‘Jammers’ and ‘blockers’ skate into JCC with Steel City Roller Derby
SportsEvent to be held July 23

‘Jammers’ and ‘blockers’ skate into JCC with Steel City Roller Derby

Steel City Roller Derby team members will be available to teach skaters their signature moves.

Steel City Roller Derby (Photo by Ray Durkin)
Steel City Roller Derby (Photo by Ray Durkin)

Jamie Fargo was just three years out of Pitt’s law school, practicing in her mid-20s as an associate attorney for the Pittsburgh firm Anstandig, McDyer and Yurcon, P.C., when she took a leap — refining her athleticism and leadership skills by joining the then-newly formed Steel City Roller Derby.

Fargo even took on a new identity, adopting the faux-evil nom-de-guerre Ally McKill, a play on the lead attorney from the TV series “Ally McBeal.”

“The vibe was definitely different — I think it had this sort of punk rock aesthetic,” said Fargo, now senior counsel for PNC Bank, a Mt. Lebanon resident and the last remaining founding member of the league still active in games. “I think there’s still elements of that. But, over time, it became more and more athletic.”

Fargo, who is not Jewish, will be among a pack of women to trek to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill on July 23 for a special roller derby exhibition game and free skate event.

The game will take place in the JCC’s Kaufmann Gym from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with the free skate to follow. More than 100 people already have registered, according to the JCC.

The event is free to attend. The only thing that requires payment is a skate rental, for those who need one.

JCC sales director Elie Golin — who grew up in Squirrel Hill and attended Community Day School — is looking to shake up things in his native neighborhood.

In December, Golin helped organize a JCC event at the Schenley Park ice rink; more than 220 people attended.

“This year,” Golin laughed, “I decided to up the ante.”

During the free skate portion of the July 23 event, Steel City Roller Derby team members will be available to teach skaters their signature moves, Golin said. There will be a food truck outside, and free Rita’s ices inside.

“This just came to me, thinking of different fun things we can do for every age range,” said Golin, whose father, Jordan Golin, leads Jewish Family and Community Services in Squirrel Hill. “We want to show there’s literally something for everybody at the JCC.”

There are a variety of roles on the local roller derby league’s A team, dubbed “Steel Hurtin’,” Fargo said.

Each of the two competing teams has up to four “blockers” and two “jammers,” Fargo explained. A game-day line-up is 15 players deep.

Every time a jammer from one team manages to skate past the pack of the other team’s blockers, they get a point, Fargo said. The team with the most points wins.

Fargo is usually a blocker — or a “pivot,” someone who can switch between roles through possession of a helmet.

At a Steel Hurtin’ home game at the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena back in June, though, Fargo appeared as a jammer. She got a kick out of throwing a monkey wrench into the game’s plans.

“I think our coaches like to see that,” she laughed. “Throw something at the other team they don’t expect.”

The roller derby league’s season runs from March through August or September, Fargo said. For the first 10 years of the league’s existence, the Pittsburgh teams — Steel Hurtin’ and its B team, Steel Beamers — played at a now-closed rink in Glenshaw. They now play at PISA in Cheswick.

Fargo and others travel with the team to compete outside Pennsylvania, too. Their last game this season will take place in September in Colorado. The team also played at a tournament in the United Kingdom, she said.

“It’s really given me the opportunity to develop leadership skills — we have to do this all ourselves,” Fargo said.

“There’s a lot of things that keep me coming back,” she added. “As long as I’m still having fun, I’m going to keep doing it.”

To register for the event, go to jccpgh.formstack.com/forms/jcc_steelcityskate_2023. PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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