The nature of roller derby is one of imposing a physical will when you’re on quad skates, but developing close-knit relationships when you’re off.
So when the C.C. Maiden team experienced tragedy, there was no better way for some of the members of Wicked City Derby Damez to pay tribute to their fallen coach then with a day of hits, jams and blocks in the rink.
“It really is like a family,” Lyssa “Revelation” Sharick said. “It seems like a real big subculture sometimes, but I don’t think it really is. We know them, we have ties to them.”
The Derby Damez travel to Corpus Christi for a tribute bout with the Maiden at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at the Ayers Event Center.
The teams will be playing in a mash-up format in which some Damez and Maiden teammates will play on opposing teams and pay tribute to former Maiden head coach Jason Baird.
“All of the roller derby (skaters) in all areas we consider derby sisters,” Soni “D-Range” Berkhemer said. “We help as much as we can.”
A portion of the money raised at the bout will help the charity of Baird’s choice, the Haldimand Light Project in Cayuga, Ontario, Canada.
Baird, a former professional hockey player, died in January at the age of 33 after experiencing complications from pancreatitis.
A landscaping accident ended Baird’s hockey career in July 2008. He suffered burns over more than 60 percent of his body after a lawn mower that he was riding exploded.
The accident forced him to be hospitalized the last month before his death. He had to have numerous surgeries.
Baird’s professional hockey career lasted for seven years, including a stint with the Corpus Christi Ice Rays of the North American Hockey League from 2004-07.
Baird became interested in the league when his wife Bethany “Queen of Hits” Baird joined the team and wanted to stay involved in sports despite the end of his hockey career. He coached the team for one season and was nicknamed “I like to puck” because of his hockey background.
Maiden league president and team captain Raquel “Bruja Loca” Ramos said despite having a short time with the coach, the former hockey player brought a new sense of competitiveness to the league.
“It changed our demeanor toward roller derby,” Ramos said. “We want to be more athletic and take it a little bit more serious. He brought that out in us and he would drill us at practice.”
Ramos said that 40 skaters from teams all over the state told her they would participate in the bout.
The Damez took on the Maidens last August in a bout at the Killeen Special Events Center.
Damez league president Jerri Bullock remembers the bout well and was impressed at the squad Baird had.
“They were great competitors, it had great sportsmanship, great all the way around,” Bullock said. “If you can play a team that has been taught by a hockey player, you’re doing well. They are tough.”
The bout also left an impression on the players.
“Whenever they came to play with us, it was really amazing to meet them, hang out and get to play with them,” Meghan “Goldie Hurts Alot” Sammons added. “They truly are amazing people. When you get in the derby, you meet people that bond with you and it’s kind of a connection you can’t find anywhere else.”
Although the action is fast, the play is physical and women hit the pavement frequently. The roller derby community in the state has developed into a close one.
Approximately 720 roller derby skaters came to Killeen in January to help out the Derby Damez when they were putting on a charity fund raiser to help Dale Acton, a local man that is uninsured and battling cancer. The fundraiser helped raise more than $3,000 for Acton and the league sold all 750 tickets for the event.
“That’s what a derby family should be,” Kelly “Kellog’her” Johnson said. “Close-knit, but also expand out to others and say ‘hey we’re here.’”
For more information about the tribute match, visit maidentexasrollerderby.org