Recap

Different Name, Same Awesome Event: Uhaul Brawl Proudly Kicks off Toronto Pride

Tight walls from the Plaid Mafia at the 2015 Uhaul Brawl. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

Tight walls from the Plaid Mafia at the 2015 Uhaul Brawl. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

At the end of the week of Pride Toronto 2015, on the eve of the biggest annual Pride weekend in North America, the United States of America kind of stole the show. When that country’s Supreme Court rendered the decision to allow same-sex marriage across the board, the world, including those already well caught up in the midst of the rainbow wave in Toronto, rejoiced. It was a monumental moment in the ongoing mainstream shift in Western attitudes toward the LGBTQ2 community and will undoubtedly be looked back upon as a decisive moment in our march toward universal human rights.

But, of course, we’re not quite there yet.

On the morning of Friday, June 26, 2015, as news of the Supreme Court’s decision dominated headlines, roller derby fans in Toronto were only slowly awaking and shaking off the previous night’s festivities. It had been a long Thursday for those who’d attended the Uhaul Brawl, the city’s annual all-queer all-star roller derby event, which, for the third year in a row was co-organized between Toronto Roller Derby and the GTA Rollergirls.

It’s been an important event in the history and development of the sport in this city, and arguably represents contemporary roller derby in its purest form: fun, athletic, and with a clear progressive agenda.While this was the seventh year for the event (first held in 2009 at the George Bell Arena), this was the first year since letting go of the event’s original moniker, the Clam Slam.

The Blundstone Brigade and The Glitterrazzi kicked off the night with an exciting game that went down to the final jam.

The Blundstone Brigade and The Glitterrazzi kicked off the night with an exciting game that went down to the final jam.

Since re-emerging in Austin in the early part of the 21st Century, women’s flat track roller derby has occupied a fascinating space in the North American sports community. Initially the flat track movement was a riot-grrrl inspired, third-wave feminist spectacle that made a mockery of sports culture, all the while flaunting a certain form of hyper-femininity that in equal parts drew people in and kept them out. The game and the places where it was played were celebrated as safe, celebratory spaces for women. The Clam Slam rose out of this ideology: celebratory, hyper-feminine, and even as the competitive level of the sport arose around it (and thus within the event as well), those core values remained.

However, the justifiably giddy response around the Supreme Court’s decision hid many problematic issues. For one, it highlighted how slow progress can be in the planet’s richest democracy (Canada and many other Western nations had legalized same-sex marriage for at least a decade), and it also masked the plight of those in the trans community, for whom progress and acceptance have been much harder to come by.

While homophobia is still undeniably rampant in North America (primarily driven by the religious right), the lives of those in the LGB community have never been more protected as they are now. The laws of the land have indeed shifted, and while the members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities still face discrimination, they now have institutional protection and a guarantee of equal rights across the board (even if, sometimes, they still have to fight for them).

The same cannot yet be said for the members in the trans community. Although it has been three years since Ontario passed Toby’s Act into law, trans people, whether it be through a simple lack of access to washrooms or being placed in detention with those of the opposite gender (just to name two examples), still face the kind of surface—and institutional—discrimination that members of the LGB community have been mostly able to find protection from.

It was out of this murky climate that the movement to change the name of Toronto’s annual Pride-affiliated roller derby game arose.

“We knew that [the name] was something that we had to address because we know that it’s transmisogynist and we know that there are problems with that in roller derby as well as in other queer spaces,” explains Uhaul Brawl co-organizer, Vag Lightning (skating at Uhaul Brawl as the Notorious V.A.G.).

There were twelve different leagues represented over the two games at Uhaul Brawl.

There were twelve different leagues represented over the two games at Uhaul Brawl.

The initial idea was to change the name moving forward and to find something that didn’t focus on women’s genitals. But as the event neared, it became more and more obvious that the time for change was now: “We were going to do it for next year but we got called out—rightfully so,” Vag admits, adding that “there are people who didn’t sign up this year because of it.”

As the realization that people were being hurt and excluded from the event because of the implications of the name became more and more obvious (which is counter to the very essence of the event), change was instituted immediately.

While the name and attitude surrounding the event had left some on the outside looking in, the event itself had never had a policy of exclusion, and trans women have been skating in the games since the inaugural Clam Slam in 2009. However, Vag acknowledges that while trans women have skated in the event, none had ever been involved in the planning, which is common: “that is something the event has suffered from as well as other events for queer women. Maybe if more trans women had been involved in an organizing position, these changes would have been made sooner. We have to talk about why trans women aren’t involved in the planning.” But, she’s quick to point out, “It shouldn’t be up to trans women to tell other queer women that what we’re doing is problematic.”

The birth of the Uhaul Brawl seems to be part of a larger change in the roller derby community, built around a redefinition of inclusion. The reasoning behind the change, explains Vag, was that “The name itself perpetuates the assumption of what a woman is in queer womanhood.” This problematic assumption, when you sit down and think about it, is rampant in the roller derby community (“Beaver Fever” comes to mind), a vestige of its riot grrrl roots.

“We like to pat ourselves on the back and talk about how progressive we are,” points out Vag, citing the recent Vagine Regime-focused film In the Turn as being a surprisingly disappointing example of the community making assumptions about what a woman is in queer womanhood. “We want to push for a bigger conversation,” Vag says, “as well as push for more change at the WFTDA level, including with the gender policy,” which, she, and others, have pointed out, is problematic.

Many skaters skated under different names, including Montreal's La Grande Noirceur, who skated as Le Petite Mort.

Many skaters skated under different names, including Montreal’s La Grande Noirceur, who skated as Le Petite Mort.

What the name change has already accomplished is opening up the discussion to the community, and while there was some quiet resistance to the change, it was mostly accepted with open arms, celebrated even.

And when the whistle blew, it didn’t change what happened on the track: fast, fun, fantastic roller derby. For the record, The Blundstone Brigade won the opening game 156-154 after a furious last-jam comeback against the The Gliterrazzi, while Team Uhaul defeated The Plaid Mafia 187-133.

While the US Supreme Court’s decision was undeniably monumental, instead of seeing it as an end point in a battle, it should be seen as a beginning point of a push for the rights of those who are still excluded. While changing the name of one all-star roller derby event in Toronto seems a small gesture, it is the accumulation of those small gestures that will inspire change.

“Hopefully doing stuff like this will ripple out to other leagues and we can all start doing a little better because we owe it to ourselves,” Vag concludes. “We owe it to our community, and we owe it to trans women.”

**The 2015 Uhaul Brawl was live streamed on layer9.ca. You can watch the archives here.**

Betties Knock off Gores to Capture First Boot

One of the loudest crowds in Battle for the Boot history was treated to a stunning championship game. (Photo by Greg Russell)

One of the loudest crowds in Battle for the Boot history was treated to a stunning championship game, ToRD’s 9th Battle for the Boot. (Photo by Greg Russell)

For the vast majority of their third attempt at winning Toronto Roller Derby’s championship it seemed as if the Smoke City Betties were destined to suffer the same fate that had befallen them on their first two attempts. For 51 minutes, the game and the coveted Boot both seemed out of reach.

Until suddenly, it wasn’t.

In the end, Toronto’s oldest flat track roller derby team managed to find some deep reserve of desire that fueled a thrilling late-game comeback, stunning eight-time finalists (and three-time champions) the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, 171-140, in what many immediately declared to be the most satisfying Battle for the Boot in league history.

It is true that ToRD’s championship game has often been a letdown. Adjusting for style of game play, it is easy to argue that between 2009 (when the Betties lost to the Gores 129-88) and 2013 (when the Betties were on the losing end of record-setting 258-73 defeat to the Death Track Dolls), every championship game was a blowout. Even last year’s 184-139 showdown between the Dolls and Gores, while not a blowout by any means, was never really in question as the Dolls led from start to finish. But in a year of league parity (at least between the top three teams), it should really have come as no surprise that this championship game delivered.

The Gores got off to an exceptional start, led by their eventual leading scorer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores got off to an exceptional start, led by their eventual leading scorer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The game actually got off to an inauspicious start for the Betties, who, despite playing two playoff games over the last month, seemed the less prepared of the two teams. Behind some incredible defensive blocking, all four of the Gores’ primary jammers (Lumberjack Flash, Lexi Con, Beaver Mansbridge and Taranosaurus Rex) nabbed lead jammer status in their initial jams, eventually taking five of the opening six (which included a power jam) to take a commanding 28-3 lead.

Unfazed, the Betties roared back and flipped the board on the Gores, taking seven of the next ten leads to get back in it, yet still found themselves down 51-34 with ten minutes to play in the opening period.

The Gores got a fantastic opening half from jammer Lexi Con, who played, arguably, her best half of the season, and at the break led her team—and the game—in scoring (38 points) and lead percentage (87% over seven jams). However, on the Betties’ side of the score sheet, an interesting story was developing: after a slow start, ToRD’s second leading scoring in the regular season, Smoka Cola, seemed to be just getting warmed up: the first-year transfer nabbed lead in three of her final four jams scoring 28 of her 29 points over that stretch, while helping the Betties to get close at the break, down 89-67 at the half.

Strong Gores' packs were led by veteran blocker Jill 'Em All. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Strong Gores’ packs were led by veteran blocker Jill ‘Em All. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores had managed to hold their half-time lead by grabbing the final three lead jammer statuses and that momentum followed them into the second period. Although lead jammer status was about equal over the opening ten minutes, the Gores maintained clear control, getting phenomenal blocking from veteran Santa Muerte, while Jill ‘Em All (who returned to the Gores after a two-year hiatus to focus on the CN Power) led an, at times, devastating line along with Chronc, Gamma Rei and Emma Dilemma. One-third of the way through the second period and it seemed as if the Gores were in complete control: they used three power jams to build a substantial 30-point lead, 126-96.

But then, the game changed.

The Betties got some outstanding blocking across the board, including AnneBulance and Tushy Galore). (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties got some outstanding blocking across the board, including AnneBulance and Tushy Galore). (Photo by Greg Russell)

Led by some stand-out performances from across the board—including veterans, rookies, and transfers—the Betties slowly began to chip away. Heavy defense from Tushy Galore and Honey Boom Boom (who was outstanding in the game, playing perhaps the best derby of her career), was complemented by the calm on-track presence of rookie Fight of the Conchords, on-point line leadership from SewWhat?, and an increasingly larger role for first-year transfer AnneBulance. Six-straight lead jammers for the Betties anchored a series of ten consecutive jams where the Gores were held off the board, and after an incredible 14-point pick up from long-time Bettie titmouse (she finished with 41 points), the Betties found themselves within three—as close as they’d been since the opening whistle.

A Gores’ timeout did nothing to stop the Betties’ momentum, and when it was all said and done, a 64-0, ten jam run of complete dominance saw the Betties take their first lead of the game with nine minutes left to go; it was a run that sealed the Gores’ fate.

Smoka Cola (seen here pushing through a Jill 'Em All and Gamma Rei two-wall) was unstoppable in the second half. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Smoka Cola (seen here pushing through a Jill ‘Em All and Gamma Rei two-wall) was unstoppable in the second half. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In terms of offense, the story of the second half was Smoka Cola. After a strong first period, Smoka was simply unstoppable in the second: 100% lead percentage (seven for seven) and 50 points. At one point in the game-changing ten jam run, she even went back to back (grabbing lead on both), but it was a late power jam (the Betties’ second and final of the half) that sealed the deal.

After getting back-to-back leads, the Gores handed the star to Santa Muerte, who’d been somewhat of a secret weapon this season (in limited regular season action with the star she’d managed 3.7 points per jam and a remarkable 75% lead percentage). Unfortunately this time, matched up against Smoka Cola, it backfired. Drawing a cut, the Betties and Smoka Cola punished the Gores for 18 points (even with excellent penalty killing from Viktoty Lapp, Moose Knuckles and Miss Kitty La Peur).

It was the first Boot win in three attempts (2009, 2013) for the Betties. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It was the first Boot win in three attempts (2009, 2013) for the Betties. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite a frantic push at the end (they would take lead in four of the final five jams, led by some fantastic jamming from Beaver Mansbridge, who eventually led the Gores in scoring—50—and lead percentage—50%), the Betties retained control of the scoreboard and held off the Gores for the 29-point win.

This win was a long-time coming for the Betties, who were the last team to have their name engraved on the Boot, and in particular for those longest-serving skaters (Tushy Galore, titmouse, and Genuine Risk were three of twelve rookies on the team in a challenging 2010 season), and with a strong core in the place, this could just be the start of something special.

**The Battle for the Boot was broadcast on Rogers TV; check local listings for rebroadcast, with the evening of June 13 the likely first rebroadcast. And, of course, layer9.ca was trackside to capture all of the action. You can watch his footage here.

**Next up for flat track roller derby fans in the city is the Pride-affiliated 2015 U-Haul Brawl at Ted Reeve Arena on Thursday, June 25th).

Canadian Power Rankings: June 1, 2015

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone, Dr. Jenny Fever and Derby Nerd rank Canada’s top A-level travel teams every two months (or so). Read the April 1st Power Ranking here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1.Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars  – Vancouver finally became the team to the end Montreal’s unbeaten streak. Since that win they’ve gone 2-3, but the losses have come against top-flight competition (Rat City, Rocky Mountain and Denver). (/ 17)
2. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

 –  Their unbelievable Canadian winning streak finally ended, but it has seemed to inspire the team and they’ve been on a tear since, including a surprisingly one-sided win over Boston. (1 / 20)
3.CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)New CNP Logo A strong showing against Montreal was followed by an up-and-down performance at Spring Roll However, the team seems to be integrating changes nicely and should still improve as the season goes on. (3 / 24)
4.Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

 – An inconsistent Beaver Fever saw them hold off Tri-City before inexplicably falling to Queen City. This inconsistency could threaten their playoff chances. (4 / 34)
5. Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo +1 After some off-season adjusting, Thunder have been on a roll. Great showings at Beaver Fever and Spring Roll (including upset wins over Calgary and Queen City) has Tri-City back in the Top 5. (5/54)
6Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo -1 While briefly in D1 position, losses at Spring Roll (most notably to Tri-City) send them just out of the Top 5. Calgary has plateaued a bit after a surge up the rankings. (8 / 43)

7.Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)Duchesses Logo

 – Quebec’s travel team is just getting warmed up but holds its spot after a better result against Bangor than Muddy River had. Their upcoming showdown with the Lumbersmacks should be explosive.  (11 / -)
8. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo  +1  Muddy River keeps climbing after a second place finish at the grueling Mayday Mayhem tournament, where they defeated Winnipeg in the semifinals. (10 / -)
9. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo unranked Winnipeg finally enters the Top 10 after an impressive final-four appearance at Mayday Mayhem that helped improve their season record to 4-2 (all sanctioned play). (13 / -)
10. Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby)

Angel-logo-bw

-2 The Anarchy Angels remain in the Top 10 after a dominant performance at Flat Track Fever including a win over E-Ville. They are 5-0 on the season with an average differential of 250 points. (9/ -)

The Power Rankings had anticipated an end to Montreal New Skids on the Block’s all-time Canadian winning streak, and it finally happened in April. After coming back to take a narrow 9-point win over Toronto at home in Montreal, the Skids headed out west to the Big O where Terminal City had its chance. They took advantage. It was an intense, back-and-forth game that Vancouver was able to win on the final jam, 182-177. It ended a 17-game winning streak dating back to 2008 for Montreal and the results have the Power Rankings Crew holding the top three.

Rideau Valley also was able to hold on to its fourth spot with an up-and-down performance at Beaver Fever that included a solid 186-156 win over Tri-City. Speaking of Tri-City, Thunder returns to the Top 5 on a strong run at both Beaver Fever and Spring Roll that saw them upset Queen City and then Calgary. That loss is what sends Calgary tumbling a spot. The CRDA All Stars had briefly jumped into WFTDA’s Division 1, before slipping back to D2 where they hold a strong playoff position should they remain there.

While Les Duchesses barely hold the 7th spot, they will continue their burgeoning rivalry with Muddy River this summer, who has crept up next to them in the Power Rankings after a second-place performance at the Mayday Mayhem tournament in Colorado, where they knocked off Canadian counterparts Winnipeg (who are entering the Top 10 for the first time after a long time on the Watch List and then on the Bubble). As with Muddy River, expect a big WFTDA rankings debut for Winnipeg. Finally, Mainland Misfits Anarchy Angels are hard to judge as they have yet to truly face a challenge so far in 2015, but an impressive (dominant) run at Flat Track Fever keeps them safely in the Top 10.

On The Bubble

E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby) (12th)

Avalanche City Roller Girls (Fernie Roller Derby Society) (17th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (19th)

We’ve still got a long watch list to keep track of as the season progresses but there are three teams who remain directly on the Bubble. E-Ville, in particular, held off a strong challenge from Avalanche City at Flat Track Fever (keeping them both here on the Bubble), and finally Guelph’s Royal City Brute-Leggers started the season with an unsanctioned loss to Toronto’s Bay Street Bruisers only to go on a 3-0 run in their WFTDA sanctioned debut, securing an impressive initial ranking of 105th.

Nerd Glasses

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone, and Dr. Jenny Fever.

*Get caught up by reading the April Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

End of an Era: Betties Knock off Defending Champs in ToRD Semifinal

Smoke City Betties jammer WackerHer attempts to power through a Death Track Dolls wall in the ToRD semifinal. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Smoke City Betties jammer WackedHer attempts to power through a Death Track Dolls wall in the ToRD semifinal at The Bunker in Dowsnview Park on Saturday night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

At the midway point of the opening half, it was still anyone’s game.

From the opening whistle, the Smoke City Betties had managed to keep one step ahead of the defending champion Death Track Dolls, but with a scoreline that read 66-40, they hadn’t been able to distance themselves. It was still anyone’s game.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t: A methodical fourteen-minute, 50-0 run (in which they managed to nab eight out of nine lead jammers) extended the Bettie’s lead to 76 points. The Dolls would never get closer again, and after a second-place regular season and two-straight ToRD championships, they fell short in their attempt to make it three in a row in the 200-123 loss.

Betties blockers (l to r) Brickhouse Bardot, SewWhat?, and Jammher'head Shark contain Dolls jammer Common Dominator. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties blockers (l to r) Brickhouse Bardot, SewWhat?, and Jammher’head Shark contain Dolls jammer Common Dominator. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

On Saturday night the Betties (who finished third in the regular season) delivered a complete game effort from a determined, focused and unified team that seems to have saved its best efforts for the most important time of the season, and after dominant quarterfinal and semifinal wins looks poised to challenge the three-time champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls in Toronto Roller Derby’s ninth Battle for the Boot.

The Betties played such a complete game that it is actually difficult to pull out standout performances. Part of the key to the success that the team has displayed in this year’s playoff run seems to be that everyone is buying into her role on the track. In a post-game interview, blocker/pivot SewWhat? attributed this partially to an off-season turnover in leadership that required everyone to step up and take responsibility—something that the team obviously did not shy away from. And from emerging leaders like SewWhat?, Honey Boom Boom and LowblowPalooza, to first-year transfers like Anne Bulance and Brickhouse Bardot, to the veteran core of Tushy Galore and titmouse, the Betties have built the depth to compete against anyone in the league.

Dolls blocker Hannibelle looks to contain Betties jammer Wolverina. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Dolls blocker Hannibelle looks to contain Betties jammer Wolverina. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

As they have all season, the Betties used a deep, consistent jammer rotation led by the unflappable duo of WhackedHer (43 points and an 83% lead percentage at half, that translated to 51, 73% for the game) and Wolverina (who was the game’s leading scorer with 69 on a 77%) to terrorize the Death Track Dolls, who didn’t have the defensive depth to match the consistent turnover of diverse jammers. Overall the Betties had a 65% lead percentage at halftime (and an even more impressive 73% over the second half of the opening period, ) accounting in large part for the considerable 118-54 lead at the break.

Playing desperation derby, the Dolls actually had a better second half (eventually outscored 82-69 in the period) that was a little deceiving as their most sustained push (a 30-7 run) came over the last five minutes when the Betties had taken their skates off the gas and the game was out of reach.

The Dolls got a monumental effort from Sleeper Hold, who donned the star for a remarkable 22 jams on the night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls got a monumental effort from Sleeper Hold, who donned the star for a remarkable 22 jams on the night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Part of the change could be attributed to a momentous effort from second-year jammer Sleeper Hold who appeared in twelve jams in the second half alone (and finished the game with 66 points and a 41% lead percentage on 22 jams). The lack of depth in the position was the result of the bad luck that seemed to follow the Dolls this season. With rookie of the year candidate PrEditor unavailable for the remainder of the season (along with Scarcasm being unavailable for this game) and Devochka having just returned from injury (she got stronger as the game went on, and was excellent as pivot—receiving some key passes and managing 15 points on 60% in limited action with the star), the Dolls were left with Sleeper, rookie Common Dominator (who only had 18 jams worth of experience under her belt coming into the game), and D-VAS call up Battering Ma’am (who didn’t look out of place at all, recording 20 on 42%) to try to match the Betties offensive depth. The Betties rotation was rounded out by CN Power jammer Smoka Kola (54, 69%) and six-year veteran titmouse, whose numbers seem to pale compared to her counterparts (18, 27%). But upon closer inspection, the crafty veteran found ways to deliver and had the Nerd’s “stat of the night”: an incredible 7 stolen points, including 4 in the second half.

Similarly, the Dolls’ pack was lacking some key pieces as well, as both Dawson and Bloc Quebecois were not yet ready to return (Slam Wow and Junkie Jenny were already gone for the season). Another D-VAS call up (and former Doll) Lucid Lou was excellent given the circumstances, and Robotomy, Getcha Kicks, Hannibelle and Stringer Belle continue to provide a consistent core to the pack, but it simply wasn’t enough against a Betties team that was firing on all cylinders.

In the end, the 77-point victory allows the Betties to return to battle for the boot for the third time in history. The showdown with the Gores marks a rematch of the 2009 Battle for the Boot, and is the first appearance for the Betties since a 2013 loss to the Dolls.

Nerd Glasses

* The game was broadcast on Rogers TV. Stay tuned for rebroadcasts. Also, the thrilling preliminary game between the D-VAS and Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain was also broadcast. Definitely find the time to tune in to this thrilling game. (You can also watch track-side footage of both games on layer9.ca)

These two teams will be meeting again in Guelph on June 13th. If this game was any indication, it might be a road trip worth making for Toronto fans!

*Battle for the Boot 9 is on June 6th at the Bunker. Tickets are on sale now.

Lay of the Land: Where Canadian Teams Stand Midway Through WFTDA Season

The Nerd breaks down the rankings and records of Canada’s top WFTDA teams as the playoff push continues.

DIVISION 1

All four Canadian D1 teams have seen considerable action this season, and at the midway point, all seem fairly secure in their D1 status for the season. Barring any disastrous summers, the next few months should be dedicated to improving placement.

Photo by Bob Ayers (from TCRG All Stars home page)Terminal City All Stars

Current Ranking: 17th / 2015 Record: 4-0

Terminal City is officially the top team in the nation, but they have not in any way distanced themselves from Montreal and Toronto. Impressive wins over Helsinki and Nashville to kick off the season were followed by the narrow streak-stopping victory over Montreal (182-177) and an even narrower win over Boston (177-174). Interestingly, despite the loss to Vancouver, Montreal has better results against Nashville and Helsinki, and Toronto has a better result against Boston but lost (barely) to Montreal. It seems that there is nothing really separating Canada’s top three teams right now.

The Terminal City roster returns largely unchanged from last season but there have definitely been internal shifts, with the likes of Eve Hollows and Sundown taking on more on-track leadership and Maiden Sane rising to the top of the jammer rotation.

Next up for Terminal City are Wasatch (39th) and Rocky Mountain (14th) at Besterns on May 29th.

Photo by Ulrick Wery (from Skids home page)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

Current Ranking: 20th / 2015 Record: 4-1

Montreal started the season very well holding off frantic pushes from both Rideau Valley (166-140) and Toronto (180-171) before handling Nashville and Helsinki with relative ease and then suffering the team’s first ever defeat to a Canadian team in the last-minute loss to Terminal City.

Montreal is going through a minor rebuild this season from the bench staff right through to the jammer rotation. And while skaters like Ohi(0) and Demanda Lashing in the pack and Falcon Punch with the star have emerged as prominent pieces, there is still a very experienced core at the heart of this team that includes Jess Bandit, Mange Moi El Cul, Cheese Grater and Mel E. Juana.

The Skids have a busy June coming up with tough games against Boston (21st), Stockholm (32nd), and a tumbling Windy City (13th) scheduled.

CNPOWER 2015

Toronto Roller Derby: CN Power

Current Ranking: 24th / 2015 Record: 4-3

Toronto has been very busy so far this season and despite a considerable roster shuffle in the off season has looked strong in 2015. An impressive three-game winning streak over Rideau Valley, Steel City and Boston built up CN Power’s confidence going into a showdown with long-time rival Montreal, a game they led most of the way before losing narrowly. An up-and-down Spring Roll saw them sneak by Kansas City (191-188) before strong performances in losses to higher ranked Arch Rival (18th currently) and the surging Dallas Derby Devils, who have jumped 31 spots in the standings so far this season.

Toronto, largely, has a new-look jammer rotation with transfers Mad Megz, Smoka Cola, and Bay Street Bruisers graduate Bellefast all in the top four of the depth chart. Blocking, Misery Mae has added some much-needed power to the pack while Ames to Kill has emerged as a more-than-capable team leader.

Toronto faces some old (and also rebuilding) rivals in Naptown (35th) and Ohio (22nd) next.

vixens2014_logo-resize

Rideau Valley Vixens

Current Ranking: 34th / 2015 Record: 3-4

The Vixens remain somewhat of an enigma. Although their record speaks to the quality of competition the team has faced in 2015, they have had some inconsistent results. Starting the season with a big win over Steel City, Rideau Valley looked very good in losses to the higher ranked Toronto (32 point loss), Boston (23) and Montreal (26), they then crushed Green Mountain and held off a cagey Tri-City before coming up flat in a loss to Queen City (a team that, to be fair, has often seemed to baffle the Vixens—for whatever reason).

While the Vixens have been slowly extending their bench (and the B-Team Sirens are developing well), depth remains a problem. Skaters like Jamie’s Got a Gun (who has transitioned nicely from the junior to the senior game) and Restless Ross are taking on more responsibility in the pack, but they still have problems at the jammer position. With Shania Pain once again missing most of the summer schedule, they have yet to find a consistent third jammer capable of replacing her at this level, a gap that was evident in the loss to Queen City.

The Vixens do, so far, have a quiet summer planned, but have a very important showdown scheduled against Baltimore’s Charm City in July.

DIVISION 2

Canada has two teams securely in Division 2 playoff spots, and although both would love to advance to D1 by the season’s end (and it remains a possibility), either team could do some serious damage in the D2 playoffs and would both be considered contenders if they remained.

Photo by Brangwyn Jones from CRDA All Stars home page

Calgary Roller Derby Association All Stars

Current Ranking: 43rd / 2015 Record: 3-6

A very busy Calgary team is getting a crash-course in how hard it is to stay competitive in WFTDA’s Division 1. The darlings of the Association last season (built upon a record-setting surge up the standings), Calgary briefly slipped into D1 early in 2015 before settling back high in the D2 standings. Calgary hasn’t yet managed the big wins this season as they’ve faced some stiff competition, losing one-sided decisions to strong teams from Arizona, Jacksonville, Arch Rival and Dallas. However, most surprising was their recent loss to 54th ranked Tri-City (208-196) in a thrilling game between the cross-nation teams.

Calgary retains its core after last year’s run up the rankings and their jammer rotation (led by Team Canada’s Kryss Myass) has been shored up by the strong play of Mulan Bruise and Easy Break Oven.

Calgary awaits its schedule for Beach Brawl 2015 in June, and also has yet to announce an opponent for a June 6th home game.

TCRD travel team 2015

Tri-City Thunder

Current Ranking: 54th / 2015 Record: 6-2

After a seemingly ominously auspices start to the 2015 season (a one-sided loss to a rebuilding Ohio), Tri-City has turned its fortunes around and anchored by a solidly rebuilt jammer rotation has won six of the last seven games to all-but-secure a spot in the D2s once again (they were in the D1 playoffs last season, but the D2s in 2013). The only loss in that run was to the higher-ranked Rideau Valley (186-156) and included considerable upsets over Calgary (43rd) and Queen City (30th).

Changes all around have helped to shore up Tri-City’s game. Recent transfers Andy Slamberg and Anne Tastic join Fox Hadley, Wylde Leigh Coyote, and Fraxxure in a deep pack, while the jammer rotation has been completely rebuilt around transfers Honey Badger and Crazy Squirrel (with double threat AnneX providing the most consistent relief with the star).

Up next is a tough June meeting against 45th ranked Chicago Outfit in Chi-town.

THE BEST OF THE REST

The rest of Canada’s WFTDA teams are either currently unranked due to lack of sanctioned games (Muddy River and Winnipeg, for example, who both just picked up a handful of games after strong performances at Mayday Mayhem and will enter the rankings shortly) or have either fallen far out of D2 (Hamilton continues its slide, down now to 141st) or haven’t yet climbed their way into it (Forest City, for example, whose inconsistency has them still hovering at 136th).

However, the best of the rest is easily the Royal City Roller Girls’ Brute-Leggers, who after winning their first three sanctioned bouts, have leap-frogged the rest of the Canadian competition to find themselves ranked 105th and on the cusp of Division 2. The Brute-Leggers’ next sanctioned action comes in June at ECDX where they will square off against Salisbury (107th) and Connecticut (112th). It will easily be the stiffest test the team will have faced yet in sanctioned play, but they are both winnable games that provide a quality opportunity to build on what has been an incredibly successful start to their WFTDA run.

Nerd Glasses

*I’ll be at the Bunker in Downsview Park this weekend working with Rogers TV to broadcast Toronto Roller Derby’s playoffs! After their quarterfinal win on May 9th, the Smoke City Betties have advanced to take on the defending champion Death Track Dolls for an opportunity to play in this year’s Battle For the Boot. The night will begin with the D-VAS hosting Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain (5:00 PM), with opening whistle for the semifinal scheduled for 7:00 PM. Tickets are now available.

Weekend Recap: Terminal Ends Montreal’s streak; Betties advance in ToRD; Hammer City wins second in a row

A busy weekend in Canadian derby at all levels, from WFTDA sanctioned competition to B-team play to house league playoffs.

The final score also showing the 14-7 score of the frantic final jam (from the All Stars Facebook page; photo by Bob Ayers)

The final score also showing the 14-7 score of the frantic final jam (from the All Stars Facebook page; photo by Bob Ayers)

Terminal City All Stars 182 vs. Montreal’s New Skids on the Block 177

It’s been a long time coming. Forever, actually. At least in derby time.

On Saturday, May 2, 2015, Montreal Roller Derby’s New Skids on the Block lost a full-length WFTDA sanctioned game to a Canadian team for the first time in history when Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars defeated them on a frantic last jam, 182-177, at The Big O in Eugene, Oregon.

It put an end to a streak of national dominance that I doubt we will ever see again. Although Terminal had defeated Montreal once before in a short, non-regulation game, beginning in July 2008, The Skids have been on a nearly eight-year, seventeen-game winning streak against the top teams that this country has to offer. During that time, they defeated Hammer City, Toronto, Rideau Valley, Tri-City, Oil City, Calgary and Terminal City; essentially, the cream of the crop of Canadian flat track.

Teams have been breathing down Montreal’s neck for two years now, most notably Toronto (who have 13- and 9-point losses to the Skids in that stretch) and Terminal City (who lost to them by 22 last year), and the Canadian Power Rankings crew had already shifted Terminal ahead of Montreal to kick off 2015’s rankings. But it’s one thing to do it on paper, and another to do it on the track.

Just last week in Montreal, Toronto had the Skids on the ropes for much of their game, including holding an 86-64 lead at halftime, but couldn’t hold off Montreal in the end. Similarly, Terminal City actually looked as if they were going to run away with it in the early going, amassing a lead that stretched to as much as 50 points before Montreal made it close at half, down 88-79.

A back-and-forth second half saw no team with a clear advantage and Montreal taking a two point lead into the final minute and jam. A Mel E Juana lead seemed to wrap things up, but with a scrappy Evada Peron on the track and time remaining, Mel was forced to engage and picked up a forearm penalty that allowed Terminal City to lock down the jam and outscore Montreal 14-7 for the 5-point win.

After opening the season with a 215-185 win over Helsinki, 18th ranked Terminal City ran the table this weekend, slightly upsetting Montreal, while also knocking off Nashville (182-122) and Boston (in another tight one, 177-173) to improve to 4-0 on the season. Meanwhile, after opening the season with four straight wins, the loss to Vancouver drops the 17th ranked Montreal to 4-1 on the season.

Nerd Glasses

ToRD House League Quarterfinals: Chicks Ahoy! 129 – Smoke City Betties 218

Monster Muffin battles through a Betties wall of Zomboney, pivot Honey Boom Boom, and Brickhouse Bardot. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Monster Muffin battles through a Betties wall of Zomboney, pivot Honey Boom Boom, and Brickhouse Bardot. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

A closing 26-10 jam for Chicks Ahoy’s! Monster Muffin (aided by some monstrous pack work from the excellent line of Morton, Biggley Smallz, Rosemary’s Rabies, and Furious Georgia) concluded a strong end to what had threatened to be a slaughter in the early going.

Toronto Roller Derby’s ninth house league playoffs got underway this past weekend with three-time Battle for the Boot champs Chicks Ahoy! falling to two-time finalists the Smoke City Betties in a quarter final showdown at Ted Reeve Arena in Toronto’s east end. The Betties advance to play the defending champion Death Track Dolls in the semi final on May 23rd.

The Betties were missing key pieces this weekend—most notably in the jammer rotation—but it didn’t phase them as they continued the dominance they’d shown in the regular season meeting between these two teams. Veteran titmouse returned to the rotation on Saturday, a position she’d seemingly transitioned out of, and tore up the track for the Betties, with whom she’s skated for six seasons now, joining Smoka Cola and WhackedHer as a trio for which the Chicks had no answers (not to mention some late-gaming jamming from another long-time Betties blocker Genuine Risk). However, the difference was more in the depth of the pack, one led by another six-year vet Tushy Galore and emerging leader SewWhat?, but increasingly dependent upon the offense of LowBlowPalooza and the considerable depth bulking up the rest of the bench.

Despite the fourth straight ToRD loss of the season, strong performances across the bench indicate this team is on the right track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the fourth straight ToRD loss of the season, strong performances across the bench indicate this Chick’s team is on the right track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Betties got off to a thoroughly dominant start, and were in complete control at half, up 161-41.

The second half was a different story, however, a combination of the Betties taking their foot of the gas and the Chicks refusing to end their season without a fight. Led by retiring nine-year skater Furious Georgia (who was eventually named the team’s blocking MVP) and her aforementioned linemates, and a jamming rotation built around an increasingly confident trio of Monster Muffin, R2-Smack-U, and Wheels of Misfortune, the Chicks actually outscored the Betties in the second half 108-58.

The Betties vs. Dolls semi final will be back at The Bunker on May 23rd.

Nerd Glasses 

Bay Street Bruisers Upend Plan B / Hammer City Crushes Striking Vikings

A number of Bruisers  excelled despite playing back-to-back games (including Morton, Joss Wheelin and Tushy Galore) seen here blocking SlaughterHouse Streeter. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

A number of Bruisers excelled despite playing back-to-back games (including Morton, Joss Wheelin and Tushy Galore) seen here blocking SlaughterHouse Streeter. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Hammer City Eh! Team picked up its second straight win overall, but first sanctioned win, in 2015 with a thoroughly dominant 477-51 victory over their WFTDA D3 counterparts the Striking Vikings of Alliston’s Renegade Derby Dames. It was the second straight sanctioned loss to begin the season for the Vikings after a 219-104 loss to Windsor’s Border City Brawlers.

Hammer City has had an up-and-down few seasons to say the least. After challenging for a D2 playoff spot in 2013, Hammer City has been on a rough tumble since, beginning this season in 109th, outside of D2 altogether; it was a run that included nine-straight losses. But after defeating Ohio’s Gang Green 140-148 last week, the Eh! Team seems to have some swagger back: the 477 points is the most ever scored by the team in a regulation or sanctioned game.

Finally, back in Toronto, two of Canada’s top team’s B-teams faced off when the Bay Street Bruisers hosted Tri-City’s Plan B. It was the first meeting between the two and was reminiscent of some of the old Thunder-CN Power struggles.

The Bruisers got off to a hot start, but couldn’t stay much more than a step or two ahead of Plan B, leading 25-15 ten minutes into what ended up being a fast, hard-hitting and relatively low-scoring game.

Missing a few jammers allowed Murdercat! to have her busiest game with the Bruisers, teaming up with Lexi Con, Monster Muffin and titmouse (the last two doubling up after the Betties/Chicks game earlier in the evening). It was strong, full-team effort that allowed the Bruisers to control much of the play in the first half on the way to a narrow 69-65 lead.

Picking up where they left off in the first, Plan-B came out hard in the second half, led by a 19-0 jam for the jukey Crazy Squirrel who seems to have found a home in Tri-City. She was part of a diverse jammer rotation along with Aggrosaurus, Kristy Skelton and SlaughterHouse Streeter, a combination that forced constant defensive adjustments from the Bruisers. Tri City took the lead 6 minutes in and managed to hold it for nearly 15 minutes before the Bruisers retook it and held on to the end for the 166-144 lead in a thrilling first match up between these two quality B-teams.

All Quebec Final at Beast 2015

Photo by Ulrick Wery (www.ulrick.be)

Casse-Gueules came out on top of an all Roller Derby Quebec final (161-142) to win Beast of the East 2015. (Photo by Ulrick Wery / http://www.ulrick.be)

Only moments had passed since Les Filles du Roi’s unlikely last-jam comeback in the third place game of the 2015 Beast of the East and Arena St. Louis was still abuzz. The raw emotion generated by the sole remaining host team in the tournament coming back mightily against a former champion had threatened to blow the roof off the place. The roar of the partisan crowd lingered.

In the upper reaches of the stands, first-time attendee and Kingston Derby Girl announcer Dr. Sneaks was standing dumbfounded, glowing from the emotion, taking long sweeping glances to reel it all in. He had that look in his eye that only a first-timer truly has; it’s that look that people get when in they are wrapped up in the early throes of a new love.

After taking a moment to gather himself, he turned to me and said without hesitation, “I’m never missing another Beast of the East.”

It’s a moment that has happened countless times in the eight-year history of what, many argue, remains flat track roller derby’s greatest weekend of the year. There is just something about it: maybe it’s the downtownish venue, the raucous crowd, the cheap PBR, or maybe just the city of Montreal itself, but the Beast of the East is like the beating heart of the flat track roller derby in this country and every year offers something amazing.

While this year’s version of the tournament didn’t have the across-the-board parity of last year’s, what the 2015 Beast did have in abundance was engrossing narratives. It was a tournament of stories.

Storyline #1: The Rise of the Roller Derby Quebec

This is actually a story that has been playing out over the past three Beasts (and really, since 2011 when the league debuted), but this year the narrative reached its dramatic conclusion. It was the first time since 2010 that two teams from the same league faced off in the final (Montreal did it two years in a row from ‘09-10), and eventual champions Casse-Gueules joined La Racaille (2008-2010) and the Slaughter Daughters (2011-2013) as the only teams to reach consecutive finals.

Two years ago, the Rouge et Gore shocked the tournament, first by setting a scoring record (159 points—a record that was broken this weekend) and then by advancing to the quarterfinals. Not to be outdone, their leaguemates did one better last year by advancing all the way to the final, losing in a heartbreaker. But this year, both teams stole the show.

The Casse-Gueules started slowly (as they did last year), but eventually got rolling, including eliminating the team that had defeated them the year previously (the Gore-Gore Rollergirls) in a low-scoring, yet still fairly one–sided game (55-25) before putting together a truly dominant quarterfinal win and eventually holding off their surging sisters in the final. The Rouge et Gore also saved their best for the later stages of the tournament playing their most complete game in a dominant semifinal win over the Slaughter Daughters (84-10).

Their final was a thrilling one, with Casse pulling away early and holding on in the end for the 161-142 win (the Rouge et Gore outscored them in the second half 84-61).

How this all translates to Roller Derby Quebec’s travel-team season will be remarkable to watch.

Storyline #2: Team Breakout Story: Skateful Dead

It’s so predictable by now that no one should be surprised when a team comes from out of nowhere and goes on a spirited run. In its somewhat fractious history, Kingston Derby Girls have had to deal with division (there was a second Kingston league in the early going) and debates over direction, but they have remained a strong league in spite of it all. Their travel team Disloyalists have been up and down over the years, but if the strength of this Skateful Dead home team is any indication, things seems to be improving from the ground on up.

After a one-sided trouncing at the hands of Rouge et Gore in their opener, you’d be excused for thinking that the tournament would be short for the Dead. But then stunning back-to-back upsets of perennial powerhouses (ToRD’s Death Track Dolls followed by Montreal’s La Racaille) sent shockwaves through the tournament. Although their tournament ended in the quarterfinals, they acquitted themselves exceptionally well there, losing by 10 (88-78) to the Slaughter Daughters in the closest game of the round.

Story #3: Skater Breakout Story: Le Grande Noirceur

FDR's Le Grande Noirceur tries to power her way through a Casse-Gueules wall. (Photo by Joe Mac)

FDR’s Le Grande Noirceur tries to power her way through a Casse-Gueules wall. (Photo by Joe Mac)

There are always so many breakout stories at the Beast that it’s hard to keep track. This year was no exception with Kingston’s Kazi anchoring the most surprising offense of the tournament, Rouge et Gore’s Minnie Small showing the depth of Quebec’s rotation, and the Slaughter Daughter’s Wreck Therapy emerging from Rideau Valley shadows, it was a weekend where new jammers stole the show.

But in one jam, Les Filles du Roi’s Le Grande Noirceur broke out in the biggest way. It was she who, despite an apparent upper-leg injury, flung herself viciously around the track on that final jam of the third-place game to win the beastly trophy for FDR. This is a story that close watchers of the eastern game have seen coming. First, at last year’s Clam Slam she surprised with her poise in the opening game, and then poured it on again at the Fresh and the Furious, playing for Quebec’s Les Bûches.

Actually, many of the breakout stories from this weekend can, not surprisingly, trace their tales back to last year’s Fresh and Furious. Kingston’s Kazi formed part of a strong—tournament winning—Capital City jammer rotation along with Labrosse and Kaio-kensi (both of whom also made their Beast debuts with their CCDD home team, the Beauty School Dropouts).

Story #4: The Return of the Slaughter Daughters

After completely rebuilding the roster two years ago, this Daughters team could have fallen into the “breakout team” category with their performance this year. Last season after a massive Rideau Valley re-rostering, the traditional powerhouses had slipped all the way to the bottom of the three-team league. But this team has rebuilt and rebuilt quickly. With two of (arguably) our nation’s top-ten jammers on the bench (Shania Pain and Melanie Austin[Tatious]), the Daughters stuck to their guns and kept those weapons in the pack (where they were awesome) and instead allowed their newer jammers to flourish; and flourish they did. Wreck Therapy, Angel Poison, and Knotty Knitter were solid all weekend (and got some great support from double threat Anderson). The pack was led by another new Vixen (and former junior skater) Jamie’s Got a Gun. The Daughter’s reemergence should make for a very interesting houseleague season in Ottawa in 2015.

In the end, it was another successful Beast, but then, that’s never truly in question. There’s been a power shift at the home team level with a Quebec taking over (it was the first time in five years a ToRD team did not make the Top 3) and fascinatingly, it’s not Montreal at the helm.

Nerd Glasses

***As has become tradition, on Friday night Montreal’s New Skids on the Block hosted Toronto’s CN Power. It was another incredibly tight match-up between these two teams with The Skids eventually taking it by a measly 9 points (180-171) to maintain top spot in the country. Layer9 has posted his track-side footage; watch it here.