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Roller Derby's L.A. Ri-Ettes Reign Victorious Over Santa's Little Helpers

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by Sheri Zampelli

"It's about time the Jews win," said a roller derby fan while leaving Saturday night's match between the L.A. Ri-Ettes and Santa's Little Helpers. The L.A. Ri-Ettes are "A-team" skaters chosen from the Los Angeles Derby Doll league. They adopted a Jewish theme for the evening wearing blue t-shirts and sporting a star symbol with a skate in the middle. Fans and Derby Doll volunteers put stickers with menorahs and dreidels on their shirts. Jewish rocker Gene Simmons of KISS, accompanied by actress Shannon Tweed and their daughter Sophie Tweed-Simmons, led the crowd in the singing of the National Anthem. Then, the crowd watched a video of Santa's plot to "bitch slap L.A." and Hanukkah Harry's plan to save it by forming his own derby army in "hot pants and tights".

The L.A. Ri-Ettes won the game but the road to victory was marked with rink rash, an oxygen tank and some help from the EMT's.

Santa's Little Helpers (SLH) wore red and had and elf-like look. This all-star team included derby girls from across the nation including San Diego Derby Dolls, Arizona Roller Derby, Lonestar Rollergirls and Gotham Girls in New York. For most of the SLH team, skating on a banked track was an unusual experience. L.A. Derby Dolls, on the other hand, skate a banked track all year long and have adapted to the slope and speed of the track. If the banked track had an impact on the visitor's performance, it wasn't obvious. In fact, Santa's Little Helpers came out strong and held the lead for the first 18 jams of the game. In the final quarter they reclaimed the lead and only met defeat as a result of the second-to-last jam. Visiting jammers Miss Fortune and Denise Lightning took to the the banked track like water to a running stream and gave L.A. Ri-Ettes star jammers Mila Minute and Kung Pow Tina a challenge to contend with.

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"I was challenged in every way, physically and mentally. I've never had to think so much in a game," said L.A. Ri-Ettes jammer Mila Minute. Between the cold weather and the intense physical push to make it through the pack, Mila needed a few breaths of oxygen to regain composure. "I was just out of breath and its harder for me to breathe in the colder air. It helps to get it to your muscles faster when you really need it."

The slope of a banked track makes blocking an entirely different experience as well. Although Santa's Little Helpers had their share of spills in the corner, they delivered some mean blocks throughout the game. A good number of those blocks were received by Ri-Ette jammer Kung Pow Tina. L.A. Ri-Ettes defensive squad, from the likes of Amber Alert, Broadzilla, Krissy Krash, Myna Threat and P.I.T.A., delivered their share of heavy hits as well.

"It was an amazing game. They had some excellent skaters and they did a great job adjusting to our track. It's always challenging to play girls you don't usually skate against. They had some strong blockers and it took some thinking and experimenting on my part to figure out the most effective way to drop them," said Krissy Krash. Krash "dropped" many players during the bout including Aunt Flo who could be seen on the infield icing her shoulder. Flo left the game with her arm in a sling.

This evenly matched bout had a combination of intense blocking and high-energy jams. Though Mila Minute was the lead jammer of the game and scored the most points for the L.A. Ri-Ettes, she did her damage in stealth mode, slithering through blockers like a snake through the grass. Kung Pow Tina on the other hand had dramatically memorable jams. Seven jams were skated without a representative from Santa's Little Helpers and Tina skated four of them. In perhaps the most dramatic jam of the evening, two skaters from Santa's Little Helpers sat in the penalty box while Kung Pow had the jam all to herself. She scored 10 points in that jam and put her team in the strongest lead of the first half of the game. In other jams it was as if she was the pinball being bounced against the blockers but could never quite make it past them to freedom and scoring opportunities. Finally, in a 5-point jam just after halftime, Kung Pow was able to squeeze through SLH skaters Smarty Pants and Ivanna Spanking with ease once they realized they were blocking her more than 20 feet ahead of the rest of the pack (in derby they call this the "20 foot rule" and those who break it get a penalty).

Santa's Little Helpers took the lead in scoring for a short period during the fourth quarter and tied the Ri-Ettes with just four jams left in the game. Ultimately, the Ri-Ettes reclaimed the lead in the second to the last jam when Mila Minute scored four points and broke the tie. Krash, who skated the last jam, added four more points to the Ri-Ettes score, and with the time on the clock exhausted, there was no chance for Santa's Little Helpers to make a comeback. Final score: L.A. Ri-Ettes 75, SLH 68. The L.A. Ri-Ettes will now enjoy a month off and roller derby in Los Angeles will reconvene on January 24, 2009 when the Fight Crew competes against the Tough Cookies.