Rose City Rollers

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

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

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

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

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

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

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

Montreal 109 vs. Rose City (5th) 306

Montreal 174 vs. Oly (14th) 230

Toronto Roller Derby: CN Power

New CNP logo

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

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

Toronto 235 vs. Jet City (36th) 86

Toronto 370 vs. Cincinnati (56th) 83

Tri-City Roller Derby: Tri-City Thunder

Tri-City Thunder Logo

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

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

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

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

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

Division 2 and Division 3 Action

Vixens Logo

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

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

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

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

Divide and Conquer: A Preview of the 2011 WFTDA Championships

Continental Divide and Conquer: The 2011 WFTDA Championships (Denver, Colorado; November 11-13)

For fans of flat track roller derby there is no more exciting weekend than the annual WFTDA Championships. It represents the pinnacle of the young sport, and each year provides a canvas upon which the newest strategies, the latest skill developments, and the increased athleticism that the sport requires are painted. Due to the young age of the sport and the accelerated pace at which it is growing, it is possible to say that each year, the WFTDA Championships has provided the best flat track roller derby ever played. And this year will undoubtedly prove to be the best yet.

The first WFTDA champs, the Texas Rollergirls, join every other previous champ at this year's tournament.

Since the Texas Rollergirls Texecutioners won the inaugural championship in 2006 and catapulted the young sport into the North American sports and pop culture consciousness, there have been four other champions crowned: Kansas City Roller Warriors (2007), Gotham Girls Roller Derby (2008), Oly Rollers (2009), and Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (2010). They will all be present at the 2011 WFTDA championships. While WFTDA has never crowned a two-time champion, this seems like the best chance for that to happen.

But considering the young age of the sport, this tournament has been more about developing the game than anything. In 2006 when virtually every flat track league on the planet (there were only 20 leagues in 2005, the year that the United Leagues Coalition—soon to be the WFDTA—was formed) converged on Tucson, it was an opportunity for all the leagues from the disparate corners of the United States to get together and share in the development and help nudge along the evolution of the sport.  From those early rules-refining days in 2006/2007 to Duke City and eventually Denver’s isolation and trapping revolution in 2008/2009, every major change and growth in the sport has been disseminated through the championship tournament.

2009 champs Oly Rollers were the first team to appear in back-to-back championship games.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP CURSE??

While the Texacutioners became the first team to make two championship finals (2006 and 2009), last year the Oly Rollers became the first team to qualify for two consecutive finals. Despite the fact that the Oly juggernaut could very easily make it a third straight trip to the final in 2011, traditionally defending champs have not fared well in this tournament. After Texas dominated in 2006 and defeated Tucson 129-96 in the final, it seemed as if the god mothers of the sport would never be beaten, but they did finally lose the following year and ended up getting knocked out in the 2007 semifinals to Rat City. Rat couldn’t parlay that historic victory into a championship though and fell in the first WFTDA champs classic 89-85 to Kansas City. Although Kansas would win their first three in a row in 2008, their streak would come to an emphatic end when Windy City rolled over them 155-39 on the eve of the 2008 championship (where Kansas City would stumble further, finishing out of the top four).

By that 2008 tournament, Gotham had replaced Texas as the dominant force in the sport and after crushing Duke City and Philly in the early rounds would put an end to Windy City’s amazing season with a 134-66 trouncing in the final. Gotham would then cruise through the 2009 season undefeated only to be upset by Philly in the Eastern final by 1 point (ending a remarkable 18 game winning streak). Continuing the trend of defending champs falling hard, they would be eliminated by Oly in the 2009 quarterfinals to finish out of the top four.

By the end of the 2009 tournament, where Oly defeated the historic Texacutioners 178-100, it was clear that the Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas were the new leaders in flat track. From their entry into the WFTDA in January 2009 to their eventual loss to Rocky Mountain in the western final in October 2010, they put together the greatest run in the sport’s early history, winning 22 straight bouts. But even the mighty Oly suffered the curse of the championship and although they became the first team to return to defend their title, they fell in a one-point heartbreaker (147-146) to Rocky Mountain in last year’s championship.

The defending champion Rocky Mountain Rollergirls have not been as dominant in 2011.

The defending champion Rocky Mountain Rollergirls have continued the dubious trend. Despite starting 2011 strong with big wins over Philly and Rose City, they have faded this season. A tight win against Bay Area in May was followed by the team’s first back-to-back losses since 2009 (to Charm and Oly). In this year’s Western Regionals they were only able to scrape by Rat City in the semis (117-107) before losing to Oly in the West final (143-106). While they remain favourites heading into the tournament, they do not look like the terrifying machine that rolled into the Championships in Chicago last year.

THE PARTICIPANTS

Only two of the teams enter this tournament with undefeated records in 2011 WFTDA play: Gotham (10-0) and Oly (12-0).  At the other end of the spectrum, a number of teams enter the tournament with just over a .500 record: Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8), Charm City All Stars (9-7), and Nashville‘s Music City All Stars (7-5). The rest of the teams settle somewhere in the middle. The opening round features the “bottom eight” teams vying for a spot in the quarterfinals with the four regional winners. While Rocky Mountain (2nd West) should roll over Nashville (3rd South Central) and Philly (2nd East) should ring Naptown’s (3rd North Central) bell, look for a Charm City (3rd E) minor upset over Minnesota (2nd NC) and a similar Rose City (3rd W) upset over Kansas City (2nd SC). (It should be noted that Rose City and Naptown are the only two teams making their Championships debut). This chain of events would set up for some intriguing quarterfinal matchups, none more so than the potential Gotham vs. Rocky Mountain showdown that could occur Saturday morning.

Gotham Girls Roller Derby looks poised to win their second WFTDA championship.

Gotham has been absolutely dominant this season winning their bouts with an average margin of victory of 185 points (Rose City and Denver were the only teams to give them “trouble”: holding them to 68 and 71 point victories respectively). On top of that, Gotham seemed to improve as the season went on: they beat Steel City in April by 244 points; by the time of the Eastern Regionals (when both teams were peaking) they managed to increase that margin to an astonishing 374 points (the 404-30 semifinal victory was one of, if not the, most dominant performance in tournament history). As good as Rocky Mountain was, their performances this year (particularly that stunning July loss to Charm) has not been as confidence inducing. Call it the championship hangover, but it is highly conceivable that once again, the defending champs will make an early exit and finish out of the top four.

Naptown joins Rose City as they only first timers in the 2011 WFTDA Championship.

If any team can compete with Gotham this season, it is the Oly Rollers. While the two teams do have common opponents this year (Montreal, Denver and Rose City) it is difficult to compare the two records because of the markedly different styles they play. Gotham has seemingly mastered “bispeedual” derby: IE: they can skate with the best of them, but certainly don’t mind mucking it up in a slow, gritty game as well (they’ve embraced all isolation strategies and other evolutions of the sport including the walled and/or slow starts that are the latest trend). All along Oly has maintained their very simple game and are the masters of traditional “hit and run” derby. They are phenomenal skaters with otherworldly endurance and have shown that they can run opposition ragged. So while it is easy to see Oly advancing to their third straight final, it is much more difficult to see them defeating Gotham’s complete-game roller derby. Gotham, who has moved to the top of DNN’s Power Rankings and also the top of flattrackstats.com’s stats-based rankings, seems to be on the verge of reclaiming the Hydra Trophy that they last held in 2008.

As with last year, it could very well be an all East-West final four (Gotham, Oly, Rose and Charm), although Texas (who made up for a mediocre season with an amazing run at the South Central Regionals) seems in the best position to spoil the party given their potential quarterfinal showdown with Charm City (they met in May with Texas squeaking by in a 6 point victory).

So, is this the year that a two-time WFTDA champion is finally crowned? Will the coasts continue their derby dominance? Will the progenitors of flat track, the Texacutioners, return  to their final-four form? Thankfully, we won’t have to wait much longer for the answers.

2011 WFTDA Champs Participants (2011 Records / DNN Power Ranking)

East:

1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars (10-0 / #1)

2. Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8 / #11)

3. Charm City Roller Girls All Stars (9-7 / # 12)

West:

1. Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas (12-0 / #2)

2. Rocky Mountain Rollergirls 5280 Fight Club (7-2 / #3)

3. Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice (9-5 / #4)

South Central:

1. Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners (12-8 / #8)

2. Kansas City Roller Warriors All Stars (10-2 / #9)

3. Nashville Rollergirls Music City All Stars (7-5 / #19)

North Central

1. Windy City Rollers All-Stars (13-2 / #10)

2. Minnesota Roller Girls All Stars (9-3 / #13)

3. Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens (12-3 / #14)

The bracket for the 2011 WFTDA Championships in Denver, Colorado (November 11-13). (Click to enlarge)

**** Read DNN’s team-by-team preview here. Tune in to all the action live on WFTDA.com.****

The Nerd’s thoughts on the playoffs so far:

Pondering the Playoffs 1: Eastern Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 2: Western Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 3: South Central Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 4: North Central Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 2: WFTDA’s Western Regionals

I think we’ve already seen the WFTDA champions in their regional playoff. With all due respect to the South Central and North Central, the performance of Gotham last week coupled with the extraordinarily competitive level of the West Region playoff leads this Nerd to believe that as it was in 2010 the two coasts will dominate come the Championships (last year West was 1-2, East 3-4).

Portland hosted this year's WFTDA Western Regionals.

What is interesting to see emerge through these playoffs are the competitive “groupings” that exist within the regions. In the East (as we will certainly see in North Central and possibly in the South Central as well), there are fairly large disparity gaps in the upper levels. While Gotham has risen to a class of its own, Philly and Charm City are clearly in a distinct group followed by the fairly large competitive group of Steel City, London, Montreal, Carolina and Boston (there is a significant drop off here).  The West is perhaps the “best” because the disparity between the very best teams has lessened over the past year instead of increased. While Oly and Rocky Mountain clearly remain the cream of the West, both faced considerable challenges from teams in the competitive grouping behind them (Rose City and Rat City respectively). Bay Area and Denver round out the incredible top six. From what I could tell the third to sixth spots could have gone any which way, and had the tournament been played again next weekend I wouldn’t be surprised if these placings did switch (though Rose City looked like one madly determined team this weekend). There is a considerable drop off here from seventh to tenth once again.

Defending WFTDA champs Rocky Mountain has proven that it is more than capable of adapting to any style of play.

In terms of strategy, the starts were once again where all eyes were trained.  There is a lot of controversy surrounding the development of these strategies, though I think mostly in regards to the no-start strategy, which, in its inactivity and avoidance of game play, is actually an anti-strategy (and which was sadly in play during the Rocky Mountain-Rat City bout). While this baffles me right now (why don’t they want to play?? Rat City captain Carmen Getsome tries to explain), what I am increasingly becoming a fan of are the gritty starts formed by starting packs walling up at the jam line. There has been a lot of (unfair in my opinion) criticism of this strategy as well; after two weeks of seeing this be developed at the highest level, I think that there is a great opportunity for brilliance here (and we are already seeing counter-strategies emerging). On the final day of Westerns as the level of play rose, these starts were used less or in more opportune moments (again, some of the awkwardness we’ve previously seen from these slow starts is from the fact that one team is so much stronger than the other, or one team is simply unprepared). People’s overreaction to this reminds me of the overreaction people had to the emergence of trapping and isolation strategies in 2009: while it looked absurd and dramatic at first (because teams were just learning it), now trapping has become a fundamental aspect of the flat track and the dramatic backwards packs that were prevalent at all levels in ’09 are a thing of the past at the highest competitive level.  While I think rules for starting jams could be refined (in that they would have to start at some point!), I have a feeling that the slow or walled-start jams will quickly evolve into regularly accepted game play. I don’t like stop-derby, but I sure love slow derby.

One thing that I didn’t like seeing emerge was a level of “diving” that has been slowly creeping into the sport. Rose City especially, seemed quite adept at stretching a back-blocking minor into a major with a well-performed fall, or failing to avoid an outstretched leg that is “sort of” in the way. It’s a touchy situation and subject and one that I think warrants more rules consideration than many of the other refinements people usually so vehemently call for.

2009 champs Oly Rollers look poised for a third consecutive run ot the championships.

While it was really hard not to be disappointed that Denver didn’t at the very least make it to the semi-final showdown with Rocky Mountain, it will be harder in November when the hosts aren’t at the tournament they are hosting. Nonetheless, the West once again sends an extraordinary threesome to the Championship. And they—Oly especially—all seem to have a shot at the top four at least, but I have to wonder if either Oly or Rocky Mountain is capable of challenging Gotham right now. Despite Oly’s win on the weekend, Gotham has still increased their lead over them on flat track stats. Rocky Mountain may be too emotional a team and “loose” right now to be able to compete against the likes of Gotham, while Oly, on the other hand, seems to be the opposite: too rigid, simplistic in their game play. Oly seems set in their fast-skating, keep-it-simple ways (and why not? It’s worked so far), but I have a feeling that if things don’t go their way early on and Gotham is able to establish a physical, gritty, multi-paced and faceted game, Oly will have a hard time keeping up. Then again, maybe Gotham and Oly won’t even meet in the final; the brackets have not been set yet, but it would be a shame if the top West and East seeds were bracketed to meet earlier.

Next up, South Centrals! Where the historic Texas Rollergirls (Champs ’06) look to reclaim top spot from their traditional regional rivals Kansas City Roller Warriors (Champs ’07)

WFTDA CHAMPS PARTICIPANTS (as of 09, 26, 2011):

East:

1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars

2. Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles

3. Charm City Roller Girls All Stars

West:

1. Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas

2. Rocky Mountain Rollergirls 5280 Fight Club

3. Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice

ToRD Kicks off Pride with Clam Slam 3!

This was the third annual Clam Slam and featured skaters from 8 different leagues. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Vagine Regime Canada 94 vs. Clam Diggers 141

Toronto’s Pride festivities started this weekend, but before things could get underway downtown, ToRD’s 3rd annual Clam Slam kicked things off at the Hangar in Downsview Park on Thursday night. An all-queer all-star game featuring skaters from clear across North America, the bout did not disappoint, and while intricate strategies may have been too much to expect from two lineups thrown together for the event, the fans were treated to a fast-paced, hard hitting bout that often had the crowd out of their seats. In the end the ToRD-heavy lineup of the  Clam Diggers, perhaps because of the familiarity, was able to pull ahead for the 47 point win over Vagine Regime Canada.

Former ToRD skater Sista Fista kicked things off jamming for the Clam Diggers. (Photo by Joe Mac)

A player very familiar to ToRD fans—former Death Track Doll standout Sista Fista—kicked things off jamming for the Diggers, taking lead jam and putting the first points on the board against ToRD rookie Snatch Bandit (AKA: Rug Burn of the Betties).  Other visiting skaters stepped it up as well, as the fleet-footed Lady Cuntessa (all the way from Yukon Roller Girls) led the push back by the Vagine Regime who kept things tight in the early going. Great individual pack work from ToRD’s BruiseBerry Pie and Tri-City’s Anita Martini along with smart pivoting from ToRD’s Rebel Rock-It allowed the Regime to keep pace, and a big pick up from Rose City’s (Portland, OR) excellent Mercy kept things tight, 30-28 at the midway point of the first half.

Dyna Hurtcha had a big night jamming for the Clam Diggers. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Whenever the Vagine Regime threatened to take control though, the Clam Diggers stepped up. As the first half began to wane, it became clear that the Diggers’ blockers were gelling quickly and as the half wore on they began to assert their control. Strong on-track leadership from pivots Tara Part (ToRD) and Mirambo (Forest City), helped guide jammers Dyna Squirtcha and Brim Stone through the pack, and very quickly the Diggers reasserted themselves and stole back the momentum, pulling ahead 41-29. Looking to add a more physical element to the jam line, the Regime responded with BruiseBerry Pie, but there was only so much she could against the Diggers’ onslaught. Despite taking a consistent pounding from Tri-City’s Sofanda Beatin and ToRD’s Nasher the Smasher, BruiseBerry Pie managed to pick up 9 points on a late Regime power jam that kept things within reach with the Diggers up 68-47 at half.

Despite the all-star nature of the bout, the referees were calling an extremely tight game which unfortunately led to some strategic bench managing in the second half as a handful of skaters found themselves under threat of expulsion. Unfortunately, a lot of those skaters were on the Vagine Regime and this hampered their ability to make a game of it. While individuals such as the towering Mercy, the scrappy young skater Pandemic Pearl (from Tri-City’s new TKOs), and ToRD’s Brim Stone (who provided some crafting jamming) looked strong all bout, the Vagine Regime couldn’t handle the surprisingly dominant pack work of the Diggers, who threatened to pull away with it, up 87-47 only eight minutes into the half.

Star blocker Mega Bouche brought the fans to their feet as she jammed late in the bout. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Fan favourite Mega Bouche brought the fans to their feet as she tried to respond with the star for the Regime, but a massive jammer takeout from GTAR’s blocker Newfie Bullet slowed the comeback, it nonetheless brought her team back into the bout and gave the bench some hope for a late-game comeback. A Snatch Bandit powerjam threatened even more of a comeback, only to have the devastating due of Sofanda Beatin’ and Nasher the Smasher neutralize the less-experienced jammer and force an eventual call after their penalized jammer (Slam-Her) returned to the track. With ten minutes remaining and continued dominating pack work by the likes of MTLRD’s Nameless Whorror, the Diggers had pulled ahead 121-71, and were in clear control when, eventually, the penalties caught up to the Regime, seeing both Mercy and BruiseBerry Pie (two of the more effective Vagine Regime skaters on the night) ejected for accumulation of penalties. That ended the comeback hopes for the Regime who found themselves short benched. Nonetheless, this did not dull the festive atmosphere of the event and the Regime played hard until the end, and finished on a high note with blocker Back Alley Sally jamming successfully on end-of-game powerjam to end things on a high note despite the 141-94 loss.

Despite great individual performances from the Regime, the Clam Diggers had the advantange in the packs. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Scores though, are mostly irrelevant in this event, with fun, entertaining roller derby the main goal, and in that way, this bout was, as usual for a Clam Slam, an extraordinary success. Whether it was experienced skaters from some of the top teams in WFTDA (Rose City’s Mercy, Montreal’s Nameless Whorror and Silicon Valley’s Stevie Knickers) or young skaters from home teams (ToRD’s Snatch Bandit, Fox Smoulder and Pandemic Pearl from Tri-City’s TKOs), the skaters provided top-level competition and fast-paced entertainment. And for the third year in a row, Pride was kicked off in grand style with yet another successful Clam Slam.

ROSTERS

Vagine Regime Canada Clam Diggers
Anita Martini (Tri-City Roller Girls)
Mercy (Rose City Rollers)
Lady Cuntessa (Yukon Roller Girls)
Mega Mouth (ToRD)
Rebel Rock-it (ToRD)
Hot Roller (ToRD)
Bruiseberry Pie (ToRD)
Snatch Bandit (ToRD)
Stevie Knickers (Silicon Valley Roller Girls)
BackAlley Sally (Forest City Derby Girls)
Aston Martini (ToRD)
Chronic (ToRD)
Pandemic Pearl (Tri-City Roller Girls)Bench Managers: The Big Cheese & Lucid Lou (ToRD)
Nameless Whorror (MTLRD)
Brim Stone (ToRD)
Getcha Kicks (GTAR)
Nasher the Smasher (ToRD)
Tara Part (ToRD)
Dyna Squirtcha (ToRD)
Pubilee (ToRD)
Sista Fista (Dodge City Rollergirls)
Chromosexual (ToRD)
Fox Smoulder (Tri-City Roller Girls)
Slam-Her (ToRD)
Sofanda Beatin’ (Tri-City Roller Girls)
Newfie Bullet (GTAR)
U-Haul (ToRD)
Mirambo (Forest City Derby Girls)
P Doddy (ToRD)Bench Managers: Sonic Doom & Wolverina (ToRD)

The ToRD.TV crew boutcast the Clam Slam Live via Canuck Derby TV. Check out the archive here.