One of Squamish’s best-kept athletic secrets is not much of a secret anymore.
The Sea to Sky Sirens founder and star player, Shannon “Mala Justed” Handley, was named the most valuable roller derby player in the province on Dec. 26. She said it was a great late Christmas present.
“I’m honoured that I’ve had that much of an impact on other people,” she said. “That’s the whole reason why I’ve done everything I’ve done in Squamish. Putting the team together was partially for myself but partially to have that impact on other people’s lives. This is pretty solid proof that this has been successful.”
Handley was the driving force behind the creation of the Sirens, taking the first steps to putting together a team in Squamish in 2009 after moving from Ontario. Interest in the team continued to grow and the squad hosted its first home games at Brennan Park Arena in 2011 in front of sold-out crowds.
While Handley is regarded as the Sirens’ top player on the track, it’s also her work off the track that garnered her respect in the roller derby world.
“I think I’m up there as far as the best players go, but what put me over the top is just the amount of time I’ve put into the leagues and trying to build up other people’s skill and involvement in derby,” she said. “It’s pretty nice to have that recognized.”
Her teammates sung her praises in the lead-up to the award.
“She's the reason we have derby in Squamish and she's a rock-star skater,” Emily “Em Appeal” Howie told Examiner.com’s Tom George.
“Mala lives, breathes and sleeps derby,” added Carin “Sweetie Gonzales” Smolinski. “She founded our league and has dedicated the last four years to growing a strong, respectful and talented league. She gives all of herself to derby both on and off the track and is a role model for her dedication to the sport and for her quiet and compassionate leadership.”
George, who tallied up the votes online, said Handley more than doubled the second-place competitor in total votes and was the runaway winner of the award.
“It’s pretty impressive that she collected as many votes as she did,” he told The Chief, “Not only from the Squamish area, but from other places around B.C. as well. I also remember she got one vote from someone who lives here in Washington that is familiar with the B.C. derby scene. So, apparently, she leaves quite an impression.”
As for the Sirens team, Handley said the girls have been training hard and are looking forward to returning to Brennan Park Arena this summer.
“We’ve been training really hard and building up our strength through some off-skate training,” she said. “We’ve got a scrimmage in Port Alberni in February and I think it’s going to be an exciting season. We’re looking for ways to expand our home season and there’s still so many people wanting to know when our next game is.”
She said that Whistler’s Black Diamond Betties have been training with the Sirens and that they should be an improved team for 2013. The two teams should do battle sometime this summer. She also said the Sirens are also looking at potentially running “lower production” exhibition games on weekend afternoons without beer gardens or a halftime show, but at a reduced price.
For more information on the Sirens, visit www.squamishrollerderby.ca.