Update On Oil City Roller Derby, Basic (Re)Introduction to the Sport

Edmonton has two different Roller Derby branches. We have Oil City Roller Derby (OCRD) – ” Edmonton area’s only mixed gender roller derby league” and E-Ville Roller Derby – “a proud member of the Canadian Women’s Roller Derby Association“.

By happenstance the couple of Roller Derby events I’ve attended have been hosted by OCRD. With so many of their members contributing to the three part series run on this site titled “tearing down the stigma surrounding Roller Derby“, I figured I would reach out and ask if there was any update regarding a return to play. 

There isn’t much of an update on our end yet. With the jump in cases over the last few months we aren’t going back to skating any time soon. That being said, we’re working to put together a return to play strategy so that when everything is under control we can go back to skating safely!

No surprise in their response. Honestly was just looking for a reason to talk about a sport that deserves more love than it receives.


On April 29, 2019 for my former site, I wrote a “Not-So-Technical-and-Still-Incomplete Guide To Watching Roller Derby”. Here are the main points from that article streamlining the sport in an effort to help folks understand a game that can be confusing for first timers.

Each team designates a “Jammer”; think of it as a quarterback in the shotgun position. The Jammer, who can change each jam (play) and within a jam (play), wears a star on their helmet for easy recognition.

Hockey has periods, football has quarters, roller derby has “jams”. During these two minutes of trying to accumulate points circling the track either Jammer can call it off early by putting their hands on their hips. The referees will then blow the whistle four (4) times to signify the end of that jam/period/quarter. The Jammers then hand off the star helmet to new players and we start all over again.

When a Jammer breaks through the pile, you will hear a whistle. When the Jammer for the other team breaks through the pile, you will hear another whistle. The respective refs who blow the whistle follow their respective Jammer around the circuit to judge if they stayed in-bounds and to keep track of the points they earned.

Strategies for scoring include:

  • “piggybacking” – a smaller Jammer following tightly behind a bigger blocker waiting for the opportunity to escape
  • tiptoeing the line to freedom
  • similar to a running back in football, they would attack the middle and shoot into any holes their blockers opened for them
  • passing the star cap forward to a teammate making them jammer and having them escape

Strategies for blocking:

  • The focus is body position to force the Jammer out of bounds. If not out of bounds, to keep the Jammer stuck in the pile of bodies.
  • Roller Derbiers are not allowed to use their hands to reach out and grab someone. Many times we saw three blockers on the same team hold each other’s hand to form a moving barricade.

Hopefully sometime sooner than later in 2021, Roller Derby returns to play so I can do a better job of explaining the sport to try to help attract more fans. Knowledge is power, power is experience. An evening watching Roller Derby is a powerful experience.

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