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As I drove along on a cool Saturday evening, thoughts raced through my mind like, “What is this roller derby about? Can it really be as popular as people say it is? And, will there be hot dogs?”

The long, curvy road took me past a town called Dewey-Humbolt, then past the exit for Chino Valley and on into Prescott.

Hours seemed to pass when they were actually only minutes. The excitement running through my veins slowed time.

roller-derby-10-2
Photo Courtesy Greg Davis

A new sport to cover: It’s like opening an unread mystery or novel that’s been stuffed away in some box for several decades, only to discover it by chance.

Pulling up to Pioneer Park, one of my questions was immediately answered. The parking lot was full of cars like there was a U2 concert going on.

As I walked up to the gate, bright, white lights began to emerge and actually lit up the sky slightly, turning it a dark shade of red.

Several Harley Davidson motorcycles were parked near the gate, lined up like it was some biker bar in the middle of the desert.

Outside the rink, people circled the area, trying to sneak a peek at the action about to take place.

Inside the rink, two dozen ladies dressed in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” type costumes, raced around the designated oval, warming up for the bout to come.

A blue, smurf-turf looking thing that was to be the battle arena was covered with people waiting anxiously.

In a few minutes, these roller derby athletes were about to make history as the first match in Northern Arizona was about to take place.

It was also the first match in club history for the Dirty Verde Roller Derby team out of Cottonwood.

They were paired against the Whiskey Row-llers of Prescott, and both teams looked ready to go as the crowd cheered with anticipation.

A group of roller derby players from both teams gathered tightly together. Ten feet behind them was one player from each team called jammers who would start a few seconds after the main group.

The whistle blew and the ladies were off, then another blew and the jammers were off to the races, looking to score points for their team.

A punk-rock sport that is traced back to as early as the roaring 1920s, roller derby has arrived in Northern Arizona.

Every person in and outside the rink stood and cheered. The ladies remained focused, determined to give the crowd a good show.

Out came the elbows, knees and body checks and up went the feet with roller skates attached. These ladies were serious.

Time after time, girls wearing pink fishnet tights, short skirts and wicked-witch-of-the-west socks went flying through the air. Each time, the crowd cheered louder and louder like they were at a prize fight in Atlantic City.

Once a jammer reached the crowded mess of roller derby players and got past them cleanly, another whistle blew signaling that she was now the lead jammer.

The group ahead from the other team did their best to block the lead jammer out, but each was determined to get past the other team’s skaters to score points.

As a strategy to keep the other jammer from scoring, the lead jammer can tap her hips with both hands to signal the end of the jam.

After 25 minutes of this in half No. 1, each team gathered together to talk strategy as the Whiskey Row-llers of Prescott had taken a 62-27 lead over the Dirty Verde Roller Derby team.

Half No. 2 was just as exciting with several body checks that sent girls on skates sliding into the boards like a hockey game.

As time began to wind down in the second half, the ladies had probably taken several thousand trips around the oval rink.

When time expired, fans again cheered their hearts out from both sides, giving a hand to the ladies on a job well done.

The Whiskey Row-llers might have won this bout by the final score of 118-86, but in the end it didn’t matter as both teams hugged each other with smiles from ear to ear.

Cottonwood resident Ashley Nichols, or “Too Bad Nickle” on the Dirty Verde Roller Derby team, was excited to see how well her team did.

“I’ve only been skating four or five weeks with them and I think we did great,” Nichols said.

When asked what her favorite part was about roller derby, Nichols had this to say:

“Contact. The contact is my favorite part. It’s also great to get a chance to meet new people and have a new experience,” Nichols said.

Another Dirty Verde Roller Derby skater, 33-year-old Elissa Ballew, was also please with how the night went.

“I loved it. Every minute of it. It was kind of freaky to come out here but once we got going it was fine. I heard about it through some friends and wanted to give it a try and I think it’s worked out quite well,” Ballew said.

Her “Maxine Velocity” nickname fit quite well since Ballew’s style of play consisted of flying around the track like a rocket most of the night.

As fans and skaters left for the after-party, a quick glance by many skaters from both teams looked like they were taking a mental picture, giving themselves a memory to hold on to for the rest of their lives.


Brian Bergner Jr. can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 131, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


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