The large meeting room at the Missoula Public Library was filled with close to 60 women last night. Women with spiky hair and tattoos, women holding babies, women with hip glasses (and all of the above), women in skirts, women in Carhartts and women of all shapes and sizes. All were there for the first meeting of the Hellgate Rollergirls, Missoula's first amateur flat-track roller derby league.
The discussion at the library focused on how to get the league in shape and ready to compete. With no roller rink in Missoula anymore, most people here don't do much skating. The organizers suggested six months of learning rules and regs, learning to skate well to be in shape, learning which position best suits each girl and raising funds. A table in the room displayed updated quad skates, knee pads, helmets and other equipment, plus roller derby magazines and photos.
Roller derby is a full-contact sport played with two teams of five, and points are scored when jammers pass the blockers and pivots of the opposing team. It's known for being a rough game with some highly entertaining staged theatrics combined with actual game playing. Popular in the '70s and '80s the sport has been making a comeback—Drew Barrymore's come out with a film called Whip It! about the sport. One of the most cherished parts of being a roller derby girl is your derby name. The national roster lists names like Atomic Betty, Bonnie Thunders, Brawly Pop, Slam Adams and Sweet Hurt.