Recap

Dolls Move into First Place with Win Over Betties

Betties fall to 0-2 after rematch of 2013 Battle for the Boot.

The Betties and Dolls met in a rematch of last year's championship game; the results were similar. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Betties and Dolls met in a rematch of last year’s championship game; the results were similar. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

After a rash of off-season roster changes that followed their 2013 Toronto Roller Derby Championship, the Death Track Dolls were expected to enter into a period of at least minor rebuilding. But on Saturday night at the Bunker, in their second game of the season, it was the Dolls taking one more stride toward securing a second-consecutive spot in ToRD’s annual Battle for the Boot with a decisive 208-70 victory over the Smoke City Betties.

The tale of the game could be read in the opening jam as the Dolls got off to an explosive 19-0 start, with the Betties’ jammer titmouse picking up a cutting penalty on her opening pass allowing the Dolls’ Bellefast to pick up four scoring passes. It was a poor start all around for the Betties as the Dolls’ packs dominated, allowing their jammers to pick up the first five leads and build a formidable 69-0 lead before the Betties got on the board at the ten minute mark of the opening half.

The Dolls’ stiff defensive walls and tidy jamming had them cruising in a comfort zone the Betties could never reach. Missing their two leading scorers from the season opener (WackedHer and co-captain Wolverina), the Betties’ offense ran through veteran titmouse, the ever-improving SewWhat?, and second-year skater Kill’Her At Large (with Honey Boom Boom supplying relief).

The Betties' Sew What (who eventually led her team in scoring with 28 points) attempts to evade Audrey Hellborn. (Photo by Greg Russell).

The Betties’ Sew What (who eventually led her team in scoring with 28 points) attempts to evade Audrey Hellborn. (Photo by Greg Russell).

The Dolls shifted things a bit offensively from their season opener, slipping co-captain Getcha Kicks into the pack (for the most part) as second-year jammer Chicken Sluggets entered the roster. Led by the explosive Bellefast, first-year ToRD skaters Devochka and Sleeper Hold continue to show poise beyond their experience level, no doubt aided by the excellent, confidence-building pack work of the Dolls.

The Betties’ bench (led by Bench Coach BruiseBerry Pie and introducing new Bench Manager Scarcasm) called a timeout late in the half as the game was getting away from them. Whatever was said seemed to take hold as the Betties had their most consistent push to close out the half (they scored 16 of their 26 points in the final seven minutes). Nonetheless, the Dolls were in control 119-26 at the half.

The Dolls got off to another quick start in the second, but eight minutes in the Betties got their first power jam of the game after a cut from Sluggets; this allowed them to stay within a hundred points (161-62), a gap that the Dolls would maintain for much of the half.

Misery Mae attempts to hold back Devochka as Laya Beaton holds the line. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Misery Mae attempts to hold back Devochka as Laya Beaton holds the line. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There were definitely moments for the Betties in the half, and some great individual experiences as well. titmouse overcame a slow start (and 0 points in the first half) to put up 11 points in the second. The Betties also continue to be the most physical of teams in the league with Misery Mae (who was outstanding), Tushy Galore (who eventually fouled out) and Mazel Tough delivering punishing blows, a necessity, it seemed, as the Dolls managed to control things positionally.

There were some minor changes to the Dolls packs, but even with the few personnel changes the game remained the same: two solid lines anchored by key players (Just Jes and Android W.K. on one side, Dawson and Audrey on the other), but the play of all of the blockers is rising slowly and, seemingly, equally, as this balance and consistency looks to be key to the Dolls’ success.

Speaking of balance, scoring was spread out well among the jammers on both teams. Devochka led the way for the Dolls with 69 points (followed closely by Bellefast with 59 and Sleeper with 46), while SewWhat? led the Betties with 28 (followed by Kill’Her At Large with 25).

With the 138-point victory, the Dolls move to 2-0 and pull into first place in ToRD’s regular season standings. The Betties now drop to 0-2 and are in danger of not even making the playoffs just one year after competing in the championship game.

D-VAS Top Farmers 252-110

D-VAS jammer Battering Ma'am attempts to evade the Farmers' Crazy Mama. (Photo by Greg Russell)

D-VAS jammer Battering Ma’am attempts to evade the Farmers’ Crazy Mama. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Toronto and Durham Region’s future stars closed out the double header on Saturday night. Coming off of a resounding season-opening loss to a considerably more experienced team from Woodstock, the D-VAS started slowly in this one as well, gifting the visiting DRRDy Farmers an early lead (it was 42-36 Farmers near the midway point of the first). The home team took its first lead with only 11:30 left in the half (jumping ahead 59-54). The confidence seemed to grow after this, and by half, they had increased the lead to 113-73.

The D-VAS cruised in the second half, looking stronger as the game went on, while the farmers faded. Although the entry drafts for both leagues are a long way off at this point, there are definitely skaters making early impressions: the D-VAS got strong jamming all game from Murdercat and Battering Ma’am with the Annguard getting stronger late in the game. In the pack, Juggernaut J and Kimikaze were both strong positional presences, while Vag Lightning and April Cruel delivered some big hits.

For the farmers, double threat Crazy Mama lead the way, with Bad Princess and Roller Mitch putting in solid performances jamming. Jungle Jen also put in a strong, well-rounded performance for the visiting Farmers.

**With Montreal’s upcoming Beast of the East dominating the roller derby house league scene for the next few weeks, the next action in Toronto will be May 10th (D-VAS and Toronto Junior Roller Derby will hold a double header); the house league resumes on May 24th. Durham Region will hold its 2014 season opener on Saturday, April 12th, in Ajax. Check here for details.

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Canadian Power Rankings: April 1, 2014

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Pounder, Dr. Jenny Fever and Derby Nerd return for another year of ranking Canada’s top A-level travel teams. Read the 2014 preview here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

- The Skids have kicked off 2014 with a three-game winning streak against Division 1 opponents that includes a blowout over Bleeding Heartland, some measure of revenge against Ohio (who beat them in last year’s playoffs), and a 17-point victory against their chief Canadian rivals, Toronto. (1 / 17).
2. CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)

New CNP Logo

- Off to a 2-2 start against some stiff competition (dominant wins over Bleeding Heartland and Killamazoo, and a heart-breaking loss to Ohio), Toronto pushed Montreal further than any other Canadian team has yet, in a 17-point loss at QCC. Nonetheless, CN Power’s amazing run in last year’s playoffs has proven not to be a one-off as they approach elite status. (2 / 29)
3. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)

Terminal City All Stars

- Although they have yet to play in 2014, with a majority of last year’s playoff-bound roster returning this season, Terminal City should continue to build on what has been an impressive run. They have a very competitive schedule lined up for spring/summer (including games against the Oly Rollers, Bay Area and Denver) as they try to improve their playoff position. (3 / 37)
4. Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Roller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo - The Thunder, representing the newly renamed Tri-City Roller Derby, are on the cusp of WFTDA’s Division 1, and have a solid schedule coming up (they’ll kick off 2014 with a game against the Ohio Roller Girls). (5 / 41)
5. Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

- Creeping ever closer to D-2 playoffs, boasting a newly, and more competitively organized house league, a fully developed B-team and a season-opening (unsanctioned) win against Misfit Militia, not to mention a decent upcoming WFTDA schedule, 2014 is off to a good start for this Ottawa-based team. (6 / 66)
6. Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo +2 (8) Although currently unranked in the WFTDA, Calgary will certainly debut in the next release (May 1). They dominated competition at Wild West Showdown, posting three one-sided wins against Slaughterhouse (223-92), Ark Valley (264-105) and Dockyard (406-59). (9 / -)

7.Misfit Militia (Misfit Militia Roller Derby)
Misfit Militia Logo
 

-1 (6) After dominating all competition in 2013, the Alliston-based team kicked off 2014 with a tight 168-126 loss against the Rideau Valley Vixens, a WFTDA Division 2 team. That may have been their biggest challenge of the season (at least based on the current schedule). (8 / -)
8. The Eh! Team (Hammer City Roller Girls)

Hammer City Logo

+1 (9) Hammer City is all set to build off of what was their most competitive season since 2009. After shooting back up the WFTDA rankings, they’ve already opened 2014 with a strong performance against the 54th ranked Paper Valley in a 12-point loss. (10 / 85)
9.Kootenay Kannibelles (West Kootenay Roller Derby)

kannibelles Logo

 

+1 (10) The Kannibelles slipped back into the Top 10 at the end of 2013, and they are given the benefit of the doubt here after opening this year with a 204-point victory over Fernie’s Avalanche City. They’ve got a much tougher schedule coming up, featuring games against Calgary and Red Deer. (12 / -)
10. Belladonnas (Red Deer Roller Derby Association)

Belladonnas Logo

-3 (7) Red Deer tumbles in the power rankings after major off-season roster changes boldy alters one of the country’s more consistent teams over the last few years. They remain on the list for now, but it remains to be seen how quickly the newly built team will come together on the track. (4 / -)

New name, new logo. Tri City Roller Derby 2014 LogoThere are no major alterations to the Top 10 with the Top 5 not shifting at all (though Toronto has inched ever-closer to Montreal after a tight game in Toronto last weekend. They’ll have a rematch in Montreal on April 25); however, Red Deer, based on having a significantly different roster from last year’s 15-2 team that dominated western and central Canadian competition, has fallen three spots but remains in the Top 10 for now. This allowed the Kannibelles and Hammer City to jump up a spot.

Based on Calgary’s head-turning dominance at this year’s Wild West Showdown, the CRDA All Stars jump two places from 8th to 6th, barely leap-frogging the Misfit Militia (who narrowly lost to the Vixens). This just makes Hammer City’s inaugural Maple Stir Up (August) all the more intriguing, as both Calgary and Rideau Valley will be there.

ON THE BUBBLE

Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo

Being so early in the season, we have only one team on the bubble: Moncton’s Muddy River Lumbersmacks. They opened the season with a 12-point loss to Montreal’s Sexpos (B-team) before scoring one-sided victories against Maine’s Rock Coast Rollers (377-178)  and the Rideau Valley Sirens (366-40) (B-team). They also played a closed scrimmage against the the Vixens, staying virtually even with them for the first half before the Vixens were able to pull away in the second. The WFTDA Apprentice team has a busy eastern Canadian schedule lined up including an April 26th game against their chief east-coast rivals, Fog City.

TEAMS TO WATCH

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits)

All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League)

Timber Rollers (Forest City Derby Girls)

The Mindfox (Saskatoon Roller Derby League)

Sugar Skulls (Pile O’ Bones Roller Derby Club)

Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls)

Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)

Redneck Betties (South West Saskatchewan Roller Derby Association)

At this early point in 2014, these are the teams that top the Rankings Crew’s list of teams to keep an eye on in the coming months. Although not exhaustive, these are the teams that have been most consistently on the radar over the past twelve months. Some, such as The Mindfox and the Sugar Skulls, have even made appearances in the Top 10.

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Pounder, and Dr. Jenny Fever.

*Read the Canadian Power Rankings preview and explanation here.

 

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

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Montreal Sweeps in Return to Quad City Chaos

Montreal goes 3-0 while Ohio narrowly avoids being upset by Toronto at the fifth annual Quad City Chaos.

Saturday night's Montreal vs. Toronto game lived up to the considerable hype surrounding it. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

Saturday night’s Montreal vs. Toronto game lived up to the considerable hype surrounding it. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

It may not have been the biggest crowd to ever line the track at the Bunker, but the crowd that took in the final game of the first day of the 2014 Quad City Chaos was arguably the loudest. At least since the venue was home to the first ever women’s World Cup in 2011. And while that says something about the level of derby knowledge the crowd had, it also spoke to the growing importance of the rivalry of the combatants: Toronto and Montreal.

Despite considerable expectations to the contrary, when the weekend’s final game came to its conclusion, things had stayed nearly the same. There were no upsets based on rankings all weekend, and while both Montreal and Toronto gained, Ohio probably will have slipped just a bit and Bleeding Heartland’s tumble down the standings was probably not slowed, all four teams hopefully came out of the fifth annual QCC feeling pretty good about their games.

Returning for the first time since 2011, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block continued where they’d left off, extending their QCC winning streak to nine games after dominant wins over Ohio and Bleeding Heartland and a thrilling 17-point victory against the hosts in the aforementioned Saturday night prime time game. The team’s strongest performance of the weekend was definitely its first, a surprisingly one-sided win (385-158) against the Ohio team that had eliminated the Skids from last year’s playoffs. They also put up the largest single-game scoring total of the weekend (469 points against Bleeding Heartland), but they were susceptible to penalty trouble, allowing the Flatliners to put up a surprising 168 points in the same game.

A lot of questions followed Ohio into this weekend, and they showed they are still a team to be reckoned with, improving with every jam.

A lot of questions followed Ohio into this weekend, and they showed they are still a team to be reckoned with, improving with every jam.

After reaching the pinnacle of the sport in 2013, Ohio was reeling from the retirement of two of its most essential players (about which much has been made), but after a slow start against Montreal (they never looked in that game early Saturday morning), they got better all weekend. A tidy performance against Bleeding Heartland was the precursor to the Sunday win over Toronto, a game I’m sure the hosts would love to have back. After being controlled for much of the first half (Ohio was playing great, but seemed a step or two behind a smooth-skating Toronto team and were down 30 at the half), the Ohio All Stars roared back in the second, opening with a 97-14 run that caught a suddenly loose-looking Toronto off guard. It was an excellent half of roller derby for Ohio, their best of the weekend, and a positive sign for the team.

The hosts came in with high expectations and despite going 1-2 for the second year in row, mostly over-performed. A sloppy opening against Bleeding Heartland (the hard-hitting Midwesterners managed to befuddle all the teams at some point in their games) was followed by a half of absolute derby dominance, where they outscored their over-matched opponents 252-6. Emotionally, the greatest success for Toronto came in the highly anticipated matchup against Montreal, a game they briefly led early in the second half (117-113), before a ferocious comeback was slowed by impeccable Montreal defense. And finally, they looked clear in control of their final game against Ohio, before a weak second half allowed the Columbus-based team a chance at redemption. Nonetheless, the 14-point loss to a team ranked 7 spots ahead of them in the WFTDA rankings has to be considered a success.

REGULATION RESULTS

Photo by Neil Gunner (neilgunner.com)

Bruisers’ MVP Android W.K. holds back Gang Green’s MVP Blitz Lemon.

While their big sisters fell to 1-2 on the weekend, for the second consecutive season, the Bay Street Bruisers went 2-0 at the tournament (increasing their 2014 record to 4-1), including a surprisingly dominant 304-94 win against Ohio’s Gang Green in the third meeting between the two teams (they’d split the first two). Sunday’s game between the Sexpos and the Bruisers showed that the increasingly vital rivalry between Toronto and Montreal is not just limited to A-travel teams. The teams had last met in August with the Bruisers coming away with a 61-point victory. However, a handful of skaters from both of those squads have since graduated to A-level play, so it was two very different B-team rosters that took to the track at the QCC.

While the Sexpos had actually gained in experienced players since that August meeting, it was a much younger Bruisers squad that took to the track this weekend. The teams were virtually even, trading leads consistently throughout, it was easy to conclude that the team that made the final error would be the team that would ultimately lose, and it played out that way with the Sexpos getting unfortunate jammer penalties in the closing jams of the game to allow the hosts to hold on for the 27-point win.

Blitz Lemon picked up tournament MVP for the Gang Green; OhiO for the Sexpos; while Android W.K. nabbed the prize for the host Bruisers.

THE PERFORMERS

The Usual Suspects (and A-Team MVPs)

Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha was a triple threat all weekend (here going one on one with Montreal's Honey Badger).

Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha was a triple threat all weekend (here going one on one with Montreal’s Honey Badger).

In a tournament featuring four WFTDA D-1 teams, it’s no surprise that the list of tournament MVPs reads like a veritable all-star lineup. Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha was a beast all weekend, arguably her team’s best blocker and jammer, she played with a level of intensity that did not wane from opening whistle to closing. Ohio’s Smacktivist would probably have been the tournament MVP, as their value to their team was unmatched. A tireless, phenomenal jammer, Smacktivist was basically off-on against Toronto. Nuck L. Sammie is one of the lone Bleeding Heartland vets remaining from last year’s team, and the speedy, agile jammer led the way all weekend. Finally, Montreal’s Jes Bandit, one of our nation’s finest players, rounds out the A-team MVPs. Her leadership (not to mention her top-notch defense) led the way for the Skids’ consistent performance.

The Steppin’ It Uppers

Ohio's Ava Tarr (right) and Ena Flash form a solid two-wall against Bleeding Heartland.

Ohio’s Ava Tarr (right) and Ena Flash form a solid two-wall against Bleeding Heartland.

This is always the hardest to gauge because there are many skaters who could fall into this category. And while Toronto’s Motorhead Molly may have had the game of her life against the Skids on Saturday night, the tenacious and fiery Renny Rumble gets the nod here for her consistent performance in the pack all weekend. For Montreal, it’s equally hard to judge with Chasing Amy emerging as an on-track leader and Honey Badger successfully coming all the way back from injury, but Surgical Strike continues to find new levels of excellence to achieve. Bleeding Heartland is full of skaters who have been forced to step up their play, and this weekend blockers Mauls Dolls (who also fearlessly took the star on occasion) and the powerful Uh Huh Hurricane led the way. And finally, with the retirement of two key skaters, Ohio’s Ava Tarr (who already had a big role on the team) has been pushed into the spotlight, and especially after an incredible performance on Sunday against Toronto, she seems more than ready to be an on-track leader of the team.

The Breakout Players

Toronto's Renny Rumble (left) and Candy Crossbones hold back Bleeding Heartland's Speedium Rear.

Toronto’s Renny Rumble (left) and Candy Crossbones hold back Bleeding Heartland’s Speedium Rear.

From Bleeding Heartland, the recently graduated junior skater Mersadist did not look out of place (emotionally or physically) all weekend and will undoubtedly become an important piece to build around. Montreal’s Miracle Whips, herself a recent graduate from the B-team Sexpos seems to be the team’s emerging top jammer (loaded with talent and potentially, with a just a little more track experience, she could eventually become that team’s premier jammer). Ohio’s Ena Flash (who previously played for the London Rollergirls and Glass City) has immediately been given first-line minutes this weekend for the rebuilding OHRG All Stars, and didn’t shrink under the expectations at all. And for the hosts: Candy Crossbones. You may wonder how a 7-season veteran and travel-team original can be a breakout player. Well, it happens when six years into your jamming career (having slipped a bit on your team’s jammer depth chart), you completely rebuild your game and within a year or so end up becoming an every-other-jam blocker/pivot who can be relied upon in any given situation while playing on a team inching its way into the highest levels of competitive play.

Congratulations to Toronto Roller Derby and all the participating teams for another excellent Quad City Chaos.

THE SCORES

Saturday

Montreal New Skids on the Block 385 vs. Ohio All Stars 158 (watch)

Toronto CN Power 384 vs. Bleeding Heartland Flatliners 69 (watch)

Toronto Bay Street Bruisers 304 vs. Ohio Gang Green 94 (watch)

Ohio All Stars 291 vs. Bleeding Heartland 94 (watch)

Toronto CN Power 216 vs. Montreal New Skids on the Block 233  (watch)

Sunday

Toronto Bay Street Bruisers 212 vs. Montreal Sexpos 185 (watch)

New Skids on the Block 469 vs. Bleeding Heartland 168 (watch)

Toronto CN Power 172 vs. Ohio All Stars 185 (watch)

**All the games were boutcast in HD by the ToRD.TV crew (and guests). Click here for the full archive.

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Toronto Hosts Ontario in Inaugural bout; Bruisers go 2-1 at B-Cup

ToRD's CN Power hosted Team Ontario in the provincial team's first game. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

ToRD’s CN Power hosted Team Ontario in the provincial team’s first game. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

It was a historic night at the Bunker in Downsview Park on Saturday as Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power played host to the inaugural game for the recently formed Team Ontario. It was a preseason tune up for ToRD’s 29th ranked WFTDA Division 1 team, and the first time derby fans got to take a look at the non-Toronto based members of our provincial team. Adding to that collection of talent were the seven Team Ontario skaters on CN Power’s roster. It was a thrilling game played at an incredibly high level. In the end, Toronto had a little too much fire power for their provincial counterparts as the hosts won 211-152.

A bulk of Team Ontario’s members came from the province’s other top WFTDA leagues in Rideau Valley (Ottawa) and Tri-City (Kitchener-Waterloo), but the squad also featured skaters from Timmins (Nasty Nads), Alliston (Mad Megz), Detroit (USS DentHerPrize) and Philadelphia (Whacks Poetic, formerly of Hammer City) among others. Despite missing the key members from Toronto, it was a formidable lineup.

Tri-City's Freudian Whip and Philly's Whacks Poetic hold back Motorhead Molly.

Tri-City’s Freudian Whip and Philly’s Whacks Poetic hold back Toronto’s Motorhead Molly.

The game actually started off in Team Ontario’s favour. With Thunder jammer Ova Kill on the line and a nasty duo of Leigh Wylde (AKA: Leighzzie Borden; Wild Leigh Coyote) and Hannah Murphy laying heavy D on CN Power’s Dusty, they caught a rusty CN Power off guard to spring out to an 8-0 lead. But Toronto, coming off of its best season after making a run in the WFTDA playoffs last year, just took a while to get warmed up. Toronto took their first lead of the game on a power jam 5 minutes in, part of a string of five straight lead jammers that would give the home team an 18-8 lead. As befitting a team that practices together on a regular basis, Toronto’s transitions were quicker, keeping them a step ahead, and the cohesiveness of some of the lines could not be matched (Nasher the Smasher and Dyna Hurtcha were every bit the equal of Murphy and Wylde—and when forming a line with Renny Rumble and offensive maven Jubilee, were nearly impenetrable). But Team Ontario was coming together as the game wore on as well, and some phenomenal individual work from the likes of RVRG’s Margaret Choke and Tri-City’s Fox Smoulder in the pack and Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker with the star, kept them in it. Ontario drew back-to-back power jams late in the first half to keep it tight at the break, with the hosts clinging to an 84-66 lead.

Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha and Nasher the Smasher hold back Soul Rekker. All three are also members of Team Canada.

Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha and Nasher the Smasher hold back Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker. All three are also members of Team Canada.

Despite it being an exhibition, CN Power came out to play in the second half. They tightened their jammer rotation, and actually opened the half with Dyna Hurtcha on the jam line for a 4-0 start. Two of the 8 Team Canada members in the game, Rainbow Fight—making her debut with Toronto’s top team—and Bala Reina, went back-to-back-to-back to help pad CN Power’s lead, which they extended to 99-68 after only five minutes of the second. While Rainbow especially, was a standout with some phenomenal jamming, it was relentless pack work from Toronto’s deep blocker group that proved to be the difference. A well-executed 20 point power jam 10 minutes in seemed to give Toronto an insurmountable lead (129-73). However, Team Ontario wasn’t quite done. Continuing a story that had been playing out all night, Hannah Murphy and Leigh Wylde continued their excellent work together and managed to take a few rounds of a game-long battle with Toronto jammer Rainbow Fight. With five minutes to go, Soul Rekker picked up 20 points on a power jam to pull Ontario back within reach, 184-149, but a few strong late-game jams by Dusty (who seemed to get stronger as the game went on) helped seal the deal for the home team who held on for the thrilling 59 point win.

In the end, the extraordinary level of play provided a fantastic showcase of the level of roller derby in this province. Not only did the game feature Ontario’s best, Canada’s national team was well represented as well. Three members of Team Ontario (Hannah Murphy, USS DentHerPrize and Soul Rekker) and five members of CN Power (Bala Reina, Dusty, Dyna Hurtcha, Nasher the Smasher and Rainbow Right) are all on the team that will represent Canada at the 2014 World Cup in Dallas. Based on this small display, things are looking good for our national team.

Team Ontario's roster vs. ToRD's CN Power

Team Ontario’s roster vs. ToRD’s CN Power

BRUISERS WIN CONSOLATION BRACKET AT B-CUP

B-Cup 2014 PosterFar south of the border, ToRD’s B travel team, the Bay Street Bruisers, headed to Bloomington, Indiana, to take part in the 8-team invitational, the B-Cup, featuring B-travel teams from Naptown, Minnesota, Madison, Cincinnati, Nashville, Tri-City and the hosts Bleeding Heartland. The Bruisers are coming off of a very active off-season that saw a massive reordering of the roster as a new generation of ToRD skaters join the B-team. With that in mind, it was a very fresh, very new and inexperienced group that took to the track at Cardiac Arena for their opening game of the tournament. Facing an experienced Nashville team, the new-look Bruisers were simply overwhelmed in the early going. While there were flashes of excellence (particularly late in the game), the Bruisers couldn’t get much going in the 241-89 loss against a tight Nashville team that would end up going all the way to the final, where they would lose to Mad Rollin 203-147.

That sent the Bruisers to Sunday’s consolation bracket with a chance to play for 5th place, an opportunity that would not be wasted. It seemed to just be a matter of gaining track experience for the team, as they looked completely different in their second game of the tournament. With the time to bond, the Bruisers responded and gave a hint of what is to come for 2014. They crushed the hosts Bleeding Heartland 378-49 (the largest differential on the weekend, and the second highest point total) a score that could have been even higher had the Bruisers not expanded their jammer rotation to include virtually everyone on the bench late in the game as they tried to preserve energy for the following contest. They continued to roll in the consolation final, facing off against Cincinnati. It would be a significantly tougher test, but their pack defense (which improved most notably over the course of the three games) was up for the challenge. Up 117-68 at half, it was a sequence at the 25-minute mark of the second that truly put the game away.

With the score 118-81 and Cincinnati charging, the Bruisers gave up a power jam. But some smothering power kill defense limited the damage to five points, and on the following jam, the Bruisers nabbed a power jam of their own and made it count, with Sneaky Dee picking up 20 points to increase the lead to 148-86. It would prove to be the defining sequence of the game as Cinci was never able to recover, and the Bruisers held on for the 243-115 win to earn 5th place and cap a successful weekend.

***Also a big shout out to Tri-City’s Plan B who took part in the tournament as well (they lost their games against Naptown and Cincinnati). And finally, congratulations to Forest City’s Timber Rollers who hosted Ann Arbour in their first ever WFTDA home game (and second WFTDA sanctioned bout). Ann Arbour took it 228-159.

Gores Take Down Chicks to Kick Off ToRD’s 2014 Season

Chicks Ahoy! 157 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 218

The Chicks and Gores season opener was the seventh regular season meeting between the two teams. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks and Gores season opener was the seventh regular season meeting between the two teams. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

When last they met, the Chicks Ahoy! and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls were on different paths. The Gores were wrapping up a second place finish in the 2013 regular season standings while the Chicks were putting to rest a rough, rebuilding season that saw them suffer historic losses (all of this in the wake of back-to-back ToRD championships). The Gores took the final game of the 2013 regular season 323-75 in a lopsided, hard-to-watch game. Fast forward half a year and the Chicks Ahoy!, despite not too many changes to the roster, are suddenly back in the conversation, and it’s not that the Gores have slipped, as they too seem poised to contend.

Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its 2014 house league season in style at The Bunker in Downsview Park on Saturday night in front of a packed house of fans who braved the frigid temperatures in order to ring in ToRD’s 8th season. Despite a much more competitive match than their last tilt, in the end the Gores continued their regular season domination over their long-time rivals Chicks Ahoy! with a hard fought 218-157 victory. It was the seventh time the two teams have met in ToRD’s regular season, and the sixth time the Gores emerged victorious.

Chicks Hyena Koffinkat lines up next to Lumberjack Flash. Rookies (and transfers) would have big roles in this game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks’ Hyena Koffinkat lines up next to Lumberjack Flash. Rookies (and transfers) would have big roles in this game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Both the Chicks and the Gores were bolstered this season by choosing wisely in an entry draft that featured a number of experienced skaters transferring from leagues as far away as Halifax and Vancouver: some of these so called “rookies” had a major impact on the season opener. Both teams seemed hesitant off of the starting whistle, but it was the Chicks who took advantage of some early Gore penalty trouble. One question the Chicks had entering the season was with their jammer rotation and they answered that quickly. Second-year Chicks Heavy Knitter and Chevy Chase-Her (fully healed from injury) were joined by draftees Hyena Koffinkat and the blazingly fast Sneaky Dee to form a rotation that has the potential to see out the season. The Gores also threw a rookie into the rotation as Lumberjack Flash joined Lexi Con, Taranasaurus Rex and R.I. Pink with the star in the opening period. With depleted packs, the Gores couldn’t get much going early on, while the Chicks pulled ahead 29-13 ten minutes in.

Lexi Con (who lef all scorers) attempts to break through a Rebel Rock-It and Rosemary's Rabies two wall. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Lexi Con (who led all scorers) attempts to break through a Rebel Rock-It and Rosemary’s Rabies two-wall. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But the Gores roared back. After riding through the penalty troubles, the Gores took off, picking up a string of five straight lead-jammer statuses and going on a 48-0 run to retake the lead. Indicative of a season opener, the first half had wild swings in momentum as the rust fell off and both teams struggled through penalty issues and loose packs, with neither able to take control. A final-jam power jam for the Chicks (skated by Sneaky Dee who had 34 first-half points) had them within 9, down 91-82 at the half.

The Gores made a slight adjustment at half time, swapping in rookie transfer Guardian Paingel to the jammer rotation and slipping last year’s second-leading scorer T-Rex into the pack (she had 29 points in the first half to lead the Gores in scoring). The Chicks stuck with the plan and led off with Hyena Koffinkat (who had made a big impression with 35 points in the opening period); unfortunately, the Terminal City transfer found herself sitting for back-to-back penalties that allowed her Vancouver counterpart, Paingel, to make her mark on the game. The Gores came out flying to start the second half and took advantage of the penalty trouble for a 31-0 run that helped them amass a lead that the Chicks, despite determined play, could not overcome. Paingel would pick up three leads in her first three jams and fourteen points in the process (she’d finish with 21 in the half).

Sneaky Dee tries to sneak past Gores vets Santa Muerte and Kandy Barr. Sneaky Dee scored 68 points to lead the Chicks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Sneaky Dee tries to sneak past Gores vets Santa Muerte and Kandy Barr. Sneaky Dee scored 68 points to lead the Chicks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Last year’s leading scorer, Lexi Con, who had a relatively quiet first half, simply took over in the second, picking up 76 points (for 104 on the game). But it was also the pack work that was the difference. Veterans Santa Muerte and Chronic were simply dominant at times, and the leadership of pivot Kandy Barr was undeniable as well. But depth players also stood out with Viktory Lapp playing the most effective game of her career, while rookie (and Halifax transfer) Machu Beatchu looked incredibly comfortable in her first game in Toronto, despite running into some penalty trouble.

The Chicks also saw some depth players step up into big roles, perhaps none more so than R2-Smack-U who often donned the stripe as pivot, Rosemary’s Rabies who has transitioned from jammer to blocker this season and was excellent on the track with some timely snipes and demoralizing drag backs, and Emraged who seems ready and willing to build off of an impressive rookie season in 2013. But it was the veterans who led the way with Robber Blind and an inspired Tess D-Urb-Evil picking up heavy minutes and Rebel Rock-It and Hoff (both returning to the Chicks after Rebel spent last season on CN Power and Hoff spent it on injured reserve) adding depth; Biggley Smallz, who was having a big game, fell into penalty trouble early and eventually fouled out.

Although the Chicks were never down by more than 61 in the half, they were never able to get closer than 30 either and a balanced Gores’ half allowed them to take their victory comfortably. In the end, the Gores showed that they are a team to beat this season, but perhaps more importantly, the Chicks are back as well. The close game is nice a season-opening promise of parity in Toronto Roller Derby.

TJRD Torontosaurus Wrex 236 vs. AJRD Blister Sisters 82

TJRD hosted Alliston for their first JRDA sanctioned game of 2014. (Photo by Joe Mac)

TJRD hosted Alliston for their first JRDA sanctioned game of 2014. (Photo by Joe Mac)

But it wasn’t all about ToRD on Saturday, as the night was capped off by a thoroughly entertaining junior bout that saw Toronto Junior Roller Derby’s Torontosaurus Wrex hold off Alliston’s Blisters Sisters 236-82.

The incredible growth of flat track roller derby has continued unabated and is establishing a system of grassroots support that will provide a platform of continued stability for the growth of the sport; something that is never more apparent than when the juniors take to the track.

AJRD Joe

Alliston’s Blister Sisters enter the track at The Bunker. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Toronto hosted Alliston to kick off their 2014 season and they looked very strong. It was close in the early going, as the hosts led 111-45 at halftime of the JRDA-sanctioned game, but they simply overwhelmed Alliston in the second half to record the 154-point win. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game—high in strategy, stratospheric in effort—a fine showcase of the future of the sport.

Fans will get another chance to watch Toronto’s juniors play on May 10th when they once again team up with their big sisters from ToRD for a game at The Bunker.

***Next up for Toronto Roller Derby: On February 8th ToRD’s marquee team, CN Power, will host Team Ontario in a preseason matchup that will feature some of the finest skaters in the province.

Derby Day in Detroit! The Nerd heads to Motor City to catch up with the Detroit Derby Girls

The Grand Prix Madonnas moved into top spot in the league with the win over the Devil's Night Dames. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Grand Prix Madonnas moved into top spot in the league with the win over the Devil’s Night Dames. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The wear and tear of the “American Century” can be seen clearly on the face of Detroit. One of the largest cities in North American, for centuries Detroit has acted as an important strategic, economic and industrial centre—ushering in the automobile era, nurturing transcendent musical forms, and producing extraordinary sports teams that once inspired the nickname “City of Champions.” Of course, the transition into the 21st century has not been an easy one for the Motor City. Famously mired in a bankruptcy and feeling the damaging effects of the decline of the automobile industry, Detroit is struggling to reshape its image in a new millennium.

In recent years there has been a clear attempt to rebrand the city as an entertainment centre, and the downtown core has been somewhat revitalized by the opening of a few new casinos and other tourist-drawing sites, yet wide swathes of the core remain underdeveloped and abandoned.

The Detroit Derby Girls play their games in the historic Masonic Temple.

The Detroit Derby Girls call the historic Masonic Temple home.

Near the intersection of Interstate 75 and Woodward Avenue is one such area. Massive buildings—beautiful beacons of the boom that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—stand empty; some are simply intricate facades standing sentry over gutted innards and crumbling supports. There are large empty lots—one of which, notably, will be the site of a hockey arena, the new home for the beloved Red Wings. Right now, however, the one shining beacon in the downtrodden area is a massive ornate neo-gothic Masonic Temple, the largest of its kind in the world, built late in the 19th century, and home for the better part of eight years to the Detroit Derby Girls.

DDG kicked off 2014 with the fifth game in its 2013-14 houseleague season featuring a showdown between the defending champion Grand Prix Madonnas and the perennial underdogs, the Devil’s Night Dames. Having come into the league in a 2011 expansion, the Madonnas have essentially been the top team since and heading into the game were riding a 6-game winning streak dating back to last season. The Dames, on the other hand, were mired in a 5-game winless drought and in three previous meetings, had yet to defeat the Madonnas (including a 191-36 drubbing last season).

However, the Dames are a team on the rise and now include a handful of members of Detroit’s WFTDA Division 1 All Start team (currently ranked 28th in the 40-team division). Led by their tireless captain, Murder City Mistress, the Dames roared out of the gates at the opening whistle on Saturday night and seemed to catch the champs off guard with their level of intensity. Having opened the season with a loss to the Pistolwhippers, the Dames had a slightly different look in their matchup with the Madonnas, seeing Doom Shakalaka take on the star and Terror Ettes (who had led the team with a 40% lead percentage in the opener) jump into the pack to bolster the pack offense.

The Grand Prix Madonnas joined the league in 2011 and are the defending league champions.

The Grand Prix Madonnas joined the league in 2011 and are the defending league champions.

The first half was defined by huge shifts in momentum as each team battled through penalty troubles. Led by the astonishing Racer McChaseHer (who played in 73% of her team’s jams in the season opener and neared that number again in this one) and supported in the pack by Spanish Ass’assin, ShamWow and Peaches N. CreamYa, to name a few, the Madonnas ran into early penalty trouble that saw an early lead evaporate. The Dames, led offensively by team leading scorer Feta Sleeze (5.9 points per jam in the season-opening loss) pounced and took the lead midway through the first.

But once the Madonnas were able to ride out their penalty troubles, they roared back themselves with some consistent jamming from Racer and Lily I. Monster in particular, to rebuild a significant lead. Yet the Dames refused to relent and Doom (who started slowly) broke out late in the half, including registering a 20-point jam, to pull the team back within reach, down 104-73 at the break (significantly, the 73 first-half points was already more than the Dames had ever scored in a full game against their opponent). However, disaster struck in the final moments of the half when Murder City Mistress went down a significant injury (the third skater lost to a leg injury in two games for the Dames).

After the highs of such a competitive first half, the Dames never seemed to recover from the loss of their captain. Feta Sleeze (who led the team in scoring with 33 first-half points) took on the “C” in the second and wore it admirably, consistently drawing the unenviable matchup against Racer in the second half (Racer scored her career leading 1700th point in the half). Sufferin’ Sucka Bash stepped up in the pack in the second as well, playing a very strong half for the Dames with the stripe to lead her packs in the absence of Mistress—but despite her strong play, and consistent jamming from the likes of Lost and Found (who had been held to only 7 points in the first half), the Madonnas controlled the action in the second.

Despite the improved play this season, the Devil's Night Dames remain last in the league.

Despite the improved play this season, the Devil’s Night Dames remain last in the league.

Triple threat Rocky Brawlboa did it all for the Madonnas, with bruising pack work alongside some physical jamming, Rocky was all over the track in the second half (and was eventually named the game MVP). Sista Slit’chya followed a similar trajectory of increased level of play in the second, and the depth of pack supplied by Ana Matronique, Mega Bloxx and others was too much for the upstart Dames to handle. Only managing 27 points in a smothering second half, the Devil’s Night Dames couldn’t keep up and the Grand Prix Madonnas jumped back into first place in the DDG standings (2-0), while the Dames, at 0-2, remain on the bottom.

Injuries seem to be conspiring against an inspired and much improved Dames team this season, while the Madonnas (after surprisingly tight 7-point win in the opener against the Pistoffs) are rounding into form.

Although they briefly left the Masonic Temple a few years ago, DDG seems comfortably established in the beautiful old building. It was a packed house on Saturday night, featuring a raucous and appreciative crowd. Among the physical rubble of decline, the Detroit Derby Girls stand as a model of consistency, part of this city’s psychological hope for renewal.

The 2013-14 season is DDG's ninth.

The 2013-14 season is DDG’s ninth.

***A big thanks to the Detroit Derby Girls for having the Nerd as a guest announcer this weekend. A special, and personal, thanks goes to the fantastic announcing crew of AK 40oz, Hi-Death, Big Poppa Razzi, Handle Barbarian, and Mr. Mauler; and also to Rusty Wheeler for the excellent stats work.

2013 Year in Review!

Happy New Year!

On Facebook over the past week, I’ve been posting some of my personal favourite moments from 2013; I’ve collected them here. It was a fantastic, and fascinating, year for Canadian roller derby, and these are just a few of the amazing highlights.

CN Power Surges

Killamazoo, ranked one spot ahead of CN Power, was hoping to avenge two previous losses. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Killamazoo, ranked one spot ahead of CN Power, was hoping to avenge two previous losses. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

What a year for Canadian derby! One of the great stories was the rise of CN Power in the WFTDA rankings culminating in an impressive run in the playoffs! And 2013 all started with a win over Killamazoo Derby Darlins.

CN Power ended the season ranked 29th in the WFTDA; easily their highest ranking ever.

Read the recap from the doubleheader here.

Nerd Glasses

4th Annual Quad City Chaos

Ohio's Smacktivist and CN Power's Nasher the Smasher were both exceptional on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Ohio’s Smacktivist and CN Power’s Nasher the Smasher were both exceptional on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

This year, Toronto Roller Derby hosted the 4th annual QCC featuring CN Power and the Bay Street Bruisers hosting teams from Queen City Roller Girls, Ohio Roller Girls, and Rideau Valley Roller Girls. It was a fantastic tournament that featured one of the great upsets in Canadian roller derby history.

Not surprisingly, Ohio went undefeated to take top spot.

Relive the tournament here.

Nerd Glasses

The 2013 Beast of the East

Photo from Slaughter Daughters Facebook page.Montreal Roller Derby’s Beast of the East is always my favourite time of the year, and this year’s was especially awesome. Not only did it fall on the ten-year anniversary of Texas Rollergirls’ historic first public bout, it also featured some of the best derby the tournament has ever seen, a testament to the strength of the sport in eastern Canada. And Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters became the first team to win the tournament twice!

Relive the tournament here!

Nerd Glasses

Dollmination

The Betties join the Dolls (with the Boot) for a post game photo. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties join the Dolls (with the Boot) for a post game photo. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Death Track Dolls capped a dominant year in Toronto Roller Derby by winning their first ever championship, topping the Smoke City Betties in the 2013 Battle for the Boot.

It was the first championship final for the Dolls, and the first for the Betties since 2009. Despite two shots at the Boot, the Betties now are the only home team not to raise it.

Read about the Year of the Doll!

Nerd Glasses

The 2013 Clam Slam

Circle City's Trudy Bauchery (skating for the Diggers) battles Montreal's Nameless Whorror and ToRD's Nasher the Smasher. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Circle City’s Trudy Bauchery (skating for the Diggers) battles Montreal’s Nameless Whorror and ToRD’s Nasher the Smasher. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Toronto Roller Derby teamed up with GTA Rollergirls – GTAR to put on the fifth annual Clam Slam! A double header for the first time, the second game was truly an all star game featuring skaters from ToRD, GTAR, Montreal Roller Derby, Naptown Roller Girls, DC Rollergirls, Tri-City Roller Girls, and more! And it showed on the track in a phenomenal game!

Read the recap here.

Nerd Glasses

Canadian teams take over the WFTDA Playoffs

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but their opponents stole the show.

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but their opponents stole the show.

From Tri-City Thunder’s oh-so-close (not to mention incredibly controversial) loss in the D2 playoffs, to Montreal’s highest-ever ranking, to Vancouver and Toronto’s scene stealing turns in their respective divisional playoffs, it was a banner year for Canadian roller derby on the highest stage to sport has to offer.

Topping it all off, of course, was one of the most surprising and thrilling WFTDA Championship tournaments ever, and certainly the most competitive since 2010 when, first, the B.A.D Girls took Gotham to the limit in the semis and then Texas continued to push the champs to a new level in the final.

Read the championship tournament recap here.

Read about Toronto’s run in Divisionals here.

Read about Terminal City’s run in Divisionals here.

Read about Montreal’s play in Divisionals here.

Nerd Glasses

So there it is, some of the nerdiest moments of 2013.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks for general and specific previews of 2014!

ToRD’s 2014 Entry Draft Defined by Experience

ToRD BannerThere could be another massive shift in power in Toronto Roller Derby next season as defending champs, the Death Track Dolls, had the biggest night of the 2014 entry draft, pulling a league-high eight new skaters to its roster from another impressive draft pool made up of a mix of homegrown D-VAS, some very impressive transfers, and some who were a little bit of both.

It’s consistently becoming a bigger challenge to gain entry onto one of ToRD’s four houseleague teams as play in the league reaches new heights: the recent success of Toronto’s charter team CN Power in the WFTDA playoffs will only make this league a bigger destination than it already is. Along with at least a half dozen skaters who learned the sport in some of Toronto’s less competitive and low contact leagues such as the Rollergettes, Toronto Loco and the GTA Rollergirls, this draft features skaters from as far away as Halifax and Vancouver, but also a number from closer leagues as well, such as Royal City (Guelph) and DRRD (Durham Region Roller Derby).

So while there will be a lot of new faces in ToRD next season (21 new skaters were chosen in the draft), don’t expect the level of play to drop at all.

Chicks Ahoy! logo

Chicks Ahoy!

Hyena Koffinkat

Rebel Rock-It

Sneaky Dee

Wheels of Misfortune

Three-time ToRD champs, Chicks Ahoy! are in the midst of a fairly massive rebuild. There wasn’t a lot of off-season change, which will be good for continuity, and with one of their draft picks, they nabbed former Chick, Rebel Rock-It, who brings a ton of experience in her return to houseleague play. They also managed to grab highly touted prospect Sneaky Dee (a standout with the D-VAS this season and already one of the speediest skaters in the league), and Durham Region’s veteran skater Wheels of Misfortune. Finally, Hyena Koffinkat transfers to Toronto from Vancouver, where she just completed her rookie season and could be ready to jump right into the Chicks’ jammer rotation.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls logo

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Francesca Fiure

Guardian Paingel

Lumberjack Flash

Machu Beatchu

Moose Knuckles

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls are the team that never seems to rebuild. Rumours of their imminent collapse in 2012 proved to be premature as they roared back to finish second in the regular season before falling to the Betties in the semifinals. With five spots open, the team has filled those spots with experience across the board. Francesca Fiure transfers from Royal City (she is also a coach with Toronto Men’s Roller Derby), while Machu Beatchu, one of Eastern Canada’s top players, moves in from Halifax, and finally, Guardian Paingel is one of two skaters to have transferred from Vancouver’s Terminal City Roller Girls. Lumberjack Flash is also a local transfer who spent nearly a full season with the D-VAS this year, proving to be a physcial jammer. And finally, homegrown skater and D-VAS vet Moose Knuckles will don the leopard print when she debuts in ToRD’s houseleague.

Smoke City Betties Logo

Smoke City Betties

Babushkill

Darth Kater

Honey Boom Boom

Jam’herhead Shark

Jenny Specter

Whackedher

After making their second ToRD final last season (and first since 2009), the Smoke City Betties look to build on an up-and-down season and create a little more consistency in 2013, and with the Dolls slipping in to a mini rebuild, this could be the season for the Betties to finally raise the Boot.

The Betties picked up two skaters who are coming off of mini-sabbaticals. Whackedher was a rising prospect on the D-VAS two years ago before taking some time to travel; she returned this season and had great success with the farm team. Similarly Darth Kater was one of Durham Region’s brightest stars before also taking some time to see the world in 2013; she returned just in time for last year’s Gibson’s Cup (DRRD houseleague championship) before transferring in the off season. Babushkill is another rising star who recently had to take some time off and returned stronger than ever, while Honey Boom Boom has been turning heads in Toronto for a few years now and was key on the D-VAS in 2013. Finally Jenny Specter earned her stripes in Toronto Loco before stepping it up another competitive level, and Jam’herhead Shark is a homegrown rookie.

death track dolls logo

The Death Track Dolls

Aston Martini

Bloc Québécois

Devochka

Free Range Clam

Hanibelle

Sleeper Hold

Stringer Belle

Wheatabitch

The Death Track Dolls suffered massive roster change in the off-season, including the retirement or sabbatical of some key veteran skaters and the promotion of three skaters to CN Power.  The strength of the draft is evident in the Dolls strong pick ups despite selecting last in each round. The skater who will undoubtedly have the biggest immediate impact is former Gore-Gore Rollergirl and CN Power skater Aston Martini, who returns after taking a season off (she is also a member of the 2014 Bay Street Bruisers as well). However, there is a lot of depth in this group as well. Devochka is coming off of a strong season in Durham Region where she was a key member of the Durham Devils travel team. Hanibelle and Free Range Clam have a lot of experience in Toronto derby as well. Finally, Sleeper Hold (from Toronto Loco) and D-VAS-developed Wheatabitch, and local transfer Stringer Belle round out the new Dolls’ lineup.

The Dolls also picked up an impressive internal transfer from the Gores, seven year vet Junkie Jenny, who will also continue play on the Bay Street Bruisers this season.

**Keep your eyes on Toronto Roller Derby.com for updates on what promises to be an incredible 2014 season in ToRD!

When the World Caught Up: Gotham looks (almost) beatable in winning fourth Hydra

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but their opponents stole the show.

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but its opponents stole the show.

Sometimes when you give performers a stage larger than any other that they have ever been on, they wilt under the spotlight. But sometimes they also rise up to meet that grandeur of that stage and give the performance of their life. At this weekend’s WFTDA Championship not one, but two teams were placed under the glaring light of that spotlight and were inspired to give the kinds of performances that will go down in history.

At the 9th Women’s Flattrack Derby Association championship, Gotham Girls Roller Derby, the sport’s greatest team thus far, won its fourth championship and third in a row, continuing an unprecedented run that had up until this weekend been defined by its dominance. Having won more than 40 games in a row over three years, with the final 22 of them having been by more than 100 points, the defending champs entered the weekend seeming very much like a monolith of dominance. And while they maintained their streak and proved—definitively once more—that they are the best there is, it was the opposition that stole the show.

Read Ogden Smash's Gotham vs. B.A.D. recap for Derby News Network (featuring photography by Danforth Johnson)

Read Ogden Smash’s Gotham vs. B.A.D. recap for Derby News Network (featuring photography by Danforth Johnson)

In its first championship, Ohio offered little resistance to Gotham in the quarterfinals (although they narrowly managed to avoid being part of a record-setting defeat with a comparatively strong second half in the 509-64 loss), and while everyone expected the Bay Area Derby Girls to do considerably better, no one in Milwaukee’s US Cellular Arena gave them much of a shot. Down 22-2 after three jams, things seemed to be unfolding as expected for Bay Area: Mighty Gotham once again tightening the noose early. But then something interesting happened: The B.A.D. Girls wouldn’t go away. Only a late 20-point power jam kept Gotham ahead by a significant amount (102-47 at half). The second half was much the same, with Bay Area winning over the hearts of the crowd and keeping pace with their opponents before succumbing to the champs 174-125, which was, impressively, the tightest margin Gotham had won by since June 2012.

The Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners, the grandmothers of our modern game, were apparently watching that semifinal (they’d already handily dispatched Denver in their semifinal 298-129) and must have drawn confidence from it; nonetheless, there were few, if any, who gave the skaters from Austin much of a chance in the final—indeed word around the track was that the B.A.D. vs. Gotham semi had essentially been the championship game. (Bay Area went on to finish third, handling Denver 224-174).

Gotham and Texas have a history that dates back all the way to the first WFTDA championship in 2006, where Texas defeated Gotham 32-16 in a ten-minute round robin seeding-game. Since then, they have met six times in sanctioned bouts with Gotham winning them all by increasingly larger margins culminating in Gotham’s 247 point victory (313-66) just six months ago at ECDX. With similar rosters and not much time between games, who would have expected anything different?

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall's Gotham vs. Texas recap for DNN (featuring the photography of Danforth Johnson)

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s Gotham vs. Texas recap for DNN (featuring the photography of Danforth Johnson)

Unlike the Bay Area showdown though, Gotham was unable to even pull ahead early with Texas leading 23-14 after four jams. Indeed, the two teams would trade leads throughout and only a very late 25-3 run over three jams would allow Gotham to pull away and successfully defend its Hydra with a narrow 199-173 win. In the pack, Smarty Pants, Polly Gone and Fifi Nomenon cemented their status as superstars, and while tournament MVP Bloody Mary led the way with the star, it was Hauss the Boss who would be the shocker in the final, pirouetting and leaping her way around Gotham packs and not looking out of place at all on the game’s grandest stage.

Beyond the shocker of those two games, the 2013 tournament was the best yet, and displayed an incredible growth of the game from a strategic and athletic point of view. Friday’s first-round matchups provided one of the greatest days of derby in tournament history, with an average margin of victory in the 20s. And while the quarterfinals didn’t quite provide the same level of intensity, there were moments of brilliance: for example in the Texas vs. Atlanta quarterfinal there was a jam that began as a tightly knit scrum start that didn’t break apart as it approached and then moved beyond turn one; then turn two. As the amoebic-like mass of bodies churned and grinded its way around the track, the crowd slowly began to clap, then cheer, then stand to applaud the gritty, sticky brilliance of the defensive derby on display: it was flat track roller derby at its very best.

The WFTDA ruleset has taken a lot of criticism, with many saying that the game is too slow, but there was little of those kinds of discussions this weekend, and one can expect that there won’t be many more to come. As slow as the slowest moments in the games were, there were breathtaking bursts of speed—the fastest roller derby ever seen. And this is the beauty of the WFTDA ruleset: that contrast between grinding slowness and blazing speed that can be achieved. And while the rules are still in relative infancy and will continue to evolve (for example, there are still too many no-impact penalties called in the game, and there is still some discomfort over allowing a pack speed of absolute 0), but the quibbles of the recent years seem fairly insignificant after the display of the potential for the game seen this weekend. That Texas vs. Gotham final was as good a game of roller derby that has ever been played, with a level of intensity and excitement worthy of any sport at any level.

And not to be overlooked, the first ever Division 2 final between Santa Cruz and Jet City was just as exciting as its D1 counterpart; a last-jam one-point thriller (195-194 for Jet City) capping off a successful D2 experiment that is providing a massive competitive platform for the next generation of Ohios and Angel Citys and Atlantas—teams that could crack the top of the WFTDA list some day.

As hard as it is to walk away from another season, a brilliant season that saw international teams compete at an increasingly higher level (hello London, welcome to champs, and Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver welcome to the party), that saw the sport reach new heights of competitive parity–as hard as it is to walk away, we can all take comfort in knowing how strong the future of flat track really is.

**A special thanks (and congrats) to the Brew City Bruisers for hosting such a fantastic tournament.

**All games were boutcast live and will be archived on WFTDA.TV.

Hydra 2013 WFTDA Champs

Canadian Power Rankings: November 1, 2013

Canadian Power Rankings: November 1st, 2013

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

- Despite a disappointing WFTDA playoff (a tough win over Wasatch followed by losses to Ohio and London), the Skids remain at the top of the sport in Canada. Since beginning play in 2008, the Skids have yet to lose to a Canadian team.  (1 / 15).
2. CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)

CN Power Logo

+1 (3) After spending the whole 2013 season in third spot, CN Power finally makes the leap to second. They had a busy few months, crushing Brew City and Grand Raggidy, and shocking the WFTDA with playoff wins over Sacred City and Boston before hard-fought losses against Atlanta And Victorian. (2 / 32).
3. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)

Terminal City All Stars

-1 (2) Terminal City slips one spot to third, but more due to Toronto’s impressive play than anything Vancouver did. The All Stars also had an amazing showing in the WFTDA playoffs, scoring upsets over Tampa Bay and New Hampshire, coming up just short against Jacksonville, and falling to the historic Texas Rollergirls. (3 / 37)
4. Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Roller Girls)Tri-City Thunder Logo - The Thunder hold the fourth spot after an extraordinary run in the WFTDA D2 playoffs, where only a controversial overtime loss to Santa Cruz kept them from potentially winning the whole D2 tournament. They knocked off Paper Valley, Carolina and Burning River in their divisional tournament. They followed that run with a position-confirming win over the Rideau Valley Vixens.  (5 / 46)
5. Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

- Despite a loss to Ithaca, the Vixens hold their spot with a win over Dutchland and a strong performance in a loss to the Thunder. Consistency keeps the Vixens from climbing higher. (7 / 70)
6. Misfit Militia (Misfit Militia Roller Derby)
Misfit Militia Logo
+2 (8) Despite some near constant roster shuffling, the core of this Misfit Militia team remains extraordinary. They are 6-0 in 2013 with an average margin of victory of 325 points. They will need to start facing stiffer competition in 2014 if they want to hold their position, but the potential future looks incredibly bright. (6 / -)
7. Belladonnas (Red Deer Roller Derby Association)

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-1 (6) Red Deer continues its impressive season, recently scoring one-sided wins over the Kootenay Kannibelles  and Saskatoon. 13-2 on the season, the Belladonnas are on a six game winning streak since a July loss against Terminal City. (4 / -)
8. The Eh! Team (Hammer City Roller Girls)

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+1 (9) Jumping one more spot, Hammer City continues its impressive 2013 rebirth. One of the biggest movers in the WFTDA, most recently they destroyed the Border City Brawlers then put in incredible efforts in losses to Grand Raggidy and Killamazoo, both teams ranked considerably higher than they are. (9 / 80)
9. Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo -2 (7) Calgary slips not so much due to their own play as much as the play of the teams ahead of them. A one-sided loss to Denver’s B-Team was somewhat buffered by a win over Rocky Mountain’s B-Team and a great performance against Pikes Peak. (14 / -)
10. Kootenay Kannibelles (West Kootenay Roller Derby)

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(unranked) The Kannibelles return to the Top 10 for the first time since April, taking advantage of some other teams’ slip ups. The Kannibelles lost this spot earlier in the year due to inconsistency, and two recent, wildly different results against Red Deer show that their may still be some consistency problems. (10 / -)

kannibelles LogoA lot of movement in this month’s power ranking, with only three teams holding on to their spots. Plus, one team, the Sugar Skulls, has dropped from the rankings completely allowing the Kootenay Kannibelles to slip back in. Toronto’s CN Power moves up into second spot, knocking down Terminal City who had held that position all season. Both teams had impressive, surprising WFTDA playoffs, but it was CN Power’s performance against Atlanta (not to mention a win over Boston) that really secured the second spot. The other big movers were Misfit Militia, who has dismantled any team that has gotten in their way this season–although an inconsistent roster and lower-level of competition brings their future and ability to maintain this pace into question. Calgary drops a few spots, but were more pushed out of the way than fell themselves. They are challenging themselves by taking on teams ranked well above them, which while potentially painful now, should pay dividends in the future.

Hammer City’s revival keeps them on an upward trajectory and a run to the WFTDA’s Divsion 2 next season does not seem out of the question at all. Finally, in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, the Tri-City Thunder held off the Rideau Valley Vixens 199-156 to secure their spot. As with Hammer City, the Vixens are poised to jump to WFTDA’s Division 2 as well and just need to bring a little more consistency to their play. Although supposedly in the midst of a rebuild, The Thunder could very easily become Canada’s fourth Division 1 team next year.

ON THE BUBBLETimber Rollers Logo

Sugar Skulls (Pile O’ Bones Roller Derby Club)

Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls)

Timber Rollers (Forest City Derby Girls)

While the Top 9 teams are fairly secure, the Bubble Teams are all close and potentially interchangeable. One thing is keeping all of these teams on the bubble: inconsistency. The Sugar Skulls drop out mostly from lack of recent play, while the Dolly Rogers and Timber Rollers have yet to put together a run of games that would get them on to the list. For example, the Timber Rollers were shocked by Kingston’s Disloyalists in September, only to turn around and put in a strong performance in their first ever WFTDA sanctioned bout (a loss to Lansing) in October.

winnipeg logoTEAMS TO WATCH

The Mindfox (Saskatoon Roller Derby League)

Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)

Redneck Betties (South West Saskatchewan Roller Derby Association)

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits)

All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League)

Not much change here as the Rankings Crew continues to keep a close eye on these teams. Two, the Lumbersmacks and Redneck Betties are on the rise, while two others, The Mindfox and the Anarchy Angels, are looking to crawl back into the upper echelons of Canadian flat track roller derby (The Mindfox were in the Top 10 as recently as June, and were ranked 6th in the April Power Rankings). One addition to the watch list, was just named a WFTDA Apprentice league: Winnipeg Roller Derby. After a shaky start to 2013, the All Stars have turned it around late in the year winning four in a row, including making up for an early season loss to the Pile O Bones B-Team with a dominant (255-131) win in the rematch.

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Pounder, and Dr. Jenny Fever.

*Read the Canadian Power Rankings preview and explanation here.

*Missed the August 1st Power Rankings post? Get caught up here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-