Strong Island Derby Revolution opens season with a win

by McKenzi Thi Murphy and Scott Terwilliger

Nearly 450 people packed into The Sports Arena for a sold-out roller derby match in St. James on Saturday between Strong Island Derby Revolution and the Central Jersey Roller Vixens.

The match ended in a 163-91 win for Strong Island, allowing them to reclaim their victor’s status after last year’s season-closing loss.

Strong Island is one of two roller derby teams on Long Island, and was established in 2011. The other team, the Long Island Roller Rebels, has been competing since 2005 and was the first league on Long Island.

“It’s you against yourself,” Jennifer “Killmora” Kimura, an upcoming skater for Strong Island, said. “It’s a physical and visual reminder that if you fall you get back up.”

This season, 15 members of the Revolution and two alternatives will play in competitions. The remainder of the team will serve as support staff, coaching, refereeing and managing among other jobs. Along with Gabi “Gemini For An Eye” Diaz, Killmora handled the merchandise table where viewers could purchase cowbells, stuffed animals and tee-shirts.

Roller derby traces back to the 1930s, when Leo Seltzer created the Transcontinental Roller Derby, a skating marathon. Modern women’s roller derby began in the early 2000s in Austin, Texas and Long Island quickly followed suit.

Flat track roller derby involves two thirty-minute periods, which are further divided into jams. Up to five skaters can be in a jam, with blockers on two teams trying to prevent the opposing team’s jammer from traveling through. If a jammer successfully breaks through the jam and laps opposing blockers, they score a point.

“You learn a lot about yourself, who you are as a person,” Gemini For An Eye said.

Most players and referees skate under a “derby name,” typically featuring mock-violent, sexual or satirical puns. Crowds at The Sports Arena were treated to pseudonyms such as “Nattzmanian Devil” from the Revolution, and “Harm-A-Knee” from the Vixens.

“I chose my name because A, I think it’s funny and I like Spongebob,” Amanda “Crabby Patty” DeArmitt said. “And B, I do horseshoe crab research as a hobby.” An alternate skater for the revolution, Crabby Patty is mainly a blocker.

The sizable all-ages crowd consisted of both die-hard fans as well as those who have never seen a match, like Bill Engelhardt, an avid sports fan.

“As you get older in life, you’re looking for different things to do,” Engelhardt, who has a niece on the opposing team, said. He and his wife drove from Brooklyn, which is approximately 50 miles away from the sports complex. Both said they were likely to attend upcoming games.

Eight-five percent of active adult derby skaters are women, according to an official report done by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association as of 2015.

“Women’s flat track has the lion’s share of members,” Eric Steele, the executive director of USA Roller Sports, said. “There’s something particularly I’ve noticed on the female side, there’s a real camaraderie that develops, a real bonding moment. There’s just something there.”

As the national governing organization of all roller sports, including figure skating and hockey, USA Roller Sports oversees the national Olympic teams as well as amateur leagues. Though roller derby was rumored to be added to the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, as of now that prospect seems unlikely.

But for an amateur non-profit league like SIDR, it is more about fun than professional competition. Despite most attendees rooting for the home team, both teams were cheered whenever the jammers earned points. Jammers on the Revolution’s team included “Miki Dismantle” and “Shockya Chakra” among others, while the Vixens featured “BlackEye Betty” and “Ivanna Exposya.”

For those familiar with both teams, the SIDR’s 72-point victory came as no surprise. Since 2013, the Revolution has won the majority of their matches and rank 439th out of nearly 2300 Women’s North American teams, according to The Central Jersey Roller Vixens have lost nearly all of their matches, in comparison, and rank 1012th.

“Strong Island is an amazing group of women,” Kierstin “BlackEye Betty” Koopman, a jammer for the Vixens, said. “You should always come and check them out if possible.”

The Strong Island Derby Revolution has six more upcoming matches this season and will play their next home game on June 1 against Black vs. Red. However, fans looking for a rematch against the Vixens will have to travel to New Jersey on June 15 for the SIDR’s first away game.