A few weeks ago on the popular podcast Derby Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, co-host and Canadian correspondent Andi Struction, declared that the Terminal City All Stars were the second best team in Canada. Along with American based announcer and Roller Derby Radio co-host Bob Noxious, they also speculated that the West Kootenay Kannibelles could be the third best team in the country.
Admittedly, I was surprised by the confidence with which this statement was made, and then as the days after the podcast passed, I was also surprised at the reaction I was getting from eastern Canadians: it seemed that a lot of people in eastern Canada felt very strongly that Toronto’s CN Power was clearly the second best team in Canadian; still others expressed to me with some certainty that the Tri-City Thunder were the second best team in Canada.
I was surprised by all of the strong reactions because to me, it seemed obvious that there was no clear number two in Canada. That after the consensus number one (Montreal Roller Derby’s New Skids on the Block), there was no discernible difference between Terminal City, Toronto, or Tri-City. To borrow a cliché from another sport, I believe that on any given Sunday, either of these teams would be capable of beating the other. But this debate also made it clear to me—because naively it wasn’t clear to me before—that there is a pretty clear divide between the eastern roller derby communities and the western ones (with the central region generally getting lumped in with the west and the Atlantic provinces considered with the east).
But, at least a discussion of this idea has been sparked. Generally, we Canadians have a reputation, fair or otherwise, for being polite. I think this has spilled over into derby: We’re generally pretty fair and positive in the derby community—which is excellent—but it can cloud our judgement in terms of ranking teams. Here’s the way I have it playing out in the east and west.
The east is heavily skewed toward the WFTDA, as all these teams are full members. (I only looked at top level travel teams; Montreal’s B-Team, Les Sexpos, are certainly in the top five competitively, and Toronto’s B-Team, the Bay Street Bruisers, are also ranked ahead of Hammer City on rollergirl.ca’s flat track rankings). The top three are clearly ahead of the others, and I’ve put Toronto over Tri-City here based on the fact that Toronto beat Tri-City earlier in the year, but competitively, I’d put them on the same level. After a few years of wallowing out of the competitive picture, Hammer City finally seems to have rebuilt its team to relatively competitive level and a recent victory over Royal City’s Brute Leggers (an eastern team on the rise) shows that they belong back in the Top 5.
I’m not as familiar with the western teams as I am the eastern ones, but I have watched as much as I possibly could, and these “power rankings” also reflect the rollergirl.ca rankings. Only Terminal City is a full WFTDA league and this is played out in the competitive distance Terminal City has over the other teams in the west (although West Kootenay Kannibelles is on the rise). While for the past 12 months anyway, E-Ville has paced themselves ahead of Red Deer and Oil City, competitively I see them on a similar level.
If we look at Terminal City, Toronto and Tri City alone and with different stats, they are even closer:
- WFTDA has them ranked almost precisely the same in their respective regions: CN Power (15 NC), Terminal City (16 W), Tri-City (17 NC).
- falttrackstats has only a 17 point difference between 42nd ranked Terminal City, 45th Tri-City and 49th Toronto. When you consider that there are no common opponents between the eastern teams and Terminal City (and Montreal’s gap is a considerable 73 points ahead of this pack), the 17 point difference is fairly insignificant. (**rollergirl.ca has the gap as slightly larger, 30 points separating the three teams, but falttrackstats focuses on only matchups with higher-level teams, so in this particular case is probably more accurate)
While I do think West Kootenay is on the rise, I put them at the same level as Rideau Valley right now, reaching for, but not quite at that upper echelon yet, and would probably have to say that they are tied for fifth. Both teams have world-class talent (Beretta Lynch on the Kannibelles, Semi-Precious on the Vixens, for example), but lack the bench depth of the top four and the competitive level of experience. If I had to make a prediction, I would put the Vixens ahead of the Kannibelles in the long run. They are already WFTDA members and have been playing higher level teams more consistently, but they also have a contained houseleague that is operating at a high level. Right now the West Kootenay Women’s Roller Derby is operating an unwieldy seven houseleague teams which could very well dilute their talent in the long run (ToRD learned this lesson the hard way, when from 2007-2008 they had a very successful six-team houseleague, yet their travel team’s competitive level fell considerably and both Montreal and Hammer City leap-frogged them; a turn around that wasn’t abated until Toronto repurposed two of the teams and refocused as a four-team houseleague: the competitive level of the travel team jumped almost immediately).
So here’s how I see things realistically:
2. Terminal City, Toronto, Tri-City
5. Rideau Valley, West Kootenay
I honestly believe that the only way to settle it would be to play and unfortunately that’s not going to happen any time soon. While the RDAC tournament in the west featured the top teams (with Terminal City and West Kootenay advancing), the top teams in the east are not participating in the RDAC Eastern Championship this year. Actually out of the top five leagues in the east, only Toronto is sending its B-Team to the tournament. The other participating teams are of varying levels of experience (this was similar to last year’s CWRDA tournaments, the predecessor to the RDAC tournaments).
Hopefully someday soon we’ll be able to have a true Canadian championship and put this speculation to rest!
***My knowledge of central Canadian derby is admittedly pretty limited, but I haven’t seen anything (results or otherwise) that would put any of the teams there in contention. While derby in the Atlantic provinces is also booming right now, the competitive level is not at that of the rest of eastern Canada yet.
***Respectful disagreement and debate is strongly encouraged!