Women's Sports

La Racaille Becomes First Team to Repeat at Beast 10.

BOE 2017

There’s just something about the Beast of the East.

With the flat track roller derby community on the eve of its biggest regular season weekend of the year—where dozens of the best men’s and women’s flat track teams in the game will converge upon Eugene, Oregon, for three days of brutal WFTDA and MRDA action over three tracks—it seems remarkable that in the day and age of competitive algorithms and opponent weight, a comparatively modest house league tournament in a similarly modest neighbourhood rink in Montreal has captured the hearts of so many. And the fact that it continues to do so year after year is a testament to the importance of the grass roots movement at the heart of modern roller derby.

Celebrating its tenth year, the Beast of the East—a two-day double elimination tournament featuring home teams primarily from Quebec and Ontario—has over the years developed its own mythology. The longest continuously running tournament in Canada’s modern roller derby revival, the event has weaved its way into the very genetics of the sport in eastern Canada. And this year, for the first time since 2012, the tournament was reopened to teams from Canada’s east coast, and the Muddy River and Anchor City Rollers represented the region well.

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La Racaille was in the mix yet again with Iron Wench leading the way. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

In the mythology of the Beast, the team that has muscled its way into the centre of the narrative is Montreal Roller Derby’s La Racaille; and the skater who is the undeniable hero in this mythology is the Iron Wench. Arguably our nation’s best and, at one point in time, most well-known jammer, Wench stepped away from the spotlight (and briefly the sport) after a heartbreaking 2013 WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournament. Back on the track with La Racaille since 2016, the public outside of Montreal must wait until April of every year to see her skate. And in the past two years, that legend at the centre of the Beast mythos has continued to grow.

La Racaille entered Beast 10 as the defending champs and the tournament’s most successful squad. The only team to have won over 30 games in the tournament’s history, they were two-time champions (2009, 16), five-time finalists (2008, 10, 13), and had managed a third-place finish in 2014 as well. The one thing that La Racaille (nor any other team) had ever done was to successfully defend the Beast. And in an all-Montreal final for the second year in a row, they pulled it off: yet another accomplishment in the incredible history that the team has already established. And they did so in dramatic fashion: the 124-122 two-point victory over leaguemates Les Contrabanditas was the closest since the Slaughter Daughters pulled off a last-jam comeback to defeat the Gore-Gore Rollergirls 87-85 in 2011.

Double Elimination Round

The double elimination round featured an interesting mix of traditional powers dominating along with some unexpected underdogs pulling off some impressive wins. Ten-time participants Les Contrabanditas, La Racaille, and the Death Track Dolls (with a combined eleven Top 3 finishes between them) advanced directly to the quarterfinals with two-straight wins on Saturday morning (although the Dolls were tested mightily in a two-point win over Quebec’s Casse-Gueules). The fourth team to do so, however, were Halifax’s Harbour Grudges who pulled off 63-54 and 56-34 victories over Durham Region’s Atom Smashers and Toronto’s Smoke City Bandits respectively to be the surprise team of the opening round.

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The east coast teams provided the biggest surprises of the tournament, with Anchor City’s Harbour Grudges advancing out of the first round with two straight wins. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There were tougher roads to the quarterfinals for cohosts Les Filles du Roi and (who dominated the Bandits in the must-win game after a narrow loss to Casse-Gueules); Capital City’s Cupquakes (who won the Beasts’ second ever overtime game when they eliminated the Gore-Gore Rollergirls 69-67 after a wild, thrilling 24-22 OT jam); Moncton’s Mad Hitters (who eliminated the Smashers and Les Casse); and Toronto’s Chicks Ahoy! who, despite an early loss to the Ditas, dominated their way out of day one with a record-setting 181-39 win over tournament debutantes Les Rebelles out of Sherbrooke (a game that featured a remarkable 40-point jam from ToRD’s Monster Muffin).

Playoff Round

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Despite a first round loss to the Ditas, Chicks Ahoy! advanced to the quarterfinals with a record-setting scoring performance. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The quarterfinals did not deliver the kind of tense matchups that the elimination round saw, but was most notable for strong performances in losing causes. The Mad Hitters’ tournament came to an end at the hands of La Racaille in a more-than-respectable 53-29 loss. The last time a Muddy River team came to the Beast—the now defunct Reines of Terror in 2012—they were two and done after being outscored 210-34 in those two games (including a 139-0 shutout), a far cry from the competitive performance put forth by the Hitters. Similarly, The Harbour Grudges gave the Chicks Ahoy! all they could handle before the traditional ToRD power pulled away. A severely shorthanded Death Track Dolls also pulled away from the Cupquakes late in their quarterfinal showdown to make the final four for the first time since 2013.

The Dolls simply didn’t have the fire power to match up against an inspired Ditas in the semi finals (falling 91-54), before a thrilling, last gasp effort from Iron Wench helped La Racaille stun the Chicks 65-63 in the other.

What it all led to was a classic medal round showdown featuring two league-on-league battles. The Chicks and Dolls last met in the third-place game all the way back in 2011 with the Death Track Dolls picked up the team’s first (of two) Beast trophies; this year, the Chicks got some measure of delayed revenge picking up their own second Beast trophy with a 157-79 victory.

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Watch the Beast of the East final on layer9.ca.

You’ve got to go back even further, to 2009, to find the last time Montreal’s Contrabanditas and La Racaille squared off for the Beast title. Iron Wench is the only remaining member of that great 2009 Racaille team that took down the Ditas 49-34, and once again she led her team back to the crown again, though this time getting help from her other throw-back counterparts: Squarrior (returning to the league) and the freshly unretired Greta Bobo were part of the team’s old-school jammer rotation (and it was Bobo who was out for the critical final jam). And all three were needed to contend with a determined Ditas team who were led offensively by Wild Card (the former Dyna Hurtcha), who similarly retired from travel team play to focus on home teams, and who over the Ditas inspired run, put her own statement on this legendary tournament.

Beast by the Numbers

2: The differential in the final, tying the previous record set in 2011.

2: The number of overtime games in Beast history after the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Cupquakes played the Beasts’ second overtime game (the first was a 2014 quarterfinal won by the Riot Squad 71-62 over the Luscious Lunch Ladies).

36: The number of games won by La Racaille in Beast history (only two other teams have won over 20).

39: Number of points scored by Iron Wench in a single jam against Les Rebelles in the first round.

40: Number of points scored by Monster Muffin in a single jam against Les Rebelles in the first round.

181: Points scored by Chicks Ahoy! in first round. A team scoring record (the previous being 164).

220: Combined points scored by Chicks Ahoy! and Les Rebelles in their first-round game (181-39). Also a record.

Nerd Glasses

Review the full bracket here.

Select trackside footage available on layer9.ca.

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Toronto All Stars Roar Back to Life with Big Win Over Roc City

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This was the first showdown between Toronto and Roc City since 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It’s been a while since Toronto Roller Derby and Roc City duelled on the flat track: Five years actually, give or take a few weeks, and at that time in March 2012 the two teams were on very different trajectories. Then, Toronto’s 171-108 win was part of a 10-1 to start the 2012 season, while for Roc City it was one of 6 losses in 7 games to kick of theirs. And although the Roc Stars would eventually turn that year around, they would never quite reach the heights that Toronto would. Eighteen months out of that win, the ToRD All Stars were turning heads in their first WFTDA D1 playoff appearance, the first of three straight appearances at the highest competitive level the sport has to offer.

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Toronto got off to a quick start and were led offensively by Wolverina’s 135 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Fast forward to March 2017 and once again the two teams find themselves on a level playing field: Roc City having held steady over the years (still searching for their first D2 playoff appearance) are coming off of a 6-7, 2016 season and were ranked 92nd in the WFTDA coming into the showdown at The Bunker. Toronto, on the other hand, had fallen even faster than they’d previously risen. A disastrous 2016 saw the team go 2-8 with an average margin of loss of 213 points and tumble from a height of 23rd in the WFTDA to the 99th spot they held before Saturday night’s game. The result of a mass retirement of virtually a generation of skaters and the growing pains associated with restructuring and rebranding the All Stars, last season proved to be one of rebuilding. And that rebuilt roster was on full display on Saturday, the results of which should be cause for optimism.

Toronto burst off the starting line off after the opening whistle putting up 17 points over three jams before Roc City could even register a point, all part of a run of 6 straight lead jammer statuses and a 51-24 scoring spree that saw Toronto jump out to an early lead. The lead could have been ever higher but early penalty troubles (part of a 29-penalty opening half for the home team) resulted in a lot of pack disadvantages.

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Despite early penalty troubles, the Toronto defence held steady. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While Toronto’s jammer rotation included house league favourites Banshee and Monster Muffin, the crowd also got its first glimpse of the season of all-star-exclusive jammers Wolverina (who would lead the game in scoring with an impressive 135 points on a 90% lead percentage) and off-season transfer Pikante (95 points, 80%) from Helskinki’s Kallio Rolling Rainbow (she’s also a member of Portugal’s national team).

Despite the pack penalties, Toronto managed to extend its lead to 103-39 just past the midway point of the opening period, one they extended to 175-71 at the break.

Considering the Toronto skaters have spent most of their season so far knocking each other around in ToRD’s ultra-competitive house league, aside from the penalty troubles (that only got marginally better in the second half), the lines were tight. Constructed around home-team cores, one side of the All Stars pack featured the Chicks Ahoy! core of Boxcar, Joss Wheelin’ and Meg Fenway complemented by the Death Track Dolls’ Kate Silver and the Smoke City Bandits’ Jessica Rabid. Meanwhile, the other line saw the Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ core of Will Wrecker, Santa Muerte and Viktory Lapp completed with the Dolls’ Dawson and the Bandits’ titmouse. Both lines had strong moments throughout and both saw a foul out as well (Kate Silver and Santa Muerte).

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Kandy Krusher paced the offence for Roc City with 48 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The second half was a near mirror image of the first: a 45-18 opening five-minute run for Toronto extended to 296-112 with ten minutes to go and although the Roc Stars outscored Toronto 19-18 over the final three jams, it barely put a dent in Toronto’s 380-138 win.

 

It was the first time in nearly three years that Toronto managed to crest the 300-point mark, and along with the contributions from Wolverina and Pikante got 105 points from Banshee and 46 points from Monster Muffin, who had to leave the game early in the second half due to injury.

Roc City was led on the scoreboard by Kandy Krusher’s 48 points and Florence Fightingale’s 44. In the pack they were led by co-captains Hater Tot and double threat Terminal Trend and the hard hitting D-Day.

The All Stars will face off against Ottawa’s Capital City at the Bunker on April 22 before heading to Tri-City’s third-annual Beaver Fever tournament in June. Meanwhile, Toronto Roller Derby returns with its house league playoff quarterfinals on April 8 at the Bunker.

*The Toronto Vipers also made their 2017 debut on Saturday with an impressive 264-179 loss to the significantly more experienced Belleville Roller Derby Bombshells. A strong start to the season for ToRD’s future stars.

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The Vipers (in red) made their 2017 debut. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

 

Dolls and Chicks Win Big on Opening Night of ToRD’s 2017 Season

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There was an energetic crowd at the Bunker for Toronto Roller Derby’s 2017 season opener. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its second decade last night in front of a packed track at the Bunker. With revamped rosters and many new faces on the league’s four home teams, there were a lot of questions coming into the season opener and although the games lacked the parity seen in many of last year’s regular season showdowns, all four teams gave something for their fans to cheer about.

Death Track Dolls 247 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 105

It was the 16th of March in 2014 when Rainbow Fight last strapped on the quads in a Toronto Roller Derby game. The sanctioned season opener between the ToRD All Stars and the Killamazoo Derby Darlins was Fight’s WFTDA debut and despite loads of expectations, she did not disappoint. Joining a deep jammer rotation that had made waves in the 2013 Division 1 WFTDA playoffs, Rainbow led the way in scoring with 110 points over the course of six jams, part of an overwhelming ToRD attack, but then what seemed a simple hit in a hard-hitting affair changed everything.

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Rainbow Fight had a big impact in her return to ToRD after a two-year absence. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Diagnosis: lacerated kidney. It would be more than a year before Rainbow would return to the track, this time back with her hometown league, St. John’s 709 Derby Girls. And on Saturday night, the long road back continued when she joined a rebuilt Death Track Dolls team that she had last laced up for in a record-setting 2013 season. Although she saw limited action with the star in the season opener, she was a force in the pack and part of a well-rounded Dolls performance that caught many by surprise with what turned out to be a one-sided victory over a Gore-Gore Rollergirls team that they had not beaten in two years.

The Gores actually got out to a quick start, opening up an early lead of 14-5 that they built to 18-9 before a topsy-turvy fifth jam in which the teams traded jammer penalties, and saw Dolls’ rookie jammer (but former Vipers’ standout) Scrappy pick up 10 points to help her team take its first lead. The teams continued to match each other blow-for-blow over the next few jams with the Dolls opening up a slight 14-point gap. The Gores took their first timeout of the game, and it sparked something in the team as veteran-jammer Beaver Mansbridge followed up the break with a 19-point jam that saw the Gores retake the lead 52-48.

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Dolls rookie ARRRguile looks to open a lane held by Gores Commander Will Wrecker and Santa Muerte. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The lead, however, would last precisely one jam. And a few minutes later, with the Dolls up 10 and the Gores threatening, Rainbow Fight donned the star for the first time, picking up a casual 24 points (in part due to some excellent blocking—this was not a powerjam) to give the Dolls the biggest lead of the game (90-56) and one that they would not relent the rest of the way.

The Dolls dominated lead-jammer status in the first half 12-5 (extending that to 23-12 overall) which forced the Gores into numerous star-pass scrambles (the Dolls did a better job of separating the pivot and jammer in the second half). However, the game was truly put away over the first seven jams after the break: leading 105-61 at halftime, the Dolls dominated the Gores over that opening stretch, outscoring them 56-11 and effectively putting the game out of reach.

With significant turnover in the off-season, the Gores were experimenting with their jammer rotation using Royal City transfer Thighlight of Your Life (22 points and 40% lead percentage) and Vipers graduate Mina Von Tease (12, 30%) significantly, but got their most steady performances from the returning jammers Beaver Mansbridge (33, 50%) and Murdercat! (30, 33%). The pack was led by veterans Santa Muerte (beginning her eighth season with the Gores), Viktory Lapp, and Stabbey Road, but also featured great play from improving Tara Bush and from Dolls’ off-season transfer Commander Will Wrecker, who delivered a number of heavy shoulder hits to her former Dolls teammates. They also got some solid play from Durham Region transfers Psycho Magnet and Hatin’ McWrath.

The Dolls, meanwhile, were led offensively by Holly Rocket (78 points, 75% lead percentage), with scoring spread out evenly among the other members of the rotation: Scrappy (35, 73%), Bat Ma’am (34, 50%), and in quality (but limited action), Rainbow Fight (49, 100%) and Ellen Rage (45, 60%). The pack has remained mostly unchanged from 2016 anchored by the aforementioned Rainbow Fight but also veterans DaSilva, Wheatabitch, Getcha Kicks, and Dawson (back for her Doll-record ninth season) but bolstered significantly by off-season transfers Kate Silver (from Mad Rollin’ Dolls) and Candy Crunch (Montreal).

Smoke City Bandits 94 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 266

In the biggest off-season change in the league, the Smoke City Betties (formed pre-ToRD in 2006, and one of the first flat track roller derby teams in Canada) changed their name (but not their look), debuting as a rebranded Smoke City Bandits at the season opener. Meanwhile, the team that saw the least off-season turnover, the defending champion Chicks Ahoy!, picked up exactly where they left off after last year’s championship run. And while the Chicks dominated the first three quarters of the matchup, the Bandits showed that they could still be a team to watch in 2017 as they refused to quit and roared back in the end, outscoring the champs over the final fifteen minutes of the game avoiding what was beginning to look like a record-setting win for the Chicks.

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Bandits jammer titmouse tries to evade a hit from Francesca Fiure. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the plethora of new faces, it was cagey 8-year veteran titmouse who got things started for the Bandits (returning to the jammer rotation after a year spent in the pack), picking up a quick 3 points to give her team an early lead. However, it was another veteran, twelfth-year skater Boxcar, who got the Chicks on the board with a (fitting) 12-point jam that gave the Chicks the only lead they’d need.

It was steading sailing for the Chicks over the next 45 minutes or so, holding the Bandits scoreless over streaks of seven jams and then four jams twice on their way to a 126-30 halftime lead. One thing to note, however, was how clean the game was in terms of penalties with the Chicks picking up only four and the Bandits picking up seven (with two being to jammers resulting in 12-point and then 18-point jams), resulting in a fast-paced and quickly played opening thirty.

Riding a very experienced jammer rotation (unchanged over last year’s championship run) and some solid pack work, the Chicks looked to be every bit in championship form to kick off the second half, going on a thoroughly dominant thirteen-jam run in which they outscored the Bandits 94-2, building an incredible 220-32 lead.

However, it was then that things changed.

The Bandits picked up the team’s first power jam midway through the half and once again it was veteran titmouse who put down 9 points in her team’s biggest jam of the game. And suddenly, the Bandits were rolling.

Looking more and more together in the pack, Smoke City held the Chicks scoreless for six straight after the power jam, while wracking up 31 of their own and although they couldn’t contain the Chicks the rest of they way, the Bandits continued their best sustained play of the game straight through to the end, outscoring the champs 62-46 over that stretch (accounting for two-thirds of their total points).

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Chicks jammer Boxcar, caught up in a swarm of skaters, scored 72 points on a 100% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

For the most part, both teams stuck to a pretty tight four-jammer rotation, and because of the lack of penalties in the first half, the same jammers faced off throughout the first thirty. Rookie Killa HurtZ (28 points, 45% lead percentage) had a strong debut for the Bandits, going toe-to-toe with 2016 league leading scorer Monster Muffin (72, 58%), who was held to a 50% lead percentage in the first half. Boxcar (72, 100%) had the best game among the jammers, getting lead nine-straight times before shifting into the pack and finishing with an impressive 6 points per jam average. Second-year skater Banshee (53, 58%) was third in team scoring with Chicks scoring rounded out by Sleeper Hold (49, 46%). Along with Killa HurtZ  and titmouse (26, 62%) the Bandits offence was anchored by Royal City transfer Brawnson (27, 33%) who had an impressive debut. After a slow start, long-serving veteran (but only second-year jammer) Genuine Risk rounded out the scoring, picking up 11 points in the second half.

While both teams are still dealing with pre-season injuries to key skaters, the deep Chicks pack was led by current longest-serving Chick Robber Blind and anchored by the incredible pack play of Rosemary’s Rabies (who despite an already long career still seems to get better and better every season), Vag Lightning, Annguard, Francesca Fiure and returnee Sammy Destruction (formerly known as Hyena Koffinkat), who also put up 21 points in limited action with the star.

The Bandits were also led by a core of veterans around whom the team is rebuilding its pack: Morton, Jamm’herhead Shark, Lowblow Palooza, Fight and Anne Bulance were all key contributors, while Rideau Valley transfer pivot Jessica Rabid led the way for the newcomers.

Nerd Glasses

*The game was broadcast by RogersTV Check local listings for replays.

*Next up for all four teams is a February 11th double header that will see the Dolls and Chicks square off for first place, and the Bandits and the Gores go for their first win of the season.

* All stats are unofficial.

End-of-year Power Rankings: December 2016

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone, and Derby Nerd periodically rank Canada’s top A-level travel teams. Read the the mid-season 2016 (June) Power Rankings here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block  – After stumbling against Philly at ECDX, mid-season roster changes shook up the team chemistry, and after it had time to settle, the Skids knocked off Bay Area to become the first Canadian team to advance to WFTDA Champs where they put a scare into Angel City in the quarterfinals, which was enough to secure top spot. (1 / 19)
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars
 – Despite the fifth place finish in their D1 playoff, it could be argued that Terminal City had a better playoff tournament than Montreal. They lost narrowly (164-162) against Philly before cruising through the consolation bracket. Their spot in the top 2, well ahead of the competition, remains secure. (2 / 18)
3.Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo  Although a 5th seed, Calgary tore through its D2 playoff tournament, including knocking off top seed Charm City along the way to finish in the top spot in the playoff. Finishing third overall in WFTDA’s Division 2 is more than enough to hold on to third spot. (4 / 45)
4. Misfit Militia (Orangeville Roller Girls) Misfit Militia Logo  +1 Went 6-1 in 2016 including a 147-144 unsanctioned win against D1’s Queen City. The teams only loss on the season came against an ever-improving Toronto Men’s Roller Derby team (200-159). However, their obvious talent and lack of WFTDA ranking continue to make top-level competition hard to come by. (3 /-)
5. Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)Vixens Logo +1 A 4-7 regular season saw the Vixens tumble out of the D2 playoffs. However, the bright side is that many of those seven losses came against top-flight competition including the likes of Montreal, Jacksonville, and Philly. It was an incredibly challenging schedule that may have them currently under-ranked and that could pay track-experience dividends in 2017. (10/93)
6. E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)

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unranked They’ve risen from the dead once again! E-Ville has been in and out of the Top 10 over the years, and now reenters once again, surging into the middle of the pack for the first time since last year’s end-of-season rankings. E-Ville had an incredible year with a record of 8-1 including victories over Top-10 Winnipeg (207-132) and Watch-Listers Mainland Misfits (279-89). The team’s only loss on the season was to provincial rivals and D2 bronze medalists Calgary (241-114).  (5 / 91)
7. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo  +1 Winnipeg inches forward a spot but gets stopped in its tracks by surging E-Ville (who defeated them 207-132 to earn the spot). The All Stars do hold their spot ahead of Muddy River based on strength of schedule. They went 8-5 on the season, helping them move to their highest WFTDA ranking yet. (9 / 84)
8. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo +1 The little league that just keeps going. Muddy River’s consistency over the past few season has been incredible given their size and location. This year they travelled far and wide once again compiling a 6-4 record along the way, including early season wins over Capital City and Quebec. A big late-season loss to Orangeville’s Misfit Militia was unsanctioned and didn’t effect their 16-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings.  (11 / 85)
9. Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls)
Capital City Derby Dolls Logo
+1 The Dolly Rogers capped off their 5-4 season with a massive sanctioned win against Central NY that helped their 8-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings. Narrow wins against teams just outside of the Top 10 allow them to secure their spot and nudge forward, finally moving out of the long-held 10 spot. (8 / 106)
10.Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo  -6 Tri-City had an up-and-down year in 2016, eventually finishing with a 5-10 record. After a promising two and one start (including a rare win over Toronto), Thunder lost seven of eight regular season games the rest of the way. A decent playoff run saw them improve their 9th place seeding to 6th in their D2 tournament. However, yet another off season shake-up to the jammer rotation means that Tri-City’s rebuild will be continuing into 2017. (6 / 57)

The Rankings

No changes to the Top 3 as Canada’s lone WFTDA playoff teams remain at the top of the sport in the nation. Montreal retains top spot based on an incredible performance at the WFTDA Championship tournament, playing, arguably, the team’s best game of the season against a very good Angel City team. After reloading their roster in 2016, The New Skids on the Block also look very good to remain atop the nation’s power rankings in 2017 as well. It remains to be seen whether Terminal City and Calgary (who became only the second team to win a Division 2 playoff tournament) can push through some expected 0ff-season roster changes to remain at their current levels.

The rest of the list has gone through some shifts and changes. Most notably, for the first time in the history of these Power Rankings, Toronto has dropped out of the Top 10. Although leagues like Orangeville and Muddy River are proof that size doesn’t always matter, the reality is that Toronto is simply too big and too deep to keep down for long and expect a slow but steady rise in 2017 as the All Stars rebuild. This drop, however, made room for a resurgent E-Ville. For the second year in a row, the Edmonton-based team makes an appearance on the year-end rankings. This time, however, it should be sustainable as the E-Ville Dead have the roster to remain in the conversation through 2017. The final major shift is with Tri-City. Thunder sees itself tumble to 10th place. The team had a solid 2016, but some post-playoff roster changes will see the team need to rebuild its offense once again.

Orangeville, Rideau Valley, Winnipeg, Muddy River, and Capital City all hold steady, nudging upwards based on Toronto’s and Tri-City’s dips.

The Watch List

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby) (12th)

Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec) (13th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (14th)

Northstars (Rated PG Rollergirls) (15th)

ToRD All Stars (Toronto Roller Derby) (16th)

The A Team (Eves of Destruction) (18th)

E-Ville and Toronto have switched places on the Watch List/Top 10, while the Anarchy Angels, Roller Derby Quebec, and Royal City remain on our radars as we close out the 2016 season. However, there are some exciting new editions on the watch list.

The Northstars of Prince George’s Rated PG Rollergirls are coming off of an 8-0 season that saw them rise above the competition with a margin of victory of 158 points. These eight wins included big victories over B-travel teams from Top 10 Terminal City and E-Ville and two of Calgary’s house leagues, proving that they have graduated to a higher competitive stage. Similarly, one of Canada’s oldest flat track teams, Victoria’s Eves of Destruction are finally beginning to tear it up against some quality competition. Boasting a perennially successful local league, the EoD A Team went 5-0 on the season including a victory over the Jane Deeres (Calgary’s B-team) and former Top 10 team Mindfox out of Saskatoon to launch themselves onto the Watch List.

Nerd Glasses

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone

*These are the final Power Rankings of the year. Read the mid-season Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

The Neon Army Advances

How Montreal’s New Skids on the Block Became Canada’s First Team to Play for the WFTDA D1 Championship

Photo by Sean Murphy (girlsofderby.com)

1. The Moment

It was set up to be a frantic finish.

With one jam to go in the third-place game of the opening weekend of the 2016 Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Division 1 playoffs, the home team, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block, held a 10-point lead (167-157) over Bay Area Derby.

The penultimate jam had been a wild one; offsetting jammer penalties had necessitated a two-minute jam. Bay Area’s Brawllen Angel had managed to outscore Montreal’s Falcon Punch 13-8 to narrow the gap to 10.

B.A.D., one of the founding members of the WFTDA, had been there before. After appearing at the inaugural Dust Devil Championship in 2006, they had qualified for six of the next nine championship tournaments including the previous four consecutive seasons from 2012-15, finishing third overall in 2013 and ’14.

In a sense, Montreal had been there before as well: never to Champs, but on the cusp. Close enough to feel it and to be crushed by the disappointment of not making it. In the same game just the year before, they’d led Minnesota by as much as 30 points and were still leading late before a 48-18 run over the last seven jams secured the win for Minnesota.

Montreal’s Miracle Whips came to the line with the star on her helmet for the final jam against B.A.D. with memories of the previous year’s late collapse buried behind a straight-ahead focus. April Bloodgate was her jammer-line opponent. The crowd—substantial for a Division playoff tournament—was tense. Eerily quiet. The whistle blew and with blockers in the box, both jammers were able to shake free of the pack at turn one with Whips one step ahead; then the Montreal jammer, with the inside position staked out, threw a shoulder into the unsuspecting Bloodgate, who went down hard and was swallowed up by the swarming Montreal defense. The crowd roared in relief.

Two quick scoring passes extended the lead substantially, but with the Bay Area bench cradling one more team time out in its back pocket, the Skids needed to kill the final minute of the jam, so Whips pulled up on the back stretch to join her depleted pack to bolster the defense. After a second Bloodgate scoring pass—and with all of the Skids’ blockers now back on the track—Whips suddenly skated back from the pack to meet the fast-advancing Bay Area jammer. Whips took Bloodgate’s momentum and ushered her to the outside, finishing her with a little shove; then the drag back began. Whips went back. And she kept going back. And back. She drew the jammer all the way to Turn 4. Waited a second after the jam clock had ticked away for good measure and slowly, with a stone-faced calm, tapped her hips.

The partisan crowd went wild, danced in the aisles, chanted. Across Canada, from 709 in the east to the Eves of Destruction in the west, the jubilant track-side celebrations were matched in living-room viewing parties.

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block had become the first Canadian team to advance to the WFTDA Championship tournament.

2. So Bad It Hurts

On Friday, March 3, 2006 somebody going by the handle MissTheMeaner posted a message in Rollergirl.ca’s online roller skating forum with the subject line “Rollerderby in Montreal.”

She asked, simply, if anyone was interested in becoming part of a roller derby team in the city. The post got exactly one response, seventeen days later, from someone posting as Georgia W. Tush:

“i am! i am!! so bad it hurts.”

In 2006, Alyssa Kwasny had just moved to the big city of Montreal from Thunder Bay to study at Concordia University.

Cover image from the January/February 2007 issue of the Mirror, featuring a preview of Montreal's first game, a pre-season showdown with Toronto's Gore-Gore Rollergirls,

Cover image from the January/February 2007 issue of the Mirror, featuring a preview of Montreal’s first game, a pre-season showdown with Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls.

Early in that same year, a friend of hers in Chicago had joined one of that city’s roller derby leagues. While the idea of roller derby intrigued her, Kwasny quickly discovered that there was no roller derby league in Montreal. Indeed, her early Internet snooping led her to the realization that there were no roller derby leagues in Canada. She did find MySpace pages and websites for leagues south of the border and was immediately taken in by the riot grrrl imagery and the punk rock aesthetic.

Eventually her online sleuthing led her to the Rollergirl.ca website and a web forum devoted to starting roller derby in Canada. There she discovered that there were discussions about roller derby ongoing in Toronto, Hamilton, Edmonton and Vancouver, and then she saw that lone post about Montreal.

Kwasny, now officially Georgia W. Tush, ran with that MissTheMeaner post, starting a MySpace page and checking out roller rinks. Eventually, after getting enough traffic on the site, she organized a meeting at Foufounes Electriques, one of the city’s most venerable underground music venues.

Fourteen people came to the initial meeting, and the first person through the door was someone Tush already knew from the music scene, Marie-Chantal Trachy, the woman who would come to be known as Trash ’n’ Smash, another key figure in the development of roller derby in Montreal.

Just as Tush and Trash were really getting things started in Montreal that spring, on Saturday, July 22, 2006, at a sold out Burlington arena, the Hamilton Harlots and the Steel Town Tank Girls welcomed the sport of roller derby back to Canada, playing in the first public house league game in Canadian flat track history.

Inspired by the the success of Hammer City’s opening game, one of Toronto’s first teams, the Smoke City Betties, began to consider hosting a public event as well. In the end, they decided on a semi-closed tournament, or a “day of derby,” featuring a tournament of mini-games with the winner crowned Derby Queens of the Pre-Season. These Derby Queens would then take on the host Betties in a full-length regulation contest.

Poster for Betties' D-Day. Held in August 2006, it was the first tournament in Canadian flat-track roller derby.

Poster for Betties’ D-Day. Held in August 2006; it was the first tournament in Canadian flat-track roller derby.

The Betties D-Day took place at George Bell Arena in downtown Toronto’s west end on August 19, 2006. On that day, the formation of the Canadian roller derby community began. For many of the skaters there, despite having skated for months, it would be the first time they had ever seen a flat track roller derby game actually played.

Montreal had not even named teams yet and for this event divided its skaters into two squads, called the Cougars and the Felines. On the track, Hammer City’s established teams, not surprisingly, led the way. But it was Montreal who proved the biggest surprise, playing each other in the best game of the first round (a one-pointer won by the Cougars) before defeating the newly named Chicks Ahoy! out of Toronto in the semifinals.

While they did lose in the final to the Hamilton Harlots, the league’s performance provided a certain kind of foreshadowing for the dominant league it would quickly become.

*                                  *                                  *

Montreal's New Skids on the Block at the 2010 Quad City Chaos (Photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block at the 2010 Quad City Chaos (Photo by Derek Lang)

In March 2010 Toronto Roller Derby’s travel team, CN Power, hosted what was essentially an unofficial Canadian championship. The two-day tournament, called the Quad City Chaos, featured the four top teams in Canada at the time. Hammer City’s Eh! Team, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Vancouver’s Terminal City All-Stars joined Toronto for a round robin tournament.

One of the most anticipated moments of that first Quad City Chaos was the opening game between Hammer City and Montreal. Within the past year, both had become the first Canadian—and first non-US—members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which meant that they were going to be a part of the WFTDA’s ranking system and were eligible to compete for a spot in the association’s annual playoffs. This historic game not only contained the first WFTDA-sanctioned game in Canada, but it was also the first between two non-US teams and the first to ever be played outside of that country.

Montreal had been on somewhat of a tear at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, playing anyone and everyone and going wherever they needed to go to do so. In the weeks leading up to the Quad City Chaos they’d gone on a two-game weekend road trip to Arizona, followed by a three-game road trip down the east coast of the US, going 4-1 in the process. Although none of the games were broadcast, through textcasts on the Derby News Network and live twitter updates it was clear that Montreal was soaking up new slow-style strategies that were just being developed south of the border and had yet to reach Canada. By the time the Skids rolled into Toronto in March, they had become a changed team.

The Hamilton-Montreal showdown was a very early Saturday morning game at ToRD’s Hangar; there were only insiders and superfans lining the track for this highly anticipated moment. The first hint that something might be different came while watching Montreal begin their warm-up off skates. While it’s since become the norm, roller derby in early 2010, certainly in Canada, was still deeply cloaked in its punk rock attitude and the notion of working out off skates to improve on-skates performance was new. It seemed to many skaters to be a waste of valuable track time. But there was Montreal, running laps around the space, doing leaps and stretches and planks.

Montreal baffled Hammer City and send a clear message to the Canadian roller derby scene at QCC 2010. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal baffled Hammer City and sent a clear message to the Canadian roller derby scene at QCC 2010. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Within a few minutes of the opening whistle of that first game, it was clear that it was not going to be a pretty sight. Montreal dominated from the start; they baffled Hammer City with what at the time was strange play, alternating blazing speed with grinding slowness, an intentional duality that had never been witnessed in the Canadian game before. During the first New Skids power jam, when the Hammer City jammer was in the penalty box, the relentless Montreal blockers isolated a lone Hammer City blocker and then held her behind her counterparts who struggled to stay in play (i.e., to remain part of the pack). The jammer sped by the stopped skaters and Hammer City could only watch it all unfold, bewildered. Whatever game Montreal was playing was not the same as the one being played by their opponents.

To put things in context: within the previous eighteen months, Montreal’s and Hamilton’s travel teams had met twice in thrilling, incredibly closely matched contests. Montreal had been able to pull off both wins – but just barely – with fairly regular, though low scoring, results for the time: 58–48 and then 84–80. A combined difference of fourteen points over two games.

When the final whistle blew in that WFTDA-sanctioned game at the Quad City Chaos in March 2010 in Toronto, the scoreboard read 208–26.

Montreal would go on to beat Vancouver and Toronto with similar ease that weekend. Never before had one Canadian team so thoroughly dominated another, and especially not teams that shared such a similar history. But the game had changed: it had changed quickly and it had changed remarkably and it was obvious that Montreal was at the forefront of this evolution.

Montreal Roller Derby distanced itself from its Canadian peers in 2010, but then again, the team distanced itself from a lot of teams in 2010. The Skids would go on to skate to an 11–3 record that season, notching big wins against Tampa, DC, and Arizona.

By September of that year, the New Skids on the Block made flat track roller derby history when they laced up against their increasingly intense rivals Boston for a quarterfinal showdown in the WFTDA’s Eastern Region playoffs. It was the fifth year of the WFTDA playoffs, and Montreal, qualifying sixth out of the twelve teams in the Eastern Region tournament, was the first non-US-based team to play in them.

This was the second year that the Derby News Network would broadcast the entire playoffs and there was a slowly growing global interest in the games. For pretty much the first time, the derby community was seeing the game being played in a way that was no longer comparable to their local version. The teams in the playoffs, and particularly those top twelve teams that would qualify for the championship tournament, were playing at a completely different level strategically and athletically from everyone else. And because Montreal was involved, there were plenty of Canadian eyes trained on the playoffs for the first time.

Montreal would lose that quarterfinal game to the higher ranked Boston and be relegated to the Consolation Bracket that they were expected to dominate, and for the most part, they did, crushing the Dutchland Derby Rollers from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by two hundred sixty-five points before Raleigh’s Carolina Rollergirls scored a controversial last-gasp two-point win over Montreal.

Montreal’s appearance would resonate even beyond the borders of Canada. In 2011, London, England, would qualify for the playoffs and the two teams would meet up in the first all-international WFTDA playoff game in the consolation final of the 2011 Eastern Region tournament.

In only five years, Montreal had emerged as a potential flat track roller derby super power.

3. Fresher and Furiouser

Montreal's Arena St. Louis (Photo by Leslie Schachter for The Link)

Montreal’s Arena St. Louis (Photo by Leslie Schachter for The Link)

Walking into Montreal’s Arena St. Louis is for fans of roller derby what walking in to the old Montreal Forum would have been like for fans of hockey. After the closing of Edmonton’s Grindhouse (AKA: the Metro Sportsplex) in the summer of 2014, Arena St. Louis became the single oldest continuously used arena for roller derby. It isn’t a particularly special arena, and despite its location just off Rue St. Laurent in a trendy part of downtown Montreal, is pretty non-descript: A squat, rectangular brick arena that wouldn’t look out of place in any small Canadian town.

In the summer of 2008, on the heels of hosting two successful house league seasons and one of Canada’s first flat track roller derby tournaments (that April’s inaugural Beast of the East), Arena St. Louis hosted Montreal’s recruitment training sessions, also called “fresh meant.” The goal was to get potential skaters from zero skill to ready for competition by the opening of the next season. The annual group of loosely organized skaters would eventually form their own rookie-team called the Smash Squad. It was a process and model that would become standard throughout the sport in Canada, the first step toward becoming a competitive skater, and in Montreal, the first step toward eventually becoming a member of the New Skids on the Block.

The Smash Squad builds into a houseleague-Bteam-Ateam system. The houseleague consists of three teams: Les Contrabanditas (Montreal’s first official team, who debuted in February 2007 when they faced Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls); Les Filles du Roi (who won the first house league Championship in 2007); and La Racaille. Their B-team, Les Sexpos, has been competing since 2008, virtually as long as the league has had a travel team, and has had continued success, including winning the 2015 B-Cup Challenge and finishing 9th in the 2015 Full Metal Bracket (which was essentially a WFTDA championship for B-teams).

While this is a model that is pretty standard in the sport, in Canada, no league has been able to use this structure to its advantage or replace talent at the top as consistently as Montreal Roller Derby has. From the very beginning, this consistency has been evident, and while over the past eight years they have tinkered with the model (creating more blend between the A and B-travel teams for example), they have held the course and the commitment to consistency has paid off in consistent results.

While their house league hosts the annual Beast of the Beast tournament and the Sexpos and Skids are two of the busiest travel teams in the country, given Montreal’s lack of proximity to other leagues of a similar calibre, the Smash Squad didn’t debut to the larger Canadian public until the summer of 2012. Montreal, by then, had clearly pulled ahead of the Canadian flat track pack, but there was one tournament where the league had yet to make a splash: the Fresh and the Furious.

Montreal's Fresh and Furious debut was a record-setting victory over Woodstock. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Fresh and Furious debut was a record-setting victory over Woodstock. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Spawned from 2008’s Virgin Suicides Brawl, a five-team tournament featuring new teams in established leagues that had been hosted by the GTA Rollergirls, the league resurrected the rookie-focused tournament in 2011 as a sixteen-team double elimination tournament played out in 20-minute games. Taking place over the course of one (long) day on two tracks, the tournament has become the launching point for virtually every skater in Quebec and Ontario. In 2012, Montreal’s Smash Squad entered their first Fresh tournament as virtual unknowns, and promptly opened with a then record-setting 127-10 victory over Woodstock and proceeded to destroy the competition from there, rolling all the way to the championship game.

In the thirty-minute final against Royal City’s Top Herloins, the Smash Squad were trailing for much of the first half of the game and were down 50-42 with thirteen minutes to go. With a power start and some momentum building, the Smash Squad decided to go with a lean, powerful—though sometimes erratic—jammer who seemed loaded with as-of-yet unrefined talent, but who had been inconsistent and had picked up a few penalties in this game already. She promptly powered through Royal City’s defensive wall and along with the help of some good offense, carved up the Guelph defense for a 19-point, game-changing jam. It would be the first of a game-deciding 44 points scored over the next ten-minutes of the game by a first-year jammer named Miracle Whips.

The Smash Squad would go on to dominate that final third of the game, cruising to a 122-61 win. While the team would feature other future stars of the league like Demanda Lashing and Saucisse, the tournament-clinching win had provided the derby community with the first glimpse of the game-changing potential of Miracle Whips, but mostly reminded the community that from the ground on up, Montreal Roller Derby was a step ahead.

4. Mending a Broken Heart

Montreal's home bench at Centre Pierre Charbonneau, site of a 2016 WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

Montreal’s home bench at Centre Pierre Charbonneau, site of a 2016 WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

It is probably safe to say that no one thought 2016 would be the year. At least, not by the time playoffs rolled around.

By September 2016, Montreal Roller Derby and fans of the New Skids on the Block had become accustomed to playoff heartbreak; so much so that you could say it had become like a yearly ritual:

  • 2010: Carolina 127 vs. Montreal 125. Although expectations were muted for 6th seeded Montreal in their debut at Eastern Regionals, they were expected to at least improve their ranking, but after leading Carolina for much of the game, they entered the final jam up by 3 only to receive a controversial jammer penalty and give up 5 points. It was a shocking loss considering Montreal had destroyed Carolina (in Carolina) 135-29 during the regular season.
  • 2011: London 137 vs. Montreal 135. The fifth-place game at the 2011 Eastern Regionals was an instant classic and one of the great games of the era. But yet again, a regular season win over London had expectations high for Montreal. After a close first half, Montreal had to overcome a 70-point deficit in the second, coming up just short after a furious comeback. It also just happened to be the first WFTDA playoff game between two non-US opponents.
  • 2012: London 191 vs. Montreal 122.This highly anticipated quarterfinal rematch between third seed Montreal and sixth seed London was won midway through the second half when Montreal failed to field a jammer resulting in a 35-0 London jam from which the Skids could not recover.
  • 2013: Ohio 212 vs. Montreal 149. The path to champs was laid out perfectly for second-seed Montreal, who were upset by sixth-seed Ohio in the semifinals after an inexplicably lacklustre performance. Despite an extraordinary game from legendary jammer Iron Wench (in her last playoff appearance), who jammed 22 out of 43 jams for a game-high 84 points (four other jammers on Montreal skated the other 21 jams), the team looked unprepared and unfocused. Poor clock management on the bench cut short a potential late comeback.
  • 2014: Charm City 143 vs. Montreal 142. This heartbreak came in the Division quarterfinals and it came after leading the game for all but one jam in the second half (and by as much as 31 points with 8 minutes to go). A penultimate 23-point jam from Charm City to take the lead stunned Montreal, who would go on to destroy the consolation bracket by an average differential of 142 points, leaving everyone to wonder “What if?”
  • 2015: Minnesota 162 vs. Montreal 134. 28 points was the difference between a Championship berth and heartbreak last year. The third place Division playoff game was another classic, featuring six lead changes in total. Montreal led by 1 at halftime and then again, 116-112, with 12 minutes to go but couldn’t hold off Minnesota in the waning moments.

Despite the oh-so-close loss to Minnesota in the 2015 Division playoffs, Montreal had to be feeling good about themselves after coming on strong at the end of what was expected to be a rebuilding year.

The Skids were pushed by Canadian teams like never before in 2015, and seemed to have lost their stranglehold on the Canadian flat track scene. In successive games in late April and early May, Toronto had come within 9 points of knocking off Montreal before Terminal City finally accomplished the feat at the Big O with a thrilling 182-177 win.

Terminal City’s win at the Big O tournament put an end to a streak of national dominance that Canada will probably ever see again. Although Terminal had defeated Montreal once before in a shortened, non-regulation game, beginning in July 2008, the Skids had been on a nearly eight year, seventeen-game winning streak against the top teams that Canada had to offer. During that time, Montreal defeated Hammer City (twice), Toronto (six times), Rideau Valley (twice), Tri-City (twice), Oil City, Calgary and Terminal City (also twice); essentially, the cream of the crop of Canadian flat track.

But despite the early season growing pains, by the end of the year, they had clearly distanced themselves from their national rivals and after the playoff success of 2015, hopes were much higher coming into the 2016 season.

And it started off with a bang.

Rideau Valley and Toronto were the first victims of Montreal this year, and despite 13-point and 9-point nail biters in their two most recent meetings, the Skids stomped a rebuilding Toronto team by 363 points in April. By June’s ECDX tournament, Montreal was sporting a 6-1 record with the sole loss coming to London.

Philly handled Montreal with surprising ease in a June showdown at ECDX (Photo by Joe Mac)

Philly handled Montreal with surprising ease in a June showdown at ECDX (Photo by Joe Mac)

However, word on the track heading into Philadelphia was that all was not right on the bench with the Skids, and although they were able—as expected—to handle Boston in their opening game, Montreal completely came apart against Philly in the ECDX closer. After a tight start to the game, Philly went on an early 56-4 run and barely looked back on their way to a surprisingly easy 256-139 victory. Although expectations had been high for a first-ever Montreal win over their rivals, the Skids lacked cohesion on the track, and at three separate times during the game were held scoreless for stretches of at least five jams. While they were lacking injured veterans Jes Bandit and KonichiWow, the team, to put it mildly, looked out of sorts.

After that weekend, behind-the-scenes tension led to a mid-season roster shakeup that saw core veteran skaters Scores Easy and national team member Demanda Lashing  (and up-and-comer Russian Cruelette) leave the team. By the time Montreal rolled into the Division playoffs, the Skids were a team thin on experience. First-year Skids Lau-Rider, Ptite Pouliche and Sneaky Devil all saw track time in playoff games, and as the team prepared to face off against Bay Area in the third-place game, they had just seven skaters on the roster who’d played in the third-place game only a year previous. Al K Traz, Cracker Jass, Why So Sirius and Ti-Coune, all in their first year as regulars on the all-star lineup, were suddenly thrust into major competitive roles in the pack in the biggest game of their league’s history.

While the jammer rotation had retained Miracle Whips and the French national-team skater Falcon Punch (both of whom played the derby of their lives in the tournament), it was bolstered by transfer TerminateHer (from Green Mountain) and the return of Honey Badger after a year skating with Tri-City in southern Ontario.

Bolstered by a raucous home-town crowd at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau, The Skids got off to a ferocious start against Dallas in the quarterfinals, going on a 44-6 run over the opening 10 minutes of the game. Dallas would not get within 30 the rest of the way. That game was followed by a tough semi-final loss to London, setting up the must-win game against Bay Area.

Montreal's New Skids on the Block moments after clinching their spot at the 2016 WFTDA Championship tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block moments after clinching their spot at the 2016 WFTDA Championship tournament. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

Although the roster lacked playoff experience overall, it was anchored by some core skaters who played their hearts out in the game. From double threat Mange Moi El Cul and long-time skater Chees Grater (literally one of the most experienced skaters in the Canadian game; she’d played in that inaugural Hammer City game in Burlington on 2006), to the late-season return of national-team member KonichiWOW, the veterans came to play when it mattered. Surgical Strike was a stalwart blocker, whose seemingly unflappable (and unmoveable) presence on the track acted as both a literal and figurative anchor. But given the situation and the stakes, perhaps the greatest performance came from the sole-remaining original New Skid, Jess Bandit.

After missing most of the season due to injury, not too much was expected of the decade-long member of Montreal Roller Derby and two-time member of the Team Canada, but when it mattered most, Bandit’s even-headed play and veteran poise kept the team in check. She was stunning in the final against B.A.D., elevating her game when it mattered most, reminding the Canadian crowd that she is one of the great blockers in our country’s history with the sport.

At the draw for the 2016 WFTDA Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, a few weeks after the emotional victory, the Skids ended up with arguably the most unfortunate first-round opponent in the tournament: Los Angeles’s surging Angel City Derby Girls. It will be a tough match up, but regardless of the outcome, after such a long, heartbreaking wait, it is one that will be savoured  by not only Montreal Roller Derby and the New Skids on the Block, but also the legions of fans in the Neon Army marching behind them.

Nerd Glasses

*Most of the historical elements in this profile are adapted from Eight-Wheeled Freedom: The Derby Nerd’s Short History of Flat Track Roller Derby. Now available in bookstores and online.

*Montreal is not the first Canadian team to play at the WFTDA Championship tournament. Read a similar profile of the Rideau Valley Vixens, chronicling their march to the 2014 Division 2 championship game here.

A Look Back at 10 Seasons of ToRD

ToRD 2016 Season Opener Banner

In real time it’s been a decade. In derby time, it’s been forever. On May 29th, 2007, over a year after two distinct groups began to meet and plan on how to play the sport, Toronto Roller Derby made its debut. The two teams who took to the track that night represented both arms of the founding teams of ToRD: the Smoke City Betties—one of only two Canadian flat track teams formed in 2006 still operating—squared off against the Bay Street Bruisers at George Bell Arena. The Bruisers themselves had formed after Toronto’s other original team, the Terrors, had divided into four separate teams.

Bruisers Betties 2007 Angela Hayes

The Smoke City Betties and the Bay Street Bruisers squared off in the first game in ToRD history in May 2007. (Photo by Angela Hayes)

The game played that night would now be nearly unrecognizable to the fans who will line the track at the Bunker on Saturday night to kick off ToRD’s 10th season. For one, the game was played in three twenty minute periods, but on the track the teams were still trying to figure out what flat track roller derby was all about. At that point in the sport’s development, the game looked closer to its banked-track antecedent than to what flat track derby would eventually become: there was a lot of skating and chasing and little of the aggressive grinding contact seen in the game now. That opening match in ToRD’s history would see the Betties outlast the Bruisers 83-81. It would be as close as the Bruisers would ever come to a victory in ToRD.

On Saturday, Chicks Ahoy! will take on the Death Track Dolls while the Gore-Gore Roller Girls will challenge those Betties in fitting historical games to kick off this historical season. These are long rivalries in the sport, as long as any in the Canadian game. Like the Bruisers, the Dolls and Chicks both sprung forth from the Terrors in the summer of 2006 and first squared off in ToRD regular season play in August 2007 with the Chicks taking a narrow victory 138-123. The Gores sprung directly from the Betties in the fall of 2006 when that team’s numbers become too large. The two would not meet in ToRD’s first season, but would face each other for the first time early in the 2008 season with the Gores trouncing the Betties 120-47.

Much has changed in the interim, most notably, two of ToRD’s original six house league teams survived only the first two seasons in that form. The D-VAS, after going 2-6 over that span and not making the playoffs, would fold. Following in their footsteps would be the Bruisers, who had never managed to pick up a win in eight attempts. The D-VAS, of course, would be resurrected as the league’s farm team in 2010, while the Bruisers would also return, serving as ToRD’s B-travel team from 2012-2015.

To prepare for this historic season, let’s take a further look into Toronto Roller Derby’s rich history.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls logo

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Total Regular Season Record: 24-5

Battle for the Boot Appearances: 8 (2007-’12, ’14-’15)

Battle for the Boot Championships: 3 (2007, ’09, ’10)

Despite not winning The Boot since 2010, the Gores remain the most successful team in ToRD history. With a dominant record in regular season play (83% winning percentage) and eight appearances in the championship game, add to that a victory (2014) in two finals appearances (2011, ’14) in the venerable Beast of the East tournament, and the Gores have never had a down year in their existence.

The Gores’ early seasons were defined by a killer offence led by ToRD’s two all-time leading scorers Bambi and Dust Bunny (the only jammers in ToRD’s history to score over 800 career points). This offensive trend has continued allowing them to place six skaters in ToRD’s Top 10 career scoring list. One of those skaters, Lexi Con, remains with the team in 2016 and will anchor a jammer rotation that also potentially features Beaver Mansbridge, Murdercat! and Betties’ transfer Wackedher. But this team is also known for its standout blockers, including two of the greats of all time Brim Stone and Foxy Sinatra. The 2016 Gores are led by two long-serving veterans, Santa Muerte and Jill Em All and are bolstered by a core of experienced players (Chronic, Gamma Rei) and emerging on and off-track leaders (Moose Knuckles, Viktory Lapp, Full Deck and Stabby Road). A capable contingent of rookies and transfers (including Murdermom! who completes a rare mother-daughter duo) ensures that this should be another successful season for “The Dynasty.”

Chicks Ahoy! logo

Chicks Ahoy!

Total Regular Season Record: 16-13

Battle for the Boot Appearances: 5 (2007-’08, ‘10-’12)

Battle for the Boot Championships: 3 (2008, ’11, ’12)

ToRD’s second great team (though their regular season record is not much different from the Dolls’), the Chicks made five appearances in ToRD’s first six championship games, facing off against the Gores every single time and winning three Boots. Although featuring offensive superstars like Candy Crossbones (ToRD’s third all-time leading scorer) and Bala Reina (who had one of the most dominant seasons ever in 2012, becoming the only jammer to lead the league in every offensive category in a single season), the Chicks have actually been more known for their pack work, and their long line of dominant blockers and pivots speaks to that: Mach Wheels, Nasher the Smasher, Tara Part, Rebel Rock-It and Mega Bouche are just some of the historically great blockers who have taken the track for the Chicks.

Although success has been hard to come by for the Chicks since 2012, they may have built themselves back into contention. Led in the pack by veterans Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind, Rosemary’s Rabies, and off-season transfer Boxcar, the Chicks also feature the emerging leadership of Joss Wheelin’, Vag Lightning; however, the Chicks now have a potentially explosive offense as well. Anchored by Monster Muffin (who had a breakout year last year scoring 131 points), R2 Smack U and Wheels of Misfortune, the jammer rotation has been bolstered by the arrival of transfers Pink Slamminade and last year’s league leading scorer (with a record-tying 228 points) Sleeper Hold, who comes over from the Dolls. All indications point to a bounce back year for the Chicks.

Death Track Dolls Logo

Death Track Dolls

Total Regular Season Record: 15-14

Battle for the Boot Appearances: 2 (2013, ’14)

Battle for the Boot Championships: 2 (2013, ’14)

Although the Death Track Dolls have historically had success outside of ToRD (along with the Gores, they are the only ToRD team to record two podium finishes at the Beast of the East, for example), it wasn’t until 2013 that the Dolls were able to break through the stranglehold that the Gores and Chicks had held on the league (and this after missing the playoffs in 2012). That 2013 Dolls team was, arguably, the most dominant team in league history, setting a record for points per game (237, counting their record-setting Battle for the Boot score) and was the first team since the Gores in 2008 (who played two more games) to register two skaters with over 200 points in scoring for the season: Santilly In Yo Face and Rainbow Fight—whose records for points per jam (8) and lead percentage (88%) may never be touched. Despite big roster losses after that season, the Dolls continued to roll through ToRD in 2014 winning their second straight Boot in similarly dominant fashion, including setting a single season point differential record in the process (+468), a record that the Gores had held since 2008. While the Dolls managed one more solid regular season in 2015, retirements and roster shuffles finally caught up to the team, and they were defeated in the semi-finals.

The Dolls come back in 2016 as a team rebuilt, and it looks strong in the pack. While the team is being led by a core of next-generation Dolls, including co-captains Hannibelle and Robotomy, Getcha Kicks, and Block Québécois, the longest-serving Doll, Dawson (who begins her 8th season) has been rejoined by her long-time teammate Betty Bomber, who returns after a few years spent focusing on travel-team play followed by a brief retirement last year. Recent transfer Commander Will Wrecker bolsters the pack. While the pack depth has been rebuilt, the jammer rotation may still be a work in progress. Third-year Doll Devochka will lead a new offensive contingent this season that could include Bat Ma’am, Holly Rocket and Ellen Rage (with support from double threat Getcha Kicks).

Smoke City Betties Logo

Smoke City Betties

Total Regular Season Record: 9-20

Battle for the Boot Appearances: 3 (2009, ’13, ’15)

Battle for the Boot Championships: 1 (2015)

Last year, the oldest team in Canadian roller derby finally had its breakthrough. Although their three trips to the Battle for the Boot trails only the Gores and the Chicks in terms of appearances, the Betties won their first Boot last season, fittingly, against the Gores. Historically, it doesn’t get much deeper than the Betties in Canadian flat track. From 2006-2009 the first generation of flat track stars tore up the track, and jammer Jewel Kicker remains in ToRD’s Top 10 career scoring, one of only ten skaters in league history to record over 300 career points. She was part of the 2009 Betties team that became the first team other than the Gores or Chicks to Battle for the Boot (a team loaded with talent including Dyna Hurtcha, Memphis Kitty, Slaughter Lauder, Pretty Peeved and Demolition Dawn).

Last year’s season was one for the ages when after finishing third in the regular season, the Betties peaked at the right time romping through three rounds of playoffs to win the Boot (the first team to win three playoff games on route to the Boot). However, this year’s iteration of the team looks much different after considerable retirements and transfers following the championship win; interestingly though, the roster is bolstered by experienced transfers both from outside of the league (Booty Quake, Caume A Kazi) and within (Emmy Klimster, Extermiknitter) and the return of Mia Culprit to house league play. That being said, a strong core from last year’s champs does remain. Co-captains Lowblow Palooza and Anne Bulance, hard-hitting Brickhouse Bardot, triple-threat Honey Boom Boom , Jammer’head Shark, Fight of the Conchords, and long-serving Genuine Risk all return in the pack. One big loss is the jammer Smoka Cola (whose 183 points last season was the tenth highest total in league history), so while the rotation continues to be led by titmouse (the Betties’ all-time leading scorer) and could be bolstered by the return of Kil’Her At Large after a one-season absence, the team will need to develop its offense from within.

 Nerd Glasses

TORONTO ROLLER DERBY RECORDS AND STATS HISTORY

Gores Betties 09 Kevin

ToRD’s all-time leading scorer, Bambi, sneaks through on the inside as Gores’ pivot Brim Stone lines up Betties’ jammer Jewel Kicker in a 2009 regular season showdown. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

In honour of ToRD’s 10 season, take a look back at some of the league scoring records. One interesting thing to watch this season is ToRD’s career scoring numbers as three skaters in the Top 10 are still active. The Gores’ Lexi Con is set to become just the fourth skater in history to record 500 career points, while the Betties’ titmouse and Chicks’ Sleeper Hold should both advance up the Top 10 (and either could, with a strong season, join Lexi in the 500-point club).

ToRD Team Records

Points Per Game/Season: Dolls 237 (2013)

Highest Score/Game: Gores 323 vs. Chicks (2013)

Highest Score/Combined: 398 (Dolls 245 vs. Chicks 148 [2015])

Lowest Score/Game: Betties 22 vs. Chicks (2011)

Lowest Score/Combined: 129 (Betties 68 vs. Chicks 61 [2009])

Winning Streak (playoffs included): 12 Games (Gores 2009-2011)

Losing Streak (playoffs included): 10 games (Betties 2009-2012)

Individual Scoring Records

Career Points

Skater (Team) Career Points Years Played
*Bambi (GGR)

*Dust Bunny (GGR)

*Candy Crossbones (CA!)

Lexi Con (GGR)

Taranosaurus Rex (GGR)

*Lunchbox (GGR)

*Land Shark (DTD)

titmouse (SCB)

*Jewel Kicker (SCB)

Sleeper Hold (DTD)

*Desmond Deck (GGR)

986

896

640

479

392

373

372

354

344

326

304

2007-2012

2007-2012

2007-2012

2013-Present

2013-2015

2008-2010

2008-2011

2010-Present

2007-2009

2014-Present

2007-2008

Lead Percentage (Season)

Skater (Team) Lead % Year
Rainbow Fight (DDT)

Mach Wheels (CA!)

Bellefast (DTD)

Lunchbox (GGR)

Lexi Con (GGR)

Mach Wheels (CA!)

Dyna Hurtcha (CA!)

Dust Bunny (GGR)

Dust Bunny (GGR)

Candy Crossbones (CA!)

88%

78%

77%

76%

76%

75%

74%

72%

72%

70%

2013

2009

2014

2010

2013

2010

2011

2010

2011

2009

 Points Per Jam (Season)

Skater (Team) Points Per Jam Year
Rainbow Fight (DTD)

Sneaky Dee (CA!)

Candy Crossbones (CA!)

Lexi Con (GGR)

Sleeper Hold(DTD)

Santilly In Yo Face (DTD)

Bellefast (DTD)

Ice Pick (D-VAS)

Desmond Deck Her (GGR)

Bambi (GGR)

Bala Reina (CA!)

8.0

6.0

5.5

6.0

5.8

5.6

5.3

5.3

5.2

5.1

5.0

2013

2014

2007

2013

2015

2013

2014

2007

2007

2010

2012

Highest Points in a Single Season

Skater (Team) Total Points Year
*Bambi (GGR)

Lexi Con (GGR)

Sleeper Hold (DTD)

*Dust Bunny (GGR)

*Sista Fista (DTD)

Bala Reina (CA!)

Santilly In Yo Face (DTD)

Rainbow Fight (DTD)

Bambi (GGR)

Smoka Cola (SCB)

286

228

228

227

218

211

211

200

197

183

2008

2013

2015

2008

2008

2012

2013

2013

2010

2015

*The 2008 season consisted of five games per team. Every other season, three.

Canadian Power Rankings: December 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 August 1st Power Ranking here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

 – Some big off-season changes resulted in a slow start for the New Skids on the Block, but since a May loss to Terminal City, the Skids have been on fire, coming within 28 points of a Champs berth and finishing 4th in their Division, the highest finish for a Canadian team in the WFTDA playoffs. (1 / 15)
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars
 –  It was a year to remember for Terminal City: historic regular season wins over Montreal and Rat City previewed a phenomenal playoff performance that included knocking off the legendary Mad Rollin’ Dolls to win the consolation bracket for a 5th place finish in the division playoff tournament.   (2 / 23)
3.Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

+1  After making it all the way to the top of the heap of D2 in 2014, a Division 1 playoff berth this season proved a tough transition for the Vixens, but the team’s strong, steady leadership resulted in a strong performance despite a last-place finish. (4 / 42)
4.Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo  +1 It was quite a year for Calgary, a season that saw them briefly enter Division 1 only to slip out of a playoff position altogether at the end of the year. However, this team grew by leaps and bounds and some late-season roster additions set Calgary up for a strong 2016.  (5 / 62)
5. CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)New CNP Logo -2 A promising start to 2015 (wins over Boston, Steel City and a narrow loss to Montreal) could not be maintained as a constantly shuffling roster resulted in some inconsistent and increasingly shaky performances leading to a last-place finish in their playoff tournament. They are on the cusp of D1 and it remains to be seen if the revamped roster can keep them in it. (6/39)
6Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo  A fascinating year for Thunder who, despite finishing last in their Division 1 playoff tournament, managed to put in some strong performances against very good teams. There is expected to be another roster shake-up this off season (particularly with their jammer rotation once again), and it’ll be interesting to see how those play out. (7 / 49)

7. Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)Duchesses Logo

 –  A quietish year for Les Duchesses nonetheless showed that this team is ready for a greater challenge (for example, they crushed low-D2 Suburbia by 378 points in August). The team’s only losses this season came against Montreal’s Skids and Sexpos. (8 / -)
8. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo  Although the travel team has been inactive this quarter, Winnipeg holds its spot on the strength of its phenomenal 9-2 season. (12 / 112)
9. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo Also having a quiet quarter, the lack of movement from other teams in the Top 10 allows them to hold steady. (14 / 105)
10. E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)

Eville Logo

unranked They’re back!  For the first time since June 2013, E-Ville makes an appearance in the power rankings. An incredible 7-0 run to start the season had them back on the radar but a small summer stumble kept them from cracking the Top 10. Some strong late-season additions inspired  great  results against Regina and Calgary.  (13/ -)

The Changes

 Montreal retains top spot after a phenomenal run through the WFTDA D1 playoffs that saw them finish higher than any other Canadian team had previously. Similarly, after running the consolation bracket in Tucson, Terminal City matched Montreal’s previous playoff-high finish; in 2015, these two teams distanced themselves from the pack and are currently very secure at the top of the table. There was some other shifting at the top though, most notably through Toronto’s drop. ToRD is going through a generational shift on the track right now that could lead to some early season growing pains in 2016, but that could also pay off in the long run with some patience and hard work. This drop allowed Rideau Valley (the best of the last-place Canadian teams in the playoffs) and Calgary to leap-frog ahead.

There was no change from 6 through 9, but the Power Rankings Crew would like to welcome Edmonton’s E-Ville Roller Derby back to the Top 10. They crushed Regina in October 407-34 and put in a strong performance in a loss against Top 5 Calgary 178-105. Word on the track is that some exciting off-season roster changes could help bolster the team’s offense and make them a potential western threat next year.

The Watch List

Misfit Militia (Orangeville Roller Girls) (3rd)

Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls) (9th)

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby) (11th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (15th)

Avalanche City All Stars (Fernie Roller Derby League) (16th)

Fog City’s Shipyard Sirens (17th)

It seems as if we’ve been watching the same teams all season! However, followers of the Power Rankings may recognize the return of Misfit Militia to our Watch List. We’d dropped them from the rankings this season because of their lack of affiliation and the inconsistency of their roster. But now the charter team of WFTDA apprentice Orangeville Roller Girls, the Misfit Militia are back in the thick of things. Word on the track is that many of their members who formerly split time in Toronto are focused exclusively on Misfit Militia now, and this immediately makes them a team to watch in the Canadian competitive derby scene.

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 August Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-