 82nd in the division, at the Mayflower Curling Club at 3pm.

“It’s the first time we’ve hosted that type of a game in Halifax before,” said Lyndsay Anderson, a player with the Grudges. “It’s exciting because these games are competitive. So, each team comes in wanting to win, and wanting to win in a very specific way, because depending on where you’re ranked against the team you're playing, you might not just have to win, but win by a lot to maintain your status.”

The BiohazARDS are new to the WFTDA, but Anderson said they’re skilled players who will offer up an entertaining, unforgiving match.

What is roller derby?

For the uninitiated, roller derby is a contact sport where two teams of five players race around an oval counter-clockwise in two-minute periods called jams. In each jam, a skater from each team will don a star on their helmet, designating them as the jammer.

The goal of the jammer is simple: skate around the defending team, with points being scored for every blocker they lap. It’s the blocker's job to hinder the opposing team’s jammer as they skate past while also protecting their jammer from being blocked. A jammer can end the jam at any time to prevent the opposing team from scoring.

click to enlarge Halifax Harbour Grudges rollin’ out for their first internationally ranked home bout
Richard Lafortune
A member of the Anchor City Rollers derby league acting as the jammer, who is responsible for scoring points during a two-minute jam.

Like hockey, penalties are also a major factor in the game, leading to what’s called a power jam where one team may have more players than another due to a foul.

At the end of the 60-minute bout, the team with the most points is declared the winner.

Roller derby is interesting not only for its unique play but in how the players present themselves on the track. After the sport came to fruition in the early 20th century, it eventually became something more akin to professional wrestling, where matches were scripted and theatrics were abundant.

While the current version of roller derby is far removed from the days of scripted bouts, one holdover remains—alter-egos for skaters, sometimes accompanied by face makeup.

One aspect that drives roller derby today is its inclusivity. It’s a sport predominantly played by women these days, but as Anderson says, it’s a sport for people of any gender.

“You’ll notice it’s a sport where multiple different body types and genders are welcome, and encouraged to be part of the sport,” she explained.

Finding a place

Anderson’s journey with derby began when she moved to Halifax.

Living in Toronto throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, Anderson rollerbladed anywhere she could, including to and from work. When she moved to Halifax, she found her daily commute to be much more difficult.

“When I moved out here, I found there wasn’t really a lot of people doing that,” said Anderson. “Whenever I was on the roads whipping by people, they would get really nervous.”

Someone mentioned to Anderson that a roller derby league was being initiated in Halifax, and she signed up almost immediately. She’s since been with the Anchor City Rollers for over a decade.

“We were really learning from each other,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of experience when we first formed, but you know, you learn as you go. We brought in more people who had experience and it just grew from there.”

With much of her life on rollerblades, it was difficult for Anderson to hang them up during the pandemic. Leagues across the world shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and Anderson wouldn’t get a chance to play for about two years.

Yet, her interest in derby never faded. The community made it easier to cope with the restrictions, especially since the club was featured in the television show Jumping the Apex in 2020, allowing the members to hold virtual watch parties to stay in touch.

Most importantly, the club kept up with non-derby skating when restrictions were relaxed, keeping members in touch and on wheels.

The adversity faced by the Grudges will make their WFTDA home debut even more exciting for the players, and hopefully, the fans. Anderson encourages everyone to come out and give their hometown team an audience worth playing for.

“It’s like nothing you’ll ever see,” she said. “It’s such a unique sport that it’s worth coming at least one time, and I’m convinced that if you come at least one time, you’ll want to come more.”

To learn more about the Harbour Grudges and the Anchor City Rollers league, visit their respective websites.