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Tri-City Roller Derby prepares for regional playoffs

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A roller derby team from Waterloo Region is getting ready for a major North American competition.

Tri-City Roller Derby’s Thunder team earned their spot in the North America Northeast playoffs after fighting their way to a top twelve spot in the 136 team league.

They’ll be taking on other high ranking teams in an elimination bracket from May 17 – 19 in Pennsylvania.

The top three teams from the tournament will then move on to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s global championships in Portland, Oregon in November.

But before they can try to crush the competition, they need to come up with some cash.

“It costs around $15,000,” team member Maggie Middleton explained ahead of a training session on Sunday. “That’s all our entry fees, that’s our lodging, that’s our travel and incidentals. Right now we’ve got a GoFundMe going on to raise cash for that. We’re also doing a bottle drive.”

The fundraiser includes a variety of ‘gifts’ for donors to choose from depending on how much money they give, including t-shirts, handmade blankets, and social media shout-outs.

Members of Tri-City Roller Derby's Thunder team practice in Waterloo preparation for the North America Northeast playoffs. May 5, 2024. (Shelby Knox/CTV News)

Rolling together

Team members say qualifying for regionals this year is even more meaningful after a multi-year break due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It just means a lot to really show how much hard work we’ve put in, especially since COVID,” Middleton said. “It really is the culmination of a lot of hard work, dedication to the sport, dedication to each other.”

It’s that level of dedication that draws players from outside of Waterloo Region to the team.

“There’s definitely that feeling of commitment to your teammates. When everyone else is so committed, it’s really easy to also want to be committed, and [it’s] very motivating. For me, that’s part of why this team is worth travelling for,” Saira Peesker, who travels in from Hamilton, said.

“The group is so diverse and so interesting and I really love that culture of roller derby and of this team because it really makes you feel welcome right away. I’ve tried other sports over the years, and the main reason I’ve stuck with roller derby is just that culture, which is a bit different than a lot of other athletic environments that I’ve been in,” Peesker said.

Members of Tri-City Rollers Thunder team practice in Waterloo ahead of a regional tournament later this month. May 2, 2024. (Shelby Knox/CTV News)

Developing a love for derby

While the team prepares to head to the regional tournament, they also want to encourage more people to try the full contact sport.

Ahead of Sunday afternoon’s practice, Tri-City Rollers held an open scrimmage. New and home-team level skaters were invited to strap on their skates and get some guidance from members of Thunder and Tri-City Rollers’ B-team, Lightning.

“If anyone is interested in getting involved with roller derby, there’s so many different ways to get involved. You can get involved with us as a skater. We teach people how to skate – we don’t just throw you onto the track. We teach you how to skate. We teach you how to play safely, and then you get into the full contact,” Middleton said.

She said Tri-City Rollers will be holding other events throughout the summer to introduce more people to the sport. Information will be posted on Tri-City Rollers’ social media pages.

Members of Tri-City Rollers Thunder team practice in Waterloo ahead of a regional tournament later this month. May 5, 2024. (Shelby Knox/CTV News)

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