Hazard County Hellions bring roller derby to Harford County

There's a new group of skaters in town, and they're ready to roll.

The Hazard County Hellions, Harford County's newly-formed roller derby team, is gearing up for its first game Aug. 2 and is hoping to stir up some local interest in the sport.

Jennifer Lotz, of Forest Hill, decided to start the team last year after she got tired of commuting to Baltimore and Upperco for derby practices.

She had skated with Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls league from 2007 to 2010 and, more recently, the Chesapeake Roller Derby in Baltimore County.

"It's kind of addicting, I guess," Lotz, also known as "Hedda Chopper," said about why she has stayed interested in the sport.

"It is good exercise," she noted. Although derby can be physically intense, "sometimes it's nice, though, because it's kind of a stress reliever."

Roller derby, which is performed on roller skates, involves players moving in circles around a rink and trying to pass, change positions or push others out of the way to get ahead.

The "jammers," one of three positions in derby, score points by lapping other players. (The other roles are pivot and blocker.) Games, or bouts, consist of short sessions called "jams."

The sport is also known for colorful nicknames and a sense of showmanship. Although audiences may expect some violence and the skaters do get hurt, Lotz noted there are strict rules about body contact and the games are much tamer than in the past.

"Most people probably right away think you throw elbows around, which you don't. They think back to the roller derby of the '70s, which was kind of like wrestling is now, or a lot of it is fake," Lotz, who is 46, explained.

After starting out at the Bel Air Athletic Club, the Hellions have practiced at Aberdeen's abandoned skate park at North Deen Park for the past month.

The team helped fix up the park in exchange for getting a free place to skate. Aberdeen's parks and recreation council even asked Lotz to come to a board meeting, she said.

The first game will take place at 4 p.m. on Aug. 2 at North Deen Park. Besides the derby bout, it will include an inline hockey game, food vendors, a Zumba demonstration and a silent auction.

Proceeds will benefit the local parks and recreation department.

The hockey game is for a friend who has an inline hockey team and got excited about the prospect of having another place to play, Lotz explained.

The Hellions consist of about 11 members, but are still nailing down their final roster, she said.

The team is fairly flexible and open. Most derby leagues are all-female, but the Hellions are co-ed. They are affiliated with the MADE (Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor) league instead of the WFTDA (Women's Flat Track Derby Association), which avoids competition with Charm City Roller Girls.

That means their rules are slightly different and the games move faster, with bouts being 90 seconds instead of two minutes and the lead jammer being allowed to change within a jam.

At the first game in Aberdeen, the Hellions expect to skate with a few people from Charm City Roller Girls and some from leagues in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Lotz said people did seem interested in the group initially, and "we did get some new people. We did have some that were even shaky on their skates."

"It wasn't just the skating that I missed, so much as being part of a team," she added. "You do start to care about people. There's also stuff you have to do outside of the skating, like the promoting and fundraising."

The Hellions most recently skated in Bel Air's July 4 parade and Lotz thought they got a good reaction.

"People were cheering us on and seemed excited for roller derby," she said. "It would be nice to eventually be as big as Charm City in the sense that we could have multiple home teams."

For more information, contact info@hazardcountyhellions.com.

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