The Northwoods Derby Knockouts will celebrate their one-year anniversary Aug. 10 by hosting the River Valley Roller Girls at the Rhinelander Ice Arena.
This is the second home bout this season and the third bout overall for the Knockouts who were founded last year and began competing this season.
“We are still a young team and are working on getting our numbers up so we don’t have to rely on other teams for players,” captain Amber Krouze said. “We have come a long way in one year though. We had girls last year that couldn’t stand up on skates. This year they are stopping, skating backwards, turning around. So it is pretty exciting.”
The Knockouts have participated in two bouts this season and several scrimmages since getting together as a group last summer. Players have come and gone in that time as well.
“As expected with a new sport and a new team, we have had a quite a bit of turnover,” Krouze said. “We had some girls move away, others decided the sport just wasn’t for them. But we have good group of girls on our team and we have a lot of fun.”
Krouze, who also skates with the River Valley Roller Girls and a team out of Michigan from time to time, said what attracts her to the sport is the exercise and the camaraderie of team.
“We have a great time,” she said. “It is one of those things where you can get your exercise, it is your anger management and you can socialize. We always say if you had a good day come to practice and hit someone, if you had a bad day, come to practice and hit someone. It gets your aggressions out.”
And that is what roller derby is all about, big hits on a short track. Krouze likens the sport to football on wheels.
“When someone asks why they should come and watch and I tell this to guys a lot, if you like football, you will like roller derby,” she said. “Football is guys in tights hitting each other. Roller derby is girls in tights hitting each other. Why wouldn’t you want to watch that?”
The next opportunity to watch Krouze and her team in action will be the Aug. 10 bout with River Valley which begins at 6 p.m. with the doors opening at 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for kids and can be purchased in advance at Trigs or from a team member. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $10 for adults with kids tickets still $5. A $1 from every ticket purchased at the door will go to support Ministry Home Hospice.
While Krouze said the bout will promise intense action, it is also a learning experience.
“Before the bout, we explain to the crowd the scoring and we go through a little mock bout,” she said. “If you are watching a sport and you don’t understand it, it won’t be as much fun. So we have an announcer who will announce the match just like you were watching it on television.”
The Knockouts will host another match in the area in September as they will compete at the Eagle River Ice Arena. Krouze said she hopes the team can be at full strength for next season and participate in a full schedule.
“We want to get to the point where we have a full team and can compete regularly,” she said.
That constitutes a bout once a month with practices twice a week.
Krouze said being on the team is a time commitment but worth the effort.
“No one on this team gets paid to do roller derby,” she said. “We all have jobs. So we know it is a commitment. But we have a lot of fun and I have made a lot of friends in this sport.”