Sugar Beaters opens bout at Grand Forks

The Forx Roller Derby Sugar Beaters skate against the A-Town Roller Girlz on Saturday at the Blue Line Club Arena near Red River High School. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.

Did you know that other sports exist besides hockey, basketball and football?

No, not dreary sports like golf and tennis. Forget about those.

We’re talking action-packed, exciting sports here. One of these little known sports is roller derby, a fast paced game played by two teams of five on roller skates in a circular arena.

The Forx Roller Derby Sugar Beaters is Grand Forks’ very own 18 member team, and its summer season started off with a bang Saturday at the Blue Line Club Arena near the Red River High School.

After quickly pulling ahead in the first period, the Forx Roller Derby Sugar Beaters started off their fifth season by crushing the A-Town Roller Girlz with a score of 187 to 118.

“We’ve made it for five seasons so far,” player Cristin Fine, who also goes by the pseudonym Prairie Roserage, said. “And for a small women-only team, to stay consistent and keep coming back year after year, it’s a pretty big deal.”

To score points, a designated player on each team, called the jammer, must break through the pack of blockers before the other jammer, and then proceed to lap the opposing team. A point is scored for each opposing team member that is passed, so it is the blockers’ job to prevent the jammer from getting through.

Each game, called a bout, consists of two 30-minute periods. Bouts are further broken down into two-minute periods called jams, in which the lead jammer has time to score.

When asked about the best way to prevent a jammer from scoring, blocker Cassandra Scherr, also known as Jinx E. Jones, explained, “You can check as long as your arms are in, and we have to stick close together.”

Fellow blocker Megan Hutton, also known as Ninja Kitten, added, “It’s really just a lot of teamwork.”

Roller derby is a full contact sport, and like all full contact sports, injuries can happen. An emergency medical technician sat courtside throughout the entire bout but was only called upon once when a member of the A-Town Roller Girlz went down hard during a jam.

In a short period of time, she was back on her feet and ready to skate.

“I’ve never been to a sporting event where an EMT had to get called out,” spectator David Haeg said. “I’m just glad she’s going to be alright.”

But given the minimal padding of a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, hand guards and mouth guards, more serious injuries can occur.

“Concussions are pretty common,” Fine said. “It’s like hockey, where if you get checked right, you can get seriously injured.”

The Sugar Beaters have several more games to play this season, including the Rumble in the Valley tournament from May 9 to 10. Money earned from the games this year will be donated to the Grand Forks Community Violence Intervention Center.

“Part of what we do is if we break even after the season, we donate the profits to a local charity,” Fine said. “We want to give back to the different things that have helped us over the years.”

In memory

As part of the opening bout, both teams wore turquoise, and the number 57 was displayed on arms, legs and faces in honor of fellow roller derby player Sam Taub, a teen from Michigan who had passed away on April 9.

Brendan McCabe is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].