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Rollar Derby League Blows Off Steam

By By Taylor Long

When hockey league practices end at Skate Safe in Old Bethpage, a group of women in short skirts, knee-length socks and roller skates take the rink. Most of the players are adorned with tattoos and piercings and wear clothing with skulls and crossbones. They call themselves names like "Felon of Troy" and "Mandy Slaughter." They are the members of Long Island's first all-women roller derby league, The Rockabetty Bruisers.

The idea for the league began with Carla Armenia, 22, better known as "Dirty Gertie," of Medford, who was inspired by the Brooklyn league, the Gotham Girls. Armenia began putting the Rockabetty Bruisers together in May.

"One day, I was thinking, 'you know what, there's nothing going on. I'm going to start a roller derby league,'" she said.

"Captain Morgan," or Lauren Madonia, 25, from Westbury, who joined in August, says finding a rink was the hardest obstacle they faced when creating the league.

"There's only two wood rinks left on Long Island, and we couldn't find a place to practice," Madonia said. "I thought we'd be in the snow right now."

Armenia agreed, "I thought we were going to end up playing on tennis courts for awhile."

The girls even had the cops called on them when they were skating around one evening.

"Can you imagine that call to the police? 'Um, yes, I'd like to report about a dozen girls in short skirts and knee socks skating around - they must be stopped!'" Butterscotch Freundlich, or "Butterscotch Cripple" a 22-year-old art history major at the University, said.

Ranging in age from 20 to 34 year old, the women come from many different backgrounds. The Rockabetty Bruisers are mothers, social workers, artists and journalists. They also come from cities all over the Manhattan, Long Island and New Jersey area.

"It's a lot of commitment and effort," Madonia said, "Girls come in from Jersey, Harlem, Brooklyn to play."

If the drive isn't tiring enough, they have to endure two practices a week. They all take their fair share of injuries, including crushed fingers, broken limbs and, of course, bruises.

"We've all got bruises all over," said Madonia.

It's not just the commute and the physical activity that begs a lot of the Rockabetty Bruisers. Between gear costs averaging $175 for skates and protective wear and paying Skate Safe around $100 an hour for practices, their wallets see as much damage as their bodies do. To help out with the costs, the league throws fundraisers.

Despite the monetary and physical costs, the girls feel that being in the league is more than worth it.

"We have our ups and downs, but we always work through it," Armenia said. "You have to stay together."

An even greater sign of their dedication is the fact that the season hasn't even started yet. The league will divide into three teams-the West End, the East End and Middle Island-before their first bout on Feb. 18. For now they have just been holding practices.

Freundlich, who has been in the league since September, enjoys the therapeutic aspects of roller derby and says she would like to see the league work together with a women's group to do something for women who have been abused.

"You don't understand how differently you walk, how differently you view yourself after you get into derby," she said. "Because you know you can take a hit, you know you can get right back on those skates and you know you can keep going. That's really important. I think a lot of women who have been through hell and back, they need that confidence."

Right now, there are 25-30 Rockabetty Bruisers, and that number keeps growing.

"We get new girls each day," Madonia said. "Today we had three new girls."

They are still welcoming new members, but she says they'll have to cut off recruiting soon to prepare for the season.

Women aren't the only ones getting in on the fun of roller derby. James Pritchard, 25, From Levittown also known as "Goose," and "Prowler," or David Teta, 30, of Rockville Centre, run practices and will fill referee roles when the season starts. They appreciate the physical exercise and admit they enjoy yelling at the girls.

"We mutually agree that we both like yelling at them," Pritchard said. "I'm dry right now, I can hardly even speak because I've yelled so much."

While they don't particularly like waking up early, it provides them with a hobby and the chance to be a part of something unusual and exciting, Teta said.

"I like the abnormality of it, the fact that when you tell somebody that you have to referee a thing tonight, and they say 'oh, what is that thing,' and you say roller derby, it blows people's minds," he said. "Instantly, everybody is intrigued."

The league is hosting a Glam Rock/'80s Metal Night fundraiser on Jan. 7 at the Velvet Lounge in East Setauket and an open skate fundraiser on Jan. 15 at United Skates. Their first bout will be on Feb. 18 at Skate Safe.

Potential fans and members can find out more about the team by visiting the league Web site, rockabettybruisers.com, or sending an e-mail to info@rockabettybruisers.com.

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