On Wednesday evening, derby culture zine Hellarad broke one of the biggest derby stories of the year – in typically sardonic fashion – when they announced that three of roller derby’s best known and most talented players, Joy Collision, Atomatrix and Hockey Honey, were transferring from Arizona Roller Derby to the Oly Rollers. The move comes just barely in time for the three to be eligible to play for Oly in next month’s Western Region playoffs, as WFTDA rules require skaters to be added to an all-star charter 30 or more days before playing in a sanctioned game. Both Oly and Arizona qualified for the playoffs, with Oly entering as the #4 seed and Arizona at #7.
The roster change considerably upped the ante on Oly’s long-controversial use of world-class satellite players. In 2011, they rostered Des Moines, Iowa’s Stella Italiana, and added Psycho Babble, DeRanged and Ecko (ex-RMRG) at the beginning of the 2012 season. The addition of Joy, Atomatrix and Hockey Honey right before the transfer deadline was particularly notable as all three had already switched leagues at least once in 2012 – Joy Collision after 7 years with Charm City, Atomatrix after 3 years with Oly and Hockey Honey moving twice from Oly to Arizona and then to non-WFTDA San Diego Roller Derby. [Oly has also added Lindsay LoBlow (ex-Tucson) and Onda Sligh (ex-Slaughter County) to their roster in 2012, although both skaters are currently local.]
Arizona, who had been mired at #13 in the WFTDA West at the end of 2011, rose to #7 with the additional talent over the course of 2012, thus qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2007 – but their postseason suddenly looks a lot different, with a significant part of the engine that got them there now departed. Similarly, the balance of power in the 4/5 seed matchup between Oly and Rocky Mountain is suddenly dramatically altered; Oly finished second to Gotham in last year’s WFTDA Championships, but has not played against the top tiers of of WFTDA competition since. They do face Minnesota and Texas this weekend.
Reaction on blogs and social networks was explosive, widespread and passionate, with many expressing the opinion that adding non-local skaters at literally the last possible moment for a playoff run was counter to the spirit of derby and a vocal minority defending it as perfectly legal under current WFTDA roster policy. A few hours after the Hellarad post went viral, Atomatrix posted a emotional statement on her Facebook fan page confirming the story.
DNN’s Justice Feelgood Marshall interviewed Joy Collision by phone late Wednesday night on the topic. Following is a partial transcript.
DNN: So … you’re going to Oly. When did you decide to do that?
Joy Collision: Well, it had been an idea that had been running around for a little bit.
DNN: I guess I’m a little confused because when I was talking to you at Brewhaha [in June] you seemed pretty down with Arizona. I’m curious as to what changed between now and then.
Joy Collision: It’s really been a lot of things … I’ve been pretty nomadic over the past four months … It would be different if it was three years ago and I had all this energy. I feel like at this point in my derby career I’m going to retire at the end of the season. That was sort of the plan. I don’t have the energy to put in a team when I’m not even there that much. It was like the whole derby community was like, “What are Joy and Atom and Hockey Honey going to do with this team?” It’s a lot of pressure and it just became really stressful. I work in derby, you know, so I don’t really get a break from it, it’s constant … I was sort of searching for something that would make me feel better. I was talking to friends and they were like, skating’s supposed to be fun, and you know, what’s really fun is when you’re skating without having to worry about training anybody. And I’m like, “That sounds like a great idea.” … It was really last minute, it was just one of those things where I was like, “Ok, I’ll go for that, if that’s on the table, let’s do that.”
Oly is really stoked to have me and they’re very welcoming … I think the Arizona folks, the people I’ve been talking to, they’ve been knowing that I’ve been like “Oh, this is so stressful… it’s so hard to be that for a team right now.” … I think they understand, most of them understand, and I still have a friendship with them. If I was to quit skating tomorrow, if I was still living in Arizona, I would still try and help their league … If I was going to skate next year, it obviously would have been something where maybe I would have made a different decision. It sort of depends.
DNN: When did you tell Arizona that you were definitely transferring?
Joy Collision: I had been thinking about it for a while but we didn’t actually make the decision until this last weekend.
DNN: [Arizona] actually had to take you off of their charter in order for you to be able to go to Oly, correct? Do you know when they did that?
Joy Collision: It was a couple of days ago.
DNN: When you decided you wanted to go to Oly, did you [Oly coach] Eric or [Oly captain] Sassy approach you or did you go to them first?
Joy Collision: Sassy and I didn’t really talk until I asked her, “Hey, how would this go if I skated for you?” But I’d had contact with their other skaters before that and talked it out with other people. So it was sort of like a mutual interest.
DNN: When you decided to do this, did you expect there to be a backlash, or did you just not worry about it?
Joy Collision: I feel bad mostly for Arizona because a lot of people are saying “Well, they’re going to be so bad off without them,” and I feel like that’s really insulting … They’re going to be fine. They’re a really strong, tough team. As far as stuff that’s written about us … I can’t be stressed about what people who don’t even know us think of us. People are just going to have this drama, and then they’re going to move on to the next drama. It’s a shame that people spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff.
Not to sell myself short, or to sell my team short, but a team always beats a non-team. And we haven’t really practiced together. So [joining Oly] is not like guaranteeing anything. All it is is saying, “These people are going to skate together.” For me, it’s just, I’m going to be able to skate … not having a lot of stress and not having a lot of expectations, just going out there and skating. And that’s fun for me … Honestly I don’t see why it would send people off the deep end if a couple people were to come and skate.
DNN: Are you pretty confident that you’re retiring at the end of the season?
Joy Collision: I’m definitely going to retire … If I was ever to leave my derby job, I would maybe consider coming back and skating if it felt right. But honestly I’ve had a pretty full derby career, I’ve pretty much run the gamut. I’ve played a lot of derby and I would feel comfortable walking away. That’s OK. That’s fine with me. I’ve had a lot of fun. I would still coach it and I’ll be involved and I’ll volunteer … I’ll still be into it. But I don’t have to play it. I’ll just find another hobby.
DNN: That brings me to something else I wanted to ask about … as far as I know, DeRanged has not actually yet skated for Oly. The last time I saw her skating competitively was at [December 2011's] World Cup. I have heard she is hurt, but do you expect her to be back in time for the playoffs with you guys? Or is she out indefinitely?
Joy Collision: Well, she’s been hurt, she’s been hurt for awhile.
DNN: Can you say whether or not you expect DeRanged to be playing at Westerns?
Joy Collision: No. She’s not going to play.
DNN: And Psycho Babble and Ecko are?
Joy Collision: I believe so.
DNN: Are you playing against Minnesota and Texas this weekend? [Oly plays Minnesota on Saturday and Texas on Sunday].
Joy Collision: No, none of us are. We’re all supposed to go and practice with them before [the playoffs] though. They want us to come out there and practice, it’s not like just a free ride. Honestly, Sassy was like, “Can you move here for like three months?”
DNN: Do you have any specific plans for how often you’ll be able to get up there? Are you planning to stay up there a little bit before Westerns?
Joy Collision: I’ll probably go up there for a little while, and you know, they have the rink, so they’ll probably arrange a bunch of practices for everybody to come to so we can all practice together I’m sure.
DNN: Ok. I’d like to close out with three yes or no questions. Do you think Arizona will be able to make it to Championships this year?
Joy Collision: I think anything’s possible.
DNN: Do you think Arizona would have gone to Championships if you and Atom had stayed?
Joy Collision: I think it’s the same possibility as if we’re not there. Anything can happen.
DNN: Do you expect Oly to go to Championships this year?
Joy Collision: Yeah — I hope. I’d like to play in a championship. But there’s so many good teams. It’s gonna be work. You gotta put the work in.
DNN: Anything else you’d like to say as a response to the backlash on the Internet yesterday?
Joy Collision: I guess I’d just like people to be less judgmental when they don’t really know all the stuff that goes on in the lives of people … I can just speak for myself and say that it’s not a black and white issue, and it’s really hard when people are so judgmental. We’re all just trying to have a good time and have fun and skate. It’s definitely still my fun time. I’d also really like to say, people shouldn’t talk about Arizona in a bad way, cause they’re gonna bring it. It makes me upset to hear that people say Arizona’s going to do badly or that they’re a lowly team. They’ve been working really hard and I expect them to do really well. I’ll like it if people could refrain from talking about Arizona in that way.