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McConnell eyes national team

Whistler roller derby skater helps Vancouver Murder to WSSF win

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Craig McConnell would kill to help out the Murder.

The Whistler roller derby skater came close, throwing some big blocks to help the Vancouver Murder to a 182-130 win over the visiting Puget Sound Outlaws at the Whistler Conference Centre on April 8.

It was the first time in five years of roller derby's inclusion in the World Ski and Snowboard Festival that men were offered a chance to play.

"It was so much fun. I've been a part of this event since the beginning, helping out with the girls and coaching, so being able to skate here was pretty amazing," he said. "I tried not to think about (the pressure). I knew what to expect with the atmosphere because I've been here before. We've played in some pretty big games in the States, too, so we're used to big crowds and high pressure. Being at home was a different feeling."

McConnell said the win, an official Men's Roller Derby Association (MRDA) bout over the sixth-ranked Outlaws will help the No. 10 Murder as part of its goal of qualifying for the MRDA Championships in Cardiff, Wales, in October. Vancouver attended last year's tournament in Texas, finishing in ninth.

"This was a huge win for us. We've never beaten Puget before so we're kind of on the up and up. Our rankings are steadily rising so now we're top 10 in the world and with this win, it might bump us up to top seven," he said. "We played last year in Texas and did really well, so we're hoping to build on that."

The Murder will hope to boost their case in Oregon this May, where they'll play in a tournament that includes challengers from as far away as Melbourne, Australia.

"We have to show well against those teams to hold our rankings," he said.

They'll also have home track advantage with their final push, as they'll host the North American Championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval in August.

McConnell is also hoping to go international with Team Canada, as he is looking to represent the country the 2018 World Cup in Barcelona, Spain.

"We have seven guys on our team that play for Team Canada and one guy that plays for Team USA, and maybe two will play for USA. The West Coast has a really high level of derby," he said. "There's men's teams in most major Canadian cities and we're the top team in Canada."

McConnell said the team usually trains once or twice a week, but more often when leading up to a bout.

"I drive up and down the highway to practice," he said. "I spend a lot of time in the gym and a lot of time on skates. I skate with the girls in Squamish when I can, too.

"When we're gearing up for bigger tournaments, we'll have long, exhausting practices."

McConnell has risen through the ranks relatively quickly, as he noted his hockey background doesn't carry over as effectively as one might think, at least for one whose roller derby name is Pain Threatzky.

"I only really started skating a lot about three years ago, but I grew up playing hockey. Most of us have hockey backgrounds and we have some guys who played in the WHL (Western Hockey League) or high-end hockey and they transferred over to derby," he said. "(Moving from hockey), it's a little weird. I used to skateboard a lot, too, so it's almost like a combination of the two. When I go to play hockey, I don't transition between the two well, but guys on our team play beer league hockey one night and derby the next night."

In women's action, the host Apex Pistols opened up an 86-62 halftime lead, but needed to hold on to eke out 161-158 win over Vancouver's Smokin' Laces.

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