This past year has been a particularly important one in flat track roller derby: the sport has continued its evolution at a rapid pace, moving farther and farther away from its bank-track roots. The bouts played at last year’s WFTDA Nationals bore only a superficial resemblance to those first played earlier this past decade. At the 2009 WFTDA Nationals big hits and jammer sprints were, for the first time, overshadowed by pack strategies and positional control. Special-team situations (pack advantages/disadvantages and power jams) are playing a larger and larger role (as evidenced by Montreal’s dominant performance at the recent Quad City Chaos); teams are now better trained and better coached than they were before; raw athletic ability alone is no longer enough to be successful at the top level of flat track roller derby. The third annual Beast of the East will undoubtedly continue this evolution here in Canada
With fourteen returning teams at this year’s Beast of the East (including defending champion La Racaille), there will be a lot of familiar teams, and a lot of opportunities for revenge. The Riot Squad, the latest team from Rideau Valley, and the lone American team, Green Mountain Derby Dames out of Vermont, represent the newcomers. The RVRG had a fantastic 2009 that began with the Slaughter Daughters’ run to the quarter finals at BOE ’09 and led to the addition of the second home team and a travel team, The Vixens, who played their first bout at The Hangar in February. Green Mountain is not unfamiliar to Canadian derby playing three Canadian teams (including losses to the Slaughter Daughters and MTLRD’s Sexpos and a victory over the Derby Debutantes).
Teams representing ToRD, Montreal Roller Derby, The Tri-City Rollergirls, The Hammer City Roller Girls, and the stand-alone Derby Debutantes (the GTA Rollergirls) and Thames Fatales (Forest City Roller Girls) round out the sixteen team lineup.
The only set matches are the opening matches of the first round. The BOE has 20 minute, double-elimination first round bouts, and is then sudden death from the quarter finals on. This year’s opening round bouts offer some fascinating match ups. The rebuilt Smoke City Betties and the Thames Fatales will kick off the tournament early Saturday morning in what could be a very entertaining bout. This year’s edition of The Betties features a very altered line up, and it remains to be seen how quickly this team can come together, but a tournament like the BOE provides a great opportunity to do so. The second bout features two former champions from Montreal and Toronto, the defending BOE champs La Racaille, and the Chicks Ahoy! These two teams battled in a memorable first-round bout last year, and there is no reason to think that this year’s edition will be any different. The two rookie teams, Green Mountain and The Riot Squad, will have the great opportunity to gain valuable experience against each other. Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps and Hammer City’s Death Row Dames should provide even competition.
The second bracket will be a much more challenging one as it includes MTLRD champions, Les Filles du Roi; ToRD champs, Gore-Gore Rollergirls; Tri-City champs, Vicious Dishes; BOE ’08 champs and Hammer City champs, The Harlots; not to mention last year’s finalists Les Contrabanditas and the quarter finalist teams Death Track Dolls and Slaughter Daughters. Whichever teams manage to crawl out of this bracket could be at a disadvantage in the quarter finals.
THE DERBY NERD PREDICTS
While I do think that there will some extraordinarily tight bouts in the opening round, the closest to an upset will be Thames Fatales’ victory over The Smoke City Betties. I won’t be surprised to see The Betties improving as the tournament goes on, but I think the veteran squad from Forest City will just be too organized: some of these girls have been playing together for a long time, while the Betties will just be beginning to search for their chemistry. The most exciting bouts will be a La Racaille victory over Chicks Ahoy and Les Filles du Roi over The Harlots.
I predict that the quarter finals will feature
(G21)La Racaille vs. The Death Track Dolls (La Racaille will take this rematch from last year’s quarters)
(G22) The Gore-Gore Roller Girls vs. The Chicks Ahoy! (Gores take this all ToRD match up in a tight one)
(G23) The Death Row Dames vs. Les Contrabanditas (Ditas return to the semi-final)
(G24) Les Filles du Roi vs. Thames Fatalles (Les Filles will guarantee that all three MTLRD teams are in the semis)
In what I predict will be the bout of the tournament, La Racaille will take a close one against The Gores in one semi final, while Les Filles will deny Les Ditas a return to the finals in the other. 2009 was almost a perfect year for Montreal’s Filles du Roi, an unbeaten season led to their regaining the league championship, and skaters had stand-out seasons on both of MTLRD’s travel teams; the only blemish on this otherwise perfect record was a BOE semi-final loss to eventual champion, La Racaille. In 2010, Le Filles will have their revenge.
THE DERBY NERD THINKS
There could be a must-win, double-elimination bout between The Harlots and Les Contrabanditas (G19) that could be an exciting one. I also think that this round will see a tight bout between the evenly matched Slaughter Daughters and The Death Track Dolls.
A dark-horse pick is ToRD’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls. At last year’s BOE, The Gores looked amazing early and were one of the pre-tournament favourites. They managed an extraordinary 103 points in their opening bout before gaining solid victories over the Death Row Dames and Les Contrabanditas. Then a devastating injury to one of their key players would cause them to pull out. It remains to be seen if their depth at jammer can compete against the pack advantage of La Racaille and Les Filles, and if their own pack can stop La Racaille’s equally formidable jammers. But The Gores went on to complete 2009 unbeaten, leaving that one tantalizing “what if?” that could be answered this weekend.
Don’t agree? Look for me track side and convince me otherwise! See you all in Montreal.