With Flat Track Fever, Alberta’s largest Roller Derby tournament rapidly approaching (in 4 days!!!), many potential derby fans may be wondering what kind of rules govern this crazy alternative sport where women (and men, and kids) skate around a track for 30-60 minutes at a time. Don’t worry! Enlightenment awaits!
According to Wikipedia, the original rules for this fast-paced, very physical sport were designed in the late ’30s. The evolution of roller derby, which for most of its history has been classified as Sports Entertainment, into legitimate sport, is only as recent as 2007. Though, somewhat surprisingly, the basic rules to score points have not changed much.
Two teams skate on an oval track, in a series of jams (periods of play lasting two minutes or less). Five players from each team are on the track during the jam; four blockers (including the lead blocker, called the Pivot – she’s easy to spot because of the big stripe on her helmet cover),
and the Jammer (also easy to keep track of – she has two stars on her helmet cover).
The group of blockers is called the Pack.
To score points, the Jammers must skate through the pack and around the track to pass through the pack again, when they can score points. On this second pass, and on each pass after that for the length of the Jam, the Jammers score a point for each time they legally pass the hips of an active player on the opposite team. The first Jammer to make it through the pack on the initial pass has Lead status (a ref will be pointing at her), and this Jammer can call the Jam off at any time by touching her hands to her own hips three times in a row.
Simple enough, right? So then, if only the Jammer can score points, and her job is to get through the pack, the job of the blockers is to help their Jammer get through the pack. Oh, and also to stop the opposite team’s jammer from getting through the pack.
This is where the fit hits the shan, if you know what I mean! Hip checks, shoulder checks, booty blocks, pushing one of your own players into a player from the opposite team; these are all legal plays used by blockers (and jammers too) to make or close holes in the pack. Head butting, clotheslining, elbowing, tripping, and hitting someone between the shoulder blades are penalized by a one minute stint in the box, or, if they think you are really trying to hurt someone, by expulsion from the bout.
Now that you know the basics, when you come down to the Olympic Oval this weekend, you’ll know what to watch for. If you’re just coming for the fishnets and beer, well, we may just surprise you with just how much fun you can have when we have our skates on…