When the smoke cleared from the track in Navan, Ontario, only the Forest City All Stars were left standing at Blood Spill on the Hill, CWRDA’s Eastern Champioship. Two very full days of bouting saw seven other teams fall, and in a tournament full of one-sided affairs, some fell harder than others. It was a well-deserved and even fitting win for a team that has toiled for years on the front lines of eastern Canadian roller derby without a major win yet to their credit.
The winners of the four first round bouts advanced to the semi-finals, while the losers moved on to the relegation semis later in the day. The historic (though rebuilding) Hamilton Harlots kicked things off by returning to their winning ways against a Belles of the Brawl team (Brantford) whose history pales in comparison to their southern Ontario neighbours. The 234-61 victory (first in 2011 for this new-look Hammer City squad) kicked off a round of blowouts that culminated in a 456-6 whitewashing of the overmatched Ottawa Roller Derby by the GTAR’s newly formed G-Stars travel team. Sandwiched between these bouts were two blowouts of a different sort. Forest City (who were merging players from the Luscious Lunch Ladies and the Thames Fatales for the first time) toppled a smart-looking, but inexperienced Royal City All Star team (Guelph), while hosts Rideau Valley (playing as the Vermin—a team put together specifically for this tournament) took it to a wide-eyed and excited Muddy River Lumbersmacks (Moncton). Both of these teams seemed to revel in their losses, soaking up the experience and often immediately recycling the knowledge gained.
That set up relegation round showdowns featuring the four least experienced teams in the tournament. But even amongst these freshmen squads there was clearly a divide. Muddy River was cruising against a Belles of the Brawl team that finally had to throw in the towel when injuries and ejections depleted the Brantford bench to dangerously low levels, giving the New Brunswick team its first victory outside of the Atlantic provinces. In the second relegation semifinal, the Royal City All Stars continued their solid play, putting together a dominant performance against an Ottawa Roller Derby team that bowed out of the tournament having been outscored 852-13 in its two games.
Since the two leagues first faced off on July 7, 2007, Hammer City seemed to have Forest City’s number. Four years of dominance finally came to an end earlier this year when both Forest City teams defeated both Hammer City teams in a double header in Hamilton. So when they met in the first of two semifinals they brought with them a great deal of flat track history. In a striking coincidence this was the first time since 2007 that Forest City was tracking a team playing under the league banner and their opponents, the Harlots, were those same opponents who initiated them four years earlier. Sometimes revenge is a long time coming, and Forest City got it this weekend, advancing to the semifinals with a convincing 218-58 victory.
The second semi-final looked like it was heading to blow-out territory as well with Rideau Valley jumping out to a dominant 101-19 half-time lead over the G-Stars, but the GTA team reeled it in during the second half getting stronger as the bout wore on to lose in a scrappy, entertaining game, 163-52.
The relegation final was a highly anticipated bout featuring the two more inexperienced and exciting teams in the event, the Muddy River Rollers and the Royal City Roller Girls. The first half lived up to the expectations and then some as these two precocious teams left it all on the track, trading leads seemingly as often as they traded hits, with Royal City just able to inch ahead 51-41 at the half. Muddy River captain Burn ‘N RubHer and fellow triple threat Brandy Swifter led the way for this New Brunswick team that also had strong performances from Ms. Hate (who alternated helmet panties throughout the weekend as well), Thora Thunder and Malicious Kitty jamming and Lulu LeBomb pivoting. But as the game wore on, Royal City’s more sophisticated pace control (led in large part by excellent pivot Mandy Maggotbone) toppled Muddy River’s hit and run game. Kim Scarsmashian and Ginger Slaughters also had a strong tournament in the pack while Hot Cross Guns, Hellcat and Lady GoreJess led the offense and paced the Royal City to a fifth place finish with the 116-73 victory. It is clear though, that both of these teams have a very bright future, and Moncton, as the leaders of the pack on the east coast, gained invaluable experience to bring back with them.
The G-Stars capped a successful tournament taking the third place bout against the Harlots, 128-53. While the Harlots continue their rebuild, GTAR has now added a travel team to its roster which gave valuable experience to its less experienced Chrome Mollys players. While the usual suspects starred (Getcha Kicks, Lee Way Wreck’em, Canadian Psycho, Newfie Bullet and Splat Benatar) it was a coming out weekend for jammer Beaver Mansbridge who turned heads with her fearless play and excellent conditioning.
It was clear though, that the top two teams had deservedly made it to the finals. With both teams dominating competition all weekend, expectations were high. It was set up to be an intriguing battle between two very experienced leagues who were experimenting with new-look rosters. Rideau Valley had the potentially brutal, defensively sound packs led by Vixens’ standouts Semi Precious, ASSASSINista, Screaming Meanie Massacre and Margaret Choke, yet didn’t roster any of their all-star jammers (giving all-important track time to the likes of Death From Below, Crash Karma and eventually Mudblood). Forest City, on the other hand, shortened its jammer bench to (virtually) two for the final, the Thames Fatales standouts Killson and Slacker Smacker (though Lunch Ladies Andi Slamberg and Mighty Thor took their turns when needed later in the game as they had throughout the tournament). Killson, the tournament’s top jammer and perhaps MVP, was excellent in the early going while the frightening duo of Semi-Precious and ASSASSINista had their way with the Forest City packs and devastated the less experienced Slacker Smacker whenever she wore the star (who, though often overwhelmed, always pulled herself off the ground and threw herself back into the fray). When Forest City vet Anya Face went down with a significant ankle injury about midway through the opening half (and Sufferjet pulling out with her leaving only 11 skaters on the bench), things did not look good for London. But after a long timeout as Anya was helped off the track and eventually carted off to the hospital, Forest City came out with a single-minded focus and an increased level of determination that saw them threaten to pull away, taking a 78-50 lead into the locker rooms. They wouldn’t look back.
While the Rideau Valley jammers were excellent all weekend, their comparative inexperience was exploited by the veteran London squad who forced numerous jammer majors and used a simple yet effective pace strategy to take full advantage. (It was a split-pack, separated-lane set up that relies on having a jammer strong and independent enough to face opposition blockers on her own). The heavily pace-controlled power jams were orchestrated by the experienced blocking crew led by pivot Mirambo and featuring Back Alley Sally, Freez’er Burn and None-ya Biz. It was an extremely innovative play that left the Rideau Valley bench struggling for a response, and allowed Forest City to build a gap in the second half that could not be overcome. With the 166-90 victory, the Forest City All Stars were crowned champions at the first ever CWRDA Eastern Championship.
***A big thank you to Rideau Valley for begin such gracious hosts! A personal thanks goes to the dynamic duo of Tipsy McStaggers and Sister Disaster. The Nerd’s participation in Blood Spill on the Hill was made possible, in part, by the fine people at Neon Skates: