EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


August 27, 2009

The women of Skate Free or Die prepare for final match

When 35-year-old Amy Lopez heads out for a night with the girls, odds are she isn't driving to the nearest Starbucks for a venti latte and some juicy gossip. Instead, you'll find her sporting roller skates, fishnet stockings and colorful knee socks — and knocking her friends to the floor of a concrete skating rink.

Lopez, a full time art teacher at Lawrence's Parthum Elementary School, is a veteran of New Hampshire Roller Derby (NHRD, also known as Skate Free or Die) — an organization that got rolling in 2007 and is now 50-plus members strong.

Saturday, NHRD wraps up an undefeated 2009 home season with a bout against the Garden State Rollergirls of New Jersey.

"I came home one day and the newspaper was on my doorstep, and I saw that New Hampshire was starting a league and were doing open skates at Roller Kingdom (a rink in Tyngsboro)," said Lopez of her initiation. "I went to the next open skate and introduced myself and that was that."

Though some friends and family members thought she was joking when she first told them of her new hard-hitting activity, two years later Lopez spends between eight and 18 hours a week practicing and competing with her friends and teammates.

"You immediately have 50 friends you'd never thought you'd have, and they're like family," Lopez said. "Everybody's background is different but you have this one thing in common."

The "girls" of Skate Free or Die range in age from 20-somethings to 40-somethings and hail from Nashua, Salem, Manchester, Lowell, and other cities and towns in Southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.

There are mothers, engineers, college students, social workers, nurses, and yes, art teachers. And while they may look and act the part of their respective roles by day, they take on a whole new persona when it's time to skate. Business attire makes way for helmets and knee pads, and names like Mary and Sue are traded for derby names such as Ivanna B. Vicious and May B. Knotty.

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