Team Canada

Team Canada Outpaces a Scrappy Team Ontario While Misfits Hold Off Bruisers

Alliston, Ontario, was the site of a fantastic night of women’s flat track roller derby where Team Canada continued to tune up as the World Cup nears, the host Misfit Militia picked up a big win, and some of Eastern Canada’s best junior skaters took to the track for an all-star exhibition scrimmage.

Members of Team Ontario and Team Canada celebrate after their game. (Photography by Joe Mac)

Members of Team Ontario and Team Canada celebrate after their game. (Photography by Joe Mac)

It’s going to be a bittersweet 2014 Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup for fans of Canadian roller derby. The team looks strong in the lead up to what will be the largest global roller derby event in the history of the sport (in any of its various incarnations), and it shoulders expectations to repeat as silver medalists. Yet at the same time, it will represent the final skate for many of our nation’s early stars of the sport, some of whom were featured front and centre on Saturday night at the Alliston Memorial Arena. 2011 World Cup MVP Smack Daddy, her Montreal counterparts Georgia W. Tush and Lil’ Mama, along with Toronto’s (Dusty) Watson, all have announced their intentions to retire after the 2014 season and were key pieces on Saturday as Canada held off Team Ontario 195-99 in a thrilling game of roller derby.

Although Team Ontario regulars Watson and Dyna Hurtcha were maple-leaf clad on Saturday, it was still arguably the best Team Ontario roster we have seen take the track yet, and one that included Team Canada members Murphy, USS DentHerPrize (of the Detroit Derby Girls), and Soul Rekker. This stacked provincial roster caught Canada off guard, overwhelming the national team at the opening whistle with Tri-City’s Ova’Kill taking the first lead of the game behind the support of a terrifying Ontario power line of Murphy, Sofanda Beatin, Margaret Choke and Wylde Leigh Coyote. The opening five minutes were actually dead even with the teams trading power jams and Canada just able to slip ahead 14-10. However, over the next 10 minutes the national team woke up and went on a dominant 10-minute run, outscoring Ontario 56-6 to take a 70-16 lead midway through the opening half.

Kim Jana finds an open outside lane for Team Canada. She was part of a deep Canadian rotation. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Kim Jana finds an open outside lane for Team Canada. She was part of a deep Canadian rotation. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Ova’Kill was joined on the jam line by Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker and Toronto’s Motorhead Molly, with Rideau’s Austintatious getting in on the action as well. They faced off against a fearsome Team Canada rotation of Mel-e-Juana (Montreal), Kim Janna (Terminal City—she looked impressive coming back from a serious leg break), Watson (Toronto), and Calgary’s 2014 breakout star Kris Myass, who was virtually unstoppable in carving up the track for Team Canada and seems to be the anchor of the offense as we lead up to the World Cup.

After the flurry by Canada midway through the half, Ontario tightened things up once again. There were some incredible stand-outs in the Ontario pack led by Murphy (who formed great packs with RVRG teammates Bottema and Margaret Choke and Tri-City’s Wylde Leigh Coyote), but also featuring strong performances from across the board, including Sofanda Beatin, hometown skater Renny Rumble, and pivot Sister Disaster.

Stats were tight in the first half with the teams virtually even in leads and power jams (although Canada was much more successful in this regard and also more proficient on the power kill), and the final fifteen minutes of the half were a virtual stalemate with Canada barely outscoring Ontario 31-30 over that span to hold a 111-46 lead at half.

Canada pivot Demanda Lashing tries to open a lane between Murphy and USS DentHerPrize. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Canada pivot Demanda Lashing tries to open a lane between Murphy and USS DentHerPrize. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Following the World Cup rules that allow for substitutions from beyond the fourteen on the bench, Team Canada sat veterans Smack Daddy, Tush and Watson for the second half to bring in luludemon and the dynamic triple threat Dyna Hurtcha, who tore up the track at every role in the second half. While former Team Canada stars like Mackenzie, Jess Paternostro and Lil’ Mama remain key pieces, it feels as if there is a passing of the torch going on with Team Canada right now, and the new generation of skaters are stepping up to lead the way. Montreal’s Demanda Lashing and Hughes (Surgical Strike) along with Windy City’s KonichiWow, Terminal City’s Karlene Harvey (Buffy Sainte Fury), and Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha were the dominant forces in this game and helped to maintain Canada’s lead, 145-61, at the midway point of the second.

Canada had a far greater lead jammer percentage in the second half (about 80% to 20% after being close to even in the first) allowing them to hold back an inspired Team Ontario and record the 195-99 win.

Nerd Glasses

This was the third meeting between the Bruisers and the Misfit Militia in the last three years; they'd split the first two games. (Photo by Joe Mac)

This was the third meeting between the Bruisers and the Misfit Militia in the last three years; they’d split the first two games. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The opening game of the double header featured the hometown Misfit Militia squaring off against their Toronto rivals, the Bay Street Bruisers (ToRD’s B-Travel Team). This was a rubber match of sorts as the teams split two decisions over two years leading up to this meeting. Things started tight with both teams trading early power jams and the Militia pulling ahead 10-9; the Bruisers would roar right back to take an 18-14 lead before the Militia stole the lead back 27-18, all before the 10-minute mark of the first period.

The turning point of the first half occurred near the 20-minute mark when Misfit Militia locked down the defense and jammer Smoka Cola managed four natural grand slams in a 23-point jam that gave the Militia the biggest lead of the game, 59-28, which they would maintain at half, leading 93-40 at that point (Smoka Cola had a remarkable 62 points at the break, while the Bruisers scoring was evenly spread out over its four jammers).

The home team went on an 18-6 run to start the second before the Bruisers began a sustained pushback, but the Toronto team was never quite able to overcome the gap. Remarkably, lead jammer status was nearly even throughout (with the Militia holding only a slight 20-19 advantage) as were power jams, but the stunning defense and stifling penalty kill of the Misfit Militia stole the show and kept the Bruisers at bay. In the end, Smoka Cola recorded a game high 87 points while Bellefast (skating for Toronto in her hometown) led the way for the visitors with 44 points (Sleeper Hold, who had a rough first half, bounced back big time in the second and ended up with 28 points). Although the Bruisers, who finish the season 7-5, slightly improved upon last year’s 90-point loss, with the 174-104 win, the Misfit Militia (7-1) proved once again that they are one of the (if not the) nation’s top non-WFTDA affiliated leagues.

Nerd Glasses

Despite rumblings to the contrary on social media and in roller derby forums, the sport of roller derby has never ever been as healthy as it is today (not even close): more people are playing it in more countries than ever, and more people are watching it and exposed to it than ever before. I was never more aware of this than on Saturday while sitting at an old-school wooden-bleacher iceless hockey arena in a rural Ontario town that itself has two distinct roller derby leagues, where our national team was facing off against one of its provincial counterparts, all under the awe-filled gaze of a group of junior-aged players who were in town to try out for their own national team.

Just fourteen years ago—less than two decades!!—not only would no one have believed this possible, no one would have even thought to consider it.

Next stop on the road may be Nashville for the WFTDA Championship, but just over the horizon, Dallas looms.

*** Check out layer9.ca for trackside video coverage, and local viewers check local listings for Rogers TV rebroadcasts of the game.

With Men’s World Cup Set to Begin, Roller Derby Truly Goes Global

On March 14 and 4:30 AM EST, the first ever Men's Roller Derby World Cup will begin.

On March 14 and 4:30 AM EST, the first ever Men’s Roller Derby World Cup will begin.

In 2011, when Team Canada and Team France took to the track in Toronto to kick off group play at the inaugural Women’s Roller Derby World Cup, the sport of flat track roller derby was beginning its first tentative steps into global legitimacy. Three years later, on March 14, 2014, when England and Argentina take the track in Birmingham, England, as the first participants in the group stage of the first-ever Men’s World Cup, the sport will have truly become a global phenomenon.

Unlike the Women’s World Cup, there is heavy involvement in the Men’s tournament from the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA), and the event will be played under the WFTDA/MRDA ruleset (the Women’s World Cup has recently announced that it too has decided to use this rule set—despite an initial decision not to), and Miss Trial, the MRDA’s head official, will head up the officials crew at the event.

There will be fifteen countries represented at the World Cup, and as with the women’s event, USA enters the tournament as the heavy favourites, but France, Finland and Canada are all expected to compete with a few other dark horses out there (including a virtually unknown Japanese Team).

Led by Head Coach Lime (who has coached, literally, from coast to coast in this country) and Jess Bandit (one of the coaches of the Mont Royals, and one of our country’s finest players with Team Canada and Montreal’s New Skids on the Block), the majority of Canada’s team features, not surprisingly, heavy representation from the more established men’s leagues in Vancouver, Red Deer, Montreal and Calgary (Glenmore), but Toronto Men’s Roller Derby will send two representatives to England in the form of skater Harrassin’ Ford and Assistant Coach BruiseBerry Pie (who will be joined by Calgary’s Demolition Herbie as Assistants).

Team Canada will take on Belgium, Japan and Scotland in the group stage.

Team Canada will take on Belgium, Japan and Scotland in the group stage.

Men’s derby has had a comparatively slow and slightly more fumbling ride to the limelight than the women’s version of the game, staggered by a mix of politics and the perception of the sport as exclusively a women’s game, but over the past two or so years in particular, the men’s game has taken off. The rise of the MRDA (and its direct ties to WFTDA) and the undeniable brilliance of teams like MRDA champs Your Mom’s Roller Derby have thrust the sport into the spotlight.

“Coming from someone who didn’t know there was a men’s roller derby community until I was involved in the women’s game for two years, something like this is huge,” says Ford, echoing the awkward pace of growth of the men’s game. Ford began his career as a ref and played his first co-ed game in summer 2011. At the time, he was light years away from being a national team member, but a phenomenal commitment to skating and to learning the game has aided and quickened his development. He was one of the first members of the Toronto Men’s Roller Derby (and its team, Toronto Outrage) and continues to ref on a regular basis.

Despite his depth of experience as a ref, Harrassin’ is still relatively new to the men’s game. “I’m very excited to be going over and being part of this team after being involved in this sport for such a short period of time,” he says. “It’s an honour for me even just to go over and watch.”

On the track, Harrassin’ points to some of Canada’s more experienced players as the ones to watch. One of the founding members of the team, Vancouver’s Noah Backtalk—who is also a respected coach and ref in the community—will be an on-track leader of the team along with Montreal’s El Tennant and Tank (not to mention The Rev, who, like Noah, is another one of our country’s first-ever players of the men’s game). Harrassin’ also points out that Red, who plays for Ottawa’s Slaughter Squad, is a jammer to watch. However, he notes that one of the stories of the whole tournament could be the father-son duo of Riceball and BrADASS, who play for the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs (Calgary).

Team Canada got together in Montreal this past weekend to make final preparations for the tournament. (Photo from Team Canada's Facebook page).

Team Canada got together in Montreal this past weekend to make final preparations for the tournament. (Photo from Team Canada’s Facebook page).

Canada opens the tournament against Belgium. They will be joined in their group by Japan and Scotland. All teams play a placement-style round robin(of 30 minute games) in the group stage to set the rankings for the knock-out portion of the tournament (similar to the 2011 Women’s World Cup). Canada is expected to do well in its pool, and if it manages to finish in the top two, will move on to take on either Wales or one of the heavily favoured Finnish or US Teams (“I think we can give them a good competitive game if nothing else,” Ford says of a potential matchup against the US). If they slip into the bottom of their pool, they’d face one of the bottom-ranked teams from the group featuring France, Ireland, Australia and Germany in the “Jug” (consolation) bracket.

Regardless of the outcome, much like the first-ever Women’s World Cup, this tournament is about much more than winning and losing. This is all about giving the men’s game a prominent showcase and growing the sport as a whole. “It’s great when a bunch of different countries can throw together teams that are this competitive,” says BruiseBerry Pie.  “It helps bring everyone up together.” Harrassin points out that “any and all exposure for the sport is good!”

Bruisey goes on to say that this will be especially important for the North American game, where the focus is primarily on MRDA club-level play. “In North American, we don’t really know how much is going on in Europe. They are so close together that they can get together and play each other all the time…the more people play each other the more parity we will have,” she points out, alluding to the potential strength of the European contingent.

From a tight-knit group of women in a roller rink in Austin, Texas, in April 2003, to the top fifteen countries in the men’s game in an arena Birmingham, England, in March 2014, the story of flat track roller derby has been one of steady, consistent growth. While the future is excitably unknowable, one thing is for certain: when the first ever Men’s Roller Derby World Cup comes to a close, it will conclude another incredibly important chapter in the development of this sport.

**See the full Canadian roster here at Canadian Derby Frontier. For the full listing of teams, click here. A full schedule can be downloaded here. The first game kicks off at 4:30 AM (EST). The whole tournament will be boutcast live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRUISERS WIN CONSOLATION BRACKET AT B-CUP

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

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

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

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

Team Canada Releases Roster for the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup

Team Canada 2014

Team Canada

On Sunday, December 29th, 2013, Team Canada management released its 30-skater roster for the 2014 Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup to be held in Dallas, Texas, on the weekend of December 4th, 2014.

The roster includes ten returning players (indicated with an *) from the 2011 team that came in second place, losing to USA in the final.

There are nine skaters from Montreal’s New Skids on the Block, Canada’s top ranked WFTDA team (15th in WFTDA, 1st in Canada). There are six skaters from Terminal City’s All Stars (37th, 3rd), five skaters from Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power (29th, 2nd), and two returning skaters from the Rideau Valley Vixens (69th, 7th). The remaining Canadian leagues represented were Red Deer (4th in Canada) and Calgary (WFTDA Apprentice, 14th in Canada).

Team Canada will feature six skaters who play for US-based WFTDA leagues (after having only one in 2011). The represented leagues are the Texas Roller Girls (3rd),the Windy City Rollers (8th), Atlanta Rollergirls (10th), the Philly Roller Girls (14th), Boston Derby Dames (16th), and Detroit Derby Girls (28th).

The Roster

Bala Reina (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Buffy Sainte Fury (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars, Public Frenemy)
Chasing Amy (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Demanda Lashing (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block, Les Filles Du Roi)
Dusty (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Dyna Hurtcha (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Evada Peron (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
Eve Hallows (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars, Bad Reputations)
*Georgia W. Tush (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Greta Bobo (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Heavy Flo (Philly Roller Girls - Liberty Belles)
*Jess “Bandit” Paternostro (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Kim Janna (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
KonichiWOW (Windy City RollersAll Stars)
Kriss Myass (Calgary Roller Derby AssociationAll Stars)
*Lil’ Mama (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Luludemon (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
*Mackenzie (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
Maya Mangleyou (Boston Derby DamesBoston Massacre, Nutcrackers)
Mel-e-Juana (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Murphy (Rideau Valley Roller GirlsVixens, Slaughter Daughters)
Nasher the Smasher (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Nattie Long Legs (Atlanta RollergirlsDirty South Derby Girls, The Toxic Shocks)
*Rainbow Fight (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Sarah Hipel (Texas Roller GirlsTexacutioners)
*Smack Daddy (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Soul Rekker (Rideau Valley Roller GirlsVixens, Slaughter Daughters)
Surgical Strike (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Taz (Red Deer Roller Derby AssociationBelladonnas)
USS DentHerPrize (Detroit Derby Girls, All Stars, Detroit Pistoffs)

Team Canada Management

Head Coach: Ewan Wotarmay (Montreal Roller Derby)

Assistant Coach: Mack the Mouth (Terminal City Roller Girls)

Manager: Flyin’ Bryan Killman (Toronto Roller Derby)

2014 Worl Cup logo

Going Global: First Roller Derby World Cup Thrills

Canada and France kicked things off at the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup (Canada won 244-17). (Photo by Greg Russell)

When the dust settled, and the final teams skated away from the Bunker in Toronto; when the bleachers were wheeled out, the lights and scaffolding broken down, and the flags pulled from the wall; when the echo of the final whistle of the final bout of the inaugural Roller Derby World Cup finally faded away, little remained in the Bunker that would give away the fact that one of the most important events in a sport’s young history had just occurred there. There were just scraps: empty beer cans, torn laces, worn toe stops. And memories, of course.

Thursday’ Stars vs. Stripes Team USA exhibition bout featured two of the best flat track lineups ever. (Photo by Greg Russell)

A week before the World Cup began, the Bunker did not look like a location ready to hold an international sporting event. Even on the opening day murmurs could be heard about the appropriateness of the facility, a massive Cold War munitions bunker in the middle of a vast sprawl of old warehouses and hangars that were once part of a Canadian Air Force based just north of Toronto. Those used to the stadiums that were often the venues in WFTDA’s Big 5, were at first taken aback by the underground feel of the space: its quirks and eccentricities. But any doubts were erased when the Stars and Stripes took to Track 1 on Thursday night for the Team USA split-squad scrimmage (won 109-108 by the Stars). The energy from the fans and other teams lining the track, within such proximity to the biggest names in the game, was palpable; it was electric and inspiring, and the energy owed a lot to the intimate setting of the unique venue. By the time Ireland and Finland closed out Friday’s games with one of the more entertaining bouts of the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup (a 148-134 victory for Finland), there was no question that the Bunker had sold itself to the fans.

With an abundance of talent (like Suzy Hotrod and Sassy), Team USA was far above the rest of the competition. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

As much as it has been exciting to see the WFTDA playoffs in large stadiums, outside of the Championships the attendance at the Regional playoffs has been sparse which has made the stadiums look cold and empty (despite the number of devoted fans there). The Bunker, on the other hand, was constantly packed for four days, with fans feeding off of each other’s energy and the general euphoria of being at a tournament of this magnitude. Despite the blowouts and the disparity of the countries involved, every bout on each track was lined with loud, adoring fans. Plus, it gave the event a small and exciting start, something that can be built upon in the future.

There was never any doubt that Team USA was going to capture this first ever world cup, but the dominance with which they accomplished the feat was potentially surprising (even after three days of crushing victories, their 532-4 semifinal victory over Australia was somewhat shocking). They are playing the sport in a completely different stratosphere than any of the other countries, but at the very least, Canada showed that there are countries playing the same game. Team USA raised the bar, showed the potential heights of the game: it is now the world’s responsibility to rise up to it.

Australia finished in fourth place (they defeated Sweden 126-80 in the quarterfinals). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Although expected to be one of the top countries, Australia was still one of the surprises of the tournament. In the first round they handled another pre-tournament favourite Germany with relative ease (136-53) before distancing themselves from eventual fifth place finisher Finland, 179-29. In terms of heart and swagger, New Zealand impressed, facing off against Team USA twice and surviving to tell the tale, while defeating Germany in a thrilling elimination game that knocked the Germans out of the top eight. Finland was a true surprise in the tournament, struggling in the preliminary round before taking out Ireland in that stunning elimination bout to advance to the quarterfinals; their victory for fifth place over Sweden in a Scandinavian showdown was inspiring.

Aside from the final, Canada dominated the tournament including a 499-31 quarterfinal win over Finland. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But the host nation impressed most of all. 3-0 in the preliminary round (defeating France, Sweden and Brazil by a combined score of 848-50), they destroyed Finland in the quarterfinals (499-31) before facing off against their expected rivals for second place, Team England. Lead by a strong, experienced core of skaters that included pivots 8 Mean Wheeler and Jess Bandit, jammers Iron Wench, Luludemon and Georgia W. Tush, offensive blockers  Windigo and Smach Daddy, defensive closers  Lil Mama, Bone Machine and Semi Precious (who, despite begin a late addition to the team, was a force for the Canadians), and triple threat Beretta Lynch, the Canadians kept their cool and, more importantly, maintained their discipline in a thrilling semi-final against England. They pulled ahead early and held on in a tight one, only truly closing out the game definitively in the waning minutes for a 161-90 victory and a guaranteed silver medal. Despite some impressive pack performances in the final from 8 Mean, Boner, Windigo and tournament MVP Smack Daddy, and some exceptional jamming from Iron Wench (5 leads for a 50% lead percentage) and Luludemon (18 points total and a pretty remarkable 2.5 points per jam), they ran into the impenetrable wall that was Team USA. Canada seemed content to hold USA to fewer points than anyone else and managed to score more points against them than all of their previous opponents combined, all in all, an impressive performance.

Despite giving them their stiffest test, Canada was overmatched 336-33 by USA in the final. (Photo by Greg Russell)

This tournament was an experiment in real time that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this sport has gone global; that this sport is important, more important than just a game. That the women out there on the track have accomplished something so much larger than each individual skater, than each team. The skaters at the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup have not only become ambassadors of their game, but they’ve become leaders, the front line of an unprecedented movement of women in sports. They’ve given the women of the world a unique voice in a chorus of oh-so-similar sports voices, created an opportunity where none existed, built a world-wide phenomenon that spreads daily and, most importantly of all, an international sport to call their own.

***For game-by-game recaps, please visit DNN to read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s bout analysis.

***To order DVDs of the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup (singles or sets) visit rollerderbyworldcup.com.

THE FINAL STANDINGS (and first ever flat track roller derby International rankings)

1. USA (5-0)

2. Canada (5-1)

Canada and England finished 2-3 and played in a thrilling semifinal won by Canada 161-90. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

3. England (4-1)

4. Australia (4-2)

5. Finland (3-3)

6. Sweden (4-3)

7. France (3-4)

8. New Zealand (2-4)

9. Germany (3-2)

10. Ireland (2-3)

11. Scotland (2-3)

12. Brazil (0-6)

13. Argentina (0-4)

THE ALL-WORLD TEAM

Argentina: SargenTina

The Iron Wench was Team Canada’s tournament MVP (seen here fighting through a USA wall). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Australia: Short Stop
Brazil: Nanda
Canada: Iron Wench
England: Kamikaze Kitten
Finland: Kata Strofi
France: Francey Pants
Germany: Heavy Rotation
Ireland: Zola Blood
New Zealand: Skate the Muss
Scotland: Marla Mayhem
Sweden: Swede Hurt
USA: Joy Collision
Tournament MVP: Smack Daddy (Canada)

Ponderin the Playoffs 3: WFTDA’s South Central Region

Kansas City hosted this year's South Central Regionals.

Last year, after losing in the South Central final to Kansas City, the Texas Rollergirls staggered into the WFTDA Championships. They had to crawl their way through a defensive battle against the BAD Girls in the opening round only to be crushed by Gotham in the quarterfinals. With an unofficial eighth place finish, Texas had, remarkably, finished out of the final four for the first time in the young history of WFTDA. For the progenitors of flat track roller derby it was a shocking reminder that the sport was no longer theirs and theirs alone. The game had gone global; the upper level had been raised. And they weren’t keeping up.

At the 2011 South Central Regionals the Texas Rollergirls announced that they are back.

The Texas Rollergirls are back on top in the South Central.

The Texacutioners took back the South Central championship on the weekend in a rematch of last year’s regional championship against the Kansas City Roller Warriors, and I don’t think I’d be stirring anything up if I said it was a surprise. Texas has had anything but a consistent WFTDA season. They kicked off 2011 with a seven-game winning streak including huge victories over inexperienced competition (Big Easy by 377, Green Country by 219) and experienced competition alike (Houston by 126). Then a few tough road trips to both the east (Philly and Charm) and west coasts (Rat City and Oly) sent the team into a tail spin that saw them close out the 2011 regular season with only two wins in their final ten games; a streak that included a huge loss to the BAD Girls (185-59), the team they had eliminated from the Championships only nine months before. So to come into the tournament and not only win, but to dominate right through the seminfinals (a 218-75 victory over third place Nashville) was an impressive turnaround: a case of a team bringing it together at just right the time.

In 2006 the Texacutioners won the first ever national flat track championship.

It’s been fascinating to watch the Texas Rollergirls’ role in the sport change. Only five years ago, at the 2006 Dust Devil National Championship, they were still very much the teachers, still populated by the original flat trackers who’d written down and then disseminated the rules. By 2010 they’d experienced their first losing season ever (7-8 overall) after virtually dominating the sport for three years (though they were only able to capture that lone ’06 WFTDA championship, they were always in the discussion and had lost to Oly in the 2009 championship game). Obviously, in the midst of a 12-8 2011 that has seen them face off against some of the top teams in the game and win a regional championship, the Texacutioners are showing that they are still very much a relevant team in this sport.

While there is obvious disparity in all the regions (and still more obvious “talent groupings”), the divisions are more top-heavy and less consistent in the South Central. Texas and Kansas City absolutely dominated the tournament winning their semi-final and quarterfinals matches by combined scores of 352 and 362 points respectively. Nashville, though crushed by Texas in the semifinal, outclassed Atlanta in the third place bout (213-38) to definitively claim their spot at the Championship tournament (for the second straight year). After that, from Atlanta (fourth) at least through to Tampa Bay (ninth) there is very little separating the teams.

But despite the two impressive histories of the top seeds (Kansas City won the 2007 WFTDA Championship), nothing that I saw this weekend leads me to believe that they have a chance against the powerhouses from the coasts. While this tournament produced some fantastic and competitive bouts (more so at the lower rankings than in the other regions), the play lacked a certain sophistication that was evident in the East and West Regionals. I still have yet to see a team put together a game to match either of Gotham’s from this year’s Eastern Regionals (I’m still shocked when I think about their absolute dismantling of a very good Steel City team in the semifinal).

Team Canada's Windigo was a standout for Houston (#1491, left).

One story from this championship that shouldn’t go overlooked for Canadian roller derby fans was the outstanding play from Team Canada member Windigo, who was a standout pack player for Houston this weekend (and even showed her versatility by donning the star on occasion). She’s going to be a key component to Canada’s team at the upcoming World Cup and so far has confidently displayed an ability to step up on the big stage.

 

WFTDA CHAMPS PARTICIPANTS (2011 records/DNN ranking in parentheses):

East:

1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars (10-0 / #2)

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 / #1)

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

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

South Central:

1. Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners (12-8 / #10)

2. Kansas City Roller Warriors All Stars (10-2 / #7)

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

Tri-City closes out home season with double-header dominance.

The Tri-City Roller Girls hosted teams from Montreal and Toronto on Saturday night in the finale of their hometeam season. It’s been a fantastic season for the skaters from Tri-City, with the Venus Fly Tramps rounding into a deep and well-rounded team, the TKOs emerging from fresh meat status to become a full-fledged competitive team and the Vicious Dishes proving that they belong near the top in the discussion of top Canadian hometeams. Of course, all of this has filtered down from the success of the Thunder, TCRG’s WFTDA travel team (who will continue their season with a bout against Killamazoo on October 15th). And in the most fitting of conclusions, both Tri-City teams were victorious in their bouts.

Game 1: D-VAS (ToRD) 41 vs. TKOs 140

Tiny Dancer (TKOs) was the dominant jammer on the night, while triple threat Renny Rumble has proven to be the most game ready of the D-VAS.

Coming off of a big loss two weeks ago to Guelph’s All Stars, the D-VAS continued their all-important fall season. With ToRD’s hometeam entry draft only weeks away, this would be the last chance for these skaters to make a big impression. There were variations to the lineup for the D-VAS as Scarcasm and Babushkill made their on-track debuts. The TKOs were concluding a season of learning and development where they stood up to stiff competition at their first Beast of the East, scored a big victory over a Royal City team and played in a fantastically competitive bout against the Luscious Lunch Ladies, their fresh-team counterparts from Forest City. They were determined to come out hard in the final bout of the season and did so in front of a loud, supportive audience.

In the face of excellent TKO pack work, D-VAS Roadside Bombshell ran into some early penalty trouble.

As it did in their last bout against Royal City, penalties proved debilitating for the D-VAS in the early going. Early jammer penalties to Roadside Bombshell and Laya Beaton allowed the TKOs to take advantage of power jams to pull ahead 25-5 only 7 minutes into the game. Booty Two Shoes, Ruby Shrew (who was also excellent in the pack) and Tiny Dancers paced the offense for the home team in the early going and took advantage of loose Toronto packs as well. With the score 38-5 nearing the halfway point of the opening frame, Ames to Kill (in her first action with the star) and Roadside Bombshell finally pulled off two lead jams in a row to begin a little bit of a push back for the Toronto team. Renny Rumble continued her excellent play leading up to the draft (adding jammer to her already impressive resume) and was the most effective D-VAS one-on-one. But physical play from TKOs’ Annaslaysia Killsemov  and Scorcheon kept things in check, allowing them to go into the half with a 68-26 lead.

TKO pivot Fox Smoulder continued her excellent pack work.

Nonetheless, with Chicks Ahoy! bench manager Flyin’ Bryan Killman and Raunchy Hextall running the bench, it was a much more focused D-VAS team that took to the track on this night, with clearer strategies and much tighter pack work in play. But the difference in experience was evident in the later stages of the bout. Very quietly, Fox Smoulder continues to develop into a serious pack presence in Tri-City and it was only in the later stages of the game when things got looser and packs were stretched that her excellent pack work became more obvious, directing formations and frustrating D-VAS one-on-one. With penalties adding up  Laya Beaton took off the star and headed into the pack where she did some of her best work of the night, setting the tone early in the half with a sold jammer take out on Booty Two Shoes (though Laya would end up ejected late in the game). But Tiny Dancer, especially, led the jammer dominance for the TKOs on this night, often forcing calls when she didn’t get lead, and using a well-played power jam with ten minutes left in the bout to rack up 20 points and put the game away. The D-VAS stayed with it to the end and crossed the 40 point threshold on the final jam of the night when solid blocking from Mean Streak allowed Bombshell through the pack to put up the final points of the game and guaranteed that this would not be a triple-digit loss.

Game 2: Les Contrabanditas (MTLRD) 80 vs. Vicious Dishes 113

Montreal champs, Les Contrabinditas sent a roster that included replacement skaters from La Racaille and Hammer City.

The lineup of Les Contrabanditas was barely recognizable from the one that won its first Montreal championship this past season, but with borrowed skaters from leaguemates La Racaille and a few last-minute imports from Hammer City, they were able to track a competitive roster that gave the talented Vicious Dishes a solid, competitive bout to end an impressive season that saw them play top eastern hometeams (their only full-bout loss came to Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters), and have an impressive run at the Beast of the East. This victory actually gave them some measure of revenge over their Montreal opponents, who’d scored a victory over them at the aforementioned annual tournament.

Dishes jammer Motorhead Molly breaks through a Ditas wall.

It took a while for the slap-dash Ditas to get things going and the Dishes certainly took advantage of their early organization problems. With Sexpos/La Racaille jammer Greta Bobo in the box, Team Canada’s Motorhead Molly tore up the track on the power jam to help the Dishes roar out of the gates, up 28-0 very quickly. With usual pivot Jill Standing off skates, solid blocker Stacie Jones took up extra shifts with the stripe and helped orchestrate the patented pack work of the Dishes. Actually, solid pack work from both sides was the story in the early going, as halfway through the opening period the score was a defensively sound 36-3. sin-e-star was a force once again dominating in the pack whether positionally or physically, while pivot/blocker Bareleigh Legal keeps making a case for herself as one of eastern Canada’s top one-on-one blockers. But it was a well-paced and consistent offense led by Motorhead Molly, Skate Pastor and Lippy Wrongstockings that was able to counteract a Ditas offense led by outstanding first-year skater Greta Bobo and Ti-Loup (fresh from an impressive performance for the New Skids on the Block at WFTDA’s Eastern Regional Championships last weekend). But with Hustle Rose, Mange-Moi El Cul and Beats Per Minute not dressed, the Montreal champs did not have the depth to compete offensively and found themselves staring up at an 85-14 disadvantage at the half.

Led by jammer Ti-Loup, the Ditas started to push back in the second half.

But Montreal skaters and teams are known for their resiliency and ability to bounce back , so it was never worth counting them out. There was a noticeable difference when all-Ditas lineups were out, and late in the bout the Dame of Doom – Bikini Skills – Ninja Simone trio proved up to any challenge that the Dishes threw their way. And when the Ditas started to come together late, they began to push back in a big way. Sofanda Beatin and Meg N’ Plead also donned the stripe to lead the packs for the Dishes who had to weather a storm that brewed slowly. With the score 91-41, two Dishes’ blockers in the box and the Ditas pressing, captain sin-e-star jammed in a pivotal defensive, time-wasting jam that sprung the penalized skaters and kept the Ditas at bay at an important moment in the bout. Suzy Slam had a smart game too, and the subtle forward-hip strikes from Anita Martini kept frustrating the Ditas blockers. The visitors from Montreal did end hard though, and narrowed the score considerably in the last five minutes, but when Ti-Loup lined up against Dishes’ popular blocker Stacie Jones (giving the assistant captain the opportunity to close out the game for her team), the outcome was sealed, and while the Montreal team made a big pick up to close out the game (and win the second half 66-33), it was another impressive home track victory for the Vicious Dishes to close out another impressive season.