The Garden State Rollergirls are a roller derby league with two traveling teams and three intraleague teams. Last Friday night they opened their season in North Arlington with an intraleague match between the Northern Nightmares and the Jersey City Bridge and Pummel. The third home team is a new one called Gateway Grim Reapers who will make their debut later this year. The other two teams who travel up and down the east coast are the all-star Ironbound Maidens and their B-team, the Brick City Bruisers.
The whole league is in Division 2 of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. We weren’t sure how roller derby worked and you might be in the same position. Basically, there are two 30-minute periods where the two teams skate around a flat track. There is one person per team (called the jammer) who is trying to pass the blockers on the other team. There are penalties for types of blocking that’s particularly aggressive and for other unsportsmanlike behavior. It may seem tough to follow at first but you get the knack of it pretty quickly.
It might appear to be really aggressive but it’s all in good fun and the women skaters look like they’re all having a great time. That is not to say it is not competitive. The teams are definitely out to win.
We took our nieces who already like watching hockey and boxing with their dad so we thought they would like watching some tough women, too. Boy, were we right. They loved it! The younger niece actually had to be taken by the hand and led out the door at the end of the night because she didn’t want to leave. Needless to say we will be back.
Doors at North Arlington’s Inline Skating Club of America opened at 7:15 to a bake sale, merch table and concession stand. The teams were warming up on the track and we found seats right at trackside. People also ended up sitting on the floor around us and some people chose to stand behind the glass that’s up for hockey games. Tickets were on sale online for $10 and kids ten and under were $5. I missed seeing that there were presale tickets somehow and had to pay $15 for adults and $7 for ten and under kids. It still wasn’t a bad deal but I’ll know better next time.
The bout started right on time at 8:00pm with the National Anthem and team introductions. Skating started promptly after the intros and it was exciting from the start.
The Jersey City Bridge and Pummel came out to the Beastie Boys Sabotage and wore aviators and mustaches for the skate around.
There were lots of spills and hard hitting but I never felt that it was mean-spirited. Our younger niece was a little wary of some of the scarier looking ladies but once the action started, she could see that they weren’t mean. Some ladies had black lipstick and face paint that she thought looked intimidating.
The girls pored over the pictures of the team members in the program ahead of the bout to decide who their favorite player was. Northern Nightmares were the team we ended up routing for because the girls decided they like a player named Unikitty Bomber. She had purple-blue hair and cat whiskers painted on her cheeks so she seemed like the obvious choice for our young guests. Unikitty was one of the jammers for the Northern Nightmares and ended up winning Most Valuable Jammer at the end of the night for the team.
We also got to meet her briefly at halftime. Most of the roller girls skated around and talked with fans and friends in between the periods and after the game. It was a very friendly atmosphere.
Unfortunately, our team didn’t win that night but it was a very close game until the very end and the Jersey City Bridge and Pummel ended up winning 207-156. We had a terrific time and we’ll definitely be checking out more bouts during the year. You can see the rest of their schedule on their website. We’ll see you there!
Check out all the pictures from our visit to the season opening bout of the Garden State Rollergirl league:
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