Athletes ‘take care of each other on the track’
“It gets compared to wrestling a lot, and the roller derby people watched on TV in the 1970s,” Hughes said. “But it’s so different now. There were no rules back then, and they didn’t even wear helmets. It’s a more strategic game than ever before.”
The league teaches the rules during games and volunteer ushers help explain the intricacies. Furies cocoach Crystal Muzacz (Bricks Hit-House) said an understanding of the sport has greatly increased in Buffalo, and so has its level of respect.
“It is not staged, and we’re not trying to murder each other,” she said. “We work hard and we train so that we don’t hurt each other. We take care of our bodies, and take care of each other on the track.”
There is no doubting the physicality of the sport, though. Furies blocker Lauren Tingco (Chickadeemolish) said toughness is essential. “You have to be able to take a hit, and that’s not easy to do,” she said. “There are a lot of injuries; you get beat up.”
However, Muzacz said, “it’s not all about the giant hits. When they happen, they look cool. But it’s not just about that. It’s also about protecting each other.”
Tingco said she is constantly struck by the diversity of QCRG athletes – the size differences, the disparate life experiences, the range of careers. In fact, she said she doesn’t know everyone’s “human names – I only know their derby names.” But all are united by a love of the sport, and a respect for each other as athletes.
Lauren Pszonak, QCRG’s head of public relations and a referee (Kylau Ren), said one element that makes the league so special is its inclusivity. “It is such a close community. And we accept all skaters equally – trans, gender nonconforming, queer. There is so much trust that you’ll always be accepted.”
Hughes calls it a “oneleague,