Photo by Rob Thorn
By Meg O’Neil
Get ready for the most aggressive sport on eight wheels. For the first time in the Providence Roller Derby league’s history, an exhibition match will take place at the Newport Yachting Center between Newport’s Old Money Honeys and the Rocky Point Rollers on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m.
Roller derbies began in the 1930s, but the past decade has seen a resurgence of the hard-hitting sport, with over 1,200 leagues popping up around the world.
Founded in 2004, Providence Roller Derby was the first all-female league in New England, and the Newport Old Money Honeys have played an integral role in the development of the sport since the team was founded in 2006.
Today, the Providence Roller Derby league features three teams that compete against each other throughout the season, and two travel teams that play against other New England leagues.
Newport This Week spoke with Jaki “Small Wonder” Gaudet, who joined the Old Money Honeys nearly three years ago. Gaudet’s derby nickname is an allusion to the title of a short-lived 80s TV show about a young girl with robot super powers. “Mine’s actually a nickname I already had,” she says. “I’m tiny, but I’m also able to multi-task beyond what other people can do.”
Each player on the team creates a unique pseudonym using satirical, mock-violent, or pop cultural references, with the names creating a sort of alter ego for the women. Team members on, the Old Money Honeys include Cindy Lou Screw, Shelby Bruisin’, and Sass E. McNasty.
True to form, the Old Money Honeys have a team crest, replete with laurel and crown. Their motto, “Daddy’s money and Mummy’s attitude,” pokes fun at the city's reputation as a Gilded Age capital.
The team name is a creation of a former player, Dolly Rocket, who now skates for the number one roller derby team in the nation: Charm City, based in Baltimore, Md.
Gaudet says, “We wanted Newport, one of the most fabulous cities in Rhode Island, to have its own team, and it just seemed fitting to play up a riches theme, thus the Old Money Honeys were born. Our ladies wear pearls while they skate, white tennis skirts and argyle socks. We’re a very ‘classy’ bunch.”
When it comes to game play, there’s no ball in the sport. Instead, with 10 girls on the rink at a time - five from each team - the goal is for each team’s four “blockers" to help their team’s remaining player, known as the “jammer,” skate around the rink as many times as possible in the game’s two halves, accumulating points every time she successfully passes members of the opposing team.
It may sound relatively easy, but it’s a sport that is not for the faint of heart, with aggressive shoving, bumps, and falls that create high-impact, high-speed matches, officially known as “bouts.”
The derby debuts at the Yachting Center on Sunday, and Gaudet says that anyone who walks in through the gates should enjoy it.
“Most people are pleasantly surprised,” she says. “I don’t think a lot of people are expecting quite the production that they’re getting to see. We have two really colorful announcers who explain all the rules and provide a play-by-play. There’s always a halftime show, and it’s meant to be totally friendly and fun.”
The derby is open for all ages to attend and especially welcomes fans of sports and athleticism. Gaudet says: “The girls can get a little wild, but it’s family fun entertainment, and it’s not fake. It’s not staged and set up - unlike the days of the 70s and 80s roller derby and not like wrestling you see on TV. All the girls are real athletes, and we’re skating really hard. The crowd can expect to see some fast skating, and solid falls with girls being sent to penalty boxes. The kids love it ,and if you like sports, you’ll be entertained.”
The league is a non-profit organization that is open to any woman interested in joining, according to Gaudet. “We have women as young as 20 and up to age 55,” she says. “It’s an eclectic group. We’ve got big women, small women; from tattoo artists to doctors, and teachers. It’s really important to us that women know that any one of them can join this league.”
For more information on the Providence Roller Derby league,