Roller Derby

Skull on Fire: Coping with Multiple Concussions in Roller Derby (Guest Post)

Guest blogger and retired skater Speedin’ Hawking discusses her history of concussions and provides resources on diagnoses, rehabilitation, and how to ease yourself back into play.

“When you feel like this looks”

“When you feel like this looks”

My 5-year derby-versary was approaching in only a few months. I was extremely excited to re-join our B travel team after a spot opened up, and brought that enthusiasm to my first practice back that night. Towards the end of practice we scrimmaged our A-team, as we often would. At one point when I was blocking, I got caught in a pick and took a clean hit in the chest. It caught me off guard and took me off my feet. My head flung backwards, and as I was falling, I am told that the back of my head made contact with another skater in motion who was behind me, thrusting it forward. My immediate reaction was a panic attack. I started hyperventilating and crying and was ultimately confused and really distraught. I quietly moved off the track to gain control of what I thought was just a weird emotional outburst, withdrew myself from the group and hid behind a pillar so as not to bring attention to my embarrassing reaction. I sat out for the few remaining minutes of the practice while our first responders and my loving derby wife checked me out and tried to put me at ease.

Speedin' Hawking pivots for the Bay Street Bruisers in a game against Royal City in October 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The author, Speedin’ Hawking, pivots for the Bay Street Bruisers in a game against Royal City in October 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

I didn’t lose consciousness or forget my name, but I didn’t know exactly what had happened or how. I was really confused, and that is unusual for me as a fairly aware skater. I felt like I got my bell rung and immediately felt ‘out of it’. I drove myself home alone, which was a challenge in itself, as the road looked like that  drunk driving commercial from the 80s. Bad idea.

If this was a concussion, it would have been my fourth in a year and a half. Given that I am a shorter skater at 5’2″, it’s not a surprise that half of these were due to being hit in the chin or jaw and made worse with the whiplash that came with it. The other half are because I am a bit of a spaz in my day-to-day life. I wish I could tell you it’s from being bad-ass.

Needless to say I took some time to stay off skates, and since have had to pack it in for roller derby. As sad as this is, I have found that since I have become a vet at this concussion thing lately, and more and more leaguemates of mine have been asking about it: What does it feel like? What can you do about it? Who do you go see? Should I get a hockey helmet? Face shield? You too??!! And so on. Or sharing quietly that they think they have one and ask what they should do.

I am not sure if you have noticed in your leagues, but I have never seen so many people off skates at the same time due to this injury. We have become fitter, better, more agile, faster and more aggressive skaters. We are weapons on wheels. We are making fancier moves on our skates. Our style of play has evolved to be more scrum-like. Our rules have recently changed to allow some clockwise movement. I am not sure if all these things are linked, but they can’t be ignored either. If this is the way things are going, then let’s look after our brains cause we only get one (at least for now: c’mon science, where are you on this one?).

I also sucked up precious screen time searching the Internet for answers as to how I was feeling, what’s normal, and what I should do as a coping mechanism to counter the fear and anxiety I was experiencing. Now that I am mostly symptom-free 5 months later (hurray!) I thought I would compile some resources as well as share my learning from a derby perspective. This way, they are on-hand for others with symptoms who might be new to this or for teammates, captains and coaches to refer to in case of future injuries. Thanks to others who have gone through this too who shared their tips and resources with me.

I am not a doctor, or a professional healthcare provider, just a gal who has been searching for more and more answers on the Internet every time she bonks her face in roller derby.

If you think you or your buddy might have suffered a concussion, please visit a physician (sports or specialist if you can rather than a walk-in clinic or even your family doctor. Get checked out as soon as you can. Even if you think it’s no big deal and you feel mostly fine. Even if you only feel “just a bit off”. It’s very easy to talk yourself out of your injury, especially if you have a game coming up, or are super busy in life, so you really need others close to you to call you on your bullshit.

Following is a summary of things you might be wondering about concussions along with some handy references.

WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?

Your skull is your body’s built-in helmet. Your brain sits in your skull suspended in fluid. When you get rocked by a hit, your brain bounces around inside your skull, which can result in “bruising.” This could be because you fell and hit your head, but can also occur by being jostled or shaken.

Watch this! Science!

Also watch this: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Concussions

Also read:

What Happens to the Brain During a Concussion” from Scientific American

What a Bump to the Head Looks Like Inside Your Brain” from PBS.

WHIPLASH AND CONCUSSION-LIKE SYMPTOMS

Found to be highly related to concussions, whiplash can produce similar symptoms. Sometimes the tension or alignment in the neck that results can cause a pinching in your spine, which can have the same weird neurological effects as a concussion.

Read:

Whiplash: 5 Things You Should Know” from spineuniverse.com

POSSIBLE CAUSES OF CONCUSSION

I am sure you are creative and can find more ways but here are some common ones:

- impact to the head from a hit or a fall

- impact to the face or jaw causing the head and neck to jostle and may include whiplash

- impact to the body causing the head and neck to jostle and may include whiplash

Read the Mayo Clinic’s list of basic causes here.

DIAGNOSIS AND TESTING

On-Track:

Ensure that your first-responders or coaches and managers in your league have been trained to screen and assess if a concussion may have occurred or can help with triaging the injury. Review WFTDA Safety Protocol Section 6 carefully as well as Appendix C-D for concussion info.

The SCAT (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) is quite commonly used. The current version is SCAT3: Sport Concussion Assessment Tool

Here’s an offline sheet that you can keep a few copies of near the track or in your bags:  Sport Concussion Assessment Tool PDF

The CDC also offers this palm card that walks through the assessment: Palm card assessment

And, of course there’s an app for that! Here’s a great breakdown of the popular concussion apps.

Post-Concussion:

You might end up getting a CT Scan or in bad cases an MRI to be sure there’s no head trauma or blood clotting, but because it’s really hard to “see” bruising on your brain, there is really no conclusive way at this time to see how bad your concussion is. You break a bone, you get an x-ray and can see it. We don’t have that kind of thing yet for concussions.
So the best you can do is monitor your symptoms which is why it’s super important to see a doctor and talk this out with them. Bonus points if they have a specialty or are a sports physician who deals with this a lot.

There are tests that rely on testing your neurological responses, cognition and balance, but their accuracy is debated and there aren’t any broadly accepted tools at this time for diagnosis. A couple of them are:

As for finding a physician, many in our league here in Toronto have visited the David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic at the University of Toronto for help

Also check out:

The clinic you visit already for physio for your myriad of other derby injuries might also have someone there with a specialty in treating sports concussions.


SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Here is a list of common symptoms. This is your best way to track your progress, so really try to monitor how you feel. Write it down every day even. You might start seeing patterns emerge after certain stimulus. For example, during a regular work day post-concussion, it was normal for me to get a pressure headache between 3 and 4 pm due to computer usage and thinking so darn hard. I knew I was getting better when that would start to go away.

Think of it as a “buffet” of options, or a “portfolio”. You might not feel all of them at any given time, but even feeling one of them counts. Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have a concussion if you feel a bunch of these but then don’t feel nauseous, for example. A good sign is thinking that something is out of the ordinary for you. Also, you aren’t better until your symptoms go away completely.

If you decide to take anything to treat these symptoms (like ibuprofen or anti-nauseants), just be aware that you could be masking your symptoms which is your only reliable way to measure progress in your rehab.

  1. Headache
  2. Pressure in head
  3. Neck Pain
  4. Nausea or Vomiting
  5. Dizziness
  6. Blurred vision
  7. Balance problems
  8. Light sensitivity
  9. Noise Sensitivity
  10. Feeling slowed down
  11. Feeling “in a fog”
  12. “Don’t feel right”
  13. Difficulty concentrating
  14. Difficulty remembering
  15. Fatigue or low energy
  16. Confusion
  17. Drowsiness
  18. Trouble falling asleep
  19. More emotional
  20. Irritability
  21. Sadness
  22. Nervousness or anxiousness

Read more:

Concussion Signs and Symptoms” from momsteam.com

Concussion Signs and Symptoms” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

POST-CONCUSSIVE DISORDER

This is actually a thing! You are not on crazy pills! You may have rolled away from a practice or game feeling alright after a hit, but then start feeling the effects later or a month later. Post-concussive disorder symptoms skew more on the psycho-behavioural side of things rather than physiological. So if you are seeing behavioural or emotional changes in yourself, this could be why. Like feeling extra “hulk-smash-y” or like you are PMS’ing, or like your old anxiety challenges have been triggered again. Try not to get too paranoid about it and go see a doctor to put you at ease and work on next steps to rehab.

REHABILITATION

Rest. That’s it. Cognitive and physical rest. Nothing fancy. Unfortunately this often means laying down and doing nothing, no brain stimulation. This includes abstaining from watching videos, listening to music, reading, writing, audiobooks. Stay off your smart phone! It’s like your body is now grounded as punishment for doing something dumb to your brain.  You might be sensitive to light and certain frequencies of sound, so hang out in a dim and / or quiet room. Earplugs and sunglasses become your best friends.

ETY Plugs by Etymotics have been the best ever, I take them everywhere with me.

Work with your physician to determine a plan for what’s best for you as far as timing, rest and return to activities and exercise. Determine if you have to take a leave from work or school, and if there is any disability support in place to assist you with keeping up. If you are typically a busy-body, then you might need someone to explicitly tell you how to rest.

Stay away from practice. Watching your teammates skate fast around and around while whistles go off can be overstimulating. As much as you might want to participate off-skates and be with your team, this environment does not help with your rehab. Hopefully your coaches and teammates understand.

Supplements: Unlike taking something to treat your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe supplements that promote brain healing and cognitive improvement. This might include:

  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – promotes the production of energy in the brain’s blood vessels (1)
  • Magnesium – improves synaptic plasticity, aids memory and learning (2)
  • Vinpocetine – enhances cerebral blood flow and neuroprotective effects (3)
  • DHA Omega-3 or Fish oil – brain development (4)
  1.  Vitamin B22 (From howstuffworks.com)
  2. “Magnesium Boosts Brain Function” from wellnessresources.com
  3. Vinpocetine (Wikipedia)
  4. Docosahexaenoic Acid (Wikipedia)

Physio / massage: Your treatment plan from your doctor might also include cranial massage or acupuncture to help with the pressure release and stimulate circulation to the brain to aid the healing process. I have had cranial massages, skull pecking, acupuncture in my head and even a deep neck flexor massage for whiplash. I have also been prescribed neck strengthening exercises as part of my physio.

Your treatment plan might even include some low-impact exercise to help increase blood flow to your brain. I found it also helps get those feel-good endorphins going to counter those downer feelings you might be experiencing.


RETURN TO PLAY

This is going to take time, and like all injuries, rushing back will only harm you in the long run. You want to be sure that you are fully recovered before trying to skate again in order to avoid aggravation or re-injury. Since multiple concussions have a cumulative effect, you don’t want to experience another, and especially not right away. It will set you back exponentially and can leave you with lingering or long-term effects.

Most concussion guidelines for sports have a pretty explicit return to play outline, however, ensure that your doctor clears you to skate initially (your sport is skating around and around for hours!) and then again to resume contact.

Here are a few good ones:

Captains and managers should also treat this injury as they would any other player injury. Depending on your league policies, a doctors note would be ideal. Know the steps:

  1. No activity, complete rest
  2. Light aerobic exercise
  3. Sport-specific activities – like skating
  4. Drills, no contact
  5. Drills with contact
  6. Game play

Take it step by step.

Start with light, low impact activity, like biking, walking or swimming, and move through the levels only if you are completely symptom-free. Not even a little headache. If you do feel your symptoms as a result, you need to continue your rest and rehab. Then try again at that level. This can sometimes be a slow, frustrating process.

There are also newer studies that suggest some exercise might also accelerate your progress. Best to just monitor how you are feeling. Try and see what might work for you and how you feel.

If you have suffered from multiples or even a single major event, know when it’s time to pack it in. Look at your risks vs rewards if you are considering returning, and consider how to avoid long-term damage (Decrease competitiveness? Try low contact? Take a couple of years off?)

As much as we are in love with our sport and the derby community, you only get one brain.

PREVENTION

Like my catholic upbringing taught me, the surefire way to avoid accidents is abstinence from engagement in risky activities. But really, we can’t skate around in a safety bubble like in bubble sports, can we? No really, can we??!!!

We play a contact sport that celebrates our athletes’ differences in size and shape, and we would hate to see that change. We have complete understanding that sometimes accidents just happen in contact sports.

Here are some ideas, however, that could help avoid first or future concussions in roller derby, or at least reduce the frequency we are seeing. It would also be wonderful if the ruleset was evaluated for safety by medical professionals and revised accordingly in addition to considering changes related to improvement of game play and spectator experience.

  • Helmets and face shields: Helmets can be great for helping absorb impact when hit, and protect your skull, but can’t help as much when you get a shot in the face or whiplash. At least, start with a legit multi-impact helmet for real! With the hard foam. Take that rubberized helmet you bought and throw it in the garbage. Don’t let your fresh meat buy them when they are investing in gear at the beginning. Check out section 9.1.3 of the rules to find out what equipment variations pass. Just like all of your other gear try options on, or borrow from your pals till you find the proper fit. Acknowledge that your head shape just might not fit properly with certain models. Look for a balance of protection and functionality (lightweight, not too hot, etc.) Some might find that hockey-style helmets stabilize the jarring and head and neck a bit more. Some find that face shields help prevent face hits. There are many options, just don’t cheap out on this body part when it comes to protection.
  • Practice backwards blocking as a skill: This is a newer blocking style that is becoming more prominent in game play, however not one commonly taught as a foundation in fresh meat programs. Practice greater control when transitioning quickly. Practice more upper body blocking techniques, giving and receiving, with the aim of avoiding flailing limbs or head/face hits. Especially try safely backwards blocking and side blocking or “picking” with a variety of different-sized opponents.
  • Strengthen your neck and upper body: Roller derby is definitely a total body sport, so don’t forget these body parts in your dry land training. Now that there is much more backwards blocking and shoulder blocking, strengthen this part of your body so that you can safely absorb and deliver these upper body hits. For blockers, this may also help dealing with that transfer of momentum from jammers coming in hot to a slow or stopped pack.
  • Call out head and face hits: For coaches and managers, try to pay attention to these hits as much as you would cutting and back blocking if refs aren’t at practice to call the high blocks. I feel like we let this one slide a lot because “it just happens”, meanwhile, we might be enforcing sloppy play and letting repeated hits to the face or head happen, which over time could increase susceptibility if a bigger hit is received. Remember that this injury is cumulative. Pull or bench any players for egregious play for sure.

TALK ABOUT IT

Finally, talk this out with others in your league or reach out to our amazingly supportive sports community. As horrible as it was that a number of us got injured at the same time in our league, we’ve become a great little support group for each other. It has also helped raise awareness about the injury in our league. There’s a great deal of comfort in knowing that you have leaguemates concerned for your well-being that have experienced the same symptoms and are going through rehab with you, especially in dealing with the psycho behavioural effects. We have also shared a great deal of knowledge and referred others to the right doctors, as well as have some ideas for future projects in this area, so stay tuned!

We play an adrenaline-driven sport that on top of it all, we put our hearts into organizing, building, running and progressing. This can make it extra challenging to pull back when the time comes, whether it’s taking a short break or a long one.

There’s a great documentary called The Crash Reel that helps puts things into perspective and does a great job illustrating how passion for our sport can take over. Thanks Kamikaze Kitten for the recommendation and for being just a random Facebook message away!

Watch Trailer: The Crash Reel

Save your brain, you may need it later.

And if you are currently rehabbing a concussion, thanks for using up some of your screen time here.

Feel free to keep the conversation going here in the comments section, or by sharing your resources and experiences too!

Guest Blogger Speedin’ Hawking skated with Toronto Roller Derby from 2009 to 2014 as a member of the Death Track Dolls (2013 co-captain) and the Bay Street Bruisers B-level travel team (‎2012-2013).
Speedin Hawking blocking in a preseason game against Tri-City's Venus Fly Tramps before her 2010 rookie season with ToRD. (Photo by Chrissie Woo)

Speedin Hawking blocking in a preseason game against Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps before her 2010 rookie season with ToRD. (Photo by Chrissie Woo)

***Would you like to be a guest blogger?? Contact the Derby Nerd with questions, proposals, or recommendations at thederbynerd@gmail.com***

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