Sports

The Fresh Get Furious at the 2014 Fresh and Furious Tournament

The freshies continue to look less and less fresh every year as the Cannon Dolls and Les Bûches put on an impressive display of flat track roller derby in the championship final.

The medalists from the 2014 Fresh and the Furious. (Photo by Rocio "Robotomy" Gomez)

The medalists from the 2014 Fresh and the Furious. (Photo by Rocio “Robotomy” Gomez)

When you are at a tournament and looking for stories, many may emerge. The 2014 Fresh and the Furious tournament was no exception. At first, it seemed as if the story of the tournament was going to be the inclusion of junior-program graduates (there were four), and then it appeared as if it was going to be a story of an injury-riddled tournament (two broken legs and an asthma attack—all requiring ambulances), but then—reminiscent of the 2011 version of the tournament—one single team ended up writing its own story.

Capital City’s Cannon Dolls came into this year’s freshie showdown as a virtual unknown. This was the fourth consecutive year that Ottawa’s Capital City has sent a team to the tournament, but it was the first time that they had managed to advance beyond the double elimination round. And of course, not only did they advance, they ended up winning it all. Not since the Goldminer’s Daughters stormed the tournament in 2011, has such an underdog performed so well. And while that tournament saw the Daughters struggle early before coming on strong in the elimination rounds, the Cannon Dolls announced their presence early (they were the first team to surpass the century mark with a 118-33 victory over the Belleville Bombshells) and never really looked back on the way to a thrilling, last-jam 80-78 victory over Les Bûches in the tournament final.

Eventual champs the Cannon Dolls (green) defeated eventual quarterfinalists, Fox Force Five, in the double elimination round. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Eventual champs the Cannon Dolls (green) defeated eventual quarterfinalists, Fox Force Five, in the double elimination round. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

One of the continuing stories over the history of this tournament, has been the increased level of play in each subsequent year. This year was no different, and indeed, may have marked yet new heights. By the end of the tournament the Dolls and Les Bûches had pulled well ahead of the competition, and each did so with vastly different styles. The Cannon Dolls played tidy, efficient flat track roller derby, simple, but smart, and subtle in its sophistication. Led by a seemingly wise-beyond-her-years pivot named Edmonton (but aided in the pack by some surprising talent as well including Apple Sass and Icetina), the Dolls’ offense was paced by three speedy jammers (Labrosse, Kaio-Kensi, and Caume-A-Kazi) who displayed excellent footwork and a natural instinct for the game (it turns out they all come to the game with considerable skating experience in either hockey or figure skating). So while the team was able to field an explosive offense, it was their defense that really defined their success. They gave up only 34 points per game (compared to Les Bûches’ 83) and finished with the top overall point differential (+268) after their 5-0 run.

The host, Derby Debutantes, lost a nail-biter of an elimination game to Royal City's Our Ladies of Pain. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The host, Derby Debutantes, lost a nail-biter of an elimination game to Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Les Bûches were quite a different team. Full of offensively talented skaters (they too had a solid jammer rotation led by Le Grande Noirceur and Rapidass but completed by triple-threat Commionette), at times defense seemed an after thought. Averaging a tournament record of 121 points per game, they also gave up 75+ points in four of their five games. They had a looseness and swagger to their game that nearly backfired in the semifinal, but that they managed to reign in for the final game.

This year’s final four provided an interesting cross-section of the tournament. Two traditional powers (the defending champs Les Bûches and Toronto Roller Derby’s D-VAS) and two teams who were marking their final four debuts (the Dolls and the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers: another returning team that reached new heights this year). South Simcoe played a similar style game as the eventual winners, but didn’t quite have the depth of talent of the winners. Despite notching their fourth consecutive top-three finish, the D-VAS never seemed to find that extra gear in the tournament, and seemed to run out of steam in the semifinals where they were handily dispatched by the Cannon Dolls 119-7, easily the most lopsided result of the tournament.

There were some other strong leagues and stories in the final eight as well. For the second straight year a team from Orangeville (Fox Force Five) made the quarterfinals (they made it to the Top 4 in 2013) showing the continued strength of that team. Royal City, returned to the quarterfinals after a one-year absence, but the big surprise of the final 8 came from Northumberland’s Ganaraska Gravediggers. Facing an elimination game against the Renegade Derby Dames, a last-gasp pass gave the team the upset victory.

And this takes us back to one of the original stories of this year’s Fresh and Furious tournament: The Rise of the Juniors. They are here. And they are very, very good.

Northumberland's Iggy Popper (left) was one of four junior-program graduates in the tournament. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Northumberland’s Iggy Popper (left) was one of four junior-program graduates in the tournament. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While there will come a day when we look back upon this particular tournament as a seminal moment in the welcoming of graduates from our country’s various junior programs, it is not hard to see that in a few years, this tournament will be dominated by these skaters. The Gravediggers featured a tall, strong jammer named Iggy Popper, a graduate of both Toronto Junior Roller Derby and Peterborough’s junior program. She was just one of four. The Renegade Derby Dames featured two junior graduates in Shatterproof and Lil’ Mae-Hem (who both played key roles). Finally, ToRD’s D-VAS also debuted a recent graduate, with Fight of the Conchords playing a strong game, showing a nice instinct on the track, particularly for offense.

This year’s tournament once again continued the trend of increasingly impressive performances from apparently “fresh” teams, a testament to the strength of leagues’ training programs but also the impact of having junior skaters graduate to the senior levels: they are going to bring a lot of experience with them to the senior levels of the sport, raising the bar considerably.

In the end, Les Bûches and the Cannon Dolls proved to be head and shoulders above the competition: game play and strategy, endurance and discipline—the final was played at a level that belied the “fresh” moniker of the tournament.

THE ALL-NERD TEAM

It was hard to narrow down the immense level of talent displayed by the dozens and dozens of skaters who took part in the tournament, but if I had to throw together a single line of skaters (with two jammers) this would be it:

Pivot: Edmonton (Cannon Dolls)

Blocker: Crazy Squirrel (Renegade Derby Dames)

Blocker: Block Quebecois (D-VAS)

Triple Threat: Cammionette (Les Bûches)

Jammer(s): Labrosse (Cannon Dolls), Le Grande Noirceur (Les Bûches)

***A big congratulations should also be sent out to the D-VAS’ Holly Rocket, who picked up the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Heart Award, given to a player who demonstrates heart, determination and a positive attitude over the course of the tournament.

Toronto jammer Holly Rocket won the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Award for heart, determination and positivity on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto jammer Holly Rocket won the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Award for heart, determination and positivity on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

THE RESULTS

Double Elimination: ArenaD-VAS 67 vs. DRRDy Farmers 23

Fox Force Five 74 vs. Derby Debutantes 63

Belleville Bombshells 33 vs. Cannon Dolls 118

D-VAS 83 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 58

Fox Force Five 38 vs. Cannon Dolls 63

Debutantes 88vs. Belleville 66 (eliminated)

Our Ladies of Pain 90 vs. Debutantes 88 (elim.)

Fox Force Five 75 vs. DRRD 37 (elim.)

 

 

 

Double Elimination: BubbleGanaraska Gravediggers 32 vs. South Simcoe Rebel Rollers 67

Queen’s Court 91 vs. Windsor A-Salt 62

NEOFights 105 vs. Les Bûches 150

Thickets 68 vs. Renegade Derby Dames 87

South Simcoe 72 vs. Queen’s Court 56

Ganaraska 50 vs. Windsor 49 (elim.)

Les Bûches 111 vs. Renegade 78

Thickets 117 vs. NEOFights 114 (elim.)

Queen’s Court 31 (elim.) vs. Thickets 54

Renegade 73 (elim.) vs. Ganaraska 76

 

Quarter Finals

D-VAS 70 vs. Ganaraska 41

South Simcoe 70 vs. Fox Force Five 51

Cannon Dolls 59 vs. Thickets 15

Les Bûches 127 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 61

Semi Finals

D-VAS 7 vs. Cannon Dolls 119

South Simcoe 90 vs. Les Bûches 139

Third Place

D-VAS 68 vs. South Simcoe 56

Championship

Les Bûches 78 vs. Cannon Dolls 80

 

** The games were boutcast in HD by Layer9 . Check here for the complete archives.

Peaches Does Roller Derby: The Clam Slam, WorldPride, and the Most Important Woman in the World

In which the Nerd reflects on the importance of WorldPride, the Clam Slam’s role within it, and how for a few days in September 2012, he was convinced that Peaches was the most important woman in the world.

The Clam Slam, this year a WorldPride Affiliate event, is in its 6th year.

The Clam Slam, this year a WorldPride Affiliate event, is in its 6th year.

As the giddiness of another Toronto Pride celebration begins to fade, the thrill of the event wears off, and it’s hard not to become reflective: on how inclusive and open a city we live, about how wonderful it is to celebrate diversity and difference and live in a place where those things are met with celebration instead if fear.

This year, the world came to our city to celebrate the first ever WorldPride held on North American soil. It meant an increased focus, increased participation, but it also meant an increased awareness of what life is like for members of the LGBTQITSLFA (LGBT) community outside of Canada. In turning our eyes to the struggles of those in places like Uganda, for example, we are able to see how lucky we are here.

Not, of course, to imply that the situation in Canada is perfect. It most certainly is not. We need only look to the thinly veiled homophobic actions and comments by the mayor of the largest city in our country to know that there are still battles to be fought on our own home soil. What we are lucky about here in Canada is that the battle has (mostly)  moved away from the systemic and legal arenas and onto the front lines: it’s become a battle of hand-to-hand combat against the last stragglers in the army of the close-minded. But because of the numerous victories, the battle has also shifted to become both more expansive and more specific, shifting focus toward trans rights or the rights of those members in the LGBT community who are also visible minorities.

In Canada, while these individual battles still rage, we have the support of the system. Most members of the LGBT community in Canada are afforded equal rights by the law. That is a powerful weapon with which to fight the individual ground battles that are still occurring. It is a weapon that many people in the world do not have at their disposal.

Plaid Mafia's WhackedHer (skating as VAGilante) gets sandwiched during the opening game of the Clam Slam.

Plaid Mafia’s WhackedHer (skating as VAGilante) gets sandwiched during the opening game of the Clam Slam. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Arguably, the most moving event at WorldPride was the mass wedding performed at Casa Loma on Thursday, June 26. Featuring nearly 120 couples from around the world, many were from countries where same-sex marriage is still not allowed. What was most shocking was that many participants were from wealthy, developed countries like Australia and South Korea. A grim reminder of how far we are from living on a globally free planet.

Across the city in Ted Reeve Arena, at the same time that this remarkable wedding was happening, representatives from 16 North American roller derby leagues were taking part in the 6th annual Clam Slam: a Pride-affiliate all-star roller derby bout run through a collaboration between Toronto Roller Derby and the Great Toronto Area Rollergirls. This year, however, there was a very special guest on hand to blow the opening whistle of the second and final game of the evening: Peaches. The singer would return the favour a few days later when a group of ToRD skaters appeared on stage during her concert.

Now an international phenomenon, Peaches has been a growing icon in the LGBT community (and well beyond!) since her first album, The Teaches of Peaches, was released in 2000. It has never seemed strange to me that the rise of Peaches’ career has coincided with the rise of flat track roller derby. Both, to me, are absolutely essential aspects of North American life in the 21st century, and both are intricately intertwined with the LGBT community as well.

2003 was an astonishing year—perhaps the first true year of the 21st century (in the same way that some people refer to 1963 as being the first year of what we think of as “The ’60s”). 2003 would be the year of SARS, the year the first deer was cloned, and the Hubble telescope would see so deep into space, it could see galaxies that existed in the few millennia after the Big Bang.

In 2003, Belgium would follow the Netherlands in legalizing same-sex marriage at a national level, while closer to home, the province of Ontario would become the first jurisdiction in the Americas to allow it.

Fans of flat track roller derby also know that in the Austin, Texas, in April, the Texas Rollergirls would host the first official game of flat track roller derby, playing under a rule set that would eventually lead to the WFTDA rule set played so widely today.

The album cover of Peaches' second album, Fatherfucker (2003).

The cover of Peaches’ second album, Fatherfucker (2003).

Peaches would release her second, break-through album, Fatherfucker in September of that year; its very title an affront to any sort of attempt at wide mainstream acceptance. Through two albums, she’d created a gender-defying persona with a heightened sexuality. And, as evidenced by the album title, she didn’t give a fuck what you thought of her. At all. She was going to be herself and she was going to shove that self in your face: you could either look away or you could do your best to take it all in and be awed by it.

My partner was enthralled by Peaches from the first time she heard Peaches’ voice slip in over top of the raw, low-fi beats that begin “Fuck the Pain Away,” the opening track of Teaches of Peaches. Her growing passion for Peaches just got bigger after she discovered and started playing roller derby, a community that as a whole seemed to share my partner’s love for the singer.

One of the first things I noticed about the roller derby community was how big the LGBT community was within it. The revival of the sport had been very much wrapped up in third-wave feminism and was fueled by a punk rock sensibility; especially in Montreal, where I was first seeing the game, roller derby and the LGBT community were fused to the point where I didn’t much think about one without the other. But I also noticed right away that the sport itself—and how inclusive, empowering and all encompassing it could be—led to a certain transcendence of politics. I once wrote about how struck I was that skaters weren’t traditionally feminist in that they didn’t seem to be caught up in a fight for acceptance or inclusion; they simply expected it.

For me, Peaches has always represented a similar attitude. A similar transcendence. For the most part, the persona of Peaches takes the point of view of a woman in her song writing, but she isn’t interested in adhering to any sort of traditional notions of what being a woman is, and as her career has gone on, her persona has become more ambiguous. She just is. There is an overt sexual “baseness” to her writing that is grounded in an extremely physical experience. She is living through her body, experiencing life through her body, and that body happens to be a female one.

Naptown Jammer Maiden America (playing for the Eager Beavers) attempts to pass Montreal's Nameless Whorror (Clam Diggers). (Photo by Greg Russell)

Naptown Jammer Maiden America (playing for the Eager Beavers) attempts to pass Montreal’s Nameless Whorror (Clam Diggers). (Photo by Greg Russell)

Along with her recording career, Peaches has also made some movies, most notably the “electro rock opera” Peaches Does Herself. A sort of psychedelic memoir, it begins as a kind of portrait of the artist as a young women, in which the audience is introduced to a mythologized version of Peaches’ creation. It is, throughout, a celebration of the female body and a carnivalized romp through a woman’s sexual awakening and then experience. Through this process, the film also lays bare the constructed nature of human gender and sexuality, then defies those constraints as the film becomes more surreal and the desires and gender of the characters become more fluid.

I was at the world premiere of Peaches Does Herself, and I remember leaving the Bloor Hot Docs cinema that night convinced that Peaches was the most important woman in the world. She represented the avant garde of female identity in the 21st century: a super-empowered, hyper-sexual being who celebrated her body—all bodies!—with a wild glee.  She was, to put it simply, free to explore how she wanted to be a woman.

Of course, I know it is naïve to think of any performer as the most important anything in the world, yet I am still convinced that the very existence of someone like Peaches makes our world a better place to live.

And I could—and have—said the same about women’s flat track roller derby. Here’s a competitive game built and shaped by women in the midst of a sporting environment absolutely dominated by men. Here’s a game that has not only welcomed the LGBT community but celebrates it, has put it at the core of its growth and has allowed it to shape the nature and attitude of the game. Here’s a sport that has eschewed all traditional notions of what a sport is and how it should be, taken a punk-rock DIY approach and made it work on a national, then cross-border, and now global scale. Roller derby, like Peaches, has become a force of nature. And I think our world is a better place for it.

 

***For the record, the Clam Slam was once again a great success that produced two really, really entertaining games of roller derby. In the first, the Plaid Mafia used a late-game comeback to defeat Team Uhaul 194-178. In the second, the Eager Beavers held off a late charge by the Clam Diggers to record the 193-154 victory. Both games were boutcast live; watch the archives here.

WP Affiliate banner***Portions of this article were excerpted from a book-length work in progress***

Word on the Track: Skids Retain Top Spot; Clam Slam Rosters Revealed; First Cindy Davidson Cup Held!

AN INTERNATIONAL STORY AT ECDX

Montreal and Terminal City last met in 2010 at Toronto's first ever Quad City Chaos. Montreal won that showdown 160-55. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal and Terminal City last met in 2010 at Toronto’s first ever Quad City Chaos. Montreal won that showdown 160-55. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Whatever way you look at it, Canadian roller derby is in the midst of a big year. With four teams currently sitting in D1 playoffs and another now ensconced in D2, the Canadian squads are set to build off of the surprises of last season when Toronto and Terminal City went on deep D1 playoff runs and Tri-City was a heartbreaking overtime clock mistake away from a potential berth in the D2 finals

On Saturday night at Philly’s ECDX, two of Canada’s big three faced off in a highly anticipated matchup that did not disappoint. Earlier this season, Toronto took its first swipe at Montreal and came within 17 points of upending the Skids (the score would not be as close in a rematch in Montreal a month later). This weekend, Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars (25th to Montreal’s 16th) took their shot and came up as close, falling 199-177. Terminal stuck with the Skids through the whole game, but as it was with that Quad City Chaos showdown against Toronto, Montreal, while threatened, had that extra gear gained from so many hours competing at the upper echelons of the sport.

The rest of the weekend was a mixed bag for the Canadian entries. While Terminal City looked solid in decimating a slipping Boston (17th) 269-160, Montreal looked out of sorts against a surging Victorian (10th) from Melbourne who overwhelmed them 240-66. At their current rate, Victorian could be another international team to watch as they seem poised to join London at Champs this season.

Similarly, Team Canada took a slight step back against Team USA. At last year’s ECDX, Canada lost 252-72, a scoreline that surprised a lot of people. This year—with the World Cup only six months away—USA stepped up with a superior offensive performance (356 points) that overshadowed an impressive offensive outburst from Team Canada (90). It was, arguably, not Team Canada’s full A-roster, but it was pretty close and was one loaded with talent.

Nonetheless, Canadian teams continue to enjoy a growing spotlight, and while we may not have a team playing quite at the level that London and Victorian currently are, as a country we still have depth surpassed only by USA.

CLAM SLAM 6 SETS ALL-STAR ROSTERS

The 6th annual Clam Slam is just around the corner, but this year the stakes are even higher! Yes, for the second year in a row this will be a unified ToRD-GTAR event, and, yes, for the second year in a row it will be at Ted ReeveClam Slam 2014 Poster Arena in Toronto’s east end, but this year’s Clam Slam  is a World Pride affiliate event! This is the first ever World Pride to be held in North America and festivities are already well underway in Toronto. Since this is the biggest Pride ever, it’s only fitting that this is the biggest Clam Slam ever!

Last year’s Clam Slam was a phenomenal event—featuring the best game of the five year history of the event, and this year promises to build off of that, with many players returning for the rematch.

As with last year, the Clam Slam will be a double header featuring two games, opening with an intermediate level bout featuring skaters from Ontario (and one skater from Montreal). Leagues represented include the hosts ToRD and GTAR, but also Hammer City, Renegade Derby Dames, Rollergettes, Northumberland Roller Girls, Kingston Derby Girls, Nickel City (Sudbury), Durham Region Roller Derby, Tri-City, and Royal City.

The advanced-level game will be hard pressed to live up to the level of last year’s thrilling match, but its got the talent level to do so. Loaded with Canadian and American All Stars, the main event should be incredibly fast paced. The Eager Beavers feature local stalwarts such as Nasher the Smasher, Fox Smoulder, Ruby Puby (AKA: ToRD’s Bellefast) and Bouche, but will also feature the return of three Naptown skaters Maiden America, Trudy Bauchery and Eve Ann Hellical. Fans will also get to see Tri-City’s Sofonda Snatch (AKA: Sofonda Beatin) who recently returned from injury.

The Clam Diggers respond with a pretty impressive rosters of their own, featuring the likes of ToRD’s Dyna Vagina (AKA: Dyna Hurtcha) and Matchu Eatchu (Matchu Beatchu), but also Clam Slam regulars Mirambo (Forest City) and Nameless Whorror (Montreal—who will be joined on the Diggers this year by leaguemate La Planche). Plus, Toronto derby fans will also get a chance to welcome Rainbow Fight back to the track after a long injury lay off.

The Clam Slam will be at Ted Reeve Arena on Thursday with the opening game starting at 6:30 PM and the second at 8:00 PM.

If you aren’t close enough to catch the game, you can still watch the Clam Slam! Both games will be boutcast live by the ToRD.TV crew and hosted here, by Layer9.ca.

**Full rosters are listed at the bottom of the post.

FIRST CINDY DAVIDSON CUP HELD

Cindy Davidson Cup PosterThis weekend, the first ever Cindy Davidson Cup was held in Walkerton, Ontario. Called “Crushing the Big C,” the event featured a junior scrimmage followed by a full flat track game. The rosters featured many familiar faces to those in the derby community including skaters from Durham Region (Lous Ur Pants/Lucid Lou, TRUCK, Yogi Dare Ya), Northumberland Roller Girls (Provokenator, Chronic Carnage), Grey Bruce (Scary Queen, Anita AllyBy), Misfit Militia (Terry Bomb, Bee Bee MaGee), Renegade Derby Dames (Ethyl A Mean, Daemon Star), and Fergus (Steph-a-hani, Eager Beaver), among many others!

For the record, C Crush beat Pink Power 336-113, but the result was secondary to the event itself, a charity event with proceeds going to the Grey-Bruce Health Services Oncology Expansion and Wes for Youth Online.

Cindy Davidson, known as Mama Kal-Hell by the Northumberland Roller Girls, has been bravely chronicling her “cancer thing” (her words) on her blog “Aside from Cancer, I never Get Sick.” It is quite an astonishing blog—raw, moving, detailed. It provides a remarkably clear, yet sometimes wrenching, glimpse into the life of a cancer patient.

All accounts suggest that this weekend’s event was a great success, so keep an eye out for it next year, as it just may become an annual event.

Read Cindy’s blog here. More information about the event can be found here.

2014 Clam Slam Rosters

GAME 1:

Team Uhaul Team Plaid Mafia
League DERBY NAME NUMBER League DERBY NAME NUMBER
ToRD Straight Bait 23 Kingston Flaming Hips 40
HCRG Hardcore Lolo 213 GTAR Cunning Linguist 42
ToRD G-STRINGER 312 Nickel City Nellie McStung 73
HCRG Pretty Fishy 314 MTLRD La Grande Noirceur 78
Nothumberland Betty BOOM 321 GTAR Mashes to Ashes 88
ToRD Vagina Dentata 422 ToRD Sleeper Hold 213
HCRG Smashin’ Good Time 519 Tri-City Tits Tits Tits 480
Renegade Riot Rhythm 524 ToRD Beej 831
Nothumberland Natural Dezzaster 911 PRD Jaxalottapus 3953
GTAR Pepper Pot 917 ToRD SewButt 525S
GTAR Dirty Daddy’s Kitten 6969 ToRD Map of Tasmania 5BY5
Rollergettes KALI 4NK8 Tri-City Badger 6P
HCRG M.I gay 9MM ToRD Miss Andry B0TM
Rollergettes Whoreschach DSM5 DRRD extermi-knitter K2P6
ToRD Heavy Petter K1 Royal City Scream Queen O84
GTAR COMMANDER BOX X3 ToRD VAGilante X0X0

 

GAME 2:

Eager Beavers Clam Diggers
League DERBY NAME NUMBER League DERBY NAME NUMBER
Niagara Lock N Roll 0 ToRD Dyna Vagina 21
Naptown Eve Anne Hellical 316 ToRD Bi-Furious 31
Tri-City Psykosonic 4 HCRG Rock E. Road 52
ToRD Rebel Rock-This 7 Forest City MIRAMBO 69
Tri-City AnneXXX 14 ToRD Hoe Hoe Hoe NO! 111
ToRD Rosemary’s Gayby 15 HCRG Homewrecken Holly 187
ToRD Bouche 26 MTLRD Nameless Whorror 202
GTAR SoFearMe 52 ToRD Just Jes 510
ToRD Hoff 65 GTAR NEWFIE BULLET 709
Naptown Maiden America 76 ToRD Machu Eatchu 747
Tri-City Sofonda Snatch 420 Tri-City Fraxxure 911
ToRD ThünderKünt 867 DRRD/PRD Lous ur pants 1234
Tri-City Fox 1013 ToRD Ames to Please 2or3
Tri-City MW 1321 HCRG Cancer Candy 3BUX
ToRD Ruby Pubie 5678 DRRD Psy-Show-Bob 46N2
Niagara Axel La Rose 15H0 MTLRD La Planche 61X

Canadian Power Rankings: June 1, 2014

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Pounder, Dr. Jenny Fever and Derby Nerd rank Canada’s top A-level travel teams every two months. Read the April 1st Power Rankings 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

- By the narrowest of margins, the Skids retain top spot. They got roughed up against stiff competition on a recent West Coast road trip, but have also picked up victories over Boston and, most importantly, a 63-point win over a Toronto team that had pushed them to the limit earlier in the season. An ECDX matchup with prime contenders Terminal City is looming. (/ 12).
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars +1 Vancouver has completely swapped places with Toronto, and as CN Power did earlier in the season, Terminal City seems on the verge of knocking the Skids off of top spot. Terminal City had a rough time against top competition at the Tinseltown Showdown, but looked strong in defeat, and used the experience to roll over their competition at the Big O (including a narrow win over the Oly Rollers, a team who also narrowly beat Montreal). (1 / 37)
3.CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)New CNP Logo -1 After an explosive end to 2013 and a surging start to 2014, Toronto seemed to take its foot of the gas for a bit, suffering some big losses on a nine-game losing streak. However, they seem to have begun to pull themselves back up, rattling off three-straight wins, including one-sided victories over Cincinnati and Jet City at Spring Roll. They’ve slipped just below Vancouver and Montreal, but remain well above the rest of the competition. (3 / 23)
4. Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Roller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo -  The Thunder have had an up-and-down 2014, sporting a 5-7 record based on some inconsistent wins/losses. However, they went 2-2 with a tough schedule at Spring Roll and notched victories over Glasgow and Big Easy. They remain on the cusp of the WFTDA D1 playoffs; it’s going to come down to the wire. (6 / 40)
5. Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

- Despite massive league-overhauls and the rebuilding of the house league, the Vixens continue to roll along fairly consistently. They are undefeated so far in 2014 (4-0) and are currently on a three-game WFTDA winning streak with victories over DC, Maine, and Roc City. A D-2 playoff spot is tantalizingly within reach. (5 / 64)
6.The Eh! Team (Hammer City Roller Girls)Hammer City Logo +2 (8)  Hammer City has picked up 2014 right where they left off 2013: surging up the WFTDA rankings. They made another recent 11-spot jump based on solid performances in losses to higher ranked teams in Fort Wayne, Bleeding Heartland and Paper Valley. A D2 playoff spot may be out of reach for this season, but the steady improvements show that it is just a matter of time. (10 / 78)

7.Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)

Calgary All Stars Logo

-1 (6)  While Calgary has a busy summer ahead, they’ve been relatively quiet since the last rankings, with only one closer-than-expected victory over the Kannibelles to base our opinions on. However, this remains a team to watch. (11 / 91)
8. Misfit Militia (Misfit Militia Roller Derby)
Misfit Militia Logo
-1 (7) Things have gone silent from the Militia recently as well, and the dearth of top-level competition scheduled for them this summer means that they will not have much of a body of work to base a ranking on. They are a team loaded with talent, but without much of a competitive push, they slip a spot in the rankings. (8 / - )
9. Sugar Skulls (Pile O’ Bones Derby Club)Sugar Skulls Derby LOGO (-)  Welcome back to the party Regina! Last seen in these parts in August of last year, the team returns to the Top 10 on the back of a 5-2 record and impressive wins over former Top 10ers in the Mind Fox and most impressively the Kannibelles (194-80) at Spokarnage. (12 / -)
10. Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)Duchesses Logo  It’s about time to stop underestimating this team, and really, this league as a whole. While they have yet to face off against truly high level competition this season, they have absolutely destroyed everyone they have faced. They’ve also had considerable success at the house league level showing that this is a travel team with a truly solid foundation. An upcoming home-and-home series against bubble team Muddy River could solidify this spot in the Top 10. (14 / – )

Pile O' Bones LogoThis month’s Power Rankings were defined by long discussions and some tough decisions. As with Toronto at the end of last season and beginning of this one, Vancouver’s Terminal City could arguably have stolen the top spot and has now emerged as the greatest threat to Montreal’s long-time dominance of Canadian roller derby. Terminal City was able to narrowly defeat the Oly Rollers, only to have Montreal fall to the former champs from Olympia a week later. However, taking into considering some roster changes and other factors we’ve got Montreal (barely) holding on to Top Spot. Currently, there seems to be zero statistical difference between these two teams. Luckily for Canadian derby fans, the two teams themselves will solve this debate when they meet at ECDX later this month.

Toronto rounds out the top three remaining well ahead of Tri-City and Rideau Valley (who round out the Top 5). One thing the Rankings Crew has noted is that the top three teams in Canada are currently well above the competition, humming along at a completely different level right now than anyone else in the country. All three teams have played, quite literally, the best there is in the world this season, which is keeping them at that heightened competitive level.

Tri-City and Rideau Valley also led to quite a bit of debate in rounding out the Top 5, as the Thunder have waned ever-so slightly while the Vixens just seem to be heating up. However, Tri-City holds its spot based on the calibre of competition they have been facing. Hammer City, Calgary and Misfit Militia juggle spots a bit in the middle but remain solidly in position, but things have changed at the bottom.

Regina’s Sugar Skulls (representing the Pile O’ Bones Derby Club) returns to the Top 10 after nearly a year-long absence, quite literally knocking the Kannibelles out of the Top 10 with their victory over them at Spokarnage.

ON THE BUBBLE

Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits)

Kootenay Kannibelles (West Kootenay Roller Derby)

Moncton’s Lumbersmacks remain on the bubble, but are now joined by a handful of other teams. The Kannibelles find themselves here after just barely slipping out of the Top 10; the Anarchy Angels have been on our radar for quite some time, and are still under scrutiny but have yet to face (or defeat) a high-enough level of competition to make the leap.

TEAMS TO WATCH

Eville Logo

All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League)

E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)

Belladonnas (Red Deer Roller Derby Association)

Arch Angels (St. Albert Heavenly Rollers)

 

As the season wears on, the Crew has narrowed its Teams to Watch list. Winnipeg has been on this list for quite a while, and we’re just waiting to see how they respond to some stiffer competition than they have currently faced. The Belladonnas have been perennial Top 10ers, but some roster changes and uncertainty have caused them to slip; nonetheless, they remain on the radar. On the other side of the coin is E-Ville Dead: once considered a top team in the nation, the league has gone through a bit of a rebuild but is beginning to climb once again. Also jumping onto the radar after a second-place performance at Flat Track Fever are St. Albert’s Arch Angels.

 

*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!-

Weekend Results: Canada’s WFTDA Teams Have Up-and-Down Weekend

It was a busy weekend for Canada’s WFTDA teams, with most of Canada’s top teams spread out across the continent for important regular season matchups.

Both Toronto and Tri-City had busy weekends at Fort Wayne's Spring Roll

Both Toronto and Tri-City had busy weekends at Fort Wayne’s Spring Roll

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

Montreal had to have hit the West Coast with high expectations, especially after Vancouver’s Terminal City was able to knock off one of their opponents, the Oly Rollers, last weekend. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Canada’s top team went 0-3 against incredibly tough competition in Rat, Rose and Oly. The losses will affect their WFTDA rankings (although they lost only 3.6 points on Flattrackstats on the weekend), but the loss to lesser ranked Rat and Oly, especially, shows that they still have a lot of work to do before season’s end to finally attain that goal of making Champs.

Montreal (12th) 124 vs. Rat City (18th) 202

Montreal 109 vs. Rose City (5th) 306

Montreal 174 vs. Oly (14th) 230

Toronto Roller Derby: CN Power

New CNP logo

Toronto entered the weekend on a massive 8-game slide, and were looking for some positives heading into a busy summer. Things started off rough on Saturday against a tough Jacksonville team whose incredibly fast and agile jammers ran roughshod over the team. However, Toronto found their form against lesser opponents as the weekend went on, handling a strong Jet City with ease before crushing Cincinnati to close out Spring Roll (it’s hard to believe this Cinci. team beat Toronto a year ago). They were confidence-boosting wins that the team needed as it looks to shore up a favourable playoff spot.

Toronto (23rd) 116 vs. Jacksonville (16th) 243

Toronto 235 vs. Jet City (36th) 86

Toronto 370 vs. Cincinnati (56th) 83

Tri-City Roller Derby: Tri-City Thunder

Tri-City Thunder Logo

The Thunder headed to Spring Roll hoping to improve their tenuous hold on a Division 1 playoff spot; unfortunately, things didn’t necessarily go as planned. Given a favourable draw for the weekend, Tri-City did go 2-2 for the tournament, but the results were not quite as expected. The wins came against a D-2 non-playoff team (Big Easy) and a D-3 team (Glasgow, though due to lack of high-level competition, Glasgow’s ranking is probably far too low), but both wins were within 40 points. The loss to Jet City, despite being ranked below the Everett-based team, was a missed opportunity to knock of a low-ranked D-1 team, and the upset loss to a determined Chicago Outfit team just trying to qualify for the D-2 playoffs had to have hurt.

Tri-City (40th) 148 vs. Jet City (36th) 178

Tri-City 190 vs. Glasgow (104th) 175

Tri-City 176 vs. Big Easy (82nd) 137

Tri-City 124 vs. Chicago Outfit (65th) 161

Division 2 and Division 3 Action

Vixens Logo

The Rideau Valley Vixens headed to the East Coast to take on Maine’s Port Authorities in a very important D-2 showdown between two teams who have made significant jumps early in 2014, and the Vixens came away with the win: another step in securing a D-2 playoff spot.

Rideau Valley (64th) 192 vs. Maine (72nd) 160

Closer to home, the GTA Rollergirls G-sTARs hosted Alliston’s Renegade Derby Dames Striking Vikings in WFTDA action. This was the second sanctioned bout for the G-sTARs after a loss to London’s Timber Rollers to kick off the season. It was the first ever sanctioned game for the Striking Vikings. It was an incredibly tight game, especially in the first half (the Vikings had a 12-point lead at the break). Some excellent half-time adjustments for the G-sTARs saw the hosts take a lead early in the second that they were able to hold onto for the remainder of the game. Neither team has yet to be ranked (they must play three sanctioned games for an initial ranking), but both will be looking to make inroads into D-3 before the season is over.

GTA (-) 144 vs. Renegade Derby Dames (-) 112

Busy Weekend for Canada’s WFTDA Teams: Montreal, Toronto, Tri-City and Rideau Valley in Action

Montreal heads to the West Coast on an important three-game road trip; Toronto and Tri-City head to the Mid West for Spring Roll; and Rideau Valley heads to the East Coast.

Montreal Heads West

Montreal's Honey Badger tries to get passed Toronto's Ames to Kill and Mega Bouche in a March matchup up in Toronto. Montreal won 233-216. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Honey Badger tries to get passed Toronto’s Ames to Kill and Mega Bouche in a March matchup up in Toronto. Montreal won 233-216. (Photo by Greg Russell)

As the spring crawls toward summer, the WFTDA schedule is ramping up as teams jockey for playoff positions or, in the case of Division 2 teams, simply fight for a playoff spot. Fans of Canadian derby get a little bit of everything this weekend as four of the nation’s top five teams are all in action.

First off, Montreal (currently ranked 12th after moving up a few spots in the most recent rankings) head to the West Coast for an important three-game road trip all against Top 20 teams. They kick things off with a game against Seattle’s Rat City on Friday night. It was February 2011 when these two teams first faced off, with Montreal recording an at-the-time shocking 110-103 win. It would announce Montreal’s reaching the highest level of competitive play: a level they have stayed at since. They will continue their challenging road trip with games against Rose City in Portland and then the Oly Rollers in Olympia.

Montreal is off to a great start in 2014 with a 4-0 record that includes two victories in a home-and-home series against Toronto. Rat City (ranked 18th) crushed Sacred City 444-58 in their season opener, while Rose City (5th) is 3-1 in WFTDA play with 300+ point victories over Kansas City and Treasure Valley, and a tight 252-199 win over Philly. Their loss came at the hands of Texas (274-194). Montreal will end the weekend against the Oly Rollers who return to WFTDA after focusing on USARS last season. Oly is a team largely rebuilt from its run to the 2012 WFTDA championship game, and has had a rough return so far with a pretty one-sided win over Treasure Valley being followed by un upset loss to Vancouver’s Terminal City (139-130) and a 263-140 loss to Rose City.

Toronto and Tri-City At Spring Roll in Fort Wayne

Toronto (23rd) and Tri-City (40th) will both be heading to Fort Wayne for this Spring Roll 2014 Banneryear’s Spring Roll. Both play their first games on Saturday with Tri-City (3-5 on the season with wins over Ft. Myers and Queen City and losses to teams including Detroit and Naptown) kicking things off against Everett, Washington’s, Jet City (36th), while later in the day they’ll have the privilege of playing a cross-ocean opponent in Glasgow (ranked 104 and who are coming off of a season-opening loss to Cardiff’s Tiger Bay Brawlers). Tri-City will close out the weekend on Sunday against New Orleans’ Big Easy Rollergirls (82nd). Tri-City recently slipped into Division 1 and this weekend’s favourable draw gives them an opportunity to at least hold that (and perhaps even increase it with a win over a beatable Jet City team).

Toronto finds itself attempting to slow an early season slide. They peaked at 13th in the WFTDA after opening the year with two wins but have since dropped eight in a row (to tough opponents including Monteal, Rocky Mountain and London). This weekend gives them an opportunity to, at the very least, hold their position. They’ll face off against a surging Jacksonville on Saturday (16th), a team on the exact opposite trajectory as Toronto at this point in the season; it will be a good challenge, especially after they showed signs of improvement in losses last weekend to Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Toronto also has two games on Sunday, starting with Jet City (36th) and concluding with a matchup against Cincinnati (56th), a team that beat Toronto by only 20 points last year but that has been on a freefall since, and could even be in danger of losing a spot in the D-2 playoffs at this rate.

All games will be boutcast. You can find the complete schedule here.

Rideau Valley Vixens Head East

Finally, Ottawa’s Rideau Valley Vixens (64th) will be on the road to take on Maine Roller Derby’s Port Authorities (72nd) on Saturday night. Rideau Valley jumped five spots in the current ranking after knocking off DC on the road in their season opener. Rideau Valley is on the cusp of a D-2 playoff spot and a convincing win over Maine (who beat Rideau Valley last season by 35 points [187-152]) would help the push for a position. Maine is not a team to take lightly though. After tumbling badly in 2013, they have had a hot start this season, jumping 9 positions so far in 2014 on the strength of their 5-1 record.

Maine and Rideau Valley met last year with Maine picking up the 35-point win.

While the All Stars are Away, the Young Stars Will Play

ToRD’s “young stars”, the D-VAS, and Toronto Junior Roller Derby hosted a double header as their big sisters on CN Power and the Bay Street Bruisers hit the road.

Montreal and Toronto's junior teams played a 9-point game one year ago. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal and Toronto’s junior teams played a 9-point game one year ago. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

This weekend was a big one for Toronto Roller Derby; with its two travel teams on the road, each facing two tough matchups, the D-VAS, the house league farm team (AKA: the “future stars” travel team), held down the fort, hosting a double header with ToRD’s JRDA affiliate Toronto Junior Roller Derby. In terms of wins/losses it was a tough weekend for the city, its teams going a combined 1-5, but even within the losses there were some bright spots and solid results.

First off, on the home front, there was a rare D-VAS/Toronto Junior Roller Derby double header at The Bunker featuring guests from Lindsay (Lindsay Roller Derby) in the senior game and Montreal in the junior game. TJRD kicked things off against Rhythm and Bruise, their Montreal counterparts. This was a rematch of an incredibly close game (226-217) won by Montreal in Montreal almost exactly a year ago.

It has been astonishing watching the development of junior roller derby over the past four years: from awkward, un-strategic lap-skating to full on, hard fought strategically smart derby, the junior programs across the country have grown in leaps in bounds in a very short period of time. And it’s not only in our country; the Junior Roller Derby Association (JRDA) has become incredibly organized, to the point where there are sanctioning procedures and this year will introduce regional playoffs along with the increasing popular JuniorCon. Both Montreal and Toronto are Level 2 members of the JRDA, and play a slightly modified WFTDA rule set.

Montreal's El Skeletto tries to get through a Toronto two-wall of Awesome Sauce and Haylstorm. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Blue Zebra tries to get through a Toronto two-wall of Awesome Sauce and Haylstorm. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Given the level of intensity and the quality of the contact, for fans of flat track roller derby, there is little difference between the senior and junior games at this level. Things started out tight between both teams with Montreal using some power jams to pad a bit of a lead at half, up 109-48. Penalty troubles would continue to be the story in the second as pack and jammer penalties for Toronto allowed Montreal to maintain the distance; indeed, they managed to hold a 50-point for much of the half (it was 150-100 with 12 minutes left to play) before Montreal put it away in the end, pulling away for the 217-114 win.

There were phenomenal moments from each team, and strong play from skaters from both sides. Montreal’s attack was led by some strong jamming from El Skeletto, who jammed a few of those second-half power jams putting a ton of points on the board. Bess Kind was a presence on both sides of the jammer line, having a strong game as both a pivot and jammer. For Toronto, Skate of Emergency (who’s also jammed in the past) was excellent in the pack, locking in some strong one-on-one defence. Art Attack-Her continues to develop as a jammer, but Toronto’s roster seems to be defined by its double threats, with Awesome Sauce, Haylstorm, FBI and captain Mizz CrushHer looking comfortable both in the pack and with the star.

The D-VAS hosted Lindsay in their second home game of the season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The D-VAS hosted Lindsay in their second home game of the season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The D-VAS, featuring ToRD’s 2015 draft-eligible skaters, played in its third game of the season, coming off of a home win against Durham’s DRRDy Farmers (252-110) and a road loss to the surging Fergus Feims (168-276). They faced off against a tough Lindsay team.

Lindsay Roller Derby is an interesting league, part of the seemingly roster-rotating group of leagues that includes Northumberland Roller Derby, Peterborough, and Durham Region: All of this intermingling and co-training has led to the development of some excellent skaters and has a given a level of consistency to these leagues that may otherwise have been lacking. On Saturday, Lindsay was led by a core of skaters with significant experience playing for Durham Region (12 Gage, Psycho Magnet, and String Blade are all Atom Smashers, while Crazy Momma plays for the Farmers). While these skaters all stood out significantly in the pack, there is some excellent homegrown talent as well, including the hard-hitting Juniper Hill and the relentless Jensational in the pack. But the secret weapons of the squad could be its jammer rotation, built around the athletic Jennerator and the wily UnAlish’D, both excellent jammers who carved up the D-VAS’ packs all night.

The D-VAS themselves are starting to round into form. With months left before the next entry draft, there is a still a lot of time for skaters to step up and make an argument for themselves, but right now there are a few key skaters on the team. In the pack, Juggernaut J and April Cruel continue to lead the way: Juggernaut with her controlled positional play and April with her relentless blocking (the former ref has all of the fearlessness and the instincts for the game [she’s already providing timely offense] and just needs to gain some control from a skating fundamentals point of view). Before suffering an injury, Knoccer Mom was also having a strong game, while Durham transfer Slamureye’s previous experience is showing with her on-track leadership. The D-VAS are also showing some depth from the jammers as well, with former ref Lace Frehley skating an excellent game, joining the increasingly reliable Battering Ma’am and the quick and agile Murdercat as leaders of the offense.

D-VAS blocker Juggernaut J attempts to slow Lindsay jammer UnAlish'D. (Photo by Greg Russell)

D-VAS blocker Juggernaut J attempts to slow Lindsay jammer UnAlish’D. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The experience of Lindsay showed in the early going as they quickly built a small but stable lead. It was actually a tight defensive game (the score was 49-16 with ten left in the first) with Lindsay holding a 72-30 lead at half. It was much the same in the second with both teams managing to up the offensive production. Lindsay held on for the 169-96 win.

While the future was on full display in Toronto, ToRD’s present was on the road for two important games. On Saturday in Pittsburgh, The Bay Street Bruisers continued their B-level dominance with a one-sided win over the Steel Beamers (288-97), while CN Power (23rd in the WFTDA) and Steel Hurtin’ (19th) went toe-to-toe for much of the game (the hosts were up by 2 points at half) before Steel City was able to hold off Toronto with a 156-136 victory.

On Sunday, Toronto headed to Columbus to play the two Atlanta teams who’d played there the night before. The Bruisers fell into a deep whole early against the The Rumble Bs before surging back; unfortunately, they were unable to fully bridge the gap, falling 234-190 to a talented squad. The last time CN Power met Atlanta’s Dirty South Derby Girls (15th) was in last year’s playoffs, and Toronto nearly shocked the heavily favoured Atlanta skaters before losing by 40. Despite missing key skaters, Toronto once again stuck with Atlanta and put in a solid performance in the 214-110 loss.

Toronto recently surged to 13th in the WFTDA before a six (now eight) game losing streak knocked them back to 23rd. This weekend’s performance showed that this is properly the correct ranking for the team right now. A winnable-20 point loss to a team ranked four spots above them followed by a strong showing against an Atlanta team nearly ten spots above them will help the team hold its spot as the skaters rest up and repair for a late-season playoff push.

***CN Power will be heading to Spring Roll next weekend in Fort Wayne where they will face some tough competition. On May 24th, Toronto’s house league season continues with the the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! meeting in a regular season matchup.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls Prove to be the Beastliest at BOE 2014

Gores become first Toronto team to win the Beast of the East at Montreal’s seventh edition of the popular tournament.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

It has become quite a tradition that every spring, roller derby nerds in eastern Canada dutifully fill out their Beast of the East brackets. Some will even work out a few different versions based on hunches, hot teams, or un-hittable skaters.

Every year, without fail, by the end of the tournament, it becomes obvious that filling out this bracket is an exercise in futility.

2014 was no different, indeed it was the most unbracketable Beast in a long line of unbracketable Beasts, a testament to the format—beginning with a sixteen team double elimination round featuring 20 minute games—and the participants—house league teams with little inter-city experience and little data on which to base these matchups. It’s also just one of the myriad reasons why people have fallen in love with Montreal Roller Derby’s annual Beast of the East tournament, and why that affection grows year after year.

Very few prognosticators had picked Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls to win it all, a team that had failed to live up to high expectations in the past, and fewer still (IE: NOT ONE) saw their opponent in the final, Roller Derby Quebec’s Casse-Gueules, doing anything but providing great warm-up games for the true contenders in the early going. Power house teams were eliminated early (Les Contrabanditas), pre-tournament favourites fell in the quarterfinals (Death Track Dolls) and heart rates went through the roof as game after game after game came down to final jams, or even overtime when final jams just weren’t enough.

DOUBLE ELIMINATION ROUND

Forest City's Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

Forest City’s Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

The tournament kicked off with what everyone at the time thought was a pretty major upset, a last-gasp Casse-Gueules win over ToRD’s Smoke City Betties (54-49). It turns out that game was just an omen for what was to come: tight games and unexpected results.

There were a few blowouts, but even those turned heads (La Racaille’s 117-32 against a Riot Squad team that was playing its first games with a newly built roster), but for the most part, the games were close. The Smoke City Betties, Durham Region’s Motor City Madames (to their leagumates the Atom Smashers), Forest City’s Thames Fatales and Guelph’s Killer Queens all went two-and-done; meanwhile, led by ToRD’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Death Track Dolls, the surprising Casse-Gueules and Lunch Ladies (neither team having ever won a game in this tournament previously) won their first two games to book a spot directly in the quarterfinals.

The “must-win” elimination games that closed out day one just hinted at the thrilling action that would come. The surprising Atom Smashers (after a head-turning matchup against Les Filles du Roi and a 100-point performance in their second game) stuck around for half the game against La Racaile, before the veteran Montreal skaters pulled away in the end, ending the tournament for one of the “dark horse” picks of the tournament; the Riot Squad finally started to get it together by nearly doubling up FDR, while their two Rideau Valley leaguemates had to square off with the Prime Sinisters (led by their incredible one-two punch of Margaret Choke and Brennan) knocking out the defending champion (but totally rebuilt) Slaughter Daughters. Finally Quebec’s Rouge et Gore played strong late, shocking hosts Les Contrabanditas with a last jam comeback to move on to the quarter finals for the second year in a row.

KNOCKOUT ROUND

Rideau Valley's Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Rideau Valley’s Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Quarterfinals

The first three quarterfinal games provided one of the most exciting runs in Beast of the East history, beginning with the Casse-Gueules overcoming a bad late-game decision (when they called it off early) to hold off a surging Prime Sinisters, 50-46. In the second game, the Luscious Lunch Ladies, led by Team France jammer Pepe Le Punch, mounted a final jam 20-point comeback to force overtime (the first in BOE history), but had little left in the extra jam as the Sinisters locked down the defense and won by 9. The Death Track Dolls never seemed to get into their game against a hungry La Racaille, and while their talent kept it close for the most part, they fell by 25 (86-61) in the end.

Finally, in an all-Gores matchup, Toronto’s Gores managed to hold on long enough despite a desperate push from the tireless Rouge et Gore out of Quebec (they skated with eight players for much of the tournament and stuck with a two jammer [!!] rotation of Nana Bistouri and Minnie Small for all four games). The Rouge et Gore’s Bistouri made three passes in the final 40 seconds, but Gore’s jammer Beaver made the one scoring pass necessary to book her team’s first spot in the final four since 2011 (64-61).

Semifinals

The semifinals picked up right where the previous round left off. Casse-Gueules showed once again that their performance in the tournament had little to do with luck and a lot to with preparation, and held off a Riot Squad team that visibly got stronger as the weekend went on, while the Rideau Valley team mounted a late-game push, they seemingly mistakenly called the final jam off with no-time left on the game clock (and about 50 seconds left on the jam clock) and down 75-68. The other semifinal was yet another last-jam nail biter, with the Gore-Gore Rollergirls coming back from nearly 20 down in the final two jams (they were down by 32 at one point) to shock the tournament’s most successful team historically, La Racaille, 68-67.

In the six playoff games leading up to the medal matchups, the combined point differential at the end of the regulation time was a paltry 40 points (more than half of that coming from one game). It was an extraordinary show of parity.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back and forth final.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back-and-forth final.

Finals

The final games (now played with two 20-minute halves) did not disappoint. La Racaille picked up its fifth medal in seven tournaments with a 148-131 win, and they were led by long-time skater K Dawg (who has been a member of La Racaille since the first BOE in 2008) and captain Russion Cruelette in the pack, with Legs//Cite and Falcon Punch leading the way with the star. Riot Squad (being rebuilt around a core of former Slaughter Daughter skaters including Sister Disaster, Hannah Murphy and Amanda Pummeler), really came together as the games went on (as did the other two Rideau Valley teams for that matter).

The final between the upstart Casse and the relentless Gores was also thrilling, tied 71 at half time, the Casse led for much of the game only to see the Gores roar back time and time again. The Casse were led in the pack by Feline Dion, Lady Mariane, and So Viet, with Beat’on The Quads, La Trappeuse and Booty Allen providing the jamming. Gores captain Santa Muerte fouled out 16 minutes into the first half, but instead of collapsing, the Gores thrived under the adversity, getting clutch jamming from a deep rotation (LumberJack Flash, Beaver Mansbridge, R.I. Pink, Guardian Paingel, and Taranasaurus Rex), and phenomenal on-track leadership from veteran Chronic and first-year transfer skater Machu Beatchu. All weekend long, the Gores showed an overwhelming, sometimes frantic, hunger that kept them in tight games late; they saved their most-calm performance of the weekend for late in the championship game, holding on for the 129-114 victory.

NERD’s PICKS

Machu Beatchu receives her MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

Machu Beatchu receives her Team MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

MVP: Machu Beatchu (Gore-Gore Rollergirls)

Playing in her first Beast, the Halifax-trained skater turned heads with her wonderful skating and incredibly aggressive blocking. Named Gores MVP as well, Machu is a young player with a bright future. Her play in the pack (not to mention as a capable relief jammer) intensified as the tournament progressed, and she was flat-out dominant in the final game.

*Honourable mentions to Beat’on The Quads, Chronic, Feline Dion, Legs//Cite, and Hannah Murphy.

Breakout Player: Beat’on The Quads (Casse-Gueules)

A phenomenal jammer, with surprising lower body strength, Beat’on The Quads was the captain of the most impressive (and consistent) team in the tournament. As a jammer, she was tireless, capable of pulling off back-to-backs and holding it together in clutch situations: nursing a slim lead, she actually mistakenly called off what could have been the final jam with time left on the clock in a must-win against the Sinisters, but, unfazed, went right back out, nabbed lead and calmly tapped her hips. It was a defining moment for a team that came of age this weekend.

*Honourable mentions to Feline Dion, Lumberjack Flash, and BlackeyE.

Photo by Joe Mac

No one outside of Quebec City saw the Casse-Gueules making it all the way to the final; the most surprising team in a tournament of surprises.

Breakout Team: Casse-Gueules (Roller Derby Quebec)

What’s left to say about a team that came in so-far under the radar that they were barely mentioned and yet managed to win four games in a row to make it all the way to the final? Last year it was Casse’s leaguemates Rouge et Gore who took home this prize, and this year roller derby fans were once again reminded of the quality organization that is Roller Derby Quebec.

*Honourable mentions to Luscious Lunch Ladies, Atom Smashers.

***This year’s Beast of the East was filmed by CUTV, who managed to come in on short notice, with no prior sports or derby experience, and did a fantastic job.

 

Montreal and Toronto Kick off Beast with WFTDA Showdown.

For the second year in a row, the New Skids on the Block host CN Power on the eve of the Beast of the East.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

184, 263, 89, 17.

These are the point differentials from the four times that Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Toronto’s CN Power have met since 2010. After the peak 284-21 win for the Skids at the 2011 Quad City Chaos, the gap has been narrowing; with that narrowing becoming all the more dramatic over the past year since the two faced off on the eve of last year’s Beast of the East.

By all metrics, this gap should narrow even more on the track at Arena St. Louis on Friday night, in what promises to be an electric atmosphere.

One thing you can be sure of is that Montreal will show up ready. Aside from a surprising blip at last year’s playoffs where a lacklustre performance blew a clear road to Champs, the Skids have been Canada’s most consistent and durable performers. And when it comes to those rare face offs against Canadian competition, they seem to always enter hungry for a victory. Never was this more evident than while repelling a ferocious Toronto attack at last month’s Quad City Chaos.

And at this stage in their development, this seems to be the last barrier of separation between Toronto and the other elite teams of the WFTDA’s Division 1: consistency, and the focus that this consistency requires.

After a reputation-building performance at last year’s playoffs, Toronto seemed to grow from the experience, kicking off 2014 with lopsided victories over formerly close opponents in Killamazoo and Bleeding Heartland before pushing Montreal to the very limits of their considerable abilities and experience in the thrilling 17-point loss on their home track in Toronto. But then everything seemed to change at halftime of another anticipated QCC matchup against a rebuilding Ohio team.

Montreal's Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month's Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month’s Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Taking an impressive 30-point lead into the break, it was a tale of two teams in the second half as Toronto came out loose, unfocused and unprepared for the brutal onslaught that a stone-faced and determined Ohio team unleashed. The considerably more experienced skaters from Columbus gave Toronto a swift lesson in the level of discipline and focus needed to compete at the WFTDA’s highest level on a consistent basis; by the time Toronto came around in the period (after a 97-14 Ohio run to start the second half), the game was already out of reach.

Nonetheless, it was a strong showing against a higher ranked opponent and Toronto had to have high expectations heading into London’s Anarchy in the UK, sporting a franchise-high rank of 13th. CN Power instead looked woefully out of place, suffering the most lopsided loss in their history (477-41 to London) before falling to Detroit, a team ranked 21-spots below them who had come into the tournament desperate to improve their lot and secure their perilous spot in the top Division; the win over Toronto guaranteed that.

It was a Toronto team that looked far removed from the one that had taken Atlanta to the limits on the biggest stage only six months prior.

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

The Skids don’t have as big a sample size on which be judged so far in 2014, but from what little we have seen, they seem to have learned from their so-so performance at Divisionals. Indeed, the Montreal team that showed up at QCC ’14 was the hungriest, most focused Skids team that I’ve seen in quite some time. Their thoroughly (almost shockingly) dominant win over Ohio (the very team that ended their shot at Champs in last year’s playoffs) was impressive to say the least. And the poise that they showed in repelling Toronto was evidence of their considerable experience playing at this elite level. Those hours on the track against the best this game has to offer were the difference. And as far as Toronto has come, they simply have yet to clock that all-important track time.

However, Toronto has bounced back from inconsistency before. It’s easy to forget that at the QCC ’13 Toronto lost to a Rideau Valley team that was (at the time) 30+ spots below them in the rankings. They built off of that learning experience, and used it to propel them to the D-1 playoffs. They will need to do so again this season with the Anarchy performance. They’ve got a tough schedule ahead of them, and while they need to learn from their losses, they simply don’t have time to dwell on them.

There won’t be much change in rosters from QCC to this game (Toronto jammer Rainbow Fight remains on injury reserve after suffering a serious internal injury against Killamazoo); however, Nasher the Smasher draws back into the pack and this could make a considerable difference for Toronto (she was named team MVP at Anarchy); a truly elite player, her on-track leadership will be a boon for Toronto.

Montreal's Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC '14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal’s Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC ’14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal seemed to answer the Iron Wench question (that question being “How do you replace the greatest jammer our country has ever seen?”) by showing considerable depth at the position, relying on a mix of vets and “rookies.” The supremely talented Miracle Whips has all the potential to be a top-level jammer, but is still prone to the kinds of mistakes that experience has a way of correcting.

A year ago nearly to the day, these two teams played an unbelievably exciting half of roller derby in front of one of the most appreciative and electric crowds I’ve seen for this sport in this country. Toronto seemed overwhelmed by the moment and faded in the second half. This year, however, Toronto has shown that at their best, they are ready for the spotlight. The question remains: Is Montreal willing to share it?

**The game will be streamed live by CUTV. Tune in to mtlrollerderby.com beginning at 6:50 PM on Friday, April 25th.

Beast of the East 7: A Preview of BOE 2014

Two days, sixteen teams, twenty-six games, and one winner. The 2014 Beast of the East promises excitement and unpredictability.

BEAST 2014 posterThe seventh annual Beast of the East comes at an exciting time in eastern Canadian roller derby history, and specifically in Ontario and Quebec’s history. Ontario alone now has eight full WFTDA member leagues (three of whom will be represented at the tournament). On top of that, Toronto is now ranked in the Top 20 (although that may change in the next rankings), Tri-City remains on the cusp of Division 1, and both Rideau Valley and Hammer City have more-than-valid shots at a place in this year’s D-2 playoff tournament. These are, indeed, boom times, and when there is such consistent competition at the top, it inevitably filters down through all ranks of the sport.

The great charm of the double-elimination Beast of the East is that it is exclusively a house league tournament, featuring the future (and even some current) stars of the sport in the region. This year, seven teams will be playing in their seventh Beast (Forest City’s Thames Fatales, the three Montreal teams and Toronto’s three representatives were all competitors in the original Beast), while another (Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters) will be in its sixth. Added to that mix of experience will be a contingent of new teams and leagues as well: Four teams will be making their second appearance, and two will be debutantes: the Killer Queens will be the first representatives from Guelph’s Royal City Roller Girls to make an appearance, while Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will join their leaguemates, the Motor City Madames, who will play in their second tournament.

These teams will have a lot to live up to, as by most accounts, last year’s tournament was the best of the bunch, featuring the highest level of competition the tournament had ever seen.

The 2013 Beast was also a tournament of firsts:

THE CONTENDERS

Least year's champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

Least year’s champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

If you look at the history of this tournament, it has been one dominated by three leagues. From 2008-2010 the hosts placed nine teams in the Top 3 (peaking in 2010 when the Montreal home teams ran the board). But since that time, only La Racaille (second last year) has medaled. The only other league to come close to this level is Toronto, who has had five medalists over the years. And finally, Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters have absolutely dominated the past three tournaments, winning two and losing in the final of the other.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After a few years of struggling to place teams, Montreal showed signs last year that they are ready for the top once again. All three teams are potential contenders, with winners of the recent MTLRD round-robin kick off tournament Les Contrabanditas leading the way (they remain the only host team to yet win the Beast). But that tournament was tight (La Racaille only lost to the Ditas by 3 points), and all three are viable threats.

Toronto Roller Derby has also become a perennial contender with both the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! picking up top three finishes in the past three years. While the Chicks (currently tied for second in ToRD’s house league) won’t be in this year’s tournament, the defending ToRD champs the Dolls will be back along with a resurgent Gore-Gore Rollergirls (who have underachieved since a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 championship game). Both should be considered threats.

The biggest (and most exciting) off-season change in Ontario roller derby was the reshuffling of Rideau Valley’s house league into three teams, two of whom, have to be considered contenders. The Prime Sinisters and the Riot Squad are both loaded with talent including many members of RVRG’s A-level travel team, the Vixens. While neither is quite the juggernaut that the Daughters were, they are both threats in this tournament.

THE DARK HORSES

Durham Region's Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

After last year’s thrilling run to the quarterfinals (including a last gasp 2-point victory in a must-win game against Toronto’s Smoke City Betties), no one should be surprised by the strength of Roller Derby Quebec’s Rouge et Gore. Nine members of the team form the core of the RDQ’s travel team, Les Duchesses, add coach (and member of Canada’s National Men’s Team) El Tennant to the bench, and this is a team that has a lot of track experience. Emboldened by last year’s run to the final eight, they should be a team to watch this year as well.

One team that may be off of people’s radars is Durham Region’s Atom Smashers. The Smashers are a team that features a nice balance of veterans (including former and current Toronto skaters in Amefyst and Lucid Lou, who appeared in this tournament with the Death Track Dolls for years) and up-and-coming stars. They have dominated Durham Region the last two years, winning the Gibson’s Cup twice (DRRD’s championship) and compiling an 11-2 record over that time.

NERD’S PICKS

This will be Riot Squad's fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This will be Riot Squad’s fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This year’s tournament feels particularly wide open, and given the unpredictable nature of the 20-minute format, making predictions sometimes seems like an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, the Nerd sees a final eight consisting of the three Montreal teams, Toronto’s Dolls and Gores, Rideau Valley’s Riot Squad and Prime Sinisters and Quebec’s Rouge et Gore, with a potential Sinisters vs. Riot Squad showdown in there as well.

On paper, these two Rideau Valley teams are virtually equal, and given the amount of collective experience on the two rosters, both should be considered top contenders to take top spot. Although the edge in depth may go to the Sinisters, the slightest edge in experience at the top could be given to the Riot Squad.

Of course, predictions are meaningless once the whistle blows. And first whistle blows at 8:00 AM on Saturday.

***The tournament will be boutcast (at least some of the tournament: stay tuned to the event page for further details and schedule).

***Tomorrow the Nerd looks at Friday night’s CN Power / New Skids on the Block showdown.