October 4, 2007

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Are you a skater girl?
Rough-and-tumble roller derby
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

Alley Trela was drunk last Fourth of July when a roller derby discussion ensued.

Some girls wanted to start a New Hampshire team, and Trela readily agreed to join.

She woke up the next morning, a bit hungover and bit worried.

ďI didnít know how to skate,Ē she recalled. But she said she would, and she did. Now she roller skates as much as she can, practicing roller derby moves, skating backward and just feeling comfortable on skates.

Trela, whose derby name is Dee Stortion, and 17 other roller girls have started Skate Free or Die, the stateís first team, joining the national roller derby movement thatís exploded in the past five years or so.

Their current practice spot is the Skate 3 roller rink in Tyngsborough, Mass., while the team waits to become a nonprofit entity, a crucial step in acquiring liability insurance that will allow the team to rent out space to play, and register with the Womenís Flat Track Derby Association, a league made of 43 teams across the states.

ďItís a lot of paperwork,Ē said Katie Ambrose, skate name Maully Mcguire.

Dementia A GoGo, whose real name is Rachel Hapenney, concurs: ďAll we want to do is go out and skate.Ē

Itís entirely a grassroots effort, with members sharing their different talents, like marketing, organizing and tattooing. The girls come together from many different walks and ages of life to play, and all assist each other to become better and stronger. Many have battle scars. Ambrose wears knee pads whenever she skates now after many falls and bruises to her knees.

ďItís not something you walk into and not expect to get hurt,Ē said Shay Health, better known as Distillery Bruiser on the rink. But even those with little or no experience pick up the fundamentals of the game quickly.

Friday night is the big skate night at Skate 3 for everyone. Itís a surreal scene with the rough and tough derby girls skating around the ring dominated by the rough and tough middle school students with a DJ spinning the studentsí favorite songs.

Derby girls from the established league in Boston come up often to assist the New Hampshire team, helping the skaters learn the fundamentals of the game.

Itís like hockey and rugby. Hockey, because the girls are on skates and checking each other. They can also spend a minute in the penalty box. Itís like rugby in that at the end of the game all the players on both teams go out and party together. Whatís most important is the camaraderie between the skaters.

Each match is called a ďboutĒ and lasts 60 minutes, and within the bout are two-minute jams where teams score points. Each team consists of seven roller girls skating around a flat rink. There are jammers, blockers and pivots. Each team has one jammer, who is the only person who can score points. Once the jammer passes all the members of the opposite team once, any additional person she passes scores a point for their team.

The pivots and blockers try to block the jammers from passing through and scoring points. The players can check each other with body parts from the hips up, except for arms; however, teammates can push each other, like using oneís force to catapult another for additional skating velocity.

They hope to field enough skaters to start at least three teams that play against each other and one all-star team to take on other teams, like Maine, Boston and Albany.


Want to join?
Friday night at 7 p.m. at Skate 3 in Tyngsborough, Mass. Go to www.myspace.com/nhderby.