PORTLAND, Maine — For the first time since roller derby was rescued from history and re-imagined as a legitimate sport, Mainers are getting a chance to see men bump and roll around a flat track wearing wheels on their shoes, just like the ladies do.
The “Not So Jolly Rogers” of the Casco Bay Gentlemen’s Derby are hosting the Mean Mountain Boys of Vermont at the Portland Expo Saturday night, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. Before the men take to the track, the bout will start with a intersquad contest between the “good” and “wicked” forces within the all-women Maine Roller Derby.
Flat track roller derby has its origins in the 1930s and was revived as a modern sport at the start of the 21st century. Since then, it’s been dominated by women. Currently, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association boasts 212 full-time leagues on six continents. Their male counterparts, the Men’s Roller Derby Association, has only 32 leagues. Maine alone has four women’s leagues. Now the Pine Tree State has a men’s league, too.
Having enough players to finally host a home bout will help the Gentlemen’s Derby meet the requirements to join the MRDA.
A.J. Caron of South Portland started the Gentlemen’s Derby three years ago with friend Anthony Oddi.
“We were picking out names before we had even put skates on. We thought it would be a breeze and everything would come together,” said Caron in an email. “I hadn’t been in skates in twenty years. It was a battle to keep my balance at first on the rental skates at Happy Wheels. We looked like idiots but we didn’t care.”
The pair wore T-shirts with their mostly fictional team’s logo at local open skate sessions to recruit members. They reached out to the experienced competitors at the Maine Roller Derby and other Maine women’s leagues for training and advice.
“We initially started practicing Wednesday nights after Maine Roller Derby practices,” wrote Caron. “It was great because a lot of the skaters from MRD would stick around and help us after their practices.”
Roller derby is played by two teams of five skaters going around a flat track. Each team has a “jammer” with a star on their helmet. The jammer tries to lap the field to score points. The rest of the team, by force and physical contact, tries to help their jammer make it around while at the same time blocking the opposing jammer.
“It takes a lot of thinking and a lot of skill,” said Caron. “And, you know, it is a full contact sport. It’s like a full contact chess game out there with all the things you have to think about.”