These ladies on roller skates dare you to tell them they “hit like girls.” Welcome to roller derby in the 518. Photo by Ali Hibbs / TheSpot518
ALBANY — Capping a triumphant ninth season, the Albany All Stars Roller Derby team will play its final game this coming Saturday, June 4, at the Times Union Center in Albany. The season-ending game will pit the All-Stars against the Hellions of Troy in a long-awaited grudge match.
The Albany All Stars was founded in 2006, when a player who goes by the name Dottie Damage put out a call on MySpace recruiting players. “I received a random MySpace message that said something to the tune of ‘You look like a badass, why don’t you try roller derby,’” said Karen Riley, a long-time member of the All Stars known as Sin & Tonic. “At the time there were only a half dozen girls. We met at Guptill’s for practices a couple of times a week, and within the next twelve months we had secured private practice space and organized our very first bout.
“We skated two home teams,” Riley recalled. “The Department of Public Hurts versus the Skate-O-Masochists, We played in the Northern Lights parking lot in the dead of summer in August 2007; it had to be 95 degrees that day, our skaters walked away with literal road rash from taking falls on pavement.”
Riley no longer skates due to a knee injury; now she coaches the team from the bench. “So many skaters come and go,” she said, “but I can’t seem to walk away. Roller derby is a huge time commitment and it’s very demanding physically. It’s just been such a huge part of my life for the past ten years that I really don’t know what I would do without it.”
Team members say that there’s a place for everyone to get involved. Not a skater? You’re welcome to help with promotion or fund-raising activities. Skaters who prefer not to compete are welcome to sign up to officiate. Games, or bouts, require seven referees who skate around the outside of the track, keeping track of the scoring skater and monitoring specific sections of track to be sure that skaters are adhering to the rules of the game and penalizing those who don’t. Each bout is composed of a series of “jams,” in which two of five players are given special designations: jammer and pivot. The jammer, identified by a star worn on the helmet, scores points for their team, after rounding the track once, every time they pass a skater on the opposing team. The pivot, identified by a stripe worn on the helmet, is the team leader and the only skater who can take over the jammer position during a jam. The remaining three players are called blockers and it is their job to prevent the other team’s jammer from rounding the track and scoring points. The first jammer to round the track without incurring any penalties becomes the “lead jammer” and is then able to end the jam early (by repeatedly touching their hips), thus preventing the other team from scoring.
“Roller derby is unique in that you have both teams playing offense and defense at the same time,” said Riley. “You don’t often see that. Team members are trying to help their teammate get through the pack and score, while, at the same time, they’re trying to prevent the other team’s jammer from scoring.”
During the 2016 home season, the Albany All Stars, or the “B” team, the Albany Brawl Stars have won seven of the eight games that they’ve played at The Armory in Albany. The first game of the season, on January 9, the Brawl Stars beat the Southshire Battle Cats by more than 200 points. The most recent Brawl Stars victory took place on May 14 and was preceded by a men’s bout between Albany’s Capital District Trauma Authority and the Toronto Outrage — the first co-ed, international bout played here in the Capital District. The Trauma Authority beat their Canadian counterparts 190-153, then the Brawl Stars schooled the Ladies’ Death and Derby TitleTown Knockouts with a final score of 239-134.
Since 2006, thousands of derby tickets have been sold, and thousands of dollars have been donated to local charities. Albany’s derby girls have donated more than $2,000 this season alone, to organizations such as: Food Not Bombs; Orange Street Cats, Girl Talk Inc.; Capital District Humane Association; Camp Belong, and others. At the bout on June 4, the team will be selling rainbow tanks and tees to benefit The Pride Center of the Capital Region.
That bout, which will be the final game of the season will take place at the Times Union Center and will be the first time the All Stars will face off against the Hellions of Troy, a splinter team that formed around eight years ago. Currently, the teams are separated in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) rankings by only eight leagues—making this a grudge match not to miss. There will be live music by Diva and the Dirty Boys, a raffle and other activities. General admission to the event is $15 and the doors open at 6 p.m., an hour before the first bout will begin. The first 200 people through the door will receive a free pair of All Star shades, and a portion of the proceeds on Saturday will go to benefit the Food Pantries for the Capital District.