MedCity Roller Derby back for first game since 2019: 'I get goosebumps just thinking about it'
"Being a part of this team has been the greatest thing,” Pirate said. “They're a huge support system. They’re a second family. I just love being a part of it.”
ROCHESTER — Tamara Tomfohrde — maybe better known as Pirate Queen — started playing roller derby 11 years ago, after hearing about the MedCity Roller Derby team from her mom, aka Mama Pirate.
The team was new, and it attempted to recruit players from a Craigslist advertisement. Mama Pirate’s friend and coworker was a founder of the team, and she wanted to know if one of Mama Pirate’s daughters would like to play.
And Pirate, who had never played a contact sport before, signed up.
“Playing roller derby is like out of left field for me,” she said. “When I started, even now, people are like, ‘You play roller derby? What now?’”
But, at 35, Pirate isn’t giving up the skates. She and her derby team laced up their skates Saturday night, March 18, for their first game since 2019.
Roller derby, for many people, is the widely popular sport from the 1970s and 80s where people skated around a bank track and got hit over the rail and clotheslined constantly. But Pirate says roller derby isn’t the sport your grandma played anymore — it’s grown up since then, though it's still a full-contact sport.
MedCity Roller Derby plays on a flat track. Only quad skates are used, and everybody wears them, including referees.
“Each team puts out four blockers and a jammer, so there's 10 people on the track at a time,” Pirate said. “The object is for the jammer, who has the star on their helmet, is to fight their way through the pack of skaters while the pack is moving around the track. On her second pass, she scores points for every opposing blocker she passes.”
The fun of playing roller derby keeps Pirate and her teammates keep coming back, but it’s not the main reason.
“Really, just being a part of this team has been the greatest thing,” Pirate said. “They're a huge support system. They’re a second family. I just love being a part of it.”
Cat Thisius, or The Mad Catter, agrees. Sure, the exercise is nice, but she “wouldn't have met half of the people that I've come in contact with if it wasn't for derby,” she said.
The diverse, inclusive community has had such an impact on The Mad Catter that she’s stuck around roller derby since 2013, even after a breast cancer diagnosis. Derby is what helped Pirate through after the passing of Mama Pirate five years ago.
“This sense of community … I mean, this is my extended family,” The Mad Catter said. “We’ve all gone through some dark times in our lives, and derby seems to be the common denominator that has helped us through.”
Pirate and The Mad Catter are always excited to introduce people to roller derby, and the thrill of Saturday’s game and the chance to play in front of fans was clear on their faces.
“There's just something about having people in the stands cheering you on,” The Mad Catter said. “It's an amazing feeling.”
“The extra energy that having fans there brings is phenomenal,” Pirate added. “It can change the game.”
“I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” The Mad Catter said.