On Saturday, May 12, Haligonians were overcome with derby fever as nearly 800 spectators came out to watch the Halifax Roller Derby Association's season opener. Mayhem Massacre was a face off between Halifax's two local derby teams, the Dead Ringers and Las Banditas Locas.
The bout, held at Shannon Park Arena in Dartmouth, was the first game between the two Halifax home teams, and set the bar high for future fun at derby events. The suicide seating on the floor next to the track, popcorn, cotton candy and a half time show by Halifax Circus showed local sport at its finest.
As they took to the track for the first "jam," the two teams showed off their team spirit and flair for the dramatic. The Banditas were in green, sporting kerchiefs and fake moustaches, snaking their way around the track, pumping up the crowd and setting off cap guns.
The Dead Ringers, an identically-painted skeleton-clad crew, snuck stealthily onto the track in a tight pack, skating in ghostly silence.“ I was too nervous to actually look at the crowd when we came out but I hope that they had smiles and pumping fists,” says Dead Ringers team captain Rachel Hill, a.k.a. The Big Bopher, of their show-time entrance. “We wanted to have fun with it but also mess with [the other team] a little bit."
Once on the track the two teams provided a lesson in "Derby 101" for the audience. They explained the five positions in a derby team line-up: one jammer, one pivot and 3 blockers.
The jammer is the point scorer, the star of the show and identified by a star on her helmet. All other players from each team are part of “the pack” and the jammers have to bust their way through the pack to score points. The pivot sets the pace and organizes her blockers in the pack to help her jammer and hinder the opposing team's jammer in getting through. One point is scored for each blocker from the opposing team that the jammer passes (starting on her second lap). Whichever jammer gets through the pack first is the lead jammer and can call off the jam at any time, preferably once she has made her way through the pack, scoring points, and the other jammer is still stuck at the back.
Saturday's game consisted of two 20-minute periods (periods are normally 30 minutes). The Dead Ringers took the lead in the fifth jam of the first period when # 626, Clutch Cannon, was jamming against Bandita #56, the Hellagonian. The Hellagonian got walled in by the Dead Ringers defence and Cannon was able to surge ahead by nine points from a previously tied position. From there the gap grew. In the seventh jam the Banditas had three players in the penalty box at the same time (including the jammer) so the Dead Ringers scored an additional 13 points unencumbered. By half time the score was Dead Ringers 93, Banditas 71.
The second period saw more penalties for the Banditas and more points for the Dead Ringers. The final score at the end of the game was 153 to 99 for the Dead Ringers.
The Banditas had spent a total of 19 minutes in the penalty box with three of those served by jammers (the sole point scorer). Head Referee Denice Nicholson says there were a lot of penalties received for low blocks, which is when a player falls in front of another player and that fall prevents the opposing player from getting through the pack. Also there were a couple of insubordination calls during the game for not leaving the track when penalty time was to be served which resulted in double penalty time, or two minutes in the box.
“I think it is really interesting that the Dead Ringers had such an advantage because I think they are a defensively stronger team," said Nicholson. "You expect to see a faster, leaner team [the Banditas] score more points, but the Dead Ringers just stopped them from getting through the pack. That's what derby is, derby is defence.”
Heather Chamberlain, a.k.a. Lass Vicious and assistant captain for the Banditas, said that she felt the Banditas were less aggressive than the hard hitting Dead Ringers during the game.
“We have to regularly tell the girls on the Banditas: 'Hit, you have to hit, you have to get in there...' Be more aggressive, be more assertive, which obviously is a really interesting part of this as a women's sport. Encouraging women to physically stretch beyond what they are usually encouraged to do.”
The high scoring jammers for the first game of the season were Dead Ringers: #20 Oktoberfist at 38 points, #626 Clutch Cannon at 38 points and #19 The Big Bopher at 37 points. For the Banditas it was #55 Slam Drunk at 36 points and #AK47 Lass Vicious at 33 points.
Dead Ringer Lyndsay Anderson, a.k.a. Bloxie Hart, says fans can expect the Halifax players to get better and tougher as the season continues.
“Other teams are going to come and play us and they are going to be really tough. We are going to have to really bust to get as good as them.”
This is only the second year for roller derby in Halifax and the teams are dedicated to playing hard and rolling out great events for fans all summer long. The next home game is June 23 where the Halifax teams will work together as the Halifax Heartless Rollers and take on Moncton's Muddy River Rollers.
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