Founded in 2007, The Chicago Outfit set up shop when a group of women --later known as Charlenne in Charge and Althea N. Hell-- joined forces. It was during the years when the Windy City Rollers were holding their bouts just outside Chicago proper in Cicero, IL, that The Outfit began holding open skating sessions.
The Outfit, whose home season opens in April, is a flat-track roller derby club that had last season just over fifty skaters. The club makes up three travel teams known as "The Syndicate", "The Shade Brigade" and the "Shakedown". The Syndicate aka 'Syn' are The Outfit's "A" travel team and compete nationally against all-star teams from other cities.
"As Chicago's Derby Little Secret, we have a unique take on roller derby," says Sylvia Plaster, The Outfit's press consigliere. "Plus, as our name suggests, we really are a Chicago family."
In keeping with their "mob" theme and mentality, maybe, The Outfit calls their statisticians "the bookies" and referees and officials "the untouchables". Labels and crime family hierarchy aside, The Outfit pack a punch at close range for fans who can't get enough.
Certainly the league's star is on the rise. For 2012 The Outfit has rolled out a schedule of out-of-town gigs to compliment the half-dozen home bouts scheduled at the Windy City Fieldhouse along with road trip competitions against Cincinnati, Brew City (Milwaukee), Grand Raggity (Grand Rapids), Houston, and Black 'n' Bluegrass in Kentucky. All in all, 12 away bouts are set in a busy schedule that kicks off March 10.
The Outfit hold tryouts for their A and B squads and their travel team in the same fashion as any other league in the country. But another dimension The Outfit offers to the Chicago roller derby scene is their open practices. During open practices, any woman with an interest in derby can strap on skates and other equipment and join in to the challenge.
"Our open practices are kind of unique considering how big derby has become," says Plaster. "It gives people the chance to try it on first, get comfortable but allay their fears or any misconceptions they might have about roller derby and what it's all about."
For those who want to take the next step, the Outfit's Rolling Recruitment skater blog walks you through what to come armed with. The short list includes skates, a decent set of knee, elbow and wrist pads, a helmet, a mouth guard and a valid state ID. Their other requirement is " to drop kick those fears out the door" and have fun.
Outfit veteran Bloody Elle is one of only a dozen skaters to make the Midwest MEGA Team.
In 2011, The Chicago Outfit Syndicate was seeded into the 2011 North Central Regional Tournament ranked at number 9. Capitalizing on their increased experience and broader bench, the team finished the competition well, at #5 in the region while their star Sweet Mary Pain bagged the North Central competition's MVP award. Currently they are ranked at #22 nationally.
The Outfit's first home bout versus Houston happens on April 28.
Andy Frye has written for ESPN.com, The Chicago Sun-Times and FiveonFive magazine. Follow on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.