Sometimes the folks at Penn Jersey playfully brag about being trailblazers of roller derby on the East Coast. They are the only continually used bank track and they created the OSDA rule set (which one could compare to Latin: you can see pieces of it in other rule sets, but otherwise it is extinct). They were also the first roller derby league founded in Philadelphia (narrowly edging out Philly Roller Girls).
What most of the league members do not realize is that they really ARE trailblazing in roller derby. Not only is co-ed play common, but this league has housed a men and a women’s teams since 2006. Most leagues are only getting hip to that concept now. What is also unusual about this league is their open acceptance of skaters into their house.
On September 28, Penn Jersey hosted a double header at their warehouse in North Philly. They got a chance to show off a new floor, new bleachers and a new wall mural. They also got to show off some new Hooligans and She Devils. They played MADE rules as house rules for the first time, and neither team played an established MADE league.
Both played mash-up teams made up of experienced flat trackers. Apparently, on the West Coast, this just doesn’t happen. Trailblazers, indeed. For a write-up of the She Devil bout against the formidable PA All Stars, check out the write up by Rose Beef.
Since the Derby Ink Invitational the Hooligans have only played one public bout. This was their first home bout of 2013. They set themselves up for a battle, deciding to go toe to toe with the East Coast Outlaws. This co-ed team brought skaters from five states, some with more than five years of derby experience.
At Derby Ink, the Hooligans had trouble handling flat track teams because of the athleticism and agility that they bring to the track. Relying on big hits and ‘smash n grab’ style derby, the men of Penn Jersey found themselves outskated in each of their match-ups against flat track teams. The flat track teams had been skating longer, harder and had practiced strategy so intensely that the rule set did not matter: only derby mattered.
However, the Hooligans have been practicing.
After the losses at Derby Ink, the team set to regroup. After watching MRDA teams Mass Maelstrom & NY Shock Exchange at East Coast Extravaganza, the Hooligans realized what was possible as far as competitive game play was concerned. After a black & white scrimmage with MRDA skaters the following day: they knew what they could become. And they have been working.
The rotation of pivots and jammers for the Hooligans included a variety of speed, power and squirrelly-ness that the Outlaws had an impossible time dealing with. While General Tso’s lateral motion would catch reflexes off guard (and can we please mention the fact that he jumped an entire person while at the top of the bank track? That is no easy task! Tso makes it look like nothing happened). The power of Wags would break walls easily and Beater Griffin’s lithe speed let him slip around blockers as they were trying to take him to the rail. Bzzarro’s strength and instinct in the pack proved itself time and time again, and General Ledger’s apex jumping (yes on the bank) and overall athleticism made him an Outlaw nemesis.
That being said, after a period to get their rhythm down, rotational walls of Hit Happens, Dirty Frank, Serious Snowflake, Badass Maggie and El Pony Picante began doing some damage to the speed at which the Hooligans were gaining their lead. With awareness for opposition pivots heightening as the bout proceeded, The Outlaws were able to gain momentum at several points throughout the bout to score (or at least prevent the Hooligans from lengthening their lead).
New to the bank track were pivot/jammers Freak n Rabbit, Frightmare and Pearl Jammer who all used quick feet and bursts of speed (and the jerseys of their team mates) to [mostly] survive the brutal blocking of I Don’t Care Bear, Yosemite Slam and Dudley Do Wrong. Since size was on the side of the Hooligans, the Outlaws [except for Hit Happens who would simply pick a target and clear them at will] had to adjust to dodging hits and playing as a distraction rather than attempting to clear the track.
Outlaw couple on the track (and engaged off of it) Buster Skull and Bryan Whipple gave the Hooligans a run for their money. Buster made a splash at Derby Ink on Team Rogue with fast feet and a huge smile whenever she would break the pack, and the Hooligans worked hard to shut her down. In Whipple’s roller derby debut, he may have forgotten a few things that all rookies do, but overall he showed that his athleticism is formidable and his jamming is to be taken seriously.
The debuts of Penn Jersey’s Papi and XXX Games were not to be missed either. Neither one looked fresh to the world of derby bouts; with footwork and blinding speed, Papi blew past unsuspecting Outlaw blockers. XXX was able to capture and hold pivots, when not breaking the pack on his own.
The team work of the Hooligans was unprecedented, but they still have a lot of work to do. In the true spirit of blazing new paths for bank track teams the Hooligans are playing around with another idea completely: playing flat track. Whether these men will tackle the complexity of practicing MADE and OSDA on the bank track, and MADE and MRDA on the flat track is yet to be seen. If they do it, they will be the first and only men’s team (that I am aware of) to play consist rotations of multiple rule sets, much less to pursue sanctioning in one of the governing bodies.
The future of the Penn Jersey Hooligans looks bright, but already another round of Outlaws are prepping themselves for a fight. Next time you can make it down to Penn Jersey for a battle on the bank, you better fuel up, grab a cooler of beverages and make your way down to 1801 West Indiana Avenue.
For more information on Penn Jersey and how to support the She Devils and Hooligans visit their website and sign up for their newsletter! Http://www.PennJerseyRollerDerby.com