Toronto All Stars Roar Back to Life with Big Win Over Roc City

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This was the first showdown between Toronto and Roc City since 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It’s been a while since Toronto Roller Derby and Roc City duelled on the flat track: Five years actually, give or take a few weeks, and at that time in March 2012 the two teams were on very different trajectories. Then, Toronto’s 171-108 win was part of a 10-1 to start the 2012 season, while for Roc City it was one of 6 losses in 7 games to kick of theirs. And although the Roc Stars would eventually turn that year around, they would never quite reach the heights that Toronto would. Eighteen months out of that win, the ToRD All Stars were turning heads in their first WFTDA D1 playoff appearance, the first of three straight appearances at the highest competitive level the sport has to offer.

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Toronto got off to a quick start and were led offensively by Wolverina’s 135 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Fast forward to March 2017 and once again the two teams find themselves on a level playing field: Roc City having held steady over the years (still searching for their first D2 playoff appearance) are coming off of a 6-7, 2016 season and were ranked 92nd in the WFTDA coming into the showdown at The Bunker. Toronto, on the other hand, had fallen even faster than they’d previously risen. A disastrous 2016 saw the team go 2-8 with an average margin of loss of 213 points and tumble from a height of 23rd in the WFTDA to the 99th spot they held before Saturday night’s game. The result of a mass retirement of virtually a generation of skaters and the growing pains associated with restructuring and rebranding the All Stars, last season proved to be one of rebuilding. And that rebuilt roster was on full display on Saturday, the results of which should be cause for optimism.

Toronto burst off the starting line off after the opening whistle putting up 17 points over three jams before Roc City could even register a point, all part of a run of 6 straight lead jammer statuses and a 51-24 scoring spree that saw Toronto jump out to an early lead. The lead could have been ever higher but early penalty troubles (part of a 29-penalty opening half for the home team) resulted in a lot of pack disadvantages.

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Despite early penalty troubles, the Toronto defence held steady. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While Toronto’s jammer rotation included house league favourites Banshee and Monster Muffin, the crowd also got its first glimpse of the season of all-star-exclusive jammers Wolverina (who would lead the game in scoring with an impressive 135 points on a 90% lead percentage) and off-season transfer Pikante (95 points, 80%) from Helskinki’s Kallio Rolling Rainbow (she’s also a member of Portugal’s national team).

Despite the pack penalties, Toronto managed to extend its lead to 103-39 just past the midway point of the opening period, one they extended to 175-71 at the break.

Considering the Toronto skaters have spent most of their season so far knocking each other around in ToRD’s ultra-competitive house league, aside from the penalty troubles (that only got marginally better in the second half), the lines were tight. Constructed around home-team cores, one side of the All Stars pack featured the Chicks Ahoy! core of Boxcar, Joss Wheelin’ and Meg Fenway complemented by the Death Track Dolls’ Kate Silver and the Smoke City Bandits’ Jessica Rabid. Meanwhile, the other line saw the Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ core of Will Wrecker, Santa Muerte and Viktory Lapp completed with the Dolls’ Dawson and the Bandits’ titmouse. Both lines had strong moments throughout and both saw a foul out as well (Kate Silver and Santa Muerte).

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Kandy Krusher paced the offence for Roc City with 48 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The second half was a near mirror image of the first: a 45-18 opening five-minute run for Toronto extended to 296-112 with ten minutes to go and although the Roc Stars outscored Toronto 19-18 over the final three jams, it barely put a dent in Toronto’s 380-138 win.

 

It was the first time in nearly three years that Toronto managed to crest the 300-point mark, and along with the contributions from Wolverina and Pikante got 105 points from Banshee and 46 points from Monster Muffin, who had to leave the game early in the second half due to injury.

Roc City was led on the scoreboard by Kandy Krusher’s 48 points and Florence Fightingale’s 44. In the pack they were led by co-captains Hater Tot and double threat Terminal Trend and the hard hitting D-Day.

The All Stars will face off against Ottawa’s Capital City at the Bunker on April 22 before heading to Tri-City’s third-annual Beaver Fever tournament in June. Meanwhile, Toronto Roller Derby returns with its house league playoff quarterfinals on April 8 at the Bunker.

*The Toronto Vipers also made their 2017 debut on Saturday with an impressive 264-179 loss to the significantly more experienced Belleville Roller Derby Bombshells. A strong start to the season for ToRD’s future stars.

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The Vipers (in red) made their 2017 debut. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

 

Dolls clinch top spot in ToRD Standings; Chicks Down Gores

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The Dolls defeated the Bandits to secure top spot in the regular season standings. They also completed the fourth highest scoring season in ToRD history. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

For the first time since their back-to-back undefeated championship seasons in 20132014, and just the third time in the eleven year history of the league, the Death Track Dolls will finish the Toronto Roller Derby regular season at the top of the standings after defeating the Smoke City Bandits on Saturday night. The win, coupled with Chicks Ahoy!’s season-closing victory over the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, ensures a page-playoff quarterfinal rematch between the Chicks and the Dolls after a thrilling one-point game earlier this season.

Smoke City Bandits 95 vs. Death Track Dolls 230

The Dolls got off to quick start when an opening jam power jam spotted them an early lead that they quickly stretched to 23-10 over the first five minutes. But just as the Dolls seemed on the verge of running away with this one early, a 17-0 power jam response from the Bandits pulled Smoke City right back into it, suddenly down only 8 (35-27) ten minutes into the half.

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Dolls pivot Rainbow Fight and jammer Ellen Rage both had strong games, eventually winning team MVP honours. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls have a deep jammer rotation this season, and have been getting excellent depth jamming from Ellen Rage who took a regular spot in the rotation against the Bandits and proved a game-changer in the opening half. Her calm, tireless jamming (aided by some excellent pack work) led to a 20-0 jam midway through the half, part of a 45-0 ten-minute run that all but put the game out of reach. When the Bandits took a time out to settle things down, they found themselves suddenly down 80-27 with ten left in the half.

Some excellent work in the pack from Jessica Rabid and Jammher’head Shark allowed rookie standout jammer Killa Hurtz to get the Bandits back on the board. Both teams ran into some penalty troubles late in the half, with the Dolls able to take better advantage going on another impressive 41-7 run to go into the break up comfortably 121-34.

The Dolls opened the second half the same way they opened the first: on a power jam, unsettling the Bandits from the start (important since they have been such a strong second-half team this season). The game ended up being a series of scoring runs and the Dolls opened the second half on a ten-minute 64-12 run, that they extended to a 190-54 lead at the midway point of the half. This did spark the most sustained push from the Bandits of the game, seeing them go toe-to-toe against the Dolls over the final fifteen minutes, able to outscore them 41-40 during that stretch; impressive, but still not enough to put a dent in the difference, and the Dolls were able to hold on for the definitive 135 point victory.

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The Bandits’ Jammer’head Shark opens a lane for jammer Killa Hurtz. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

First-year jammer Brawnson led the Bandits in scoring with 32 points (on the strength of a 14-point power jam in the first half), while rookie Killa Hurtz scored 20 of her 24 points in the second half after being contained by the Dolls’ defence in the first. Morton once again led the way in the pack with excellent moments both on defence and offence, but also had a strong performance from Juggernaut J (particularly with some strong offence on second half power jams) and a breakout performance from Viper graduate Viris.

Offensively, the Dolls were led once again by Holly Rocket who took over the lead in the league scoring with a 79-point performance (to finish the regular season with 189 points). And on her busiest night with the star, Ellen Rage also came through putting up 48 points but also registering a game-high 78% lead percentage (including a perfect second half).

The Dolls pack remains strong across the board, with another outstanding game from Rainbow Fight (who also managed 19 points on her one jamming opportunity in the second half) playing well with team captain Wheatabitch and veteran Dasilva, but also from the trio of Dawson, Getcha Kicks and Kate Silver who continue to dominate defensively.

The Dolls finish the regular season having scored 600+ points for the third time (after 2013 and 2014). The 2013 Gores are the only other team to have done so.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 128 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 174

Coming into this game, the Chicks knew a win would secure the second seed in the 2017 playoffs, ensuring a spot in the all-important 1-2 page playoff quarterfinal that would guarantee them two chances to make the Battle for the Boot (and they did indeed need both chances on their way to the 2016 championship). They also knew they would have to do so without two of their three leading scorers on the season. So with no Sleeper Hold (skating Saturday night with Orangeville) and leading scorer Banshee on the sidelines with illness, they looked to their depth and brought veteran Boxcar back to the rotation (and after an excellent 72 point, 100% lead percentage performance last time she jammed, a pretty solid decision). They also had a resurgent Noodle Kaboodle to add as well, seemingly back in form in her second game after a long injury layoff; so despite the missing stars, the Chicks seemed unfazed early.

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With two of their top three scorers sidelined, double threat Boxcar was drawn back into the Chicks’ rotation. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks shut out the Gores over the opening two jams on their way to a quick 14-5 lead five minutes in, a lead they stretched to 44-8 over the next five minutes before a 10-0 scoring from Murdercat! cut into the growing deficit. This was part of a 13-4 run that saw the Gores threatening. But also missing an explosive jammer in Beaver Mansbridge, the Gores couldn’t mount a sustained offensive push in the first and were forced into a team timeout with twelve minutes left in the half and suddenly down 64-26.

After the time out, the Gores roared out to 14-0 run forcing a timeout from the Chicks, who then responded with a 13-0 run of their own to rebuild their lead. A frantic 13-11 final jam in favour of the Gores had the skaters in leopard print within reach at the half, down 99-68.

The Chicks, however, came out hard to start the second half. A 20-4 opening jam skated by Monster Muffin was part of a dominant five-minute run after the break that saw the Chicks open up a 124-75 lead, the largest of the game.

Although there were back and forth surges through the rest of the half and the Chicks could never fully put a scrappy Gores away, the difference from this point on was never less than 40 points as the Chicks managed to hold on for the 46-point win. The loss marked the first time in league history that the Gores failed to get at least a win during the regular season.

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The Gores’ pack of Santa Muerte. Tara-Bush and Viktory Lapp look to contain Chicks jammer Sammy Destruction. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores got strong performances across the roster. Tara-Bush, Santa Muerte and Viktory Lapp supplied some moments of excellent offence, while Moose Knuckles and Stabbey Road were their usual steady selves; off-season transfer Psycho Magnet also played arguably her best game as a Gore. Offensively, scoring was spread out widely among all jammers and even pivots with Stabbey and Santa receiving a significant number of star passes. Rookie Mina Von Tease, however, led the way with 35 points.

Boxcar stepped in and stepped up for the Chicks with another impressive lead percentage (64%) helping to lead her team in scoring with 68 points. Monster Muffin had another strong game too, contributing 62 points on a game-high 73% lead percentage (her season high as well). The pack continues to employ tight walls, making their defence almost seamless, a difference maker in this game. The pack was bolstered by the return of Vag Lightning and veteran Robber Blind.

The April 8th quarterfinals are now set, with The Chicks and Dolls meeting in the 1-2 page playoff for a chance to advance directly to the Battle for the Boot (the loser of that one will get a second chance in the semifinal) while the Gores and Bandits will play with their seasons on the line and will have a tough road to climb to get to the championship game.

Nerd Glasses

*Next up for ToRD is the 2017 debut of the All Stars with a WFTDA-sanctioned matchup against Rochester’s Roc City Roc Stars on March 25 at the Bunker, where we’ll also get to see the Vipers in action against Belleville.

*Archived footage available on Layer9.ca

*Stats are unofficial

Dolls, Bandits Pull Off Stunning Victories in a Thrilling Night at The Bunker

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The Dolls’ 141-140 victory over the Chicks Ahoy! was the narrowest in ToRD history. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The scheduling just happened to align: the matchups featured two undefeated teams looking to take an early lead in the standings and two winless teams searching for that all-important first win. On paper, it looked as if there were going to be two incredible games, and while reality doesn’t always meet expectations, on this Saturday night early in Toronto Roller Derby’s 2017 season, it’s possible that those lofty expectations were actually passed. Perhaps sensing this potential, there was yet another vocal crowd at the Bunker and those in attendance were treated to what may end up going down as one of the most exciting double headers in Toronto Roller Derby history, and certainly in recent memory. When the track was cleared, the Death Track Dolls’ razor-thin win over defending champs Chicks Ahoy! saw the Dolls atop the standings for the first time since 2014, while the Smoke City Bandits’ upset over the Gore-Gore Rollergirls marked their first league victory since winning the 2015 Battle for the Boot.

Death Track Dolls 141 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 140

October 17, 2009. That’s how far back you have to look to find a Toronto Roller Derby house league game that came close to featuring the kind of ending we witnessed at the Bunker this past Saturday night. In October 2009, it was the Death Track Dolls who found themselves mounting a frantic late-game comeback against the Chicks Ahoy!: a 21-1 run over the final two jams saw the Dolls’ comeback end just short, falling 92-90. Seven years later, it was the Chicks whose 29-4 run over the final five jams came up short allowing the Dolls to hold on for the one-point victory.

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Dolls’ jammer Ellen Rage prepares for contact from Joss Wheelin’, who was making her season debut after injury. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

With both teams coming off of dominant performances to kick off the season, this game was seen as an early test of league superiority, and it’s safe to say that nothing was settled. It was back and forth from the outset with the Chicks getting out to an early lead 18-8 before a 19-0 score jammed by emerging double threat Ellen Rage blew the game wide open and gave the Dolls their first lead. It was, however, short lived. The Chicks responded with a 13-0 pick up by second-year standout Banshee. It was a lead that held up for precisely two jams. While another eventual 9-point pickup for Ellen Rage gave the Dolls a game-high 20-point lead, the Chicks barely flinched and patiently chipped away until a late 17-point power jam tied up the score at 64. The Dolls managed to pull ahead by three on the final jam of the half to hold a precarious 67-64 lead at the break.

The second half opened with a gruelling stretch of superb defence from both sides with points suddenly extremely hard to come by. The grinding tight-pack work that has propelled these teams to the top of the standings was on full display as each team managed only three scoring jams over the first ten jams of the half, with the Dolls scoring 10 to the Chicks’ 9 to retain a narrow 77-73 lead.

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Lock-down defence from both packs made points hard to come by early in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Up to this point in the game, the large leaps in scoring were generated mostly by the inordinate amount of power jams (another testament to the excellent pack work). In the first half, the disciplined opponents had only eleven total pack penalties, compared with nine jammer penalties. When the jammer penalties stopped, so did the scoring. In the end, it was a very clean game by both teams (and well called by the ref crew) with the Chicks picking up twenty-five penalties to the Dolls’ twenty-two.

Although the Dolls never did give up the lead the rest of the way, they never led by more than 26 points either. They pulled ahead by that amount with about five minutes left in the game and that’s when the Chicks went on their run, culminating in a frantic final jam that saw the Dolls’ jammer Scrappy pick up two penalties allowing Banshee to score 14 points. There was a brief moment of confusion when it appeared as if the Chicks had made up the 11-point gap that remained, until, that is, Scrappy’s 4 box points were added, giving the Dolls the 1 extra they needed to hold on for the win.

In the pack, the Dolls’ duos of Dawson and first-year Madison transfer Kate Silver and Rainbow Fight and Montreal transfer Candy Crunch continue to build into a solid defensive pairings, while Dasilva had another central roll in a hard-hitting game aided by the added muscle of Brickhouse Bardot (playing her first league game with the Dolls after a transfer from the Bandits). Another former Bandit Babushkill had arguably her strongest game with the Dolls yet.

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Banshee led the game in scoring including an exhausting 14 points on the final jam to pull the Chicks within 1. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It was announced this game that the Chicks will have to move forward without blocker Kimmie Somore who will be relocating, but they balanced out that loss by welcoming back Joss Wheelin to the pack—who looked as if she’d barely missed a step. The dynamic Rosemary’s Rabies, team captain Francesca Fiure, and double threat Boxcar continued their strong seasons, and the team also welcomed back recent transfer Noodle Kaboodle, who finally debuted for the Chicks after a long recovery from injury. After a hesitant start, she improved as the game wore on, and provides the team with yet another double threat to further deepen their lineup.

Banshee had an excellent game with the star, particularly in the second half where she scored 41 of her 59 points in the game and led the Chicks with a 64% lead percentage overall. Sleeper Hold scored 26 points in the first half finishing with 39 (on 42% lead percentage). The potentially game changing Monster Muffin was mostly held in check (29, 31%) and it was a similar story for the Dolls’ Rainbow Fight who despite notching a 67% lead percentage managed only 8 points over six second-half jams. Holly Rocket (32, 67%), Bat Ma’am (30, 36%) and Scrappy (33, 33%) chipped in similar amounts, while Ellen Rage continued to put up incredible offensive numbers in a limited roll, scoring 28 points over four first-half jams.

Smoke City Bandits 148 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 99

The Smoke City Bandits entered the game on a five-game losing streak. Since winning the Battle for the Boot in 2015, the Bandits had gone a year and a half without a ToRD victory. It wasn’t a great stretch, but still nothing like the record stretch of futility the team then known as the Betties went through from 2009-2012: after a massive off-season roster change post-2009, the team went on a nearly three-year long winless run that saw them lose ten games in a row, often by then league-record margins. There are only two skaters remaining on the Bandits who experienced the totality of that losing streak and both were on the track on Saturday night as the Bandits once again found themselves attempting to end a streak. Interestingly enough, just as they were in 2012, it was the Gore-Gore Rollergirls who were their opponents when they ended it.

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In her second game back in the jammer rotation, titmouse had another strong performance with 51 points and a 60% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Genuine Risk and titmouse are those two remaining skaters and both now find themselves part of a revamped jammer rotation. After two years in the pack, titmouse returned to jamming this year at the urging of her team, she admitted in a post-game interview, and has been excellent scoring 51 points on a 60% lead percentage in this game.

As with the Bandits’ season opener, this game was a tale of two halves, with the team unable to muster much offence over the opening thirty minutes, putting up only 34 points at the break. The Gores, however—certainly feeling the absence of team leading scorer Beaver Mansbridge—couldn’t put the Bandits away. Although they led for virtually the entire half (it was tied after the third jam) and picked up thirteen lead-jammer statuses to the Bandits’ nine (including seven in a row at one point), they gave up four power jams putting in monumental efforts on the power kills that eventually took their toll.

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Despite strong individual efforts and dominating lead jammer stats, the Gores couldn’t put away the Bandits in the first half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores offence in the first half was paced by rookie jammer Mina Von Tease, who put up a game-high 30 points to that point. The Bandits took notice and after the break Von Tease was matched up jam for jam for the entire half against titmouse and was held to only 8 points.

The Bandits essentially dominated the second half, completely turning the game around on the Gores who couldn’t seem to make the necessary adjustments. Over the first eight jams of the half, the Bandits picked up lead for five of them, outscoring the Gores 48-5 to take the lead. Once they began to take advantage of the power jams that the Gores continued to give up (eleven total jammer penalties in the game), they began to pull away.

In the end, the Bandits outscored the Gores 114-41 in the half on the way to the 49-point victory.

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Bandits rookie jammer Killa HurtZ led the team in scoring for the second straight game with 61 points, most coming in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores relied heavily on their core blockers of Santa Meurte, Will Wrecker, Viktory Lapp and Stabbey Road (and welcomed back Moose Knuckles after a long recovery) but penalty trouble and that amount of time on power kills eventually took their toll, with the Bandits able to split the packs and draw the Gores into one-on-one battles. Mina Von Tease led the Gores with 38 points while Thighlight of Your Life made use of an 88% lead percentage to score 21 points. Murdercat! (20 points) and rookie Flapjack Tango (17) rounded out the scoring.

For the second straight game Genuine Risk persevered through a slow start to score 21 points in the second half, while also for the second straight game rookie Killa HurtZ led the team in scoring with 61 points (and a 64% lead percentage); Brawnson rounded out scoring with 17 points.

The one noticeable improvement on the Bandits is how evenly distributed their pack seems to be: the deepest it’s been since the championship run two years ago. Morton and Anne Bulance went toe-to-toe against a Gores team that has the potential to push teams around, while the lively play of players like Lowblow Palooza, Jam’herhead Shark, Juggernaut J and Jessica Rabid can, and did, frustrate.

Nerd Glasses

*The regular season comes to a close on March 4th when, once again, all four teams will be in action. Come watch the Dolls play the Bandits and the Gores take on the Chicks to determine final playoff seeding.

*All stats are unofficial 

Dolls and Chicks Win Big on Opening Night of ToRD’s 2017 Season

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There was an energetic crowd at the Bunker for Toronto Roller Derby’s 2017 season opener. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its second decade last night in front of a packed track at the Bunker. With revamped rosters and many new faces on the league’s four home teams, there were a lot of questions coming into the season opener and although the games lacked the parity seen in many of last year’s regular season showdowns, all four teams gave something for their fans to cheer about.

Death Track Dolls 247 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 105

It was the 16th of March in 2014 when Rainbow Fight last strapped on the quads in a Toronto Roller Derby game. The sanctioned season opener between the ToRD All Stars and the Killamazoo Derby Darlins was Fight’s WFTDA debut and despite loads of expectations, she did not disappoint. Joining a deep jammer rotation that had made waves in the 2013 Division 1 WFTDA playoffs, Rainbow led the way in scoring with 110 points over the course of six jams, part of an overwhelming ToRD attack, but then what seemed a simple hit in a hard-hitting affair changed everything.

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Rainbow Fight had a big impact in her return to ToRD after a two-year absence. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Diagnosis: lacerated kidney. It would be more than a year before Rainbow would return to the track, this time back with her hometown league, St. John’s 709 Derby Girls. And on Saturday night, the long road back continued when she joined a rebuilt Death Track Dolls team that she had last laced up for in a record-setting 2013 season. Although she saw limited action with the star in the season opener, she was a force in the pack and part of a well-rounded Dolls performance that caught many by surprise with what turned out to be a one-sided victory over a Gore-Gore Rollergirls team that they had not beaten in two years.

The Gores actually got out to a quick start, opening up an early lead of 14-5 that they built to 18-9 before a topsy-turvy fifth jam in which the teams traded jammer penalties, and saw Dolls’ rookie jammer (but former Vipers’ standout) Scrappy pick up 10 points to help her team take its first lead. The teams continued to match each other blow-for-blow over the next few jams with the Dolls opening up a slight 14-point gap. The Gores took their first timeout of the game, and it sparked something in the team as veteran-jammer Beaver Mansbridge followed up the break with a 19-point jam that saw the Gores retake the lead 52-48.

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Dolls rookie ARRRguile looks to open a lane held by Gores Commander Will Wrecker and Santa Muerte. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The lead, however, would last precisely one jam. And a few minutes later, with the Dolls up 10 and the Gores threatening, Rainbow Fight donned the star for the first time, picking up a casual 24 points (in part due to some excellent blocking—this was not a powerjam) to give the Dolls the biggest lead of the game (90-56) and one that they would not relent the rest of the way.

The Dolls dominated lead-jammer status in the first half 12-5 (extending that to 23-12 overall) which forced the Gores into numerous star-pass scrambles (the Dolls did a better job of separating the pivot and jammer in the second half). However, the game was truly put away over the first seven jams after the break: leading 105-61 at halftime, the Dolls dominated the Gores over that opening stretch, outscoring them 56-11 and effectively putting the game out of reach.

With significant turnover in the off-season, the Gores were experimenting with their jammer rotation using Royal City transfer Thighlight of Your Life (22 points and 40% lead percentage) and Vipers graduate Mina Von Tease (12, 30%) significantly, but got their most steady performances from the returning jammers Beaver Mansbridge (33, 50%) and Murdercat! (30, 33%). The pack was led by veterans Santa Muerte (beginning her eighth season with the Gores), Viktory Lapp, and Stabbey Road, but also featured great play from improving Tara Bush and from Dolls’ off-season transfer Commander Will Wrecker, who delivered a number of heavy shoulder hits to her former Dolls teammates. They also got some solid play from Durham Region transfers Psycho Magnet and Hatin’ McWrath.

The Dolls, meanwhile, were led offensively by Holly Rocket (78 points, 75% lead percentage), with scoring spread out evenly among the other members of the rotation: Scrappy (35, 73%), Bat Ma’am (34, 50%), and in quality (but limited action), Rainbow Fight (49, 100%) and Ellen Rage (45, 60%). The pack has remained mostly unchanged from 2016 anchored by the aforementioned Rainbow Fight but also veterans DaSilva, Wheatabitch, Getcha Kicks, and Dawson (back for her Doll-record ninth season) but bolstered significantly by off-season transfers Kate Silver (from Mad Rollin’ Dolls) and Candy Crunch (Montreal).

Smoke City Bandits 94 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 266

In the biggest off-season change in the league, the Smoke City Betties (formed pre-ToRD in 2006, and one of the first flat track roller derby teams in Canada) changed their name (but not their look), debuting as a rebranded Smoke City Bandits at the season opener. Meanwhile, the team that saw the least off-season turnover, the defending champion Chicks Ahoy!, picked up exactly where they left off after last year’s championship run. And while the Chicks dominated the first three quarters of the matchup, the Bandits showed that they could still be a team to watch in 2017 as they refused to quit and roared back in the end, outscoring the champs over the final fifteen minutes of the game avoiding what was beginning to look like a record-setting win for the Chicks.

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Bandits jammer titmouse tries to evade a hit from Francesca Fiure. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the plethora of new faces, it was cagey 8-year veteran titmouse who got things started for the Bandits (returning to the jammer rotation after a year spent in the pack), picking up a quick 3 points to give her team an early lead. However, it was another veteran, twelfth-year skater Boxcar, who got the Chicks on the board with a (fitting) 12-point jam that gave the Chicks the only lead they’d need.

It was steading sailing for the Chicks over the next 45 minutes or so, holding the Bandits scoreless over streaks of seven jams and then four jams twice on their way to a 126-30 halftime lead. One thing to note, however, was how clean the game was in terms of penalties with the Chicks picking up only four and the Bandits picking up seven (with two being to jammers resulting in 12-point and then 18-point jams), resulting in a fast-paced and quickly played opening thirty.

Riding a very experienced jammer rotation (unchanged over last year’s championship run) and some solid pack work, the Chicks looked to be every bit in championship form to kick off the second half, going on a thoroughly dominant thirteen-jam run in which they outscored the Bandits 94-2, building an incredible 220-32 lead.

However, it was then that things changed.

The Bandits picked up the team’s first power jam midway through the half and once again it was veteran titmouse who put down 9 points in her team’s biggest jam of the game. And suddenly, the Bandits were rolling.

Looking more and more together in the pack, Smoke City held the Chicks scoreless for six straight after the power jam, while wracking up 31 of their own and although they couldn’t contain the Chicks the rest of they way, the Bandits continued their best sustained play of the game straight through to the end, outscoring the champs 62-46 over that stretch (accounting for two-thirds of their total points).

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Chicks jammer Boxcar, caught up in a swarm of skaters, scored 72 points on a 100% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

For the most part, both teams stuck to a pretty tight four-jammer rotation, and because of the lack of penalties in the first half, the same jammers faced off throughout the first thirty. Rookie Killa HurtZ (28 points, 45% lead percentage) had a strong debut for the Bandits, going toe-to-toe with 2016 league leading scorer Monster Muffin (72, 58%), who was held to a 50% lead percentage in the first half. Boxcar (72, 100%) had the best game among the jammers, getting lead nine-straight times before shifting into the pack and finishing with an impressive 6 points per jam average. Second-year skater Banshee (53, 58%) was third in team scoring with Chicks scoring rounded out by Sleeper Hold (49, 46%). Along with Killa HurtZ  and titmouse (26, 62%) the Bandits offence was anchored by Royal City transfer Brawnson (27, 33%) who had an impressive debut. After a slow start, long-serving veteran (but only second-year jammer) Genuine Risk rounded out the scoring, picking up 11 points in the second half.

While both teams are still dealing with pre-season injuries to key skaters, the deep Chicks pack was led by current longest-serving Chick Robber Blind and anchored by the incredible pack play of Rosemary’s Rabies (who despite an already long career still seems to get better and better every season), Vag Lightning, Annguard, Francesca Fiure and returnee Sammy Destruction (formerly known as Hyena Koffinkat), who also put up 21 points in limited action with the star.

The Bandits were also led by a core of veterans around whom the team is rebuilding its pack: Morton, Jamm’herhead Shark, Lowblow Palooza, Fight and Anne Bulance were all key contributors, while Rideau Valley transfer pivot Jessica Rabid led the way for the newcomers.

Nerd Glasses

*The game was broadcast by RogersTV Check local listings for replays.

*Next up for all four teams is a February 11th double header that will see the Dolls and Chicks square off for first place, and the Bandits and the Gores go for their first win of the season.

* All stats are unofficial.

End-of-year Power Rankings: December 2016

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone, and Derby Nerd periodically rank Canada’s top A-level travel teams. Read the the mid-season 2016 (June) Power Rankings here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block  – After stumbling against Philly at ECDX, mid-season roster changes shook up the team chemistry, and after it had time to settle, the Skids knocked off Bay Area to become the first Canadian team to advance to WFTDA Champs where they put a scare into Angel City in the quarterfinals, which was enough to secure top spot. (1 / 19)
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars
 – Despite the fifth place finish in their D1 playoff, it could be argued that Terminal City had a better playoff tournament than Montreal. They lost narrowly (164-162) against Philly before cruising through the consolation bracket. Their spot in the top 2, well ahead of the competition, remains secure. (2 / 18)
3.Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo  Although a 5th seed, Calgary tore through its D2 playoff tournament, including knocking off top seed Charm City along the way to finish in the top spot in the playoff. Finishing third overall in WFTDA’s Division 2 is more than enough to hold on to third spot. (4 / 45)
4. Misfit Militia (Orangeville Roller Girls) Misfit Militia Logo  +1 Went 6-1 in 2016 including a 147-144 unsanctioned win against D1’s Queen City. The teams only loss on the season came against an ever-improving Toronto Men’s Roller Derby team (200-159). However, their obvious talent and lack of WFTDA ranking continue to make top-level competition hard to come by. (3 /-)
5. Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)Vixens Logo +1 A 4-7 regular season saw the Vixens tumble out of the D2 playoffs. However, the bright side is that many of those seven losses came against top-flight competition including the likes of Montreal, Jacksonville, and Philly. It was an incredibly challenging schedule that may have them currently under-ranked and that could pay track-experience dividends in 2017. (10/93)
6. E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)

evrd_final_logo

unranked They’ve risen from the dead once again! E-Ville has been in and out of the Top 10 over the years, and now reenters once again, surging into the middle of the pack for the first time since last year’s end-of-season rankings. E-Ville had an incredible year with a record of 8-1 including victories over Top-10 Winnipeg (207-132) and Watch-Listers Mainland Misfits (279-89). The team’s only loss on the season was to provincial rivals and D2 bronze medalists Calgary (241-114).  (5 / 91)
7. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo  +1 Winnipeg inches forward a spot but gets stopped in its tracks by surging E-Ville (who defeated them 207-132 to earn the spot). The All Stars do hold their spot ahead of Muddy River based on strength of schedule. They went 8-5 on the season, helping them move to their highest WFTDA ranking yet. (9 / 84)
8. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo +1 The little league that just keeps going. Muddy River’s consistency over the past few season has been incredible given their size and location. This year they travelled far and wide once again compiling a 6-4 record along the way, including early season wins over Capital City and Quebec. A big late-season loss to Orangeville’s Misfit Militia was unsanctioned and didn’t effect their 16-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings.  (11 / 85)
9. Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls)
Capital City Derby Dolls Logo
+1 The Dolly Rogers capped off their 5-4 season with a massive sanctioned win against Central NY that helped their 8-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings. Narrow wins against teams just outside of the Top 10 allow them to secure their spot and nudge forward, finally moving out of the long-held 10 spot. (8 / 106)
10.Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo  -6 Tri-City had an up-and-down year in 2016, eventually finishing with a 5-10 record. After a promising two and one start (including a rare win over Toronto), Thunder lost seven of eight regular season games the rest of the way. A decent playoff run saw them improve their 9th place seeding to 6th in their D2 tournament. However, yet another off season shake-up to the jammer rotation means that Tri-City’s rebuild will be continuing into 2017. (6 / 57)

The Rankings

No changes to the Top 3 as Canada’s lone WFTDA playoff teams remain at the top of the sport in the nation. Montreal retains top spot based on an incredible performance at the WFTDA Championship tournament, playing, arguably, the team’s best game of the season against a very good Angel City team. After reloading their roster in 2016, The New Skids on the Block also look very good to remain atop the nation’s power rankings in 2017 as well. It remains to be seen whether Terminal City and Calgary (who became only the second team to win a Division 2 playoff tournament) can push through some expected 0ff-season roster changes to remain at their current levels.

The rest of the list has gone through some shifts and changes. Most notably, for the first time in the history of these Power Rankings, Toronto has dropped out of the Top 10. Although leagues like Orangeville and Muddy River are proof that size doesn’t always matter, the reality is that Toronto is simply too big and too deep to keep down for long and expect a slow but steady rise in 2017 as the All Stars rebuild. This drop, however, made room for a resurgent E-Ville. For the second year in a row, the Edmonton-based team makes an appearance on the year-end rankings. This time, however, it should be sustainable as the E-Ville Dead have the roster to remain in the conversation through 2017. The final major shift is with Tri-City. Thunder sees itself tumble to 10th place. The team had a solid 2016, but some post-playoff roster changes will see the team need to rebuild its offense once again.

Orangeville, Rideau Valley, Winnipeg, Muddy River, and Capital City all hold steady, nudging upwards based on Toronto’s and Tri-City’s dips.

The Watch List

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby) (12th)

Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec) (13th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (14th)

Northstars (Rated PG Rollergirls) (15th)

ToRD All Stars (Toronto Roller Derby) (16th)

The A Team (Eves of Destruction) (18th)

E-Ville and Toronto have switched places on the Watch List/Top 10, while the Anarchy Angels, Roller Derby Quebec, and Royal City remain on our radars as we close out the 2016 season. However, there are some exciting new editions on the watch list.

The Northstars of Prince George’s Rated PG Rollergirls are coming off of an 8-0 season that saw them rise above the competition with a margin of victory of 158 points. These eight wins included big victories over B-travel teams from Top 10 Terminal City and E-Ville and two of Calgary’s house leagues, proving that they have graduated to a higher competitive stage. Similarly, one of Canada’s oldest flat track teams, Victoria’s Eves of Destruction are finally beginning to tear it up against some quality competition. Boasting a perennially successful local league, the EoD A Team went 5-0 on the season including a victory over the Jane Deeres (Calgary’s B-team) and former Top 10 team Mindfox out of Saskatoon to launch themselves onto the Watch List.

Nerd Glasses

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone

*These are the final Power Rankings of the year. Read the mid-season Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

The Neon Army Advances

How Montreal’s New Skids on the Block Became Canada’s First Team to Play for the WFTDA D1 Championship

Photo by Sean Murphy (girlsofderby.com)

1. The Moment

It was set up to be a frantic finish.

With one jam to go in the third-place game of the opening weekend of the 2016 Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Division 1 playoffs, the home team, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block, held a 10-point lead (167-157) over Bay Area Derby.

The penultimate jam had been a wild one; offsetting jammer penalties had necessitated a two-minute jam. Bay Area’s Brawllen Angel had managed to outscore Montreal’s Falcon Punch 13-8 to narrow the gap to 10.

B.A.D., one of the founding members of the WFTDA, had been there before. After appearing at the inaugural Dust Devil Championship in 2006, they had qualified for six of the next nine championship tournaments including the previous four consecutive seasons from 2012-15, finishing third overall in 2013 and ’14.

In a sense, Montreal had been there before as well: never to Champs, but on the cusp. Close enough to feel it and to be crushed by the disappointment of not making it. In the same game just the year before, they’d led Minnesota by as much as 30 points and were still leading late before a 48-18 run over the last seven jams secured the win for Minnesota.

Montreal’s Miracle Whips came to the line with the star on her helmet for the final jam against B.A.D. with memories of the previous year’s late collapse buried behind a straight-ahead focus. April Bloodgate was her jammer-line opponent. The crowd—substantial for a Division playoff tournament—was tense. Eerily quiet. The whistle blew and with blockers in the box, both jammers were able to shake free of the pack at turn one with Whips one step ahead; then the Montreal jammer, with the inside position staked out, threw a shoulder into the unsuspecting Bloodgate, who went down hard and was swallowed up by the swarming Montreal defense. The crowd roared in relief.

Two quick scoring passes extended the lead substantially, but with the Bay Area bench cradling one more team time out in its back pocket, the Skids needed to kill the final minute of the jam, so Whips pulled up on the back stretch to join her depleted pack to bolster the defense. After a second Bloodgate scoring pass—and with all of the Skids’ blockers now back on the track—Whips suddenly skated back from the pack to meet the fast-advancing Bay Area jammer. Whips took Bloodgate’s momentum and ushered her to the outside, finishing her with a little shove; then the drag back began. Whips went back. And she kept going back. And back. She drew the jammer all the way to Turn 4. Waited a second after the jam clock had ticked away for good measure and slowly, with a stone-faced calm, tapped her hips.

The partisan crowd went wild, danced in the aisles, chanted. Across Canada, from 709 in the east to the Eves of Destruction in the west, the jubilant track-side celebrations were matched in living-room viewing parties.

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block had become the first Canadian team to advance to the WFTDA Championship tournament.

2. So Bad It Hurts

On Friday, March 3, 2006 somebody going by the handle MissTheMeaner posted a message in Rollergirl.ca’s online roller skating forum with the subject line “Rollerderby in Montreal.”

She asked, simply, if anyone was interested in becoming part of a roller derby team in the city. The post got exactly one response, seventeen days later, from someone posting as Georgia W. Tush:

“i am! i am!! so bad it hurts.”

In 2006, Alyssa Kwasny had just moved to the big city of Montreal from Thunder Bay to study at Concordia University.

Cover image from the January/February 2007 issue of the Mirror, featuring a preview of Montreal's first game, a pre-season showdown with Toronto's Gore-Gore Rollergirls,

Cover image from the January/February 2007 issue of the Mirror, featuring a preview of Montreal’s first game, a pre-season showdown with Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls.

Early in that same year, a friend of hers in Chicago had joined one of that city’s roller derby leagues. While the idea of roller derby intrigued her, Kwasny quickly discovered that there was no roller derby league in Montreal. Indeed, her early Internet snooping led her to the realization that there were no roller derby leagues in Canada. She did find MySpace pages and websites for leagues south of the border and was immediately taken in by the riot grrrl imagery and the punk rock aesthetic.

Eventually her online sleuthing led her to the Rollergirl.ca website and a web forum devoted to starting roller derby in Canada. There she discovered that there were discussions about roller derby ongoing in Toronto, Hamilton, Edmonton and Vancouver, and then she saw that lone post about Montreal.

Kwasny, now officially Georgia W. Tush, ran with that MissTheMeaner post, starting a MySpace page and checking out roller rinks. Eventually, after getting enough traffic on the site, she organized a meeting at Foufounes Electriques, one of the city’s most venerable underground music venues.

Fourteen people came to the initial meeting, and the first person through the door was someone Tush already knew from the music scene, Marie-Chantal Trachy, the woman who would come to be known as Trash ’n’ Smash, another key figure in the development of roller derby in Montreal.

Just as Tush and Trash were really getting things started in Montreal that spring, on Saturday, July 22, 2006, at a sold out Burlington arena, the Hamilton Harlots and the Steel Town Tank Girls welcomed the sport of roller derby back to Canada, playing in the first public house league game in Canadian flat track history.

Inspired by the the success of Hammer City’s opening game, one of Toronto’s first teams, the Smoke City Betties, began to consider hosting a public event as well. In the end, they decided on a semi-closed tournament, or a “day of derby,” featuring a tournament of mini-games with the winner crowned Derby Queens of the Pre-Season. These Derby Queens would then take on the host Betties in a full-length regulation contest.

Poster for Betties' D-Day. Held in August 2006, it was the first tournament in Canadian flat-track roller derby.

Poster for Betties’ D-Day. Held in August 2006; it was the first tournament in Canadian flat-track roller derby.

The Betties D-Day took place at George Bell Arena in downtown Toronto’s west end on August 19, 2006. On that day, the formation of the Canadian roller derby community began. For many of the skaters there, despite having skated for months, it would be the first time they had ever seen a flat track roller derby game actually played.

Montreal had not even named teams yet and for this event divided its skaters into two squads, called the Cougars and the Felines. On the track, Hammer City’s established teams, not surprisingly, led the way. But it was Montreal who proved the biggest surprise, playing each other in the best game of the first round (a one-pointer won by the Cougars) before defeating the newly named Chicks Ahoy! out of Toronto in the semifinals.

While they did lose in the final to the Hamilton Harlots, the league’s performance provided a certain kind of foreshadowing for the dominant league it would quickly become.

*                                  *                                  *

Montreal's New Skids on the Block at the 2010 Quad City Chaos (Photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block at the 2010 Quad City Chaos (Photo by Derek Lang)

In March 2010 Toronto Roller Derby’s travel team, CN Power, hosted what was essentially an unofficial Canadian championship. The two-day tournament, called the Quad City Chaos, featured the four top teams in Canada at the time. Hammer City’s Eh! Team, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Vancouver’s Terminal City All-Stars joined Toronto for a round robin tournament.

One of the most anticipated moments of that first Quad City Chaos was the opening game between Hammer City and Montreal. Within the past year, both had become the first Canadian—and first non-US—members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which meant that they were going to be a part of the WFTDA’s ranking system and were eligible to compete for a spot in the association’s annual playoffs. This historic game not only contained the first WFTDA-sanctioned game in Canada, but it was also the first between two non-US teams and the first to ever be played outside of that country.

Montreal had been on somewhat of a tear at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, playing anyone and everyone and going wherever they needed to go to do so. In the weeks leading up to the Quad City Chaos they’d gone on a two-game weekend road trip to Arizona, followed by a three-game road trip down the east coast of the US, going 4-1 in the process. Although none of the games were broadcast, through textcasts on the Derby News Network and live twitter updates it was clear that Montreal was soaking up new slow-style strategies that were just being developed south of the border and had yet to reach Canada. By the time the Skids rolled into Toronto in March, they had become a changed team.

The Hamilton-Montreal showdown was a very early Saturday morning game at ToRD’s Hangar; there were only insiders and superfans lining the track for this highly anticipated moment. The first hint that something might be different came while watching Montreal begin their warm-up off skates. While it’s since become the norm, roller derby in early 2010, certainly in Canada, was still deeply cloaked in its punk rock attitude and the notion of working out off skates to improve on-skates performance was new. It seemed to many skaters to be a waste of valuable track time. But there was Montreal, running laps around the space, doing leaps and stretches and planks.

Montreal baffled Hammer City and send a clear message to the Canadian roller derby scene at QCC 2010. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal baffled Hammer City and sent a clear message to the Canadian roller derby scene at QCC 2010. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Within a few minutes of the opening whistle of that first game, it was clear that it was not going to be a pretty sight. Montreal dominated from the start; they baffled Hammer City with what at the time was strange play, alternating blazing speed with grinding slowness, an intentional duality that had never been witnessed in the Canadian game before. During the first New Skids power jam, when the Hammer City jammer was in the penalty box, the relentless Montreal blockers isolated a lone Hammer City blocker and then held her behind her counterparts who struggled to stay in play (i.e., to remain part of the pack). The jammer sped by the stopped skaters and Hammer City could only watch it all unfold, bewildered. Whatever game Montreal was playing was not the same as the one being played by their opponents.

To put things in context: within the previous eighteen months, Montreal’s and Hamilton’s travel teams had met twice in thrilling, incredibly closely matched contests. Montreal had been able to pull off both wins – but just barely – with fairly regular, though low scoring, results for the time: 58–48 and then 84–80. A combined difference of fourteen points over two games.

When the final whistle blew in that WFTDA-sanctioned game at the Quad City Chaos in March 2010 in Toronto, the scoreboard read 208–26.

Montreal would go on to beat Vancouver and Toronto with similar ease that weekend. Never before had one Canadian team so thoroughly dominated another, and especially not teams that shared such a similar history. But the game had changed: it had changed quickly and it had changed remarkably and it was obvious that Montreal was at the forefront of this evolution.

Montreal Roller Derby distanced itself from its Canadian peers in 2010, but then again, the team distanced itself from a lot of teams in 2010. The Skids would go on to skate to an 11–3 record that season, notching big wins against Tampa, DC, and Arizona.

By September of that year, the New Skids on the Block made flat track roller derby history when they laced up against their increasingly intense rivals Boston for a quarterfinal showdown in the WFTDA’s Eastern Region playoffs. It was the fifth year of the WFTDA playoffs, and Montreal, qualifying sixth out of the twelve teams in the Eastern Region tournament, was the first non-US-based team to play in them.

This was the second year that the Derby News Network would broadcast the entire playoffs and there was a slowly growing global interest in the games. For pretty much the first time, the derby community was seeing the game being played in a way that was no longer comparable to their local version. The teams in the playoffs, and particularly those top twelve teams that would qualify for the championship tournament, were playing at a completely different level strategically and athletically from everyone else. And because Montreal was involved, there were plenty of Canadian eyes trained on the playoffs for the first time.

Montreal would lose that quarterfinal game to the higher ranked Boston and be relegated to the Consolation Bracket that they were expected to dominate, and for the most part, they did, crushing the Dutchland Derby Rollers from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by two hundred sixty-five points before Raleigh’s Carolina Rollergirls scored a controversial last-gasp two-point win over Montreal.

Montreal’s appearance would resonate even beyond the borders of Canada. In 2011, London, England, would qualify for the playoffs and the two teams would meet up in the first all-international WFTDA playoff game in the consolation final of the 2011 Eastern Region tournament.

In only five years, Montreal had emerged as a potential flat track roller derby super power.

3. Fresher and Furiouser

Montreal's Arena St. Louis (Photo by Leslie Schachter for The Link)

Montreal’s Arena St. Louis (Photo by Leslie Schachter for The Link)

Walking into Montreal’s Arena St. Louis is for fans of roller derby what walking in to the old Montreal Forum would have been like for fans of hockey. After the closing of Edmonton’s Grindhouse (AKA: the Metro Sportsplex) in the summer of 2014, Arena St. Louis became the single oldest continuously used arena for roller derby. It isn’t a particularly special arena, and despite its location just off Rue St. Laurent in a trendy part of downtown Montreal, is pretty non-descript: A squat, rectangular brick arena that wouldn’t look out of place in any small Canadian town.

In the summer of 2008, on the heels of hosting two successful house league seasons and one of Canada’s first flat track roller derby tournaments (that April’s inaugural Beast of the East), Arena St. Louis hosted Montreal’s recruitment training sessions, also called “fresh meant.” The goal was to get potential skaters from zero skill to ready for competition by the opening of the next season. The annual group of loosely organized skaters would eventually form their own rookie-team called the Smash Squad. It was a process and model that would become standard throughout the sport in Canada, the first step toward becoming a competitive skater, and in Montreal, the first step toward eventually becoming a member of the New Skids on the Block.

The Smash Squad builds into a houseleague-Bteam-Ateam system. The houseleague consists of three teams: Les Contrabanditas (Montreal’s first official team, who debuted in February 2007 when they faced Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls); Les Filles du Roi (who won the first house league Championship in 2007); and La Racaille. Their B-team, Les Sexpos, has been competing since 2008, virtually as long as the league has had a travel team, and has had continued success, including winning the 2015 B-Cup Challenge and finishing 9th in the 2015 Full Metal Bracket (which was essentially a WFTDA championship for B-teams).

While this is a model that is pretty standard in the sport, in Canada, no league has been able to use this structure to its advantage or replace talent at the top as consistently as Montreal Roller Derby has. From the very beginning, this consistency has been evident, and while over the past eight years they have tinkered with the model (creating more blend between the A and B-travel teams for example), they have held the course and the commitment to consistency has paid off in consistent results.

While their house league hosts the annual Beast of the Beast tournament and the Sexpos and Skids are two of the busiest travel teams in the country, given Montreal’s lack of proximity to other leagues of a similar calibre, the Smash Squad didn’t debut to the larger Canadian public until the summer of 2012. Montreal, by then, had clearly pulled ahead of the Canadian flat track pack, but there was one tournament where the league had yet to make a splash: the Fresh and the Furious.

Montreal's Fresh and Furious debut was a record-setting victory over Woodstock. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Fresh and Furious debut was a record-setting victory over Woodstock. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Spawned from 2008’s Virgin Suicides Brawl, a five-team tournament featuring new teams in established leagues that had been hosted by the GTA Rollergirls, the league resurrected the rookie-focused tournament in 2011 as a sixteen-team double elimination tournament played out in 20-minute games. Taking place over the course of one (long) day on two tracks, the tournament has become the launching point for virtually every skater in Quebec and Ontario. In 2012, Montreal’s Smash Squad entered their first Fresh tournament as virtual unknowns, and promptly opened with a then record-setting 127-10 victory over Woodstock and proceeded to destroy the competition from there, rolling all the way to the championship game.

In the thirty-minute final against Royal City’s Top Herloins, the Smash Squad were trailing for much of the first half of the game and were down 50-42 with thirteen minutes to go. With a power start and some momentum building, the Smash Squad decided to go with a lean, powerful—though sometimes erratic—jammer who seemed loaded with as-of-yet unrefined talent, but who had been inconsistent and had picked up a few penalties in this game already. She promptly powered through Royal City’s defensive wall and along with the help of some good offense, carved up the Guelph defense for a 19-point, game-changing jam. It would be the first of a game-deciding 44 points scored over the next ten-minutes of the game by a first-year jammer named Miracle Whips.

The Smash Squad would go on to dominate that final third of the game, cruising to a 122-61 win. While the team would feature other future stars of the league like Demanda Lashing and Saucisse, the tournament-clinching win had provided the derby community with the first glimpse of the game-changing potential of Miracle Whips, but mostly reminded the community that from the ground on up, Montreal Roller Derby was a step ahead.

4. Mending a Broken Heart

Montreal's home bench at Centre Pierre Charbonneau, site of a 2016 WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

Montreal’s home bench at Centre Pierre Charbonneau, site of a 2016 WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

It is probably safe to say that no one thought 2016 would be the year. At least, not by the time playoffs rolled around.

By September 2016, Montreal Roller Derby and fans of the New Skids on the Block had become accustomed to playoff heartbreak; so much so that you could say it had become like a yearly ritual:

  • 2010: Carolina 127 vs. Montreal 125. Although expectations were muted for 6th seeded Montreal in their debut at Eastern Regionals, they were expected to at least improve their ranking, but after leading Carolina for much of the game, they entered the final jam up by 3 only to receive a controversial jammer penalty and give up 5 points. It was a shocking loss considering Montreal had destroyed Carolina (in Carolina) 135-29 during the regular season.
  • 2011: London 137 vs. Montreal 135. The fifth-place game at the 2011 Eastern Regionals was an instant classic and one of the great games of the era. But yet again, a regular season win over London had expectations high for Montreal. After a close first half, Montreal had to overcome a 70-point deficit in the second, coming up just short after a furious comeback. It also just happened to be the first WFTDA playoff game between two non-US opponents.
  • 2012: London 191 vs. Montreal 122.This highly anticipated quarterfinal rematch between third seed Montreal and sixth seed London was won midway through the second half when Montreal failed to field a jammer resulting in a 35-0 London jam from which the Skids could not recover.
  • 2013: Ohio 212 vs. Montreal 149. The path to champs was laid out perfectly for second-seed Montreal, who were upset by sixth-seed Ohio in the semifinals after an inexplicably lacklustre performance. Despite an extraordinary game from legendary jammer Iron Wench (in her last playoff appearance), who jammed 22 out of 43 jams for a game-high 84 points (four other jammers on Montreal skated the other 21 jams), the team looked unprepared and unfocused. Poor clock management on the bench cut short a potential late comeback.
  • 2014: Charm City 143 vs. Montreal 142. This heartbreak came in the Division quarterfinals and it came after leading the game for all but one jam in the second half (and by as much as 31 points with 8 minutes to go). A penultimate 23-point jam from Charm City to take the lead stunned Montreal, who would go on to destroy the consolation bracket by an average differential of 142 points, leaving everyone to wonder “What if?”
  • 2015: Minnesota 162 vs. Montreal 134. 28 points was the difference between a Championship berth and heartbreak last year. The third place Division playoff game was another classic, featuring six lead changes in total. Montreal led by 1 at halftime and then again, 116-112, with 12 minutes to go but couldn’t hold off Minnesota in the waning moments.

Despite the oh-so-close loss to Minnesota in the 2015 Division playoffs, Montreal had to be feeling good about themselves after coming on strong at the end of what was expected to be a rebuilding year.

The Skids were pushed by Canadian teams like never before in 2015, and seemed to have lost their stranglehold on the Canadian flat track scene. In successive games in late April and early May, Toronto had come within 9 points of knocking off Montreal before Terminal City finally accomplished the feat at the Big O with a thrilling 182-177 win.

Terminal City’s win at the Big O tournament put an end to a streak of national dominance that Canada will probably ever see again. Although Terminal had defeated Montreal once before in a shortened, non-regulation game, beginning in July 2008, the Skids had been on a nearly eight year, seventeen-game winning streak against the top teams that Canada had to offer. During that time, Montreal defeated Hammer City (twice), Toronto (six times), Rideau Valley (twice), Tri-City (twice), Oil City, Calgary and Terminal City (also twice); essentially, the cream of the crop of Canadian flat track.

But despite the early season growing pains, by the end of the year, they had clearly distanced themselves from their national rivals and after the playoff success of 2015, hopes were much higher coming into the 2016 season.

And it started off with a bang.

Rideau Valley and Toronto were the first victims of Montreal this year, and despite 13-point and 9-point nail biters in their two most recent meetings, the Skids stomped a rebuilding Toronto team by 363 points in April. By June’s ECDX tournament, Montreal was sporting a 6-1 record with the sole loss coming to London.

Philly handled Montreal with surprising ease in a June showdown at ECDX (Photo by Joe Mac)

Philly handled Montreal with surprising ease in a June showdown at ECDX (Photo by Joe Mac)

However, word on the track heading into Philadelphia was that all was not right on the bench with the Skids, and although they were able—as expected—to handle Boston in their opening game, Montreal completely came apart against Philly in the ECDX closer. After a tight start to the game, Philly went on an early 56-4 run and barely looked back on their way to a surprisingly easy 256-139 victory. Although expectations had been high for a first-ever Montreal win over their rivals, the Skids lacked cohesion on the track, and at three separate times during the game were held scoreless for stretches of at least five jams. While they were lacking injured veterans Jes Bandit and KonichiWow, the team, to put it mildly, looked out of sorts.

After that weekend, behind-the-scenes tension led to a mid-season roster shakeup that saw core veteran skaters Scores Easy and national team member Demanda Lashing  (and up-and-comer Russian Cruelette) leave the team. By the time Montreal rolled into the Division playoffs, the Skids were a team thin on experience. First-year Skids Lau-Rider, Ptite Pouliche and Sneaky Devil all saw track time in playoff games, and as the team prepared to face off against Bay Area in the third-place game, they had just seven skaters on the roster who’d played in the third-place game only a year previous. Al K Traz, Cracker Jass, Why So Sirius and Ti-Coune, all in their first year as regulars on the all-star lineup, were suddenly thrust into major competitive roles in the pack in the biggest game of their league’s history.

While the jammer rotation had retained Miracle Whips and the French national-team skater Falcon Punch (both of whom played the derby of their lives in the tournament), it was bolstered by transfer TerminateHer (from Green Mountain) and the return of Honey Badger after a year skating with Tri-City in southern Ontario.

Bolstered by a raucous home-town crowd at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau, The Skids got off to a ferocious start against Dallas in the quarterfinals, going on a 44-6 run over the opening 10 minutes of the game. Dallas would not get within 30 the rest of the way. That game was followed by a tough semi-final loss to London, setting up the must-win game against Bay Area.

Montreal's New Skids on the Block moments after clinching their spot at the 2016 WFTDA Championship tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block moments after clinching their spot at the 2016 WFTDA Championship tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

Although the roster lacked playoff experience overall, it was anchored by some core skaters who played their hearts out in the game. From double threat Mange Moi El Cul and long-time skater Chees Grater (literally one of the most experienced skaters in the Canadian game; she’d played in that inaugural Hammer City game in Burlington on 2006), to the late-season return of national-team member KonichiWOW, the veterans came to play when it mattered. Surgical Strike was a stalwart blocker, whose seemingly unflappable (and unmoveable) presence on the track acted as both a literal and figurative anchor. But given the situation and the stakes, perhaps the greatest performance came from the sole-remaining original New Skid, Jess Bandit.

After missing most of the season due to injury, not too much was expected of the decade-long member of Montreal Roller Derby and two-time member of the Team Canada, but when it mattered most, Bandit’s even-headed play and veteran poise kept the team in check. She was stunning in the final against B.A.D., elevating her game when it mattered most, reminding the Canadian crowd that she is one of the great blockers in our country’s history with the sport.

At the draw for the 2016 WFTDA Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, a few weeks after the emotional victory, the Skids ended up with arguably the most unfortunate first-round opponent in the tournament: Los Angeles’s surging Angel City Derby Girls. It will be a tough match up, but regardless of the outcome, after such a long, heartbreaking wait, it is one that will be savoured  by not only Montreal Roller Derby and the New Skids on the Block, but also the legions of fans in the Neon Army marching behind them.

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*Most of the historical elements in this profile are adapted from Eight-Wheeled Freedom: The Derby Nerd’s Short History of Flat Track Roller Derby. Now available in bookstores and online.

*Montreal is not the first Canadian team to play at the WFTDA Championship tournament. Read a similar profile of the Rideau Valley Vixens, chronicling their march to the 2014 Division 2 championship game here.