Boston Derby Dames

Toronto Teams Go 6-0 at a Thrilling 2015 Quad City Chaos

Toronto proved to be ungracious hosts on the track, sweeping both the A and B-team portions of an extraordinarily exciting tournament.

The 2015 QCC featured incredibly close action, with an average differential of 36 points in the six D1 games.

The 2015 QCC featured incredibly close action, with an average differential of 36 points in the six D1 games. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Early on in Toronto Roller Derby’s 6th annual Quad City Chaos, the dominant narrative looked as if it would the upsets, but as they games progressed that story was tweaked and what emerged was a tournament dominated by parity, at least on the A-team level, with the average point-differential over the six-game round robin tournament being a measly 36 points, with most (if not all) of the games looking like they could have gone either way. The widest gap of the weekend was a 55-point Toronto win over Boston that was actually much closer than even the score would indicate, evidenced by the seven lead changes that occurred in the game (although they all did occur in the opening half). It was an extraordinary bit of scheduling for the organizers from Toronto Roller Derby, so much so that all of the teams can leave feeling pretty happy about their results.

DIVISION 1 GAMES

An expected CN Power rebuild looks more like a rebirth after a 3-0 weekend. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

An expected CN Power rebuild looks more like a rebirth after a 3-0 weekend. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

One of the questions coming into the game was how a rebuilding Toronto roster would perform against three WFTDA D1 teams whose rosters remained relatively intact from the 2014 season; by the end of the weekend, it was clear that this CN Power team is going through a rebirth more than a rebuild: with a new jammer rotation and a completely new bench staff, Toronto actually looked reenergized and refocused after a somewhat bland 2014 season in which the team appeared to have plateaued. Bolstered by some experienced transfers and a core of internally developed skaters who represent the first wave of graduates of the B-team program, Toronto seems ready for a competitive push up the D1 rankings this season. It was the first time since 2012 (and only the second time ever) that 28th ranked Toronto has gone 3-0 at their own tournament, holding their rankings against the Rideau Valley Vixens (39th) and (29th) Steel City, while upsetting 25th ranked Boston.

Rideau Valley (1-2 on the weekend) also has to be incredibly happy with the results. With the same roster that brought them all the way to the WFTDA D2 championship last year, the Vixens continue to defy expectations and climb the ladder with a team whose core has been together for years now. The Ottawa-based team played above their rankings on the weekend, looking every-bit the equal to all of their opponents. Kicking off the tournament with a significant upset over Steel City, the Vixens gave Toronto all the hosts could handle on Saturday night in a game that featured an incredible eleven lead changes (including nine in the opening half), but as they did all weekend, Toronto seemed to get stronger deep into games and Rideau couldn’t replicate the upset they managed the last time the teams squared off at QCC 2013. The Vixens had a remarkably similar result against Boston, a game in which they could not maintain their intensity through to the end, but looked strong throughout.

Boston jammer Maya Mangleyou duels with Toronto's Renny Rumble while Lil Paine looks on. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Boston jammer Maya Mangleyou duels with Toronto’s Renny Rumble while Lil Paine looks on. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Boston (2-1) had an up and down weekend. Although they went nose-to-nose with Toronto for the first half of their Saturday showdown, the hosts pulled ahead early in the second, and Boston simply could not catch them. But the loss seemed to charge the team up, and after a shaky start against Steel City, managed to pull ahead of Pittsburgh at the midway point of the first half and held off their opponents through to the end; it was a similar performance against Rideau Valley on Sunday.

Steel City (0-3) went winless on the weekend, although they certainly didn’t seem like a team defeated and led for portions of all of their games; the difference early on in the 2015 season seemed to be consistency and focus for this Steel Hurtin’ team that had a hard time maintaining momentum. In particular, Pittsburgh led for much of the second half against Toronto, but could not put the team away, and CN Power patiently held on, eventually blowing by Steel Hurtin’ over a dominant final five minutes.

Despite the results, all four teams leave the 2015 Quad City Chaos having certainly improved their position in the WFTDA’s ranking system, showing that despite some criticism to the contrary, all things being equal, the ranking system rewards close, evenly matched games.

REGULATION GAMES

Rideau Valley's Sirens and Toronto's Bay Street Bruisers faced off for the first time ever. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Rideau Valley’s Sirens and Toronto’s Bay Street Bruisers faced off for the first time ever. (Photo by Joe Mac)

We didn’t see quite the parity in the B-team portion of the tournament, as the Bay Street Bruisers continued a three-year unbeaten streak (7-0) at the event with an at times dominant run through the competition (including a 250-point rout of the Steel Beamers). However, the hosts were certainly challenged against the B-Party, with Boston leading for the vast majority of the game, and virtually the whole second half. But they could not put the hosts away, with the Bruisers managing to stay within 20 for most of the game. And then in the final moments, they surged past their Boston counterparts for the most thrilling, not to mention closest, result of the weekend: a 4-point win that highlighted the perseverance of Toronto’s B-team.

THE PERFORMERS

Steel City's Nick Rollfiliac (seen here staying a step ahead of Boston's Ginger Kid) was named blocker MVP. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Steel City’s Nick Rollfiliac (seen here staying a step ahead of Boston’s Ginger Kid) was named blocker MVP. (Photo by Joe Mac)

On a weekend where there was barely anything separating the competition on the track, choosing MVPs was a challenging feat that lead to some interesting (but certainly always deserving) choices. Both Toronto and Boston’s packs were dominant at times, and pulling one out of the cohesive units was impossible, so it was Steel City’s relentless Nick Rollfiliac who took the honours as A-team blocker MVP. Most of the jammers also had a hard time maintaining consistency over the course of the weekend, but in the end it was Soul Rekker’s tireless play over all three games that led to her selection of MVP. Boston B-Party blocker MC SlamHer took home MVP for the regulation portion along side Bruisers’ jammer Devochka who had three strong, clean and consistent games for the hosts.

THE PENALTIES

Early on in the tournament, during the first B-team game, there were over 100 penalties called, filling the board and leading to large stretches of chaos on the track. It became, momentarily, a thrilling anomaly, with pictures of the white board snapped and buzz spreading from the venue and onto social media; but then, it quickly became clear that this was actually going to be close to a norm for the weekend, and the giddy buzz dissipated. Not only that, there were murmurs on social media indicating that early in 2015 this is a trend certainly not limited to the Quad City Chaos.

I write this not as a criticism of the officiating (the ref crew was staffed with some of the finest, highest certified refs in the region), but just to point out the apparent disconnect between the way the game is being officiated right now and the way it is being played on the track; it was, for some, as fascinating as it was frustrating, but it is clear that something’s got to give. It is reminiscent of the way things were leading up to the elimination of minors.

In sports, the roles of the officials are generally to ensure safety and fairness; in roller derby there is also a third, punitive arm to officiating; however, we’ve started to move away from this (with the slight relaxing of inadvertent cutting penalties, for example), but there still seems to be genuine confusion at times on behalf of the skaters on impact assessment but also on failure to return/reform penalties that were often called in rapid-fire succession against multiple players simultaneously, making it challenging (and confusing) for skaters to quickly and clearly reform (for example, there were twenty two out of play penalties called in the Toronto vs. Steel City game (and 116 penalties in total), leading to multiple instances of only four, three, or even just two blockers on the track). Historically, the WFTDA has shown the willingness and ability to cautiously evolve over time, and certainly these issues will be resolved. But in a time when the new norm seems to be 80, 90, and even 100 penalties in a game, there is a conversation that needs to happen, and it should be a constructive one, because I think everyone (officials and skaters alike) would agree that the current norm is not sustainable.

Nonetheless, the consistency with which calls were made across teams and games did mean that the parity between the clubs still won out in the end, providing the spectators with thrilling games and narrow results despite of the steady stream of skaters to the penalty box.

Quad City Chaos 2015 Banner

WFTDA DIVISION 1 RESULTS

Steel City Roller Derby (Steel Hurtin’) (29th) 142 vs. Rideau Valley Roller Girls (Vixens) (39th) 165 (watch)

Boston Derby Dames (Boston Massacre) (25th) 174 vs. Toronto Roller Derby (CN Power) (28th) 229 (watch)

Boston 169 vs. Steel City 127 (watch)

Toronto 186 vs. Rideau Valley 154 (watch)

Boston 182 vs. Rideau Valley 159 (watch)

Toronto 235 vs. Steel City 191 (watch)

REGULATION RESULTS

Bay Street Bruisers 253 vs. Rideau Valley Sirens 144 (watch)

Bay Street Bruisers 184 vs. Boston B-Party 180 (watch)

Bay Street Bruisers 319 vs. Steel Beamers 69 (watch)

Nerd Glasses

 

**The games were streamed live by layer9.ca, with Saturday night’s games and the final game on Sunday simulcast on WFTDA.TV. Watch the archives here.

**Toronto Roller Derby skater Pr’Editor provided game-by-game recaps for Derby Central all weekend. You can read her work here.

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Quad City Chaos 2015 Preview

This marks the sixth edition of the two-day round robin tournament featuring four WFTDA Division 1 teams and three B-team games.

Quad_City_Chaos_2015Since 2010, Toronto Roller Derby’s Quad City Chaos has been a launching point for the Canadian travel-team season, and while last year’s technically featured four WFTDA D1 teams for the first time (Bleeding Heartland had slipped out of the Top 40 just weeks before the tournament began), this year it is official: this will be a complete WFTDA D1 tournament. And it features four teams with a lot to prove.

Hosts Toronto, looking to get off the plateau they’ve found themselves on for the past year, welcome Rideau Valley back to the QCC for the fourth time and first since 2013, while the historic Boston Derby Dames and Pittsburgh’s Steel City Roller Derby make their QCC debuts, both having begun to develop histories with the tournament’s host. The 2014 QCC was arguably the most thrilling on record, but given the quality and the relatively close rankings of the combatants, this year’s could top even that.

CNPOWER 2015

Toronto Roller Derby: CN Power (28th)

The hosts have not always fared well at QCC, and after going 3-0 in 2012, have managed only a 2-4 record at the event since then. Last year, they played in two of the most thrilling games in the tournament’s history, a 17-point loss to Montreal (which remains the closest a Canadian team has come to defeating the Skids in regulation/sanctioned play), followed by a 14-point defeat at the hands of Ohio. Overall, Toronto has a QCC record of 9-6.

Toronto also has some form of a relationship with all three combatants. Although they sport a 4-1 record against the Rideau Valley Vixens, their last meeting at QCC 2013 (and the only sanctioned bout between the two) ended with a 13-point Vixens’ upset. Last year, they squared off against Steel City twice, both outstanding games, with Steel Hurtin’ taking the regular season showdown by 20 before falling in the consolation round of the playoffs to Toronto by 14. Boston and Toronto have only faced each other once, in the 2013 playoffs, with Toronto scoring a miniscule 6-point win.

Toronto has had little action so far this season, with only a closed, unsanctioned win over Queen City under its belt. And it is a slightly rebuilt roster from the one that went 8-12 last season, most notably in the jammer rotation (and of the four QCC teams, it is certainly the roster with the most changes). Last year’s core playoff rotation will not be on the bench at QCC, whether due to unavailability (Kookie Doe) or retirement (Dusty, Motorhead Molly). But bolstered by some very experienced transfers and a returning blocking core, Toronto may be able to weather this rebuild.

Boston 2015

Boston Derby Dames: Boston Massacre (25th)

One of flat track’s most venerable teams, Boston returns this season with its 2014 playoff lineup virtually in tact (one noticeable absence is playoff track-time leader Vixen Ta Hitcha). Although first time QCCers, Boston has a long history in Canada, largely as long-time frenemies of Montreal, but they do potentially enter the tournament with revenge on their minds, having last met Toronto in the 2013 playoffs, losing a heartbreaker by only 6 points.

Boston had a tough 2014, going 2-7 in sanctioned play (4-7 overall), and a 2-2 playoff record saw them finish 7th in their Division. They have never faced off against Rideau Valley and haven’t seen Steel City on the track since 2011, but with a roster full of holdovers led by veterans Maya Mangleyou (no stranger to Canadian fans as a key piece of Team Canada 2014), Shark Week, Ginger Kid and Lil’ Pain, Boston may be the team to watch at this year’s Quad City Chaos.

This weekend will mark the first action of the year for Boston.

HurtinTeam2014

Steel City Roller Derby: Steel Hurtin’ (29th)

As with Boston, Steel City makes its Quad City Chaos debut with its 2014 roster largely unchanged (also like Boston, there is one noticeable absence, with playoff track-time leader Athena gone from Steel Hurtin’s lineup). Pittsburgh managed a decent 2014 going 7-7 on the season, which forced it into a tough Division Play-in game against Arizona that it lost narrowly. Its tight games against Toronto last season make that match-up intriguing, and with a consistent roster, they could have an edge.

Steel City kicked off its 2015 season with a 215-154 victory over 73rd ranked Charlottesville Derby Dames, and as with Boston is led into battle by a very experienced core led by Team USA skater Snot Rocket Science, but also long-time double threat Hurricane Heather, jammer Leannibal Lector, and blockers Stark Raven and Ally McKill.

 vixens2014_logo-resize

Rideau Valley Roller Girls: Vixens (39th)

Last year’s darlings of Division 2, RVRG’s 2014 success means the road will be that much more challenging in 2015, but also has the potential to be considerably more rewarding. The Vixens tore up their Division 2 playoff tournament last season, crushing the competition in the early rounds before holding off Bear City in the final, in one of the more thrilling games of the season. They fell to Detroit in the D2 final, but the appearance at Champs was enough to vault them into Division 1 for the first time.

In 2015, the Vixens are looking to build off of their most successful season to date, one in which they compiled a 9-2 sanctioned record (10-2 overall) with losses only to Calgary (by 28 points) and Detroit in the D2 final. Similar to Steel City and Boston, The Vixens return with virtually the same lineup this season. And the question remains not how good the likes of Soul Rekker, Shania Pain (jammers), Murphy, Reyes, Brennan, Bottema, Sister Disaster and Rudolph will be, but how much the supporting cast rises up around them. This team’s been riding a short bench for a few years now, and will need to start building depth looking forward, so against the level of competition at QCC, the key could be in skaters like Melanie Austin, Lackey and Restless Rose.

This is the fourth QCC for the Vixens, and the first since 2013. They’ve compiled a career record of 3-6 at the tournament

BRUISERS

B-Team Showdown

Since 2013, the Bay Street Bruisers have hosted B-team games along side their big sisters, and this season, that portion of the tournament has expanded to three games, showcasing the B-squads of each A-team participant. The Bruisers have yet to be defeated at the QCC, compiling a 4-0 record. However, this year’s competition could be the fiercest yet. While they have never faced Rideau Valley’s Sirens or the Boston B Party, they did managed a one-sided 288-97 victory over the Steel Beamers in Pittsburgh last season. But in B-team age, a year can be an eternity.

Neither the Beamers nor the B Party have seen competition yet this season, while the Bruisers are coming off of a tough 170-155 win over Royal City (Guelph’s WFTDA team), and the Sirens tasted defeat against Montreal’s Sexpos. While that initial track time may give the Canadian teams a slight edge, it probably won’t be enough to intimidate their American opponents.

Nerd Glasses

**Action begins at 10:00 AM sharp on Saturday, March 21. Day and weekend passes are available; separate tickets for Saturday night’s double header are also available.

**Every moment of QCC 2015 will be boutcast live by layer9.ca, with Saturday night’s double header and Sunday’s final game simulcast on WFTDA.TV. Full viewing schedule is available here.

**Check out this QCC 2015 trailer (produced by Tiffany Beaudin):

 

Catch Up on the Past QCCs!

 

2011 Quad City Chaos Poster.

2011 Quad City Chaos Poster.

Quad City Chaos 2014

Quad City Chaos 2013

Quad City Chaos 2012

Quad City Chaos 2011

Quad City Chaos 2010

Word on the track: CN Power scores upset in a weekend full of WFTDA upsets

CN Power's upset win over Fort Wayne was aired live on Derby News Network.

FEATURED SHOWDOWN

CN Power 151 vs. Fort Wayne 138

In the ever-tightening North Central Region, Toronto Roller Derby upstarts CN Power (17th) scored an important upset win over 14th ranked Fort Wayne Derby Girls. While the two teams have never met before, Fort Wayne has a long history with Hammer City beginning back in 2007 when the southern Ontario team was invited to the Fall Brawl. While Fort Wayne never lost to Hammer City in their meetings, they faced a far greater challenge on Saturday when they hosted a very hungry CN Power. What resulted was a tense, penalty-filled affair that featured six lead changes and two ejections, but in the end saw CN Power inch one step closer to the WFTDA playoffs.

The bout began slowly, with each team getting a sense of the other as they jockeyed for control. The ToRD skaters seemed to be trying to keep things slow and controlled in the early going, while Fort Wayne looked to up the physical ante and draw CN Power into a physical showdown. What resulted was a defensive stalemate that saw CN Power hold on to a small 7-5 lead, six jams into the bout.  Fort Wayne used their physical advantage to win some of the early scrum starts to get back in the game, and the scrappy, physical packs began to take their toll on the teams and the penalties began to add up.  First Fort Wayne’s Pushycat and CN Power’s Dust Bunny exchanged power jams (and leads), before a 15 point Bambi power jam finally pulled CN Power ahead 38-20.

But as they would all bout, CN Power would build a solid lead only to see the Fort Wayne skaters claw their way back. Momentum began to shift as penalty problems forced Toronto away from its usual rotation and the hosts pounced on the confusion to retake the lead. Despite a strong final-jam push back from a determined CN Power pack (featuring a slick 9 points from an uncharacteristically jukey Dyna Hurtcha), the visitors were down 66-58 at the half.

The second half featured much of the same dueling for momentum and control of the bout that had the teams neck-and-neck through the first ten minutes. In a fascinating sequence around the midway point of the second half, the fate of the game would be decided. First, on another multi-jammer-penalty jam CN Power took a 90-79 lead, then in a turnaround indicative of the game as a whole, the very next jam would see yet another wild swing in momentum as Fort Wayne picked up 15 points on a power jam to inch ahead; with Dust Bunny still in the box, they seemed to have control of the volatile game. But on the back of some strong pack defense, Dust Bunny was able to spring from the pack to steal 9 points; it was a blow that seemed to finally wrestle control of the game away from the hosts. What followed was CN Power’s strongest series of jams of the bout: clean, tight controlled packs led by great individual efforts from Lady Gagya and Nasher the Smasher, and patient conservative jamming from CN Power’s strong three-skater rotation, saw Toronto finally take control of things and pull ahead 134-96 with only eleven minutes left.

But in a game that was full of momentum changes and full penalty boxes, Fort Wayne was down but not out, and they continued to chip away at an increasingly undisciplined CN Power, but while they would outscore CN Power 42-17 in the final ten minutes of the game, they couldn’t climb all the way back, and the ToRD skaters held on for a very important 151-138 upset that could see them climb as high was 14th in the North Central rankings.

**Watch the archived bout here. Next up for CN Power is a home date on March 3rdagainst the Eastern Regions Roc City Roc Stars.

It was a busy weekend in the WFTDA, with eleven sanctioned bouts.

WFTDA ROUND UP

North Central

In other North Central matchups this weekend, Cincinnati (8th) and Grand Raggidy (11th) met in a hugely entertaining showdown  that saw Cincinnati fight their way back from a first half deficit to prevent the upset and win 140-116. For Grand Raggidy, a team that has been on the cusp of the North Central playoffs for the past two years, it was an important step in the right direction. And after a big loss to CN Power to close out 2011, 21st ranked Derby City continued their slide, getting crushed by 13th ranked Bleeding Heartland  220-76.

Despite being an apprentice league, Columbia has already knocked off two WFTDA teams this year.

East Region

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block (6th) kicked off their 2012 season on Friday in a non-sanctioned bout against Boston (7th); the mixed Boston squad was no match for the Montreal skaters who are hungry after two years of amazing regular seasons have led to disappointing playoff runs and skated away with a 172-83 victory. It was another unsanctioned bout that actually saw the biggest upset of the weekend. WFTDA Apprentice league Columbia Quadsquad All Stars (who began their season with an upset over 16th ranked Dominion) recorded a monstrous upset  in Carolina, stunning the 8th ranked Carolina Rollergirls 99-88. Carolina is also ranked 21st in the DNN Power Rankings, so the East, which seems to produce a stunning playoff-bound upstart every year (Montreal in ’10, London last year), could have their “next-big-thing” in Columbia.

In other Eastern Region action, 13th ranked Providence barely held off a challenge from 22nd ranked Green Mountain Derby Dames 174-161, only securing the win on the final jam. To continue the theme of surprising results, 25thranked Charlotte Roller Girls fell to unranked Lowcountry Highrollers 153-81.

11th ranked Jacksonville helped their playoff chances with win over 9th ranked Gold Coast.

South Central

The South Central was busy on Saturday night as well.  In a minor upset, Jacksonville (11th) blew past Gold Coast (9) 186-97 in a game with playoff implications; Unranked Des Moines handled themselves well in a 165-89 loss to 10th ranked Omaha (leaving Omaha clinging to that final playoff spot), while 16th ranked Memphis was able to hold off the Oklahoma Victory Dolls 87-77. Springfield (25th) took down Oklahoma City (27th) 204-76.

Inter-Region

There were a few intriguing inter-region matchups this weekend as well. In a stiff test, the South Central’s 4th ranked Atlanta Roller Girls held off the challenge from the Eastern Region’s 10th ranked Maine Roller Derby 181-114. Tri-City Thunder, ranked 16th in the North Central visited Roc City Roc Stars (17th in the East) and proved to be a handful. Only late in the game were the Thunder able to pull away from the Roc Stars, winning. 124-92

ONE MORE THING!

Finally, a big congratulations to the Yukon Roller Girls who beat Juneau in a cross-border, northern showdown, 164-161 in what by all accounts was an extraordinary game.  Yukon has a busy schedule lined up for 2012 featuring bouts against Fairbanks, Red Deer and Reign Valley.

Nerd Meat Part 3: The “Moment”

Nerd Meat: The Nerd Does Derby

Part 3: The “Moment”

I don’t have any way to back this up, but I have a feeling that this is the largest intake of fresh meat that any league in Canada has seen (just under 90), at least since those first heady days of the sport’s emergence in this country when whole leagues formed in a matter of weeks. It speaks to the cultural prevalence of the sport; the level of media saturation and pop culture awareness that exists. Even just two years ago I’d meet people all the time who had no idea roller derby was making a comeback. That’s not usually the case anymore here in Toronto. People may not have seen flat track roller derby, or know the specifics, but they usually know it’s here and happening.

ToRD's WFTDA Apprenticeship has brought an increased visibility to CN Power.

The increased media prominence in Toronto is coming at a very opportune time. With ToRD on the verge of WFTDA status, the visibility of its travel team, CN Power, is only going to grow south of the border, and it seems that the Toronto media is finally catching on to the importance of CN Power in the larger world of roller derby. In the lead up to this weekend’s bout against Michigan’s Killamazoo Derby Darlins there has been front-page coverage on a major Toronto paper (The Toronto Sun) and prominent sports coverage on City TV’s evening news, all on top of the the usual media avenues. CN Power hasn’t yet drawn the sorts of crowds or inspired the sort of support that ToRD’s hometeams have, but all evidence points toward this weekend’s bout being the most successful and well attended CN Power bout ever—perhaps the travel team is finally starting to draw the sort of increased attention that it deserves.

Right along side this rise in media interest, has been the influx of interested partcipants. The reasons these women tell me they have for joining fresh meat are as varied as the body types and backgrounds. Some just thought it would be a unique “alternative” way to exercise (with the comfort of a large group of like-minded women—and a few guys); some caught a bout or two and were intrigued enough to take the next step, wanted to see if they had what it took to play; others have been watching the sport for much longer, have already skated and trained even, and know that at the end of the fresh meat the opportunity to be drafted to the D-VAS—or even directly onto one of ToRD’s hometeams—exists. These skaters gaze out at the Hangar during fresh meat sessions with a different look in their eyes. Now that they have seen the incredible crowd and felt the energy of ToRD’s season opener and are being swept up in the fervour surrounding this all star bout, they are getting even hungrier.

I won’t surprise anyone by saying that the first time I saw roller derby my life changed. I won’t surprise anyone because I wear my passion for this sport on my sleeve, but also because most people involved in flat track roller derby have had the same experience: The experience that I’ve most often heard described as “the moment.” A few skaters at Fresh Meat speak of having had this moment, and those ones—even if they can’t skate a lick right now—are hooked; it might take them a full year or even two to learn to skate, but they will; they may not be drafted for a draft or two, but they’ll persevere and end up on a roster. They may have undistinguished careers on the track, they may become superstars. But they’re in now, and they won’t get out.

A crowd lines up outside of Arena St. Louis for a 2008 Montreal Roller Derby bout.

My moment came in Montreal on May 31st, 2008, just after Montreal Roller Derby had hosted the inaugural Beast of the East. A few friends (two women) had caught wind of the sport and had gone to check it out. Neither were athletic in the slightest, nor—as far as I knew—had any interest in sports whatsoever. I don’t think either of them even skated very much. But they’d fallen in love at first sight. We saw them at a bar and they couldn’t stop talking about it, raving about it, actually. They told us that the following weekend, two of Montreal’s home teams, Les Filles du Roi and La Racaille, were hosting B-teams from Boston, The B Party, and Charm City (Baltimore), Female Trouble. My partner and I were eventually convinced to check it out.

Montreal plays its home games in Arena St. Louis, a modest-sized arena tucked away in Montreal’s laid back Mile End neighbourhood. It’s right off of The Main—Montreal’s busiest strip—but if you weren’t looking for it, you’d never find it, probably never even know it was there. I won’t lie and claim to remember what I was expecting when I walked into the arena, but I do know that what I discovered was not what I was expecting. It was absolutely packed that night, and in those days the crowd was still predominantly women. There was cheap PBR (and Old Milwaukee when that ran out) and the spectators were quickly rowdy. I couldn’t figure out who all these people were. They didn’t look like sports fans, they looked like people you’d see at a gig at Sala Rossa down the street, not at a sporting event. But they were rabid about the game, and their affection for the women on track was extraordinarily obvious. I was so amazed by what I was seeing around me that it took me a long time to even look at what was happening on the track.

La Racaille vs. Les Contrabanditas at MTLRD's Arena St. Louis. (Beast of the East 2010)

Of course, when I did turn my attention to the track, I had no idea what was going on. It was just absolute chaos to me. Up to ten women were flinging themselves around the track, seemingly haphazardly and with complete abandon. I could see the refs and hear the whistles but it was all meaningless. What I did know was that Montreal was getting beaten pretty badly in the opening bout. To my untrained eye, the teams on the track didn’t seem that different, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t figure what the American team was doing so differently. Every once in a while a particular skater would go onto the track for Montreal and the game would change, the crowd would shift expectantly. She was a small woman, wiry, but muscular. She was distinguished by the star on her helmet, and the awkward, hunched-over stride that brought her so low around the turns she could slap the floor if she wanted. It didn’t take me long to realize that whenever she was on the track Montreal’s score increased.  It gave me something to latch on to; I could match the cheers in the crowd with this skater’s ability to get through the pack, weave her way through the opposing blockers and take assists from her own. Gaining a centre point allowed me to see that within all the apparent chaos, there was a particular order to things. There were strategies, counter strategies. And no matter how out of hand the score got, we just waited for the skater with the distinctive gait to get back on the track so we could cheer. We were eventually able to read the number scrawled on her arm and checked her name in the program: Iron Wench.

The Iron Wench jams against CN Power at the 2010 Quad City Chaos.

Both Montreal teams got defeated that night, but it would mark the beginning of a journey that those skaters would take right to the highest levels of competition. The Iron Wench would become a respected star of the sport; Boston and Charm City would battle for National championships; Montreal would be the first non-US team to compete in the WFTDA playoffs: The three women I was with at that double header would all become skaters who continue to skate to this day.

I may not remember what my expectations were that night, and I certainly know that I didn’t learn that much about the sport, but I knew one thing right away, that my life had changed in a profound way.  Like so many of the people who I was skating with at fresh meat—and like so many others all over the world before them—roller derby had gotten to me: I’d had my moment.

**Visit the Nerd Meat Archives**