Fast wheels, helmets, tattoos and girls, all at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City. No, this isn’t a promo for the latest hot-rod or motorcycle show to hit Utah—It’s the lowdown on the Salt City Rollerderby Girls in all their butt-kicking, shoulder-slamming and trash-talking glory.
“Rollerderby is very exciting and action-packed,” said TrixenKixer (Trix), who plays the pivot position for her local team, the Leave it to Cleavers. Derby girls frequently use given “derby names” that often become names they use off the track. “Rollerderby is a good way for us to get our aggression out and make friends at the same time.”
The Salt City Rollerderby Girls (SCRDG) are a self-contained league comprised of four “home” teams that compete against each other, and one travel team that is made up of the best derby girls of the four home teams. The travel team is known as The Salt City Shakers, and these ladies are happy to take their pain-inducing derby style out on the road against the best in the western United States.
“Rollerderby isn’t your typical cookie-cutter sport,” said five-year Salt City derby veteran Brew Haha. “You imagine all those girls who play volleyball or softball, and they have a certain image, but for the rest of us rollerderby is the place to be.”
Salt City Rollerderby probably isn’t the same game that many grew up watching, or are familiar with from back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The sport has been refined, and is now formatted for more real, competitive action than the sensationalized rollerderby of the past, which was comparable to staged professional wrestling. Instead of skating on a banked track as was done in earlier rollerderby, these ladies use sport court or a smooth skating-rink surface.
“There are two teams of five players each on the track, both consisting of four blockers and one jammer,” said Brew, who plays bass guitar in what little spare time she has. “The player at the very back has a star on their helmet, and they’re called the jammer—they’re the only person that can score points.”
The jammer scores points by passing opposing players legally, yielding one point per player passed on the track. Jammers must first break through the opponent’s blockers and pass them, and then lap around to break through that same set of opposing blockers in order to score. The first pass is used to determine “lead jammer” status.
“Lead jammer status means that you can call off the jam by placing your hands on your hips at any point within the two minutes. It’s a strategic play,” said Brew. The lead jammer is determined by which team’s jammer (if any) breaks through the opponent’s pack during the breakthrough lap and maintains the lead.
Rollerderby bouts consist of two 30 minute halves, which are broken into “jams” that last for two minutes or less, depending on whether or not the jam is called off early by the lead jammer. The purpose of calling off the jam early is to prevent the opposing jammer from scoring any (or any more) points.
Rollerderby is a full-contact sport, no doubt. There are, however, a few solid ground rules in place to keep these ladies skating week after week. Three referees skate in the center of the track, watching for rule infractions and tracking points that are scored.
“There are legal target zones where you can hit somebody, and there are legal blocking zones which are what you can hit with,” said Nyda the Dead, team captain of The Sisters of No Mercy, one of the SCRDG home teams.
“What I can’t do that I may want to do at times is elbow someone in the face, or kick ’em with my skates,” said Trix, who wears the number 420 on her game jersey. Trix is also on the Salt City Shakers travel team, and is the media and public relations director for the SCRDG.
“We can’t run into someone’s back really hard, trip ’em, use our hands to make contact or head butt an opponent. We have to use the appropriate parts of our bodies to block or make contact—the shoulders, hips and yes, the butt,” said Trix.
As with any contact sport, rollerderby isn’t immune to injuries, sprains, bruises and broken bones. Though the girls wear helmets, mouth guards, elbow and knee pads, it’s not hard to imagine that when wheels, fast speeds and big-time bumping are combined, boo-boos are bound to happen.
“Over my three years in rollerderby, I’ve seen my share of broken legs and bloody noses,” said Nyda, who works as a paralegal when she’s not on the track dishing out pain or scoring points. “I’ve broken my finger and had lots of bumps and bruises—I had a dislocated rib for nine months and didn’t even realize it.”
The Salt City Rollerderby Girls deliver their eight-wheeled beatings in the Western division of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The WFTDA is the sanctioning body of the sport of Rollerderby. Salt City Rollerderby is a professional league in the sense that it’s a sports company with athletic teams, training, and players that are nationally rated.
“We were the first rollerderby league in the State of Utah,” said Brew, who devotes a massive amount of her time to rollerderby. “When we started, we didn’t have the resources that we do today. We would just get together and play amongst ourselves, but now we have a deep pool of talented skaters and we’re nationally ranked.”
All SCRDG home bouts are played at The Salt Palace in downtown SLC. Tickets can be purchased at SmithsTix or through the league for $12 in advance, $16 at the door. Children 10 and under are free. On Sept. 25, fans can see the Sisters of No Mercy take on the Bomber Babes. On Oct. 16, Nyda’s Sisters of No Mercy will compete for the league championship against Trix’s team, The Leave it to Cleavers, who are seeking their third consecutive title.
“People really do respond to the fact that we’re downtown, and they also like our level of play,” said Brew. “We’ve been doing this for five years now, so our skill is getting up there.”
The ladies of Salt City Rollerderby practice at least four to six hours a week, and are getting turnouts of around 1,000 people to their bouts.
Not only do the derby girls have the opportunity to let out some aggression and hear large crowds cheer for them, but they also have the chance to make great friends. A member of the SCRDG will all but certainly end up with at least one “derby wife,” which is her best friend in rollerderby.
“You can ask almost anyone out there who their derby wife is, and she’ll have one,” said Trix, who recently finished up working on a commercial for a new CW-30 show entitled Hellcats. As the head of media and public relations for the league, Trix is responsible for getting the word out about Salt City Rollerderby.
“We really want to push this to higher levels, and we’re all gonna work toward that—we want to be a force.” Trixsaid. “I absolutely think that in the next year, rollerderby will get huge locally.”
More information including schedules, team info and “derby love” can be found at the Salt City Derby Girls website, saltcityderbygirls.com.