Derby FAQ

About the Sport

What is roller derby?
Roller derby is a full contact sport played by two teams of five players on quad roller-skates on an oval flat-track. Game play consists of a series of short matchups (“jams”) in which both teams designate a scoring player (the “jammer”) who gains points by lapping members of the opposing team. The non-scoring players (the “blockers”) attempt to assist their own jammer while hindering the opposing jammer — in effect playing both offence and defence simultaneously. Check out this Video: The Basics of Flat-Track Roller Derby on YouTube.

WFTDA has more information about flat track roller derby on their website.

Isn’t roller derby fake?
No, roller derby is a real sport with real contact. This is NOT pro-wrestling on skates. Our skaters train hard to learn how to make effective contact within the rules of the game (no elbowing, back blocking, grabbing, tripping, etc.); our skaters learn to give AND to take hard hits. We follow the rules set forth by our governing body the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and as a member league get voting rights when rule set changes are proposed. There is no pre-determined outcome nor staged antics or fake hits in modern flat-track roller derby.

Isn’t it just fighting on roller skates?
Definitely not! There are strict rules (check out the 40 page rule book at Legal blocks allow contact between players’ arms from shoulder to forearm, fronts’ from neck to waist, hips, and thighs. Blockers may also use their bodies to block other skaters. Illegal moves include grabbing, tripping, blocking from behind, elbows to the face and fighting.

Is there a derby season?
Due to the demanding nature of the sport, we practice all year round to maintain our fitness and skating skills. The roller derby public game season for Canadian teams typically runs somewhere between March and October. Our all-star teams travel to play games pretty much year round. The practice schedule changes frequently depending on location availability and the time of year.

Do all players score points?
No, only jammers can score points for their team. You can spot the jammer by the star they wear on their helmet. The other players are blockers and form the pack. They must help their jammer skate through the pack while trying to prevent the opposing jammer from doing the same. No points are scored during the initial pass through the pack because this is when the lead jammer is designated. Points are scored starting at the second pass through the pack. Each jammer scores one point whenever they legally passes an opposing blocker.

Why would the lead jammer want to stop the jam?
Being lead jammer means the player has a very important strategic control over the jam. The lead jammer will usually choose to stop the jam when they have scored points and the other jammer has scored none, or fewer, in order to finish the jam with more points than the opposing team.

What happens when both jammers are in the penalty box?
Scenario: Jammer A commits a major penalty and is issued a 30 second penalty. They go to the penalty box. During this minute, jammer B also gets penalty and must also go to the penalty box. When jammer B sits in the box, jammer A can immediately go back on track, even if they haven’t spent a full 30 seconds in the box. Jammer B will remain in the penalty box the same amount of time as jammer A, which will be less than 30 seconds.

Is there a maximum number of penalties a player can receive during a match?
Yes. When a player receives their 7th major penalty, they are expelled from the match.

What is the pivot’s role?
The pivot wears a stripe on their helmet. They are the only player who can replace the jammer to score points on the track. In a move that is called a Star Pass: the jammer will pass their helmet cover to the pivot who must promptly put it on their helmet to score points. The status of a lead jammer is not transferred.

What happened to the raised track?
Virtually every modern roller derby team (with the exception of a few in the U.S.) play on a flat track – as opposed to the banked tracks of old. Purchasing a banked track requires huge financial investment and a space in which to house it. Flat track derby can be played on a variety of surfaces both indoors and outside, including wood, sport court, and smooth concrete. The accessibility of various flat track spaces allows leagues to remain independent and maintain their skater-owned and operated ethic. The game is also more athletic and physical on a flat track. Skaters must use their own physical strength to gain speed and momentum, rather than allowing the track to assist them.

Why are there so many referees during a match?
The pace of a roller derby game is very quick, so we need a whole army of referees and officials. During a match, there are seven referees and 15 non-skating officials. All of the tasks must be executed simultaneously and very quickly. Inside the track, officials watch the pack and the jammers, track the penalties and manage the official time. Outside the track, officials also watch the pack and the jammers, keep track of and display the score and manage the penalty box.

About attending a Roller Derby Event as a Spectator

Is it appropriate for me to bring my child to a roller derby game?
Absolutely! Lots of children love roller derby. In fact, Ottawa has its own low-contact junior roller derby league (Ottawa Junior Roller Derby). As spectators the kids seem to love the speed and the action. As well, roller skates are often a sort of novelty for children. Children often comment on our quad roller skates when we are out in public!
Our derby games are appropriate for all ages, and we strive to make the events as family friendly as possible. Kids 10 and under are always admitted free to our games (limit 2 per adult, please).
Arenas can get pretty loud for a children under the age of 3, so some of our skaters who bring their own children protect their wee one’s ears with earplugs or noise protection headphones. The only other concern for children is that the action on the track can sometimes spill out into or close to the crowd, so children shouldn’t sit in areas that are up close and personal with the track.
We occasionally offer a children’s area at all of our games, so kids can find toys and games to keep them occupied while you focus on the action.

Where can I get tickets?
Tickets are available online at a discount through or at the door on the day of the game. Check this website or our Facebook for the link to purchase advanced tickets for each event. We also sell VIP season passes every year, which gets you into each game for a deeper discount among other bonuses.

When are the games?
We currently have no games scheduled as we are in a rebuilding phase after over two years off skates do the the covid-19 pandemic. Stay tuned for updates!

Why don’t you play all year round?
Our home games require a hockey arena without the ice, which is a rarity in a great hockey town like Ottawa. So our big events in town have to wait till the ice has been cleared from city arenas, normally sometime in the late spring. If you know of a space that big with no ice, please share it with us at
While we don’t hold public events in the fall, winter or early spring, our league is constantly training and building players year round. Our All-Star teams also travel nearly year round. Other countries just don’t have the hockey commitment that we do, eh? 😉

How long does a derby game last?
A flat-track roller derby game typically takes between an hour and a half and 2 hours, depending on the length of the half-time and the amount of penalties and time-outs. A double header event can last over 4 hours.

Yeah, but how does it work? How do you win?

Roller Derby is a full-contact sport involving:

  • Competitive, full-contact roller skating
  • Four-wheeled skates (also known as quad skates)
  • An oval track
  • Counterclockwise gameplay.

Two teams field 4 blockers and 1 jammer (the points scorer) each. When the whistle blows, the pack AND the jammers blast off, with the jammers trying to fight their way through both team of players in an attempt to become “lead jammer.” The jammers then try to lap the pack over and over again. Each time they do, they get one point for every member of the opposing team that they pass. This two-minute contest is called a jam, and 30-minutes worth of jams make up a half.

Part of what makes roller derby so competitive is that both teams can score points during the jam, but the “lead jammer” can force the jam to end before the two minutes are up. The team with the most points at the end of two 30-minute periods is the winner.

The game is highly regulated: 7 referees and a dozen non-skating officials tracking everything that’s going on. The rules are quite strict, but the action is all real. Penalties are a common occurrence.

About becoming a Member of OVRD as a skater

What are the eligibility requirements for the Roller Derby 101 program at OVRD?
We accept men and women 18+ to our Roller Derby 101 program. Graduates are invited to join us as a player. There is no age limit, we have skaters 18 – 50 years old currently active in our league and we have seen a few skaters play derby into their mid 50s. If you are currently under 18 you can participate in the Ottawa Junior Roller Derby program.

What equipment do I need to get started?
Besides quad roller skates, you are required to wear a multiple impact helmet (hockey helmets are perfect), elbow and kneepads, and wrist guards at all times on skates. A mouth guard is required for most drills and scrimmaging. We do offer temporary gear rentals for those who don’t have their own.

How much does the equipment cost?
Start-up costs can vary depending on the quality of the skates and equipment you purchase. For instance, skates range anywhere from $100 to upwards of $700. There are several great online resellers and dealers of quad roller skates and roller derby equipment listed in the “Required Gear and Equipment Resources” section of this package.

What happens at Roller Derby 101 practice?
At a Roller Derby 101 practice you will learn the basic of roller skating as well as of roller derby. You will learn how to skate, stop, and fall safely. You will develop the skills necessary to be a safe and confident skater be it on or off the track! In addition to learning new skills, you will get to meet our enthusiastic coaching staff and make new friends in a supportive and inclusive environment!

Do I have to know how to roller skate?
No. We will teach you how to roller skate. We all have members of all different skill levels, but, with lots of practice and hard work, almost anyone can become an awesome skater.

Do I have to be a certain size to play?
Absolutely not! On the track there are advantages to being big or small, short or tall. Our league has a variety of body types, as do most other leagues.

What if I get hurt?
We try to do everything possible (strength training, lots of practice and communication) to minimize injuries, but be prepared to get hurt occasionally. Sprains, strains, pulled muscles and fractures are just a part of a roller derby player’s life. If you get injured it is important to report the injury to the training co-ordinators immediately. OVRD has secured insurance for its members and for the new skaters. In order to take advantage of its benefits, prompt reporting is essential. Once a league member, injuries are reported to members of the insurance committee. With the exception of head injuries, it is at the discretion of the coaches and your captains to request a doctor’s note before you return to the track. Any injury to the head, however, requires clearance from a doctor. We try very hard to prevent skaters from further injuring themselves and others at practice. Please listen to your body and be honest with yourself and with your coaches if you are injured.

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