Some things just get better with age. Like wine, cheese and scotch, Montreal Roller Derby’s annual Beast of the East just keeps on improving. While it could just speak to the age of the sport and overall development of the game, it also speaks to the strength, popularity and steady growth of roller derby in this region specifically. Despite the fact that the best players in the two biggest leagues represented (Montreal and Toronto) were not involved in the tournament (their talents were on display in a thrilling Friday night WFTDA showdown won by the New Skids on the Block 210-121), the competitive level and the display of skill far surpassed the expectations for a house league tournament.
It was a historic tournament on a historic date, and in the end it became a duel between the two most successful teams in the tournament’s history. In the process, MTLRD’s La Racaille became the first team to appear in four finals, while their opponents, Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters joined the 2008-2010 La Racaille team as the only to reach three consecutive championship games, but then one-upped them by becoming the first ever repeat champion.
From the energy and consistency of the nearly perpetually capacity crowd, to the stunning displays of athleticism on the track, this 6th annual Beast certainly lived up to the moniker the Beast of Beasts.
DOUBLE ELIMINATION ROUND
A remarkable twenty games get played on the opening day of the Beast, and the tone was set when the tournament kicked off with a minor upset. The Chicks Ahoy!, ToRD’s most inexperienced team (playing short handed at that) managed to hold off Rideau Valley’s Riot Squad by 8 points. Remarkably, seven teams managed to top the century mark in the opening round as for the most part things went as expected early. The Slaughter Daughters dispatched two ToRD teams early on to advance straight through to the quarter finals (scoring over 100 points in both games including a 117-2 win over the Smoke City Betties), joined by Montreal teams Les Filles du Roi and La Racaille and ToRD’s Death Track Dolls as teams going 2-0 to advance. Even at this stage of the tournament it was clear that La Racaille and the Dolls were joining the Daughters at a level of play that was going to be hard to match. La Racaille also topped 100 points in both their openers, while the Dolls looked equally impressive dispatching Les Casse-Gueules and then shocking the hometown Contrabanditas 96-30 in a surprisingly one-sided win.
The rebuilding Vicious Dishes became the first defending champion not only to lose in the first round, but were actually the first team eliminated from the tournament when they lost to the Riot Squad. First timers from Quebec, Les Casse-Gueules, and London, the Luscious Lunch Ladies, also fell 0-2 to be eliminated, joined by five-time participants, the Derby Debutantes, who have yet to make it past the first round in their history at the event.
The final four elimination games lived up to the expectations, all providing thrillingly competitive action. The Chicks Ahoy! concluded their surprising tournament by giving the far more experienced Thames Fatales all that they could handle before falling 53-46. It took a while, but Les Contrabanditas were able to hold off the Riot Squad 86-57 and the TKOs eliminated the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in a scrappy, penalty-filled affair that seemed closer than the 85-42 score indicated. Finally, rookie participants from Quebec, Le Rouge et Gore, pulled off the stunner of the tournament, holding off a shocked Smoke City Betties teams 58-56 in the closing game of the opening day, and arguably the most emotional win of the tournament.
By the time the quarterfinals rolled around, three teams, at least, had clearly distanced themselves from the pack. While Les Filles du Roi were able to dispatch Le Rouge et Gore 76-17, it was the performances in the other quarterfinals that truly impressed. La Racaille simply overwhelmed their leaguemates Les Contrabanditas (117-64), while the Daughters slaughtered the Thames Fatales 113-31 (with only a 29-0 four minute run midway through closing the gap for the Thames), and ToRD’s Dolls, despite major penalty trouble, rode some phenomenal power killing to a 79-35 win over the surging TKOs.
In the opener, Les Filles du Roi played their absolute best derby of the tournament. With La Racaille leading 50-9 and seemingly on cruise control, Les Filles mounted a major comeback, completely flipping the table to outscore their leaguemates 51-10 the rest of the way and set up a final jam with the score tied at 60. An FDR jammer penalty on the first pass sealed the deal and La Racaille picked up 25 to win 85-60. In the other semifinal, the Dolls and Daughters engaged in one of the hardest hitting bouts of the tournament with blockers from both teams providing their entries for hit of the tournament, while the Daughters ended up pulling away in the end (it was 26-24 at the midway point) to win the thrilling game by 28 (68-40).
The Dolls shook off their semifinal loss to compose themselves and come back and dominate Les Filles du Roi 136-29 in the third place game, completing an impressive tournament and earning them third place honours for the second time in three years. The historic final matchup (this year extended to two twenty minute halves) started off incredibly tight with La Racaille playing some of their best derby to keep pace with the Daughters, down only 2, 43-41 at the half. While La Racaille were able to keep pace, they could never dictate it, and eventually the relentless Daughters, who had the deepest bench in the tournament, inched ahead before pulling away for good at the end, holding on for a 103-74 victory to become the first ever two-time Beast of the East champions.
MVP: Rainbow Fight (Death Track Dolls)
The continued development and depth of the Slaughter Daughters knocks Hanna Murphy (formerly Semi-Precious) off the perch she’s held for the past two years. Not that she’s not still worthy, but the play of skaters like Eh Nihilator (finals MVP), Margaret Choke, Da Big Block, Sister Disaster and others have risen to a more equal level (no doubt pulled up by the continuous excellence of Murphy). And certainly a few other skaters warrant consideration with the exceptional Mel E Juana leading the way (Sofanda Beatin looked strong early but her Vicious Dishes only played two games). But this weekend, Rainbow Fight emerged as a powerhouse in the sport (those who saw her dominate on the smaller scale of last year’s RDAC Atlantics aren’t surprised). Virtually unpassable as a blocker/pivot, Rainbow also could win the argument for top jammer on the Dolls, if not in the tournament: handed the star whenever her team needed a shift in momentum, she consistently delivered. On a Dolls team loaded with individual talent, Rainbow Fight still managed to stand out.
Breakout Player: Miracle Whips (Les Contrabanditas)
There were a handful of players in contention here. Beth Rave and Demanda Lashing stepped up for Les Filles du Roi in a big way, and Nana Bistouri was a huge reason behind the surprising success of the Le Rouge et Gore, while it’s easy to forget that Ova Kill is only in her second year with the TKOs, and rookie Kindree Surprise seems to be the centerpiece of a rebuilding Thames Fatales offense; however, there is no new player who had a bigger impact on her team than Miracle Whips. A star at last year’s Fresh and Furious rookie tournament in Toronto, the argument could be made that there was no single player who was more important for her team all weekend. The rebuilding Contrabanditas were constantly buoyed by the consistent play of Whips who almost single-handedly gave them a boost whenever things seemed about to get out of hand.
Breakout Team: Le Rouge et Gore (Roller Derby Quebec)
For the second year in a row, this was a pretty easy selection. From their record-setting performance against the Derby Debutantes (most points scored by a single team, 159, and most combined points in a 20 minute BOE game, 191), to their stunning upset over the Smoke City Betties (58-56 in a must-win elimination game), Le Rouge et Gore proved to be a team to watch in a league on the rise. From the clutch jamming of Nana Bistouri to the relentless pounding of Mobydith to the depth provided by Dina Myth and Douche Nuken, this Rouge et Gore team more importantly displayed a spirit of perseverance that was impossible to ignore.