Roller Derby

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.

Dolls Move In To Top Spot, Betties Impress

Dolls' blocker Slam Wow tries to contain Gores' jammer Foxy Sinatra. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Dolls’ blocker Slam Wow tries to contain Gores’ jammer Foxy Sinatra. (Photo by Greg Russell)

It’s been a long time coming.

That’s got to be on the sentiment on the minds of the fans and players of the Smoke City Betties and the Death Track Dolls. Perennial underachievers, the Death Track Dolls dominated the opening 15 minutes of their wild showdown with the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and held on for the historic 233-153 victory, marking the first time since 2008 that the Dolls have defeated the Gores. Meanwhile, in the opening game of the double header, the Smoke City Betties long rebuilding process symbolically ended as they bounced back from a season-opening loss to dominate defending champion Chicks Ahoy!, winning 229-95. The last time the Betties defeated the Chicks was in 2009, which just also happens to be the last time the Betties Battled for the Boot.

Slaptrick Swayze looks for a route around the Chicks pack (she scored 62 points in the first half). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Slaptrick Swayze looks for a route around the Chicks’ pack (she scored 62 points in the first half). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Chicks Ahoy! 95 vs. Smoke City Betties 229

ToRD’s second house league double header of the season began with a showdown between the two winless teams in the league.  The opening minutes of the game were a slugfest as the Chicks Ahoy! and the Smoke City Betties traded the lead three times in fifteen minutes. The Chicks leaped out to a 14-0 lead after only two jams before the Betties began to chip away at the lead.

Finally, with the game 20-18 for the skaters in black and blue, the Betties used a power jam to take a lead that they would never relent: Slaptrick Swayze scored 14 on the jam—part of a 62 point half for the second-year jammer. At this point in the half, the Betties took complete control, outscoring the Chicks 78-13 over eleven jams to take a massive lead. Only a half-closing 23-point power jam skated by Rosemary’s Rabies had the Chicks within any sort of manageable distance, down 112-55 at the break.

Veteran Chick Kookie Doe pivots rookie Emraged as they hold Laya Beaton. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Veteran Chick Kookie Doe pivots rookie Emraged as they hold Laya Beaton. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks had optimistic hopes for the season, but it’s becoming clear that the lack of the experience is not something easily overcome, especially in a house league as competitive as ToRD’s. With the injury to key skater Roadside BombShel, heavy loads fell to the veterans of the team (namely Kookie Doe, Dyna Hurtcha, Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind and Furious Georgia, who all gobbled up a lot of tracktime once again, including a game-closing rare turn with the star by Robber Blind that included a phenomenal apex jump that caught everyone off guard). But with such a young roster, the baby Chicks are getting a lot of track time and are being forced into key situations. Smooth-skating transfer Chevy Chase Her continues to impress with the star, while rookie blocker Emraged was all over the track, and Joss Wheelin and R2-Smack-U continue to look ever more comfortable in the pack (even wearing the stripe).

Tropic Thunder and Renny Rumble contain Chevy Chase Her. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Tropic Thunder and Renny Rumble contain Chevy Chase Her. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While all of this youth is exciting for the future of this team, it makes for an inconsistent present (they were never able to earn more than two lead jammer statuses in a row). The Betties, on the other hand, looked much stronger after a shaky season opener, and dominated the second half of the game. After a brief pushback by the Chicks to open the second half (14 points over two jams), the Betties locked things down and picked up an incredible eight lead jammers in a row, to increase the lead to 163-73 at the fifteen-minute mark of the second half and put the game out of reach. Over the past few seasons of struggle, the Betties have built an experienced core of skaters  that are being complemented nicely this season by well-selected draft choices. In the pack, co-captain Misery Mae, CN Power skater Renny Rumble, along with veterans Tushy Galore and Mouth of the South, are coming together with a toughness and, more importantly, a solidarity that has not been seen on this team in a while. They’ve also developed a nice, deep jammer core led by co-captain Hailey Copter and Swayze, but completed by Wolverina and increasingly impressive Finnish transfer Udre. The future is bright with a the rise of the likes of LowBlowPalooza and Zomboney (who made her ToRD houseleague debut).

The Betties never allowed the Chicks within 100 points the rest of the way and skated away with the impressive 134-point victory.

The Dolls' explosive start caught the Gores off guard. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls’ explosive start caught the Gores off guard. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 153 vs. Death Track Dolls 233

The second game of the double header was essentially over in the first ten minutes of the game, and certainly by the midway point of the first half as the Death Track Dolls amassed a 111-5 lead that—to their credit—never demoralized the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, but put the game out of reach and highlighted the importance of a strong start and absolute focus after the opening whistle.

In much the same way as the Betties, it’s been a tough few years for the Dolls. Since a 2009 season that saw them battle toe-to-toe against the Chicks, things have not gone smoothly for the Dolls. One-sided semifinal losses to the Chicks in 2010 and 2011 and a last-place finish in 2012, left the Dolls as the sole remaining house league team to never reach ToRD’s championship game. After a few well-managed drafts and an incredibly consistent roster over the past two years, the Dolls are finally ready to compete. Their new-found competitive focus was never more evident than in the first quarter of the game. Relentless defence, but with an eye always on an offensive transition, the Dolls burst out of the gates on the opening whistle and took it to a Gores team that did not seem ready to start the game. 20-0 after four jams followed by a string of seven straight lead jammer statuses had the Dolls up by 106 points early.

Veterans Junkie Jenny and Monichrome duel in the pack. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Veterans Junkie Jenny and Monichrome duel in the pack. (Photo by Greg Russell)

After avoiding the massive roster reshuffles that have slowed the other teams in the league, the Dolls have an unmatched depth at every position. From the formidable foursome of a jammer rotation (Bellefast, Getcha Kicks, Santilly In Yo Face and Rainbow Fight), to the phenomenal pivoting and leadership from co-captains Speedin Hawking and Scarcasm and also Ames to Kill, to the deep blocker corps led by Audrey Hellborn, Rhage in a Cage, and Downright Dirty Dawson,  the Dolls look poised to continue this breakout season, and despite giving up a few late power jams, were up comfortably146-58 at the half.

Gores rookie Lexi Con and Dolls co-captain Scarcasm both had strong games. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Gores rookie Lexi Con and Dolls co-captain Scarcasm both had strong games. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores righted the ship at about the midway point of the opening half, but the gap was too much to bridge. Early injuries to veteran triple threats Foxy Sinatra and Santa Muerte had the Gores relying offensively on R.I. Pink, rookie Lexi Con (who continues to impress this season and scored more than half their points in the opening half), and jukey transfers Taranasaurus Rex and Beaver Mansbridge (who also went down with an injury late in this one—which turned out to be only a minor sprain).

The increasingly chippy, hard-hitting affair was fairly even the rest of the way, and despite the score line, was an entertaining game to watch.

Dolls triple threat Rainbow Fight continues to emerge as one of the leagues top skaters. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Dolls triple threat Rainbow Fight continues to emerge as one of the league’s top skaters. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Chronic was effective in her return from injury, and while the pack continues to rely on vets like Kandy Barr and Junkie Jenny, there is a rising blocker crew led by rookie Purple Pain, who are quickly starting to take on more and more responsibility. Despite some impressive individual performances (and a second half that was deadlocked in terms of lead percentage and scoring—91-83 for the Gores), in the end, the experienced Dolls were too much for the three-time champion Gores and won the high-scoring game by 80 points.

It was a hard-hitting, fast-skating night of flat track roller derby at the Bunker that saw the Death Track Dolls (2-0) pull ahead in the standings over the Smoke City Betties (1-1) and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls (1-1), leaving the rebuilding Chicks Ahoy! (0-2) without a win and in danger of finishing at the bottom of the standings for the first time ever.

* Next up for all four teams is the annual Beast of the East tournament in Montreal.

ToRD Double Header sees Undeafeated and Winless Teams Faceoff

ToRD Poster April 2013The last time the Smoke City Betties defeated the Chicks Ahoy! was in 2009. In roller derby, local and otherwise, change was in the air. Externally, the sport was undergoing a massive shift: from the no-nonsense athleticism of the Oly Rollers to the trapping and isolation game introduced to the larger community by Denver, the game was evolving in exciting and controversial ways that are still playing out. Closer to home, ToRD had just shifted to its new, all-season venue, The Hangar, and an old guard of one of the first flat track teams in the country was making one final all-in push for the ToRD Championship.

The Betties and Chicks initiate the Bunker in 2009. For the first time since then, the Betties have a shot at defeating the Chicks. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Betties and Chicks initiate the Bunker in 2009. For the first time since then, the Betties have a shot at defeating the Chicks. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Led by jammers Memphis Kitty and Jewel Kicker, double threat Slaughter Laughter, and pack skaters Hot Roller and Pretty Peeved (not to mention current Death Track Doll Demolition Dawn and an emerging triple-threat in Dyna Hurtcha), the 2009 Betties represented the final throes of a Betties team that had risen out of the ether to form one of the pillars of the Toronto, and Canadian, roller derby communities. That inaugural game at the Hangar would represent the end of an era in terms of the sport; it would be a showcase for how the game had been. Fast, hard hitting, with barely a break in the relentless speed, it was a defensive showdown the likes of which simply can’t exist anymore: skaters are too smart, the strategies too intricate. The game ended up being a 7-point Betties’ victory, the result of a ridiculously low-scoring, 68-61 game. The Betties would make it all the way to The Battle for the Boot that year–their only trip–only to fall to the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, a team that had spawned directly from the Betties when ToRD was formed.

Dolls' sub (and future Doll) Land Shark lines up against Desmond Deck Her in the 2008 Dolls' victory over the Gores. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Dolls’ sub (and future Doll) Land Shark lines up against Desmond Deck-Her late in the 2008 Dolls’ victory over the Gores. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

To find the last time that that the Death Track Dolls beat the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, you have to look back even further, to 2008, and a controversial bout that will forever be known as the Sub-Game, when an underhanded Dolls team borrowed a few skaters from then home teams the Bay Street Bruisers and the D-VAS (all of the subs would end up becoming Dolls within the next few months when those two homes teams were contracted). Led by one of those subs, Land Shark (who would score 44 points), the Dolls would take down the Gores 112-93 to lock up a share of top spot in the regular season.  Despite that season-closing victory, the Dolls would fall in the semi-final, ending their top season in ToRD to date.

This weekend at The Bunker, the Betties and the Dolls are looking to turn back the clocks to earn victories that feel like a long time coming. And in a season of change in ToRD, the time is now for these two perennial underdogs to overthrow the two teams that have combined to win every ToRD championship.

The Betties look to bounce back from  disappointing loss, but will do so without injured blocker Tomy Knockers. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The Betties look to bounce back from disappointing loss, but will do so without injured blocker Tomy Knockers (centre) [with rookie LowBlowPalooza (right) and fourth-year skater Tropic Thunder  bridging]. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Chicks vs. Betties

Last year when these teams faced off, the Betties looked like they were going to run away with it. Up 22-0 five minutes in, the Betties overwhelmed the Chicks out of the gates, only to have the Chicks completely turn the game around and dominate the rest of the way, winning 182-69. But much has changed between now and then, and with both teams coming off of season-opening losses, each will be gunning for a win. The Betties, who entered the season with high hopes, looked out of sorts in an inconsistent loss to the Gores last month. Led offensively by co-captain Hailey Copter (46 points in the loss) and in the pack by co-captain Misery Mae and rookie-transfer Tomy Knockers, the team showed flashes of great play, out scoring and out playing the Gores for stretches of time in the game. For the Betties, sticking together will be the key as a new core of pack skaters comes together. The Betties packs were loose at times, and controlled by the Gores, and they will need to keep things simple and tight to compete against the Chicks.

The Chicks have been leaning heavily on veterans like Dyna Hurtcha, Kookie Doe and Robber Blind while rookies develop. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The Chicks have been leaning heavily on veterans like Dyna Hurtcha (lefy), Kookie Doe and Robber Blind while rookies develop. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The Chicks are not familiar with losing (they have won the past two ToRD championships) and will be looking to avenge their season-opening loss to the Dolls. More than any other team, the Chicks roster is full of new and inexperienced skaters, evidenced by the amount of track time swallowed up by veterans Dyna Hurtcha, Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind and Furious Georgia (all on the track for more than 50% of their team’s jams). With the loss of Roadside BombShel for the season, the offense will fall to co-captain Kookie Doe and rookie transfers Rosemary’s Rabies (who struggled at times against the Dolls) and Chevy Chase Her who improved with the increased track time and ended up scoring 64 points and recording a 67% lead percentage in the loss.

The Gores surprised in their season opener and will be looking to continue a four-year winning streak against the Dolls. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The Gores surprised in their season opener and will be looking to continue a four-year winning streak against the Dolls. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Gores vs. Dolls

The showdown for top spot against the two teams that have weathered the shifting ToRD rosters this season better than the others. The Gores actually shocked in the opener, pulling a surprising offensive weapon out of their back pocket in veteran blocker Foxy Sinatra  (31 points, 57% lead percentage), which took some of the pressure off of an inexperienced jammer rotation led, in terms of experience, by R.I. Pink. Taranasaurus Rex was solid in limited action, and D-VAS grad Lexi Con made a strong debut, nabbing 47 points and holding down a 79% lead percentage. In the pack, Santa Muerte, Junkie Jenny and Kandy Barr led the way and will need to put in big minutes again against a tough Dolls pack. Word on the track is that veteran skater Chronic may be making her return from a stint on injury reserve, which would boost the experience of the pack.

The Dolls look to string together their first winning streak in four years. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The Dolls look to string together their first winning streak in four years. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The Death Track Dolls also entered the season with high hopes and have thus far lived up to them. The key for the Dolls so far is in its stifling pack work. Given the volume of experience on the team, more than any of the ToRD teams, the Dolls’ track time was incredibly balanced, a testament to their depth and consistency, but also to the experience on the team (they only have three pure rookies on their twenty-skater roster this season). But a key for the less-experienced Gores may be in containing a deep offense. Led by Bellefast and Santilly In Yo’ Face (69 and 66 points), the Dolls round out their rotation with strong and steady Getcha Kicks and emerging triple-threat Rainbow Fight (who managed a remarkable 86% lead percentage in limited action against the Chicks)—a formidable foursome that is currently unmatched in the league.

**This second 2013 ToRD double header goes on Saturday at The Bunker. Doors open at 5:00 PM, with the opening whistle for the Chicks vs. Betties scheduled for 6:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of Toronto retailers.

**Catch up on the standings and stats here.

Ohio Goes Unbeaten, Rideau Valley Surprises at 2013 Quad City Chaos

The Vixens Murphy and Rudolph hold CN Power's Kookie Doe in the closing game of the QCC. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Vixens’ Murphy and Rudolph hold CN Power’s Kookie Doe in the closing game of the QCC. (Photo by Greg Russell)

THE RESULTS

Four minutes remaining. Down by nineteen points in a game that on more than a few occasions seemed like it had slipped out of their grasp, Rideau Valley Vixens Coach Adam decided to jam second-year Vixen, Kuehl. A versatile skater capable of donning the star, she hadn’t once lined up at the jam line in this, the final bout of the 2013 Quad City Chaos. She was lined up against Candy Crossbones, one of the host team CN Power’s most experienced jammers; a skater who had burned this Vixens team on more than one occasion in the past.

Sometimes, it pays to play a hunch.

The 2013 Quad City Chaos closed out with one of the bigger upsets in recent Canadian roller derby when the upstart Rideau Valley Vixens refused to submit in a fantastic, back-and-forth game that at least twice saw Toronto build leads that seemed almost insurmountable. Kuehl ended up with 20 points on that jam, a power jam, before the Vixens’ dominant defence shut down CN Power the rest of the way. It ended a four game losing streak for the Vixens against their big sisters to the south, dating all the way back to February 2010, and their first ever game together as a team.  It allowed them to lock up second spot in the round robin tournament.

Ohio had a leg up on the competition this weekend, going 3-0 in the round robin tournament. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Ohio had a leg up on the competition this weekend, going 3-0 in the round robin tournament. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Every year the competitive level of the Quad City Chaos has risen to new heights and it was certainly no different this year. The weekend kicked off with a tie-breaker bout between the aforementioned Vixens and Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies. It was the third time these teams had met in the past six months or so, having split the previous two meetings. The first half was furious in its play: fast, hard hitting, tight, only at the end of the half were the Vixens able to build a 27 point lead. They would hold on in a second half that saw neither side give an inch resulting in a virtual dead even period and a 25 point victory for the Vixens.

It would propel Queen City through a competitive, but ultimately frustrating weekend. Perhaps the most consistent team in the whole tournament, they would frustrate all their opponents, yet fail to defeat one. Only one year removed from a near 100 point loss to CN Power, they would push the hosts to the brink on Saturday’s prime-time matchup that turned into a chippy, penalty-filled affair that would see four foul outs and constant pack disadvantages. They would lose by only 52. They would similarly, and just as surprisingly, put up a similar fight against the Ohio Roller Girls on Sunday. Depsite the fact that Ohio was ranked 50 spots ahead of them in the WFTDA standings, the Furies gave Ohio everything it could handle (they were within 20 points at the midway point of the second half) before Ohio was able to pull away at the very end and secure a competitive 86-point victory.

The Vixens may have surprised, but the Furies played three strong games despite going 0-3. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Vixens may have surprised, but the Furies played three strong games despite going 0-3. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Ohio, to nobody’s surprise, were simply too good: too track ready, too unified, perhaps just too experienced to be upset by any of the teams in attendance. In a surprising Saturday afternoon game, they dominated eventual second-place Vixens 373-38. Aside from Montreal, the Vixens had never faced a team as highly ranked as Ohio, and it showed as they had no response for the relentless Ohio attack. Nonetheless, the Vixens were their usual scrappy selves and the experience will no doubt raise them to another level. Ohio’s toughest challenge came against the host CN Power. Looking to avenge a 100 point loss last May, CN Power was much more consistent and played, easily, their best, most complete game of the weekend and were within reach, down 100-68 at half. A 20-4 run to kick off the second gave Ohio a lead that they wouldn’t relent, holding on for the 46 point win (201-155).  It was a great performance by the host team, but not one they would be able to maintain all weekend.

They significantly varied their roster for the Saturday night showdown with Queen City, flipping five skaters from their Ohio roster; they would make a similar flip for the Vixens game on Sunday. While it was an excellent opportunity to add depth of experience to the bench, it resulted in a team that never quite looked fully unified come Sunday afternoon. The Vixens simply overwhelmed them in the Sunday game with their relentless play and their ferocious determination. They had very few rosters changes to work with and ended up running with a small core of senior skaters who were impenetrable in the end.  It was a tough loss for Toronto, but one that will hopefully be mined for lessons at this early juncture of the season.

The Bruisers won their 9th and 10th games in a row, including defeating Ohio's Gang Green. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Bruisers won their 9th and 10th games in a row, including defeating Ohio’s Gang Green. (Photo by Greg Russell)

REGULATION RESULTS

In the two regulation games played on the weekend, the host B-Team, the Bay Street Bruisers, continued their hot streak, winning their 9th and 10th games in a row. On Sunday, the Bruisers dominated the Devil Dollies, a Queen City House league team, 324-88, before facing off against Ohio’s Gang Green on Sunday. Gang Green were the last (and so far only) team to defeat the Bruisers (last May).  Early penalty troubles had Gang Green out to a quick lead, but the Bruisers battled back and took the lead with only 10 minutes remaining in the half. The Bruisers went on a 54-0 run to kick off the second that essentially put the game away. They held on to avenge last season’s loss with a 207-112 win.

THE PLAYERS

The Usual Suspects

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)

Nasher the Smasher was the eventual MVP for the host, CN Power, and was a key, steadying factor in the strong performance against Ohio. Similarly, Toronto jammer Bambi thrived in that game as well, and again against the Queen City (neither played against Rideau Valley). For the Lake Effect Furies, Team USA’s Addy Rawl juked her way through a successful tournament, using the track exceptionally well with a great side-to-side game. Furies captain CU~T provided great on-track leadership this weekend as well, executing well on power jams, especially, while pivoting.

Ohio’s Phoenix Bunz continues to emerge as one of the game’s great players, so much so, that there is not a roster in this sport that she would not look good on, and she does it all as well, a reliable, speedy jammer and an impenetrable blocker. Ohio jammer the Smacktivist was dominant, displaying her trademark power and surprising agility with the star. And for the Rideau Valley Vixens, Hanna Murphy (formerly Semi Precious) remains one of this country’s star blockers/pivots. Frighteningly fitter now, she remains a one-woman recycling machine on the track. Eventual team MVP and veteran blocker Da Big Block was also great on the weekend for the Vixens, a skater who lives up to her fitting name.

The Vixens' Brennan who debuted at QCC 2012, continues to step it up for Rideau Valley. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Vixens’ Brennan, who debuted at QCC 2012, continues to step it up for Rideau Valley. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Steppin’ It Uppers

While Betty Bomber has long been a key triple threat for CN Power, her play just continues to become more and more steady, to the point where she has emerged as one of the team’s most reliable blockers. Phenomenal when at a pack disadvantages, Bomber knows when to take risks, but also when to reel it in. Another veteran who is just getting better with age is Queen City’s Vajenna Warrior. A big, powerful blocker, she is also very strong on her skates and is deceptively agile. A monster in the pack this weekend, she frustrated many an opponent.

It’s sometimes easy to forget Kitty Liquorbottom on the Ohio roster. A quiet, efficient jammer, Kitty’s consistency and balance is an essential part of the Ohio’s offense. Also, it is hard to just isolate a player who stepped it up for Rideau Valley as the whole team brought it this weekend. Two players who have increasingly been growing their roles on this team though (and who were outstanding this weekend) were Rudolph (formerly Frostbite Me) and Brennan (formerly Eh Nihilator). Both are exceptional positional players who were key in the pack all weekend.

The speedy, jukey CN Power rookie Bala Reina is playing an increasingly big role on the team. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The speedy, jukey CN Power rookie Bala Reina is playing an increasingly big role on the team. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Breakout Players

CN Power rookie jammer Bala Reina got a lot of track time against Queen City and Rideau Valley and took clear advantage of it. A smart, speedy jammer, Bala is slowly working her way into the rotation and helping to extend the depth of the roster (recent transfer Motorhead Molly only played one game for CN Power, but is another spectacular new jammer for the team, which until recently had lacked depth at the position).  Bratislava Bruisers is an Ohio skater who is taking on a larger role on a roster jammed with talent and was a consistent spark to her team all weekend.

For the Rideau Valley Vixens, a team that has lacked depth at the jammer position, two skaters had breakout weekends with the star. Pix E Cutz has emerged as a key skater for the Vixens this season, while rookie jammer CarnEDGE looked unfazed by the pressure and actually led her team in scoring in the loss against Ohio. Finally, the biggest breakout skater of the weekend was Queen City’s LiBRAWLian. A phenomenal talent with a multi-sport background, this jammer has been skating for less than a year but is already one of the exciting new faces of the WFTDA and has the potential to lead the Furies into a bright future. Frighteningly, she seems to be improving by the jam at this stage in her development.

THE SCORES

Sanctioned Games

lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies (QCRG) 147 vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens 172

CN Power LogoCN Power (ToRD)155 vs.Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls 201

Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls 371 vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens 38

CN Power LogoCN Power 230 vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies 178

Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls 211 vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies 125

CN Power LogoCN Power 155 vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens 168

Regulations Games

Bay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers (ToRD) 324 vs. devil-dollies-logoDevil Dollies (QCRG) 88

Bay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers 207 vs. Gang_Green_Logo_GreenGang Green (Ohio B) 112

**The bouts were all streamed on CanuckDerbyTV. You can catch all of the action in archived video here.**

**Click on the photos to be redirected to the corresponding galleries. Also, check out Joe Mac’s game by game albums.**

Mascot Love: The CN Tower and the Lake Effect Furry (?) share a moment. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Mascot Love: The CN Tower and the Lake Effect Furry (?) share a moment. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Quad City Chaos 2013: Preview

The 2013 Quad City Chaos is the 4th edition of the tournament.

The 2013 Quad City Chaos is the 4th edition of the tournament.

It’s the end of March, which means it’s time for Toronto Roller Derby’s Quad City Chaos. For the first time in the tournament’s brief history, the fourth edition of the annual invitational will be a completely WFTDA sanctioned tournament—the first of its kind in Canada. While WFTDA teams have always been a part of the tournament (Hammer City and Montreal were both full WFTDA members at the first QCC in 2010, and last year three of the four teams were), the fact that this is a fully sanctioned tournament raises the profile of the event and makes it a more appealing destination. With four excellent teams at the top of their games, this year’s tournament should be the most competitive and exciting yet. Add to that the inclusion of ToRD’s second travel team, the Bay Street Bruisers, hosting two games of their own, and the tournament has an even greater depth of competition.

THE TOURNAMENT

The QCC is a two day, round robin tournament that was topped by host CN Power in 2012 (the hosts have a 7-2 lifetime record in the tournament), but was dominated by Montreal in the first two years, when the New Skids on the Block compiled a 6-0 record while outscoring the opposition a staggering 1455-222. Those first two years, coming as they did after flat track roller derby’s “Great Leap Forward” in 2009, proved important sharing grounds for Canada’s top travel teams. In 2010, Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars finished last in the tournament (0-3), but used the event as a taking off point to become the dominant WFTDA Division One team they are now. Both the Tri-City Thunder (2011, 2012) and Hammer City Eh! Team (2010, 2012) have taken part in two tournaments, with the Thunder holding a 3-3 record and the Eh! Team sitting at 1-5.  Finally, Ottawa’s Rideau Valley Vixens (returning this year), have taken part in the last two tournaments. In 2011, they were in tough going 0-3, before going 1-2 last year including a thrilling, competitive loss against the Tri-City Thunder.

THE TEAMS

CN Power's Betty Bomber. Art work by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

CN Power’s Betty Bomber. Artwork by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

CN Power (WFTDA Rank: 49th)

The host CN Power have used this tournament as a spring board for their season since the inaugural event in 2010. Last year, the team went 9-2 in sanctioned play including 7-0 in tournament games (at QCC, ECDX and Brew Haha). With CN Power skaters pulled from home teams in 2013 and focusing exclusively on WFTDA play, expectations are higher than ever.

This season, CN Power is already off to a hot start, going 2-1 with one-sided wins over Fort Wayne and Killamazoo, and a well-fought loss to one of the top teams in the game, Naptown. CN Power has lost only to Montreal in the QCC, and this year, based on recent results, they enter as clear favourites in their games against Queen City (they’ve beaten them two in a row) and Rideau Valley (they have never lost to the Vixens); they are in tough against Ohio, the second highest ranked team to ever play in the tournament and a team that beat them by 100 points in their only meeting last year.

The Vixens' Hanna Murphy (formerly known as Semi Precious). Art work by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

The Vixens’ Hanna Murphy (formerly known as Semi Precious). Artwork by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

The Rideau Valley Vixens  (WFTDA Rank: 71st)

After competing in last year’s tournament as a WFTDA apprentice league, they burst onto the WFTDA scene in 2012. Going 7-6 overall and 4-2 in WFTDA sanctioned play, it was easily the busiest season for the Vixens and has undoubtedly brought them to another level in their play. Stacked with a formidable front line led by Team Canada skaters Hanna Murphy (formerly known as Semi Precious) in the pack and Soul Rekker on the jam line, they are backed up in the pack by 2012 breakout blocker Margaret Choke and veterans Sister Disaster and Da Big Block. But there is a rising crop of talent on the team as well. Potential triple threat Pix E. Cutz is a force, while Keuhl (AKA: Mudblood) Brennan (Eh Nihilator) and Rudolph (Frostbite Me) all emerged last year as key components of the team. This year keep an eye on newcomers The Warden (an emerging jammer with house league team, Riot Squad) and Eastern Block’her who skated last season with Capital City, a team that earned a solid reputation despite a last-place finish at last year’s RDAC Eastern Regionals.

The Vixens are 0-1 so far this year, kicking things off with a loss to Queen City. This weekend could be a challenge for the Vixens. They’ve split their only two games with the Furies, have never defeated CN Power, and Ohio will be the highest ranked WFTDA team they have faced since playing Montreal at QCC 2011. Nonetheless, the Vixens may have the least to lose and, therefore, the least amount of pressure.

The Lake Effect Furies (Queen City) (WFTDA Rank: 68th)

LiBRAWLian of the Lake Effect Furies. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

LiBRAWLian of the Lake Effect Furies. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Queen City had an inconsistent 2012, going 8-8 overall and 7-8 in sanctioned play, but lost ground against opponents such as Toronto and Tri-City. Their inconsistency is best seen, perhaps, in their performances against the Vixens which included an 89-point loss at the end of last summer, compared to a 90-point victory to kick off this year: making their meeting this weekend a tie breaker of sorts, but also an interesting measure of which (if either) of those previous results is correct.

The Furies have a depth of talent on the bench. Offensively, Addy Rawl, who was a Team USA alternate at the World Cup and has continued to skate with the American National program, leads the attack. Furies rookie LiBRAWLian is a jammer to watch after an incredible breakout house league season in 2012. CU~T, Ivana LeiHerOut, Head Mistress, and Day TripHer supply veteran leadership in the packs. Melania Kosonovich returnd to Queen City this season after time away that included skating a season in Los Angeles.

The Furies are 2-0 so far in 2013 on strong victories over Rideau Valley and Black-N-Bluegrass, and look to continue that strong start against the stiff competition at QCC. They’ve lost two in a row against CN Power and have never faced Ohio.

Ohio's Phoenix Bunz. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Ohio’s Phoenix Bunz. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Ohio Roller Girls All Stars (WFTDA Rank: 23rd)

The Ohio Roller Girls may be the hardest working team in the WFTDA. In 2012, they went a remarkable 20-2 before going 1-2 in the North Central playoffs, being eliminated by Naptown: No one in 2012, played more sanctioned games than the skaters from Columbus.

An original WFTDA member, Ohio earned a massive, well-deserved reputation last season gaining big victories over Madison, Brew City and Arch Rival to name a few, and went 2-0 on their first Canadian roadtrip (burning through southern Ontario in May of last year). Led by the incredible, multi-talented triple threat Pheonix Bunz (2012 North Central blocker MVP), the offense will also be paced by a solid jammer rotation of The Smacktivist, Kitty Liquorbottom and Hellionboi, all supremely talented and boasting lots of big-game experience. But there is considerable depth in the pack as well. Led by veteran blocker Amy Spears, the packs also boasts hard-hitting Bratislava Bruiser and positional maven Loraine Acid.

Ohio is already off to a fast start in 2013, boasting a 2-0 record after wins over Bleeding Heartland and Burning River. They enter the QCC as clear favourites. While they’ve only ever faced CN Power, they are (and have consistently been) ranked much higher than their three QCC opponents.

Bellefast of the Bay Street Bruisers. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Bellefast of the Bay Street Bruisers. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

B-TEAM SHOWDOWN

For the first time ever, the Quad City Chaos will also feature B-Team matchups.

First off, ToRD’s Bay Street Bruisers will take on Queen City’s Devil Dollies on Saturday. The Dollies, one of Queen City’s house league teams, has a long history in Canada, being one of only two US teams to play in the Beast of the East; they did so in 2008. The Bruisers then take on Ohio’s Gang Green on Sunday. This second showdown will be a rematch of the first ever Bruisers game last May, when the Ohio B-Team defeated the Toronto B-Team 173-109. It was the Bruisers only loss since being resurrected in 2012, and they will be out for revenge on Sunday.

All Games will be streamed live on Canuck Derby TV.

SCHEDULE:

Saturday, March 23rd

10:00 AM: lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies (QCRG) vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens

12:00 PM: CN Power LogoCN Power (ToRD) vs.Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls

2:00 PM: Bay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers (ToRD) vs. devil-dollies-logoDevil Dollies (QCRG)

5:00 PMOhio logo Ohio Roller Girls vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens

7:00 PMCN Power LogoCN Power vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies

Sunday March 24th

11:00 AMBay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers vs. Gang_Green_Logo_GreenGang Green (Ohio B)

1:00 PMOhio logo Ohio Roller Girls vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies

3:00 PMCN Power LogoCN Power vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens

Word on the Track: Montreal Downs Boston, Saskatoon wins RDAC Champs, WFTDA Releases Rankings

MONTREAL TAKES TWO ON WEEKEND ROADTRIP

Montreal New Skids are now 3-0 in sanctioned play to kick off 2013.

Montreal New Skids are now 3-0 in sanctioned play to kick off 2013.

New Skids on the Block (MTLRD) 17th 188 vs. Boston Massacre (BDD) 21st 117

New Skids (MTLRD) 17th 333 vs. Port Authorities (Maine RD) 60th 38

Montreal Roller Derby’s New Skids on the Block played its second game of the season on Saturday, scoring an important 71-point victory against the Boston Massacre, in what was the first bout of the season for the Boston Derby Dames travel team. It was the fourth win in a row for Montreal over their long-time rivals since February 2011. Previous to that win, the Massacre had defeated the Skids in three straight dating back to 2009.

But believe it or not, Montreal and Boston’s rivalry dates back even further. The Derby Dames B-travel team, the Boston B Party, has been playing Montreal teams (house league and travel) since 2008. This past Saturday, Les Sexpos defeated the B Party 211-148. The last time these two particular teams met was in 2011, a one-point victory by Boston.

On Sunday, the Skids hit up Maine Roller Derby’s Port Authority for a sanctioned hangover matchup. Montreal won it handily, 333 to 38. It was the second WFTDA sanctioned meeting between the two teams, and the first since a 79-point Montreal victory victory in May 2011. Maine, which had consistently been an East Region “bubble playoff team” (they finished 11th in the region last season), now find themselves buried deep in WFTDA’s Division Two (60th overall).

SASKATOON DEFEATS REGINA IN ALL-SASKATCHEWAN RDAC CHAMPIONSHIP

RDAC held its first championship, featuring teams from three of its regions.

RDAC held its first championship, featuring teams from three of its regions.

Saskatoon Roller Derby defeated their cross-province rivals, Pile O’ Bones Derby Club, 245 to 188, in an all-Saskatchewan final at this weekend’s Roller Derby Association of Canada (RDAC) championship in Edmonton, Alberta. Played in the stunning Ica Palace at the West Edmonton Mall and broadcast expertly (in awesome high def) by AMJ Productions and Canuck Derby TV, the tournament didn’t quite live up to its billing as a national championship, but was nonetheless a great showcase of the flat track game featuring teams from disparate regions of Canada.

It was an excellent opportunity especially for the Saskatchewan finalists, who have largely remained out of the eye of the larger Canadian derby community due to their comparative lack of inter-regional play. And they were strong, clearly dominating a tournament that suffered for excitement in the opening round for a lack of parity but brought closer, more competitive games on Sunday.

With western champions Terminal City, eastern champs Toronto Roller Derby (Bay Street Bruisers) and eastern runners-up Forest City absent from the tournament, expectations fell to West Kootenay and E-Ville. Ranked 6th and 11th in Canada respectively, they were the top ranked Canadian teams left in the tournament. But Pile O’ Bones Derby Club’s Sugar Skulls (Regina) and Saskatoon Roller Derby’s The Mindfox (who’d been ranked 12th and 13th respectively), proved that they belong in the discussion of the top travel teams in Canada. Saskatoon’s Mind Fox, especially, were well ahead of the competition, winning their games by an average of about 107 points (and even in the close, 57-point championship game, the result never seemed in doubt as they led 169-77 at half).

While the Atlantic Canadian teams from Moncton and Saint John, New Brunswick, finished at the bottom of the pack, they entered the final tournament ranked 20th and 28th in Canada, so actually performed above expectations. Moncton defended their Atlantic Championship when they defeated Fog City in a back-and-forth placement game that was closer than the final score indicated. Also, strong individual performances and great strategic thought—if not executed perfectly yet—from both teams, proved that even only three years into existence, Atlantic Canadian roller derby is on an upward rise. Kootenay Kannibelles and E-Ville Dead both seem to be rebuilding, especially West Kootenay after a considerable roster shakeup last year, and played below expectations established after impressive 2012 seasons.

RDAC Championship Final Standings

1.mindfoxlogo The Mindfox (Saskatoon Roller Derby) (Defeated Sugar Skulls 245-188 in the final)

2.Sugar Skulls Derby LOGO Sugar Skulls (Pile O’ Bones Derby Club)

3.Evile Dead LogoE-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)(Defeated Kootenay Kannibelles 164-158 in 3rd place game)

4. kannibelles LogoKootenay Kannibelles (West Kootenay Roller Derby)

5. Lumbersmacks LogoLumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers) (defeated Shipyard Sirens 238-187 in 5th place game)

6. Shipyard Sirens LogoShipyard Sirens (Fog City Rollers)

** All games are archived on Canuck Derby TV.**

WFTDA logoWFTDA RELEASES FIRST DIVISIONAL POWER RANKING

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) released its first rankings since shifting to a numerical-based divisional ranking system for 2013. Under the current ranking system, teams have the opportunity to earn their way into Division One (top 40) by July to qualify for the Division One Payoffs. The next twenty teams will play in two Division Two playoff tournaments (locations recently announced). The Division Two finals will also take place on the same weekend as the Division One Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

As of today, Montreal (17th) and Vancouver’s Terminal City (39th) are both in Division One, while Toronto (49th), Tri-City (50th), and Rideau Valley (71st) are firmly placed into Division Two. Hammer City, Canada’s other full-WFTDA team, is in Division Three (133rd  overall).

All Division One teams make the playoffs, but in Division Two only the top twenty teams make it, which means that while Toronto and Tri-City are in solid positions, Rideau Valley Vixens have some work to do to move up the ten spots to nab a playoff spot. Both Toronto and Rideau Valley will be playing in this weekend’s Quad City Chaos, a good opportunity to advance their positions.

CANADIAN POWER RANKINGS ANNOUNCED

Just in case you missed it, last week it was announced on The Derby Nerd that The Nerd will be joined by Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Pounder and Andi Struction in producing Canada’s first National Power Ranking. Read all about it here.

Nerd Glasses

Introducing: The Canadian Power Ranking

On Monday, April 1st, the first ever truly national Canadian Power Ranking will be released on the Derby Nerd.

Captain Lou brings years of coaching and announcing to the Power Rankings.

Captain Lou brings years of coaching and announcing experience to the Power Rankings.

For the past two years, Rollergirl.ca, most recently in conjunction with flattrackstats.com, has been doing a fantastic job in providing a consistent numbers-based ranking system for Canadian teams, which has provided an excellent source of comparative information about the burgeoning Canadian roller derby community and has led to some great cross-country discussion. In much the same way that the Derby News Network’s Power Rankings complement flattrackstats.com, the Canadian Power Ranking will be working to complement this great endeavor by adding a slightly more subjective look at things—although through objective lenses, of course.

Power rankings simply add value to the comparative discussion of teams; unlike purely statistical ranking systems, power rankings are a human (some would say opinion)-based system able to take a much wider range of variables into play. Power rankings can account for circumstances beyond the control of numbers, like changes in rosters (through injury, transfer etc.) and winning streaks—things that stats-based systems need time to account for. The best, most reliable power rankings, therefore, require more than one brain to be truly representational.

So, the Nerd is not going about this alone: to ensure broad, regional, unbiased decision making, some of our country’s finest derby nerds will be working together equally on the power rankings.

Captain Lou El Bammo comes to the team armed with an overwhelming amount of knowledge gleaned from days as a coach and bench manager with the Tri-City Roller Girls, where he worked with house league team the Venus Fly Tramps and the WFTDA travel team, the Thunder. Currently he’s on the coaching staff of the Royal City Roller Girls’ travel team, the Brute-Leggers. Along with watching the game from that side of the bench, he’s also been active on the mic, acting as a play-by-play and colour commentator for Rogers TV, Canuck Derby TV, and WFTDA.TV.

Andi Struction brings both a skater and an announcer's perspective to the sport. (Photo by Stephen Giang for SeattleWeekly.com)

Andi Struction brings both a skater and an announcer’s perspective. (Photo by Stephen Giang for SeattleWeekly.com)

The Nerd and Capt. Lou will be joined by a few representatives from western Canada. Dick Pounder was recently appointed Head Announcer for the Roller Derby Association of Canada (RDAC) and has been announcing games in Alberta and for the emerging Calgary Roller Derby Association for years. On top of that, he’s been known to lace up the skates and get out there on the track as well (skating previously for the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs and currently with the Red Deer Dreadnauts), so knows the game from inside and out.

And finally, Vancouver’s Andi Struction also brings that inside/out perspective to the proceedings. A skater with Terminal City Roller Girls since 2006 and currently an assistant captain with the house league team, Faster Pussycats, Andi is also a noted commentator and announcer. A former co-host of the Derby Deeds podcast, she’s been honing her chops on the mic at such major events as the Big O, Flat Track Fever and the RDAC regionals over the past few years

Announcer Dick Pounder has also played the game so knows the game from the inside as well. (Photo by Steve Recsky)

Announcer Dick Pounder has also played the game, so knows the game from the inside as well. (Photo by Steve Recsky)

Captain Lou also sees the Canadian Power Rankings as being an important part of the Canadian roller derby discussion: “Canada is really big and teams are really far apart…which makes it harder for the math to be properly predictive. There just isn’t enough correlative games to make a truly accurate list (based purely on stats),” he says, discussing the importance of this endeavor, and “since we don’t have a proper cross-pollination of games, creating a Power Rankings crew filled with people who have a lot of derby knowledge and are able to sift through disparate datasets to filter out the best of the best is the optimal solution.”

Andi Struction thinks the timing is right and is excited about the future of the sport in this country. ” ‘Canadian’ roller derby didn’t really exist because the east and west teams didn’t really have a chance to play each other,” she said. Dick Pounder agrees that this will be a big year for Canadian derby: “The WFTDA factor should prove to be interesting in Canada this year.”

Andi is also optimistic about the top leagues joining the WFTDA, which would encourage more top-level play. “With Calgary and Kootenay joining the ranks (soon), the eastern teams could potentially do western Canadian tours and hit three WFTDA birds with one stone.”

As alluded to, the Power Rankings Team will be limited by some of the challenges of living in a massive country like Canada with very little cross-region play. Some things to keep in mind about the Canadian Power Rankings:

  • The rankings will be a consensus-based: much like the system used by the DNN (and consistent across many sports). All four voters will present their personal choices to each other and then engage in debate until a consensus is reached.
  • The rankings will be quarterly: at least to start. Due to the lack of inter-region play, allowing time for a wider number of games seems advantageous right now.
  • The rankings will only consider A-level travel teams. It’s just simpler that way, and as more and more Canadian leagues follow the WFTDA model, the opportunity for A-level interleague play has been increasing as well, and it is becoming much easier to speculate how these teams would fare against one another.

    The Derby Nerd rounds out the Power Rankings team. (Photo by Todd Burgess)

    The Derby Nerd rounds out the Power Rankings team. (Photo by Todd Burgess)

We’re only a few weeks away from the inaugural ranking on April 1st, but there is a lot going down in those few weeks that will affect that premier ranking: The RDAC Championship is this weekend in Edmonton featuring A-level travel teams from the West, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes, while ToRD’s fourth annual Quad City Chaos (March 23rd, 24th) will feature two of Canada’s top teams, ToRD’s CN Power and the Rideau Valley Vixens, facing off against top level WFTDA competition. Both tournaments will be boutcast on Canuck Derby TV.

It’s going to be an exciting year for Canadian roller derby, all involved in putting together this Canadian Power Ranking are proud to be bringing another angle to the exciting discussion that will take place. Captain Lou also hopes that these rankings will inspire more than just healthy debate: “I’m hoping that new leagues just starting out will be able to look at the Power Rankings list and use it as inspiration to keep going through the hard times (and) I really hope that a Canadian Roller Derby Power Rankings list will inspire more cross-Canada roller derby bouts, so that east will meet west more often than they have in the past.”

Check back in on April 1st for the first Canadian Power Ranking.

Level Up! So Called “Rookies” Have Major Impact in ToRD House League Opener

The 2013 ToRD House League Opener saw 23 rookies on the track. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The 2013 ToRD House League Opener saw 23 rookies on the track. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Those who watched Toronto Roller Derby’s 2013 season opener on Saturday night were introduced to (and undoubtedly impressed by) a whole new crop of “rookie” skaters, only you have to use the term “rookie” lightly. In all, 23 new skaters donned their teams’ colours for the first time on the weekend, but of that crew, only three were true rookies, in that they had little to no bouting experience before the weekend. So while there was a considerable amount of fresh names and faces on the track, there was surprisingly little drop off in the level of talent. There are a few reasons behind that.

For starters, ToRD fans (and Canadian roller derby fans in general) know that this year the skaters on Toronto’s top WFTDA team, CN Power, left the home teams to focus solely on skating for the travel team (to considerable early season success). It left a wide gap in the teams’ rosters, pulling away core skaters, some of whom had played for their teams from the start of the league.

Secondly, the skaters who filled those gaps were largely products of ToRD’s farm system, the D-VAS (which is about two years old). In total 11 of the 23 rookies on Saturday night played on a D-VAS team that played seven games least year, not to mention took part in the annual Fresh and Furious tournament (finishing third). Some of the the games were home games (including an intersquad game to kick off the year), but also travel games as well, giving this batch of D-VAS a level of competitive experience unsurpassed in a ToRD draft.  “Some of the rookies [on ToRD home teams in 2012] didn’t get to play as much as the D-VAS did,” said one of those D-VAS products, Mazel Tough—now a Smoke City Bettie—in a preseason interview.

Rookie (transfer) Rosemary's Rabies jams for the Chicks while fellow rookies R-2-Smack-U and Smack Mia Round work the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Rookie (transfer) Rosemary’s Rabies jams for the Chicks while fellow rookies R-2-Smack-U and Smack Mia Round work the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

And finally, nine of the 23 skaters on the track on Saturday were transfers of varying levels of experience, from World Cup skaters like Rainbow Fight (Canada) and Udre (Finland) to a skater like SewWhat? who has played in multiple leagues to a skater like Getcha Kicks who has been playing for a number of years and comes to ToRD with a solid on-track reputation in place. For these skaters, a lot of their decision making process on transferring was based on wanting to improve their level of play. “To have people around (me) better than (me) and pushing me to be better is really important to me,” said Betties rookie SewWhat?

The experience of these skaters means that unlike rookies of the past, they will be put into big roles early and often and expected to take on a lot of responsibility. Judging by the performances on the weekend, these skaters are relishing the role. “I’m excited to develop my game (as a jammer) and to get a lot of play time because there is a lack of jammers on the team,” said D-VAS product Lexi Con, who led the offense for the Gores in the opener.

“Whatever they need me to play, I’ll do it,” said debut Doll Rainbow Fight talking about being a potential triple threat in a long line of Dolls triple threats such as former Dolls captains Betty Bomber and Panty Hoser (both now playing for CN Power). This level of confidence in ability and in being able to perform an immediate role, bodes well for the future of not only the house league, but of the league in general.“I like to do a bit of everything,” said new Bettie LowBlowPalooza, echoing Rainbow’s sentiment. “I like pivoting,” she said with a confidence that many rookies in different situations wouldn’t be able to back up.

Chicks rookie jammer Chevy Chase Her led her team in scoring. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Chicks rookie jammer Chevy Chase Her led her team in scoring. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The games on Saturday night showed that the supposed rebuilding that will take place this year will be a different sort than those rebuilds seen in the past (such as when the original Betties roster imploded following the 2009 season beginning a rebuild that really only ended last season). The transfers like Chevy Chase Her (who led the Chicks in scoring), Canadian Psycho (Dolls), and Tomy Knockers (Betties) had immediate impacts on their teams, while the D-VAS graduates like Lexi Con, LowBlowPalooza, Purple Pain (Gores) and Chicks Ahoy!’s Smack Mia Round (who seems to have finally shaken off the injury bug long enough to begin to reach her potential of being a solid, impactful blocker) also took on big roles early. But even the recruits of the most recent fresh mean class fared well, with Emraged fitting into the pack surprisingly well on the Chicks, and the Gores feeling comfortable enough to dress two pure rookies (Full Deck and Cirque du So-Laid).

The house league captains are well aware of the impact that these skaters are having on the teams. Gores co captain Santa Muerta pointed out how much easier it has been to train: “We get to skate next week and work on team integration and not so much picking up basic skills,” she said after the draft, citing the exceptional level of the new skaters.  Dolls co-captain Scarcasm knows the impact will be felt all across the league, “I think it’s an exciting year for ToRD; it’s going to push everyone a little bit further and harder.”

** Next up for ToRD is the 4th Annual Quad City Chaos, a WFTDA Sanctioned tournament with CN Power (and the Bay Street Bruisers) hosting teams from Ohio Rollergirls, Queen City Roller Girls, and Rideau Valley Roller Girls. Weekend passes, day passes and even individual tickets for Saturday night prime time game are available.

Of the nine Chicks sitting on this bench, seven were playing in their first ToRD house league game. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Of the nine Chicks sitting on this bench, seven were playing in their first ToRD house league game. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Dolls and Gores Draw First Blood in ToRD 2013 House League Opener

The Dolls ended a six-year losing streak against the Chicks in the home opener. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls ended a six-year losing streak against the Chicks in the home opener. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Six years, six regular season losses, three playoff defeats—that is the dominance that Chicks Ahoy! has had over the Death Track Dolls in Toronto Roller Derby’s first six seasons. And it all ended on Saturday night.

In front of a packed house, ToRD kicked off its sixth season with a doubleheader featuring all four Toronto house league teams. In the opener, years of frustration finally turned into a night of celebration as a deep, balanced Dolls team took a 79-point victory over the defending champions, signaling a shift in power in the league. While the Smoke City Betties ended their long losing streak over the Gore-Gore Rollergirls last season, they were not able to summon the same kind of performance in the opener, as the Gores played simple, well-controlled derby on their way to a 57 point win that declared that this Gores team may not be due for as major a rebuild as some thought.

Jammer Bellefast and Dolls blockers approach a Chicks wall of Biggley Smallz and Dyna Hurtcha. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Jammer Bellefast and Dolls blockers approach a Chicks wall of Biggley Smallz, Dyna Hurtcha and Robber Blind. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Death Track Dolls 191 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 112

The Dolls burst out of the gate, taking the first two lead jammer statuses (going to Bellefast and Getcha Kicks) before Chicks’ rookie Chevy Chase Her broke the streak, only to find herself sent to the penalty box for a low block. Scrappy jammer Santilly In Yo Face did her best despite a tough penalty kill led by Dyna Hurtcha, pulling the Dolls ahead by 10 points. Two jams later the Dolls found themselves on a second power jam, this time skated by Bellefast. Early on, the Dolls were pounding on the Chicks, pulling ahead substantially, 41-8, only 8 minutes into the half.

Roadside BombShel was in the midst of a strong game jamming before being seriously injured in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Roadside BombShel was in the midst of a strong game jamming before being seriously injured in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks came alive at this point as the Dolls began to run into penalty troubles. The pushback was led by a Roadside BombShel skated power jam with only two Dolls blockers (Ames to Kill and Scacasm)on the track. With Getcha Kicks running into serious penalty issues midway through the half—and her blocker teammates following suit—the Chicks roared back and even took over the lead, 49-47, with 12 minutes to play in the period. Roadside—who converted back to jamming after a solid season of blocking in 2012—and Chevy Chase Her paced the offense, with Chevy scoring 24 points on a power jam to pad the lead. But as this Chicks team rebuilds, there will be ups and downs, and they weren’t able to maintain their lead.

Once the Dolls overcame their penalty issues and settled into the game, they were eventually able to chip away at that lead and virtually neutralized the Chicks offense for the final 10 minutes of the half, taking a 111-71 lead at the break.

Chicks veteran Kookie Doe and Dolls rooke transfer Rainbow Fight battle in the second. Both had strong games. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Chicks veteran Kookie Doe and Dolls rooke transfer Rainbow Fight battle in the second half. Both had strong games. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls depth at jammer, with Bellefast, Getcha Kicks, Santilly and rookie transfer Rainbow Fight providing a variety of styles and approaches, kept the Chicks defense from any sort of consistency, and the Dolls packs had the same sort of dominant depth with a few solid lines led by Ames and Scarcasm on one side and Speedin Hawking and Sinead O’Clobber on the other. While co captains Dyna Hurtcha and Kookie Doe along with a strong veteran leadership from Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind and Furious Georgia (who continued her strong offensive play) held a young team together, it was that punishing Dolls pack work that led to a tragedy on the track.

Enjoying one of the games of her career (she was second in scoring on the Chicks with 19 points at half), Roadside suffered a tragic major leg break near the midway point of the second half. When the teams returned to action after a lengthy break, the Chicks couldn’t find the momentum to claw back, and even with Dyna Hurtcha taking a jam and Kookie Doe wearing the star more, managed only 18 points in the second half of the period, suffering their first loss to the Dolls ever and their first ToRD loss of any kind in two years.

Gores rookie Taranasaurus Rex fights a Betties three-wall. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Gores rookie Taranosaurus Rex fights a Betties three-wall. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Smoke City Betties 110 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 167

After an inconsistent, but promising 2012, the Smoke City Betties entered the season with high expectations. The Gores, after slowly losing a massive chunk of a roster that had taken part in every single Battle For the Boot, came into this season with much more muted expectations. From the opening whistle to the last, this Gores team showed that it doesn’t plan to rebuild this year. They made it quite clear that they plan on competing in 2013.

Two rookies, Gore jammer Lexi Con and Betties transfer Tomy Knockers duel at the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Two rookies, Gore jammer Lexi Con and Betties transfer Tomy Knockers duel at the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Co-captain Santa Muerte kicked things off jamming, taking 3 points before passing the star to one of many impressive rookies on the night, Lexi Con, who immediately made her presence known.  The Betties packs looked loose early on, and they seemed a little caught off guard by the explosive Goes start and found themselves deep in a hole, down 20-6, 8 minutes in to he game. For a team that had relied so much on a few key jammers throughout the years, the Gores showed a variety of skaters in that position last night, led by Lexi Con but also veteran blocker Foxy Sinatra, whose explosive style was also hard to contain and co captain Kandy Barr.  R.I.Pink continued her progress with the star and a few promising rookies, Taranosaurus Rex and Viktory Lapp, rounded out a surprisingly deep rotation.

Betties co captain Hailey Copter had a typically strong performance against. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties co captain Hailey Copter had a typically strong performance. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the early push from the Gores, they were unable to leave behind the Betties, and after a bench time out calmed down the skaters in blue, the Betties outscored the Gores 20-9 over the remaining few jams of the half, but remained down, 86-35 at the break.

The Betties looked solid from the jam line as well, led by co captain Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) and featuring Woleverina, transfer skater Udre, and 2012 breakout skater Slaptrick Swayze who continues to make her presence felt with her calm, steady jamming. The Betties continued the strong play to start the second half, outscoring the Gores 39-18 over the first ten minutes.

While there were strong individual performances in the pack from the likes of Renny Rumble, Tomy Knockers (who may have sustained a wrist injury during the game), Platinum Bomb and Tushy Galore (formerly Sin D Drop-Her) to name a few, they were not able to sustain the same tight formations for long stretches as the Gores were, allowing the Gores to stay in it. For the Gores to be sucesful this season, they need veterans in the pack to step up and assume larger roles, which we saw especially from the likes of Junkie Jenny, but also from Emma Dilemma and Miss Kitty La Peur in the second half.

Usual pack menace Foxy Sinatra (in a massive collision with Udre and Platinum Bomb)

Usual pack menace Foxy Sinatra (in a massive collision with Udre and Platinum Bomb) had a surprisingly strong night jamming for the Gores. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores ran out the clock, closing out the game with strong, well-managed jams from Foxy, and then fittingly from rookies T-Rex and Lexi. Although the Gores led from start to finish, they never fully distanced themselves from the Betties, and while their 167-110 victory was definitive, the Betties always just seemed a jam or two away from putting it all together and getting back into it.

If there was an underlying story of the night, it was the strong play of the so-called rookies on the track. This is clearly the highest level of rookie class ever, based on the large number of transfers and the time many spent on the D-VAS last season. After a fantastically skilled night of derby, the future looks bright.

**I’ll take a look specifically at how that impressive rookie class performed in my next post on Thursday**

**Check out layer9.ca for archived videos of the bouts**

2013 ToRD Season Preview Part 2: Betties and Dolls

The Betties ended a three year ToRD losing streak in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw)

The Betties ended a three year ToRD losing streak in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Smoke City Betties

2012 Results: 1-2 regular season; lost semifinal to the Gores.

Who’s Out?

In 2012, the Smoke City Betties lost skaters left and right as the season went on as the final core of original skaters slowly moved on. During the season, long-serving Betties Hot Roller and Memphis Kitty called it quits with Sail Her Poon, Rug Burn and General Patten also moving on. The mid-season changes actually seemed to bring the team together and led to the most successful Betties season in years.

In the off season, however, a few more key pieces left the track. Grim Avenger and Lady Scorcher (who had developed into a key member of the pack) both retired, while triple threat BruiseBerry Pie and pivot Mia Culprit were called up to CN Power for 2013.

Who Remains?

Co captain and jammer Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) had the best season of her career in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw

Co captain and jammer Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) had the best season of her career in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw

After last year’s early season shifts, what emerged was a tight core that led the team to a second place finish in the regular season and a birth in the semifinals. After an injury-free year finally showed us just what she’s capable of, co captain Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) will lead the offense (Hailey was second in the league in scoring with 130 points and was the second highest rated jammer on the season), being joined by veteran Wolverina and 2012 breakout jammer Slaptrick Swayze (an impressive 3.47 points per jam in her rookie year).

Co captain and pivot Misery Mae leads a pack that became increasingly tight last season and whose turn around was a key to the team’s success. Triple threat (and CN Power skater) Renny Rumble remains with the team this season (she had the second highest track percentage on the team last year at 52%), anchoring a pack that is built around veterans Tushy Galore (formerly Sin D Drop-Her), Tropic Thunder, Platinum Bomb, Mouth of the South, Genuine Risk and Laya Beaton,

Who’s New?

The Betties were also savvy drafters and picked up a whole lot of experience in the offseason. Transfers Tomy Knockers (who already skates for the Bay Street Bruisers) and Udre (who skated for Team Finland at the World Cup) are experienced, multi-faceted skaters who bring a few tools to the team. SewWhat? also followed a winding road to ToRD (including passing through Australia) and Uncivil Servant is a cross-city transfer with significant experience under her belt.

Potential triple threat LowBlowPalooza joins the Betties after a successful stint with the D-VAS. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Potential triple threat LowBlowPalooza joins the Betties after a successful stint with the D-VAS. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Joining them are key D-VAS-developed skaters LowBlowPalooza (already emerging as a prototypical ToRD triple threat), and the positionally solid blockers Mazel Tough and  Zom-Boney. Their most inexperienced pick up, Kil’Her at Large, has the pleasure—and relatively stress-free privilege—of developing around a solid core of skaters.

How’s it Look?

The Betties turned the page last season on a long and at times arduous rebuild that  began after the 2009 run to the championship game and seemed like it would never end. The team has completely remade itself now, rebuilt around a core of skaters who have changed the culture of the team as much as they’ve changed the way they skate on the track. Adding to this newfound stability is transfer coach Wade Wheelson who joins ToRD after coaching in St. John’s with the 709 Derby Girls.

After last year’s brief taste of success, you get the feeling that these Betties are going to be hungry for more in 2013. If all goes well, a chance to Battle for the Boot is definitely not out of the question.

Death Track Dolls

The Dolls look to improve off a disappointing last place finish in 2012. (Photo by Dan Lim)

The Dolls look to improve off a disappointing last place finish in 2012. (Photo by Dan Lim)

2012 Results: 1-2 regular season; did not make playoffs.

Who’s Out?

The Death Track Dolls did not lose a lot in terms of volume in the off season, but they lost some key players. Role players Kat Atomic and long-serving Dolls Lucid Lou and Spee Dee Ramone retired in the off-season, while veteran stars Betty Bomber, Jubilee and Panty Hoser joined CN Power full time.

While the losses for the Dolls are not as significant in terms of the numbers as the other teams in the league, they are certainly significant in terms of veteran on-track leadership as Bomber, Hoser and Jubilee were on the track for more than 50% of the Dolls’ jams last season. But this is a team that has built itself up well with a lot of depth over the pas few seasons, and could be more prepared than any to make the necessary adjustments.

Co Captain Speedin Hawking will lead a deep, experienced Dolls pack. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Co Captain Speedin Hawking will lead a deep, experienced Dolls pack. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Who Remains?

A range of internally developed skaters from a number of generations remain, including long-term veterans like Audrey Hellbornm, Dolly Parts’em, Demolition Dawn and  Monichrome, who have all been with the league from nearly the start. Downright Dirty Dawson, Slam Wow, co captain Speedin Hawking and Sinead O’Clobber represent the second wave of ToRD skaters, while co captain Scarcasm, Ames to Kill, Bellefast, Rhage in a Cage, Santilly In Yo Face, and UpHer Cut are all more recent additions who have quickly become pillars on this team.

The team had moments of brilliance last year, but also underachieved at times as well. With a deep, experienced pack at the core of the Dolls, consistency should follow in 2013.

Who’s New?

There are less new skaters on this team than any other, and, interestingly, they are on both ends of the experience spectrum. Transfers Canadian Psycho (co captain of the Bruisers), Getcha Kicks (another rookies Bruisers) and Rainbow Fight (a member of Team Canada at the World Cup) represent three of the most experienced newcomers to ToRD in 2013, while Android W.K., Chicken Sluggets, and Robotomy are as fresh as they come with virtually no track experience and represent the long-term development of the team.

Transfer Rainbow Fight will make her much anticipated ToRD debut this weekend. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Transfer Rainbow Fight will make her much anticipated ToRD debut this weekend. (Photo by Dan Lim)

How’s it Look?

Although the team always seems to proclaim “the Year of the Doll,” this year that expression rings more true than any other. With a solid team of returning skaters built around a well-selected core who are all rounding into peak form at the same time, the window for a championship is now wide open. And they seem to have all the pieces in place with an incredibly deep pack and a jammer rotation of Bellefast, Santilly In Yo Face, Rainbow Fight, and Getcha Kicks that will rival any in the league.

After last year’s disappointing inconsistency, the Dolls have all the tools to finally make it to the Battle for the Boot (they are the sole remaining home team not to appear in the championship game), and more importantly, may be hungrier than ever. Adding to the continuity is that Wencer returns to the bench for his second season, joined now by CN Power skater and long-serving Doll Panty Hoser. All in all, it’s an exciting time in the Doll House as for the first time ever, the Dolls are legitimate contenders for The Boot.

** Doors open at the season opening double header at 5:00 PM with the Dolls and Chicks squaring off at 6:00 PM followed by the Gores and Betties. Tickets are available online or at a number of downtown vendors.