Rockin’ Rollers: Roller derby celebrates strength


The Windy City Rollers is one of the top roller derby teams in Chicago. In roller derby, five players from a team attempt to make one player (the “jammer”) pass the opposing team’s jammer as many times as possible as they skate around the rink.

Bork Bork Bork, Killanois, Maulicious and Kidney Lauper may seem like vaguely familiar ‘90s punk bands, but these women don’t scream from the stage. Instead, they rock the rink as members of the Windy City Rollers, a top roller derby team based in Chicago.

“It’s having a tribe of women that have your back no matter what,” Sylvia Hutchinson, skater, said, describing what it’s like to be on a team. 

Each game of roller derby is played on a roller rink with skaters circling around the track the entire time. Five players from each team are on the rink at a time, four blockers and a jammer. The jammers need to get around the rink, passing opposing players as many times as possible. The blockers help the jammers get around the rink by fending off the blockers from the opposing team. 

It’s having a tribe of women that have your back no matter what,

— Sylvia Hutchinson, skater

At its core, roller derby is about owning your space, celebrating physicality and aggression that is rarely encouraged or seen in young women. With that comes the risk of potential injuries, and any potential skater is bound to get knocked around.

Stella Heon, junior, skated on a roller derby team a year ago but found it too violent to continue.

“You have to get people out of your way, and if they get injured, that’s not your problem,” Stella said. 

Every roller derby skater has their own derby name, which typically tells opponents how aggressive they are. Stella’s teammates called her “Taming the Shrew” after how timid she was. 

Before each game, the announcer introduces the players and reads aloud their descriptions as the skaters go around the rink showing off their outfits. Fish-net stockings, lingerie, make-up, and superhero costumes are all go-tos for derby players. 

“Welcome Big Papa to the floor! She’ll put you out of your misery,” the announcer read. 

During the season, which starts later this spring, roller derby games happen almost every weekend around the Chicago area. The Fleetwood Skating Rink, located just west of Midway Airport, hosts derby games for $5 admission.

Sports and competition aside, “it’s women being empowered,” Erin Guinmor, skater, said

And it’s hard not to be after seeing these women skate — and rock.