Saturday night, the Minnesota Roller Derby hosted the league’s Semi-Finals at the Roy Wilkins Arena in downtown St. Paul. The event was appropriately dubbed “Somebody to Shove”, a play on the physical nature of Roller Derby and the notorious Soul Asylum rock anthem. Now, if you were one of the 20,000 people that decided to go to the Wild game across the hallway at the Xcel Energy center instead of the Roller Derby Saturday night, I have to insist that you were at the wrong spot for the wrong sporting event. The Wild got shut out while the Roller Derby put on one sensational show.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, let’s cover the basics. Roller derby is a fast-paced, full-contact sport played on quad roller skates. Each game is two, 30-minute periods composed of two minute plays, or “jams.” Each team starts with four skaters playing defense (“blockers”) and one player playing offense (“jammer”). The jammer must pass each opposing blocker upright and in-bounds in order to make a legal lap. The first jammer to make it past the group of blockers (the “pack”) on their initial lap is designated as “lead jammer,” and has the power to stop the jam before two minutes are up. After the initial lap, jammers accumulate one point for every opposing blocker they pass. Skaters may not hit other skaters with their hands, head, or feet. Additionally, skaters may not hit others in the head, back, or feet. Doing often times leads to a penalty.
When I arrived at the Roy Wilkins, I was delighted to see the lively amount of activity and entertainment instantly available the second I walked through the doors. Members from every Roller Derby team were striding around the concessions area, saying hello and fist bumping fans. There was plenty of merchandise and temporary tattoo stations available, providing the colors of every team — red, orange, blue, and pink. Photo ops were hot, and there was no excuse for fans not to sport at least one of the colors of their favorite team.
The first bout was between the Garda Belts and the Rockits. Led by co-captains Delilah Diamond, Ida Sockher and Rampaige, the Garda Belts came out swinging in a green fury to start the bout. Meanwhile, fueled by an intergalactic-sized rage for all things slow, the opposing Rockits set to counter the Garda Belts and run them off the track. Led by co-captains Coley Smokes and Whacks Poetic, the Rockits were aiming to defend their championship title with all they had.The second bout fell between the Atomic Bombshells and the Dagger Dolls. Led by co-captains Amanda Lorian and General Hugs, The Bombshells set to “eliminate the derby waste with a wink and a hip-check” while the candy-coated Dagger Dolls, led by co-captains Little Rascal and Whoopsie Daisy, lull their opponents into a false sense of “warm & fuzzy security, then cut ’em with cuteness”. The first half of this bout seemed like a blowout, but the second half was a completely different story.
Halftime entertainment was provided by Twin Cities band of brothers The Shackletons. The boys wasted absolutely no time taking the stage and rocking the socks off the Roller Derby fans anxiously awaiting the teams to return to the track. Jumping around the stage with dials set to 11, The Shackletons brought a high-energy set of no-nonsense rock and roll that kept the raucous spirit of the sport alive during the intermission of play. During their set, fans flocked to the track floor and danced merrily to the band alongside the charismatic Derby team mascots. It was a fun filled fiasco.The second half of the bouts proved to be some of the best sports action I’ve seen in awhile. The Rockits kept their dreams of defending the championship title alive by beating the Garda Belts 113 to 94 while the Atomic Bombshells overcame a 40 point deficit and ended up squeezing out a victory by a small margin of 8 points, beating the Dagger Dolls 109 to 101. Bombshell players Peppers and T-Wrecks completely stole the show, juking, jiving and jamming their way to an incredible comeback for the orange combatants.
With the Semi-Finals all wrapped up, the teams will look forward to the Roller Derby Championship bout that will be held Saturday, March 7th at the Roy Wilkins. So if the semi-finals weren’t enough Roller Derby for you, tickets for the ‘ship are available HERE. It will no doubt be another great evening of high paced entertainment. See you there!