The Long Island Roller Rebels - the female roller derby team - will be back in action May 16 when they lace up their skates and hit the track for a fourth season.
The league's opener will feature a "Pink vs. Black" exhibition bout featuring teams comprised of returning veterans (those who have been skating for a year or longer) and newer players (or "fresh bloods," as they're known around the league).
"It's going to be very hard- paced, fast, flat-track roller derby action," says Lynbrook resident and league president Lauren Madonia, whose roller derby name is Captain Morgan.
Nostalgia among those who remember the roller derbies of the past draws many fans to Roller Rebels bouts, says Jaime Mendicino of Holbrook, a veteran blocker in the league. "We also get a pretty good amount of people wanting to see something different, not to mention an all-female sport," she says.
If last week's practice at the United Skates of America in Seaford is any indication, Saturday's opener will be a high-energy evening.
Their pink-and-black uniforms feature the league logo, a skull and crossbones with hearts for eyes. Veterans proudly sport their roller derby names on the backs of their shirts - like Amaretto Sourpuss, Serial Mom, Raven Madd, C-Roll, Eve L. Taco and Killer Tofu.
Some skaters complete their outfits with black shorts and knee socks, while others prefer skirts and fishnet stockings. And everyone wears protective gear, which includes helmets, mouth guards and knee, wrist and elbow pads anytime they're on the track.
Most have day jobs, but when they lace up their skates and suit up in Roller Rebels attire, they're ready to roll. And they take their roller derby seriously.
"We're a big family, basically, but the minute that our foot steps on the track, it's on," Mendicino says. "We don't fake it. It's real, full contact. It's fun."
WHAT TO EXPECT
Before Saturday's bout begins, Mendicino says the skaters will put on a demonstration to give audience members a primer on roller derby's rules, moves and scoring. That includes what they're not allowed to do under Women's Flat Track Derby Association guidelines, such as tripping and elbowing.
Afterward, spectators will see them skate two 30- minute halves. At half-time, a band, Long Island's own Two Man Advantage, will perform.
From 350 to 500 spectators usually watch their bouts (the venue holds 1,000). Fans are welcome to talk with skaters on the sidelines before and after the bout, and during halftime. Some even ask for autographs, Mendicino says.
During a bout, up to five skaters from each team are on the track at one time. The "jammer" (she wears a star on her helmet) is the only skater who can score points for her team. The "pivot," who wears a stripe on her helmet, controls the speed of the pack. The inside, outside and back blockers try to clear the way for their team's jammer while simultaneously stopping any advances by the opposing team's jammer.
"A lot of people think roller derby is a whole lot of people smashing into each other. That's definitely a big part of it, but there's also the strategic angle," says Mendicino, aka "Chest Blackwell," because of her prowess skating in both the blocker and pivot positions.
Long Island Roller Rebels home opener : 8 p.m. May 16. Doors open at 7 p.m. At Skate Safe America, 182 Bethpage Sweet Hollow Rd., Old Bethpage, 631-816-0217, longislandrollerrebels.com
Cost: $15 ($10 advance), free ages 8 and under; $50 season (six bouts)
After home bouts, fans are invited to join league members to celebrate a win - or commiserate a loss - at Black Forest Brew Haus (2015 New Hwy., Farmingdale, 631-391-9500, blackforestbrewhaus.com ), which serves a host of seasonal and specialty brews, plus pub food.
The Roller Rebels will compete in roller derby bouts as a full league and also as three separate teams - the Wicked Wheelers, Rolling Thundercats and Ladies of Laceration.
Here's their 2009 home schedule:
May 16: Pink vs. Black home season opener exhibition July 11: Ladies of Laceration vs. Wicked Wheelers Aug. 15: Wicked Wheelers vs. Rolling Thundercats Sept. 19: Rolling Thundercats vs. Ladies of Laceration Oct. 24: Championship Bout Nov. 14: Long Island Roller Rebels vs. The Molly Roger Roller Girls