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Roller derby tournament brings hundreds of skaters to Scranton

Sarah Scinto
A jammer from Team Maryland Roller Derby fights their way through Team Connecticut Roller Derby's blockers at the Battle of the All-Stars tournament.

With a shout of “five seconds” followed by a whistle blast, Rachel Powers of Hamburg, Pennsylvania kicked off one of the first two bouts of the Battle of the All-Stars Roller Derby tournament.

“I yell five seconds when we get to 25 seconds at the lineup because at 30, we go,” she said.

She’s here to help run the tournament in Scranton where hundreds of skaters representing more than 20 states are battling it out on the track.

Previously held in Hatfield Pennsylvania, this weekend is the first Battle of the All-Stars tournament since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the full-contact sport of roller derby worldwide. It’s also the first time the tournament has been held in Scranton.

Board member and Pennsylvania All-Stars skater Amber Bosley, or Olive Havoc as she’s known on the track, said more than 600 skaters have descended upon Scranton for the tournament.

They’ve sold hundreds of spectator tickets in advance, and more people are buying passes at the door at the Riverfront Sport complex.

“While there are some tournaments starting to get underway, I don’t think anything compares to what we have going on here this weekend,” she said.

All-Star teams made up of skaters from 22 states are taking the track along with national groups Black Diaspora Roller Derby and Team Indigenous Rising Roller Derby.

Beth Flynn of Cleveland was warming up with Ohio All-Stars Roller Derby on Thursday morning, the first day of the tournament. At home, she skates as Aphrobitey with Burning River Roller Derby. This was her first Battle of the All-Stars tournament and one of her first chances to skate with Team Ohio.

“I joke that I tried out for Team Ohio because I love our jerseys so much,” she said. “It’s a really great honor to skate with amazing skaters from across not only my state, but then play against amazing skaters from across the country.”

Team ohio
Sarah Scinto
Members of Ohio All-Stars Roller Derby prepare to play in the Battle of the All-Stars tournament.

The teams at Battle of the All-Stars play under the rules of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, or WFTDA.

Flynn, in her “elevator pitch,” explained each team of skaters puts five players on the track for each two-minute “jam.” Four of those skaters are blockers, and one of them is the jammer.

“(The blockers') job is to play both offense and defense almost simultaneously, and the jammer’s job is to lap the opponents and score points,” she said. “You’re also trying to stop the opposing jammer so that they don’t score any points.”

Bosley thinks of the game as full-contact chess on wheels.

“It’s a great outlet…and it’s a very open community. Everyone feels welcome here,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for 12 years and I’m going to keep doing it for a while yet.”

The Battle of the All-Stars is on until Sunday, March 19 in Scranton.

Sarah Scinto is the local host of All Things Considered on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.