This is how they roll

Winnipeg’s Murder City Maidens prepare for the city’s first roller derby event in 30 years

They will, they will rock you: The Murder City Maidens are ready for their first Winnipeg competition this Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Convention Centre. Darcy Finley Photography

Roller derby will be back in town for the first time in 30 years this weekend, showcasing the Murder City Maidens, Winnipeg’s finest women on wheels, full-speed, viciously hip-checking each other to the cold, hard floor.

The Winnipeg Roller Derby League oversees the Maidens, their travel team and a wealth of recreational derby ladies who will be split into two teams for an exhibition game before the main match where the Maidens will be facing the Thunder Bay Babes of Thunder.

“It’s a good physical sport and family-friendly,” said Michelle Nyhof, also known by her derby name Portage n’ Maim, at the Legislature where she works during the day.

Although the event is slated as family-friendly, this program may contain short skirts, fishnet stockings and violent women. Parental discretion is advised for children under 13.

The league was born in January 2008 out of a Facebook page started by Nyhof after a vigorous session of watching roller derby YouTube videos and looking for a Winnipeg outlet, of which there were none.

“Coincidently enough there was another girl who posted a similar group just a few hours earlier. We didn’t know each other so we went for coffee and decided we would do this together,” Nyhof said.

Within a couple of weeks, the group had 20-some-odd members and the makings of a roller derby team.

At this point, the team is not only formed and organized, but practicing six hours per week in preparation for their bout with the Babes of Thunder.

The inaugural event comes 30 years after the last time the derby visited Winnipeg. The difference this time is that the sport aspect will be favoured over the theatrics.

“It’s like WWE,” said Tannys Moffatt, a.k.a. Ani Position, a high school teacher who plays the pivot position for the Murder City Maidens, referring to the old-style derby you may have seen on TV years ago.

The reason for participating in derby is a unanimous consensus amongst the derby girls – it’s good rough-and-tumble exercise.

“There aren’t a lot of full contact sports for women,” said Moffatt.

“There’s a demand for it. Not so much from the general public yet, but from the actual girls and women skating in it,” Nyhof explained.

Even as a woman opposed to violence, Kristen Andrews (derby name: The Krisco Kid) loves the rough stuff in the context of sport.

“I’m still a total pacifist at heart,” she said.

Andrews is the jammer – the skater who earns points for the team by passing the others while being the target of the opposing team – like the golden snitch in a game of Quidditch.

Of course, the game includes some inherent dangers. Most derby girls will likely have more than one bruise at any given time and broken bones aren’t unusual either; but things like learning how to fall and being comfortable on skates help to prevent injuries.

“The more that you practice, the less chance you have of getting hurt,” Andrews said.

Andrews also owns Ragpickers, an outlet to buy tickets to the derby along with The Standard Tavern, and said that the store is going through tickets fast.

“Most people are buying four to six tickets at a time.”

The event will be held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre with capacity for a crowd of 2,000. More than half the tickets are already gone.

“We anticipate it selling out,” Nyhof said.

See the Murder City Maidens in action on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Tickets are $12 at Ragpickers, The Standard Tavern and online at

Published in Volume 64, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 25, 2010)

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