July 24, 2008

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Roller derby roll-out
NH team makes official debut
By Brian Early bearly@hippopress.com

After more than a year of training, recruiting and promoting, Skate Free or Die! rolls in public for the first time with a scrimmage with members of roller derby teams from across the Northeast.

On Saturday, Aug. 2, the New Hampshire Roller Derby team, the self-proclaimed “kick-ass broads,” will host the Double Dose of Derby with two scrimmages along with music at JFK Coliseum in Manchester. Members of the Boston Derby Dames, Maine Roller Derby, Providence Roller Derby, Pioneer Valley Roller Derby and Albany Roller Derby will converge to show off to the New Hampshire public for the first time. Triple Corpse Horror will be the band.

The inaugural season for Skate Free or Die! starts in September with a bout in Maine against the Maine Roller Derby Team.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” said Alley Trela, known as Dee Stortion on the team. Each skate member has a unique derby name that cannot be duplicated in the national Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

It’s a thank-you for all the help the team had in starting the league. Most derby teams follow a do-it-yourself model; that’s how the New Hampshire team started, when a few girls got the idea. Many of the members had little skating experience, or had skated when they were young but had stopped for years. Members from other teams in the region would travel to practice with Skate Free or Die!, demonstrating different techniques and drills to help the team develop itself. Many teams, like the New Hampshire one, have no official head coach.

“They’re so willing to help us, even though we’re competing against them,” Trela said of the area teams.

It seems those teams would rather skate a competitive game against Skate Free or Die! than just stomp them. Last weekend, the training paid off as New Hampshire Roller Derby competed well against Providence, though they lost.

“We definitely held our own,” Trela said. “They were fierce competition. The week before, their coach came down and helped us with our skaters, even though they’re competing against us. They still want to grow the league.”

So far, it’s working. In October, when the Hippo published an article about the team in training (“Are you a skater girl?” 10/04/07), there were about 15 skaters. Now there are 40 to 45, enough that the New Hampshire team will be able to break into two or three squads. If a team has enough for two or more squads, they tend to have one team made up of the best skaters, who compete against the other teams.

Each skater not only trains, but is involved in a committee. There’s a committee that is working on every aspect of the double bout scrimmage on Aug. 2.

“Every part of our business is skater-run and skater-owned,” said Nicole Kimmick, a.k.a. Hollywood Harlot. Kimmick skates and handles the media arm of the organization.

A big aspect of the team is that it is a nonprofit group. The women haven’t been able to get a nonprofit status yet for the league, they consider themselves a not-for-profit LLC. All the money they make goes back into the league to help pay for things like renting the hall and such, and leftover money goes to charity.

Recently, they raised $1,200 for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. They helped out at a bone marrow drive for Save Giovanni’s Friends, which, along with Greyhound Pets of America, the ladies will raise money for at the Aug. 2 bout.

“You can make your community better,” Trela said. “You can make your place better. You can throw a party and raise money for charity and it doesn’t have to be a stuffy event.”

While the inaugural season is almost a go, the team is still looking for a permanent home for the season. The JFK Coliseum works well now, but like other venues, when winter comes, it serves as an ice rink.

Trela said it’s difficult to find places because of perceptions of roller derby as a brutal, bloody sport.

“A lot of it is trying to get over the stigma of what roller derby used to be,” she said. “It’s regulated now.”

Of course there are injuries, as women skate around a flat track at high speeds. Like hockey, roller derby has checking, but you can’t elbow someone in the face.

They players are confident that they’ll find a place, just as they’ve figured out everything else so far.

“Building a sports league is something I thought I would never do. I’m a musician,” Trela said. “We jumped off a cliff and [we’re] building our wings on the way down.”


Roller derby in action
Where: JFK Coliseum, 303 Beech St., Manchester
When: Saturday, Aug. 2. Doors open at 4 p.m. Bouts at 5 and 7:15 p.m.
Tickets: $5, www.nhrollerderby.com