Roller derby packs the Carlson Center

The Fairbanks Rollergirls on the bench during a break. Photo by Nina Schwinghammer/The Sun Star

By Nina Schwinghammer
Sun Star Contributor

Disco fans, pay attention. There’s a new sport in town. It combines speed, skating, and wild campy costumes. Roller derby reincarnates those relics of the 1970’s- the roller skate, bell-bottoms, Afros. The sport of roller derby is making a comeback and the comeback has come to Fairbanks.

The Carlson center was packed for the first roller derby game Saturday night between the Fairbanks Rollergirls and the Vancouver Faster Pussycats.

Roller derby is a female dominated sport, popular with women who are independent and tough.

Although everyone wears a matching jersey, players can wear anything at their own discretion below the belt. Each player chooses a nickname, which is her official sport name. Names such as Mug Shot, Pyroclastic Flo and Bad Lady give you an idea of the players’ intent. Players vary in age from 21 years old to women over 50. The group ranges from stay-at-home moms to students.

The game begins with the players from both teams at a starting line in a ringed track that is specially designed for the sport. Each team has a single player designated the ‘jammer.’ It is the jammer’s job to make her way to the head of the pack through the other team’s players, who are all trying to block her. If she makes it through, she scores points for her team. Referees and judges stand within the inner circle in order to watch the game’s progress and make sure things don’t get out of hand.

One of the league’s leading jammers is UAF student Erika Rader aka “Pyroclastic Flo.” Rader studies Volcanology.

According to the team president Michelle Maynor, Rader scored many of the match points for the Rollergirls. “She was named the Goldstar Liquor player of last night’s game, and she scored most of the points. She’s a fantastic jammer, and a fantastic all around player.” Rader also plays on a women’s hockey team.

The Fairbanks team has been active for the last two years recruiting new players with or without experience. “ We don’t have anybody on our team who had previous experience before they joined.” Said Maynor. “There’s a lot of really strong women in this town looking for something that’s unique. We all love derbying, and we are all very independent.”

The lack of experience has not dampened the enthusiasm, from the players or the fans. The Carlson center had a crowd as big as most hockey games.

The team doesn’t have an official coach, much of the training is team led. “The Fairbanks Rollergirls are amazing because they do it all on their own, and they’ve come a long way in a short time.” said Norman Pendergraft, who’s referee name is “Norman the Constable”.

Last weekend’s game was one of four home games. The final score was 81-104, with the Faster Pussycats on the winning side.

“The girls did really well, we were seriously down the first half of the game and then they came back and rocked it,” said Maynor.

The next game will be Sat. March 6 in Anchorage against Rage City, Anchorage’s team.

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