By Thomas Gerbasi
The blessing and the curse of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league home season will be on full display this Saturday when the defending champion Brooklyn Bombshells face the Bronx Gridlock at John Jay College in Manhattan.
The blessing? In a three-game season, any team can salvage everything with one key victory. In the case of the Gridlock, who have not won a game since May of 2014, a win over the Bombshells erases that past and puts them in contention for the championship game in August. It’s a fact not lost on the cabbies.
As for Brooklyn, who conversely have not lost since July of 2014, a defeat this weekend puts them at 1-1 and all of a sudden it’s a race to see who competes for the Golden Skate trophy this summer. That’s the curse.
But no matter which side of the equation you’re on, there’s a bout to be played, and the veterans of the Gridlock have made it clear to their newcomers that they need to play this one like it’s for all the marbles. Because it may very well be.
“I think they all realize how important it is (to win) and I think in our practices the other teams are noticing that we’re really working together,” said Bronx vet Davey Blockit. “Hopefully, they’re scared of us and we can prove it on Saturday that we’ll be the team to beat. If we’re not playing in the championship game at the end of the season, that’s our own fault because we have really amazing skaters on our team. We probably have the most skill on our team collectively, so if we can just figure out how to work together on the track during a high-pressure situation like a close game, then there’s no reason we can’t win by at least 50 points.”
The Gridlock are a team whose record doesn’t reflect their talent level. Even their season opening loss to the Queens of Pain on April 9 was closer than the 200-159 score would indicate, making it a positive start to the season, even if that doesn’t show up in the win column.
"We had a lot of new players in the draft, and that was our first chance to see how well we worked together,” Davey said. “This was our first test, and we didn’t skate too bad. It was a close game for the most part. I felt like looking at the stats, we should have won. We had some things we did wrong that I felt cost us the game as far as strategy and when to call it and how to manipulate the clock, but we really worked with our jammers to stay out of the penalty box. We only had 10 jammer penalties the whole game, which sounds like a lot, but not compared to 20 in previous games, and we cut down our penalties as a whole as a team, which is good. Plus, we’re working on a new wall that none of the other teams are doing and I felt like that was working well. So there were a lot of positives that came out of it.”
As for the Bombshells, they kept their winning streak going against the Manhattan Mayhem in March, eking out a 161-158 nod in another classic battle between the two rivals. It was the type of grueling bout that reminded the ladies in blue that when you’re the champions, everyone will be bringing their “A” game when the whistle blows.
“It was obviously a very challenging game, but Brooklyn is great about staying strong mentally and staying really focused, and our leadership has been wonderful about keeping the team held together,” said Bombshell veteran D.A.R.Y.L. “So that was good test for our team and it was a great stepping stone. Because it was so difficult, it forces us to not just walk into anything like it’s going to be super easy. We know that every game is going to be challenging, so it’s good for us to have that under our belt moving forward.”
A former member of the Mayhem, D.A.R.Y.L. returned to the league this year and was drafted onto the Bombshells, which provided its own set of challenges as she played against several players who she shared the track with for two seasons. But with that done for the moment, it should be smooth skating this Saturday and beyond.
“Personally, I think that it’s easier for me to play any team that isn’t my old home team,” she laughs. “The last game was definitely the most mentally challenging game I’ve ever had. So I think anything other than that is a little easier for sure. But with that said, as a team we always approach it as it’s going to be a challenge regardless, and we need to give it our all, no matter what. So we need to be as prepared as we can to withstand the penalties or any other things that get thrown at us and really play our best game.”
And D.A.R.Y.L. and her teammates have kept a collective eye on the Gridlock, so if the Bronx hopes to catch Brooklyn napping, that’s probably not going to happen.
“We get to skate with the other members of the team, whether it’s on travel teams or league skills night,” she said. “So we see what each individual skater is like on any given practice night. But it’s always good to keep an eye out for what the team looks like together, and at least half of any team is watching the other team’s game and keeping an eye on what they’re looking like. This year they do look really strong and they do have a good fighting chance to do well this season.”
As long as it’s not at the Bombshells’ expense. The Gridlock take an opposing view, and they’re gearing up to not just end Brooklyn’s winning streak, but to start their own. And that would be a pretty impressive feather in the helmet of this yellow and black-clad crew.
“It would mean that all of our hard work finally paid off,” said Davey.
Tickets for Saturday's bout available here.