“Killing the Power Play”

My solution to the patient offense



When I tried the modern game of roller derby I felt like I was one of those lucky people who win the lottery. I thought I was done with high level competition and then I give this game a try and I was hooked all over again. It is with that sense of “love” that I bring up my main problem with this game. Although many flaws can be found in almost all facets of life, modern roller derby had one very big problem that most people who play the game agree on and that is that the “sausage” or “patient offense”. Most of us feel it is bad for game play and bad for spectators. It actually only manifests itself in another sketchy part of the sport which is the power play. Many people feel like penalties (especially jammer penalties) control too much of the outcome. In my opinion, we could take out both problems with one easy (mainly borrowed) solution.


Although many people know me for my speed skating background (I had a good run), I also spent a fair bit of my life playing hockey. It is from this hockey background that my solution begins. Ice hockey has a penalty on the books called icing:

Icing is an infraction in the sport of ice hockey. It occurs when a player shoots the puck across at least two red lines, the opposing team’s goal line being the last, and the puck remains untouched.


Icing did not begin with the advent of the sport….instead it came to be because of teams who were using the rules in order to defeat an opponent:

The icing rule was passed in September 1937 by the National Hockey League (NHL). It was done to eliminate a common delaying tactic used by teams to protect a winning margin. A November 18, 1931 game is cited as one extreme example that led to the ban on the practice. The New York Americans, protecting a 3-2 lead over the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden, iced the puck over 50 times. The crowd became incensed and threw debris onto the ice, causing a delay while the teams were sent to their dressing rooms.


The original rules of the game allowed for such tactics so the league had to step in to make the game more competitive and fan friendly. At this point you may sense some similarities to our sports but here is where it really gets interesting. A team is allowed to commit icing if they are trying to kill a penalty (playing short handed):

A major exception is when a team is shorthanded. A team trying to kill a penalty may legally “ice the puck”.


This is it! A major sport has already defined how we can fix our sport to be more competitive and fan friendly (while at the same time easy to officiate and understand).


I was not playing the sport in its early resurgence when runaway packs were prevalent and players were angry. I also have not played by the new USA Roller Sports rules which allow for the pack to be defined as front when needed. Having said that, I have talked to many players who have given me their thoughts on the pros and cons of this type of game play. My suggestion is that we play by the current rules for normal game play as I feel as long as both teams have a jammer than both have to play offense and defense. The rules instantly change (like the icing call) as soon as one team or the other loses their jammer.1) At the point that only one jammer is on the track, and 2) when pack can not be defined (neither front, back or here) 3) then the pack should be defined as front.


That is it. One simple tweak to the rules and we have gotten rid of the problems with the patient offense which are largely found on the power play. Can the team with the jammer advantage still keep the game slow? Sure, just capture a goat. Will it be harder to have the game be defined by penalties? Sure, power plays should not consist of 20-40 point turns anymore so the games can be decided mostly even strength. Think about how it would change the game. You may not have your best line for the power play or kill when the penalty happens so every player will have to know how to execute. Then when a team gets to start on the power play you know both teams will have pivots and they will be starting way up on the pivot line. The amount of speed and contact early would be insane and we would see a specific kind of athlete emerge on both offense and defense.


So in conclusion, we took an idea that really may not make everyone happy for the full game play but it could be the perfect remedy for certain problems and we use a major pro sports example of implementing it for only relevant times of the game. Let me know your thoughts and please shoot holes in it….I still love the game but I know the power play is ugly to the spectators and too much of a game decider to the players.


Tony Muse


Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby

[Icing info source: Wikipedia]

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  • I’ve heard this solution among others, and I love the simplicity of it. However, I do remember the days when packs could run away, and that was just as bad as “patient offense.” Instead of the offensive team “standing around doing nothing,” the defending team would “run away.” It essentially gave the defenders an advantage, which people thought unfair, since their jammer had committed the infraction in the first place. You could try to “capture a goat,” but it’s difficult. I think this would really just turn the problem around on its head and create another problem of runaway packs, unfortunately.

  • I like that, I also had thought about an idea that was borrowed from hockey in that as soon as x (say 5 or 10 or whatever) number of points were scored, the penalized jammer could come out of the box. The score wouldn’t get too out of hand.

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