Candy Crossbones

Montreal and Toronto Kick Off Beast with Highly Anticipated WFTDA D1 Showdown

On April 24th, 2015, two of Canada’s top roller derby teams—Toronto’s CN Power and Montreal’s New Skids on the Block—will meet for the sixth time.

The Skids and CN Power first met at the 2010 Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Two distinct cities and two distinct leagues. A history apart, yet deeply interwoven.

The history of roller derby in this country runs through a few leagues in a few major cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton, and, of course, Toronto and Montreal. And yet while roller derby has existed for virtually the same amount of time in both Toronto and Montreal, the paths they have taken through the game’s first decade in Canada couldn’t have been more different.

This will be the third consecutive year that CN Power and the Skids will kick off the Beast of the East.

This will be the third consecutive year that CN Power and the Skids will kick off the Beast of the East.

ToRD sits smack dab in the centre of the most active community of roller derby in the country, if not the world. You can’t go more than 50 kms in any direction and not run into a roller derby league of some size. And though leagues and numbers have fluctuated, there have been up to four leagues operating in the city of Toronto alone (and that’s not counting Durham in the GTA’s eastern end). And ToRD’s own remarkable history reflects this diversity and division.

Beginning, essentially, as a merger of a handful of teams that had sprouted up in the city in 2006, ToRD kicked off its first public season in 2007 as an unwieldy six-team house league: the biggest in the sport at the time. The focus was local, and in the midst of splits and new leagues, the focus was insular and then siloed within that closed community: so that the allegiances formed were to team, not necessarily league.

Montreal, on the other hand, has had a much more linear history, aided, in part, by the scarcity of surrounding leagues and influences. Even now 10 years later with provinces like Alberta, BC and Ontario bursting at the seams with leagues, Quebec remains slow in its embrace of the sport outside of Montreal.

In this isolation, the league began as a group of unified skaters, and Montreal Roller Derby grew as those skaters were parceled off into teams, eventually bringing together enough skaters for three teams to kick off their inaugural season in 2007.

Within a year of going public, both leagues had also formed travel teams, and that’s where the story goes in two different directions.

On Friday, April 24, CN Power and the New Skids on the Block will meet for the sixth time, with Montreal holding the dominant 5-0 edge coming into it. But where once a Montreal win would be guaranteed against any Canadian opponent, this time, Toronto comes in on relatively equal footing.

The Skids won narrowly, 233-216, at the 2014 Quad City Chaos. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

The Skids won narrowly, 233-216, at the 2014 Quad City Chaos. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

When the two teams first met in March 2010, Montreal was on the verge of distancing itself from the rest of the country. Early adopters of the pace strategies that would come to define the flat track game, the Skids also understood at a very early stage the importance of off-skates training and fitness as being key to the team’s success. Beginning in that 2010 season, Montreal went on a four-year run of dominance in this country, a run so dominant, that for many years, the Skids barely even bothered with Canadian competition. It wasn’t until 2013 when that began to change.

In the first two meetings between the rivals, the Skids won with an average differential of 224 points. Then, at the Beast of the East 2013, Toronto pulled noticeably closer, losing by 89 points. This kicked off a year in which the Toronto team would play its most competitive season, qualifying for the D1 playoffs for the first time. It was an organizational leap forward years in the making, as Toronto finally turned away from its internal focus to set its sights on the lofty heights of the WFTDA competitive game.

Then in March 2014, CN Power lost to the Skids narrowly on its home track by only 17 points. This remains the closest score that any Canadian team has come to the Skids in a regulation or sanctioned game. Thirteen months later, and the teams are arguably dead even.

Both rosters have gone through their share of changes since those early days of the rivalry, and this year there are new looks as well. Toronto has gone through a noticeable generational change, shifting out virtually its whole core jammer rotation while tweaking the pack. Montreal similarly has seen great change, with this season boasting seven new Skids on the roster. However, the strong organizational underpinnings in each of these leagues has allowed for a relatively seamless transition to these new generations of all stars.

Toronto has kicked off 2015 with a 3-0 record so far, while Montreal has been slightly quieter, winning its lone bout of the season. Interestingly, both teams have faced off against the Rideau Valley Vixens only weeks apart with remarkably similar results: Toronto won by 32, Montreal by 26, a difference that is statistically insignificant.

For perhaps the first time ever, on Friday, April 24, when Montreal and Toronto face off, it really is anybody’s game.

***CN Power and the New Skids on the Block face off at Arena St. Louis in Montreal on the 24th. Doors open at 6:00 PM with first whistle at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online.

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Montreal and Toronto Kick off Beast with WFTDA Showdown.

For the second year in a row, the New Skids on the Block host CN Power on the eve of the Beast of the East.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

184, 263, 89, 17.

These are the point differentials from the four times that Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Toronto’s CN Power have met since 2010. After the peak 284-21 win for the Skids at the 2011 Quad City Chaos, the gap has been narrowing; with that narrowing becoming all the more dramatic over the past year since the two faced off on the eve of last year’s Beast of the East.

By all metrics, this gap should narrow even more on the track at Arena St. Louis on Friday night, in what promises to be an electric atmosphere.

One thing you can be sure of is that Montreal will show up ready. Aside from a surprising blip at last year’s playoffs where a lacklustre performance blew a clear road to Champs, the Skids have been Canada’s most consistent and durable performers. And when it comes to those rare face offs against Canadian competition, they seem to always enter hungry for a victory. Never was this more evident than while repelling a ferocious Toronto attack at last month’s Quad City Chaos.

And at this stage in their development, this seems to be the last barrier of separation between Toronto and the other elite teams of the WFTDA’s Division 1: consistency, and the focus that this consistency requires.

After a reputation-building performance at last year’s playoffs, Toronto seemed to grow from the experience, kicking off 2014 with lopsided victories over formerly close opponents in Killamazoo and Bleeding Heartland before pushing Montreal to the very limits of their considerable abilities and experience in the thrilling 17-point loss on their home track in Toronto. But then everything seemed to change at halftime of another anticipated QCC matchup against a rebuilding Ohio team.

Montreal's Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month's Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month’s Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Taking an impressive 30-point lead into the break, it was a tale of two teams in the second half as Toronto came out loose, unfocused and unprepared for the brutal onslaught that a stone-faced and determined Ohio team unleashed. The considerably more experienced skaters from Columbus gave Toronto a swift lesson in the level of discipline and focus needed to compete at the WFTDA’s highest level on a consistent basis; by the time Toronto came around in the period (after a 97-14 Ohio run to start the second half), the game was already out of reach.

Nonetheless, it was a strong showing against a higher ranked opponent and Toronto had to have high expectations heading into London’s Anarchy in the UK, sporting a franchise-high rank of 13th. CN Power instead looked woefully out of place, suffering the most lopsided loss in their history (477-41 to London) before falling to Detroit, a team ranked 21-spots below them who had come into the tournament desperate to improve their lot and secure their perilous spot in the top Division; the win over Toronto guaranteed that.

It was a Toronto team that looked far removed from the one that had taken Atlanta to the limits on the biggest stage only six months prior.

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

The Skids don’t have as big a sample size on which be judged so far in 2014, but from what little we have seen, they seem to have learned from their so-so performance at Divisionals. Indeed, the Montreal team that showed up at QCC ’14 was the hungriest, most focused Skids team that I’ve seen in quite some time. Their thoroughly (almost shockingly) dominant win over Ohio (the very team that ended their shot at Champs in last year’s playoffs) was impressive to say the least. And the poise that they showed in repelling Toronto was evidence of their considerable experience playing at this elite level. Those hours on the track against the best this game has to offer were the difference. And as far as Toronto has come, they simply have yet to clock that all-important track time.

However, Toronto has bounced back from inconsistency before. It’s easy to forget that at the QCC ’13 Toronto lost to a Rideau Valley team that was (at the time) 30+ spots below them in the rankings. They built off of that learning experience, and used it to propel them to the D-1 playoffs. They will need to do so again this season with the Anarchy performance. They’ve got a tough schedule ahead of them, and while they need to learn from their losses, they simply don’t have time to dwell on them.

There won’t be much change in rosters from QCC to this game (Toronto jammer Rainbow Fight remains on injury reserve after suffering a serious internal injury against Killamazoo); however, Nasher the Smasher draws back into the pack and this could make a considerable difference for Toronto (she was named team MVP at Anarchy); a truly elite player, her on-track leadership will be a boon for Toronto.

Montreal's Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC '14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal’s Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC ’14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal seemed to answer the Iron Wench question (that question being “How do you replace the greatest jammer our country has ever seen?”) by showing considerable depth at the position, relying on a mix of vets and “rookies.” The supremely talented Miracle Whips has all the potential to be a top-level jammer, but is still prone to the kinds of mistakes that experience has a way of correcting.

A year ago nearly to the day, these two teams played an unbelievably exciting half of roller derby in front of one of the most appreciative and electric crowds I’ve seen for this sport in this country. Toronto seemed overwhelmed by the moment and faded in the second half. This year, however, Toronto has shown that at their best, they are ready for the spotlight. The question remains: Is Montreal willing to share it?

**The game will be streamed live by CUTV. Tune in to mtlrollerderby.com beginning at 6:50 PM on Friday, April 25th.

Weekend Recap: CN Power improves to 5-0 on WFTDA season

CN Power and the Lake Effect Furies met for the third time in 18 months. (Photo by Joe Mac)

WFTDA ACTION

Lake Effect Furies (15th E) 92 vs. CN Power (17th NC) 184

Just six months ago, the last time ToRD’s CN Power and Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies met, it was a quintessential heart-stopping nail-biter: a game that went back and forth from the start, featured numerous lead changes and ended up not being settled until the final minutes when CN Power was able to nudge ahead and squeak out a 10-point victory. On Saturday there were two lead changes and they both occurred within the first eight minutes of the game; the Toronto hosts took the lead at the eight-minute mark of the opening half and never looked back, picking up a definitive 92-point victory and winning their fifth straight WFTDAbout of 2012.

B'kini Whacks had a strong game jamming for Furies; Aston Martini responded defensively for the CN Power. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Furies play a physical brand of derby that has given CN Power problems in the past, but Toronto withstood the fury and even managed to dish out some punishment of their own over the course of the bout. In the opening minutes though, it was a stalemate. CN Power jumped out to a quick lead on their home track, with a series of quick 4-and-done jams that had them ahead early. But a big 14-point pick up by B’kini Whacks (aided by some stifling pack work) saw Queen City take the lead 17-12 six minutes in. But CN Power did not relent and within three minutes retook the lead 21-17. The actual turning point in the half (and maybe the whole game) came five minutes later when the first power jam was rewarded to CN Power and Candy Crossbones picked up a hard-fought 14 points to give Toronto a 37-20 lead.

CNP jammer Candy Crossbones seemed to thrive in the physical nature of the game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

CN Power’s core jammer rotation of Candy Crossbones, Bambi and Dust Bunny is a juggernaut of a rotation and one that is only improving with more WFTDA play (their strength also allows skaters like Betty Bomber and Dyna Hurtcha—who had an outstanding game as a blocker—to play in the pack).  Each of the jammers brings a distinct style to the jam line that keeps opposition packs on their toes and impedes any sort of unified defensive effort. Each skater also seems to thrive in particular games, and this one was Candy Crossbones’ to take over. A physical jammer herself, Candy seemed to power-up with every punishing hit delivered by the relentless Furies’ pack (and between the likes of R. Rose Selavy, Lipservice and Vajenna Warrior, there were a lot of those) and dominated the first half, putting up 48 points and ensuring a 92-61 lead at the break.

CNP co-captain Lady Gagya had a strong game in the pack. (Photo by Greg Russell)

CN Power was playing its first game without long-time captain and key pivot Brim Stone, but the team rallied around the gap instead of allowing it to be a distraction. There is a strong on-track leadership core in place led by the always excellent Tara Part and Nasher the Smasher  who have provided the consistency and calmness that has allowed other skaters like (co captain) Lady Gagya and Panty Hoser to step us as leaders as well. Aston Martini has also continued to emerge as a key defensive blocker on this team in 2012 and was a recycling machine in the first half before being pulled in the second as an injury suffered at the recent Quad City Chaos flared up (allowing Jubilee to step into the defensive role, which she handled well). Marmighty was playing in her first game as a member of CN Power, and despite some early penalty troubles, did not look out of place on the track providing some of that much needed physicality that Toronto needed, and is just another example of the depth of Toronto’s bench.

In one of their more consistent efforts all year (they weathered some considerable pushbacks from the visitors, especially near the end of the first half), CN Power skated disciplined and clean and took advantage of power jams and mistakes by the Furies to pull away for the 184-92 victory, another big one on their climb up the WFTDA ladder.

**The game was boutcast by the ToRD.TV crew via Derby News Network and Canuck Derby TV. Watch it here.

Deciphering the Draft (Part 1): ToRD’s 2011 Entry Draft Is Deepest Yet

Toronto Roller Derby held its annual entry draft on October 15th at the new location of Cardinal Skates (940 Bloor St. W).

Starting at around 9:30 PM they begin to enter the new home of Cardinal Skate Shop one by one, responding to the call that they’d been waiting for. When each one enters there are loud cheers: Blue shirts are stretched over heads, green icing rubbed into faces, and baby bottles shoved into mouths. They’ve gone from the anxiousness of anticipation—the stress of waiting for a call that may not come—to being the celebrated centre of attention.  There is excitement in their faces, joy even, but behind that there is also relief and, for some, shock. These are the twelve newest skaters in the Toronto Roller Derby league, the draft class of 2011.

For the skaters of the 2011 draft, this night was a culmination of up to 18 months of hard work and dedication. It was a reward for their commitment to this sport, but also an acknowledgment of their ability. And it certainly wasn’t a guarantee. It wasn’t that long ago that being drafted into ToRD simply meant finishing the Fresh Meat training program and declaring eligibility; since 2010 it has become a much more competitive venture. The burgeoning global interest in women’s flat track roller derby has been mirrored by the incredible interest in the sport in Toronto. With an increasing number of skaters successfully completing Fresh Meat, but only a limited number of open roster spots on the four hometeams in ToRD, the decision was made to resurrect the D-VAS (one of the original hometeams that made up the initial, over-ambitious birth of Toronto Roller Derby).  Since 2010, the D-VAS has acted as a farm team for the four hometeams of the league. Given the steady growth of new leagues in Ontario (23 and counting as of October, 2011), there has been lots of equivalent-level competition entering the game that has allowed the D-VAS to put together a year-round bouting schedule of home and away games.

The D-VAS were one of the orginal 6 ToRD teams, and now serve as the farm team for the league.

Smoke City Betties captain Misery Mae knows the importance of the role of the D-VAS better than anyone; only one year ago she was completing her time on the farm team and being drafted into the league. Advancing from rookie to captain in a year is a remarkable turn-around made possible by a solid foundation formed on the farm team. “Being a D-VAS brings out an understanding of the game (and) brings you up to being game ready,” she points out, alluding to the high level of preparedness that skaters entering the league now have. These sentiments are echoed by Chicks Ahoy! captain Candy Crossbones, “It was very easy to choose skilled players because it was a very high calibre (draft) in terms of skill.” There were about 40 skaters on the D-VAS by the time of the draft, with 33 skaters declaring eligibility for the 12 spots. Needless to say, this level of competition will raise the level of the entry into the league, thereby raising the base level of play. “(The D-VAS) has been a huge asset for ToRD,” agrees Misery Mae, “and in the future, it’s going to be a really strong factor in what moves ToRD forward competitively.”

hellbat was the lone draftee of the Gore-Gore Rollergirls this season. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The importance of this developmental process is not lost on the skaters either. hellbat, the lone draftee onto the Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ roster this season, was undrafted last year (the first year there were more skaters than spots in the draft). “(The D-VAS) are tremendously important to the future of ToRD…I feel like I had a rookie year already and then had to be a senior skater (to the newer D-VAS).” One of the Smoke City Betties’ four draftees, Laya Beaton was also a senior skater with the farm team this season. “This year was really awesome on the D-VAS; I got a lot of experience, a lot of game play, and I learned what I needed to fix.”  As the competitive level of ToRD reaches new heights, it is not as easy for skaters to simply step into a role in the league, and there isn’t as much opportunity for the hometeams to train them either. “(Being on the D-VAS) prepared me more for the level of competition that exists in ToRD,” explains Roadside BombShel (draftee of the defending champion Chicks Ahoy!). “The level of drive and commitment is new from what I’d seen before,” she says (pointing out that she began her skating career with the more recreationally focused Rollergettes). “It challenges you to be more than just a skater; it challenges you to be a better athlete.”

The game experience that the D-VAS gets (such as this September meeting against Guelph's Rolay City) means that they are entering the league at a much higher level. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The game experience that the D-VAS get (such as this September meeting against Guelph's Royal City) means that they are entering the league at a much higher level. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

But being a member of a competitive roller derby team takes a lot more than just skills on skates and a knowledge of the game, it takes tremendous dedication. “The D-VAS are a really important step…in the past we’ve drafted people who weren’t even sure if they really wanted to be on a team,” points out Gores’ captain Lady Gagya, who stresses the importance of the D-VAS in clearly separating the curious from the committed.

After the rigors of being on the D-VAS (with the intense focus on training and game play) and having the opportunity to take hits from unfriendly opposition, questions of commitment can most certainly be laid to rest.

(Deciphering the Draft continues tomorrow with a look at the teams’ selection processes and more interviews with the drafted skaters)

ToRD’s All Stars and Future Stars Initiate the Bunker

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath was on hand to blow the first whistle in the Bunker. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

In December of this year the first ever World Cup of roller derby will be played over three days on two tracks in the Bunker, the new home of Toronto Roller Derby; on Saturday the Bunker got its first taste of action as ToRD hosted a double header welcoming the Royal City All Stars (out of Guelph) and the Montreal Sexpos to the city to initiate the new venue. Both bouts of the double header were played on the smaller, more intimate Track 2 as the main track was still under construction (both tracks will be in use during the World Cup). With special guest provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath on hand to blow the first whistle, the energy level and sense of anticipation for the first action in the venue was palpable. The home league ended up splitting the games in this successful launch.

Game 1: Royal City All Stars 203 vs. D-VAS 42

DVAS pivot Bridget Bones lines up against Royal City pivot Cannonball Doll. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Having just completed its first full bouting season, Royal City has proven to be a league to watch. The three hometeams had a successful year in Guelph playing out of the Sleeman Centre and had a successful travel season as well: in June the travel team had a fantastic performance at the Blood Spill on the Hill, CWRDA’s Eastern Championship, finishing 5th overall. The Queens of Pain (a mix of players from hometemas the Killer Queens and Our Ladies of Pain) took an impressive 3rd place at the 2 Fresh 2 Furious tournament in July. This weekend marked their first foray into playing against competition from ToRD. Before the bout, Royal City coach Professor Wrex implied that the team was hoping for a strong performance to prove that they were prepared for competition beyond ToRD’s team of undrafted skaters: After 60 minutes of smart, dominant derby, they certainly proved that point.

For many of these D-VAS, this was their last chance to make a big impression before ToRD's 2011 entry draft. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The D-VAS were playing far more than just another bout. Just over a month away from ToRD’s annual entry draft (with a large, talented draft pool, this year’s draft has been the most highly anticipated ever), this bout marked the last time the D-VAS had a chance to make an impression on the hometeam captains. It was a multi-generational roster that took to the track on Saturday (including 6 skaters who had just finished Fresh Meat in June, ToRD’s most recent intake), providing a cross section of ToRD’s future stars. While there was a vast array of experience levels (and the problems, such as penalties, that come with it), the skaters fought hard straight through to the end, and were actually successful in accomplishing the mandate of the D-VAS: to gain experience and learn the sport.

The D-VAS actually got off to an explosive start when debut D-VAS Roadside Bombshell roared through to a 5-0 grand slam (she would pick up the most leads for the D-VAS in the first half). But as Royal City settled in and shook off the early bout jitters, their pack slowly took control: with better timing allowing for quicker transitions, Royal City quickly got back into it and took the lead on a Hot Cross Guns jam. Then tragedy for a D-VAS skater: Raunchy Hextall, making a much anticipated return after a long injury absence, went down on her first jam of the bout with a broken collar bone, a heartbreaking end to the night for the dedicated D-VAS.

Hellcat of Panar was part of a very impressive Royal City jammer rotation. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

With a commanding 99-19 lead at the half, Royal City didn’t look back in the second. Royal City Pivot Mandy Maggotbone lead the way once again for this ever-improving pack, but was aided gamely by Ginger Slaughters, Cannonball Doll and the Archbitch of   Slamterbury. They began to experiment with their jammer rotation late as well, but not before Hot Cross Guns, Lady Gorejess and the Hellcat of Panar had established a dominant lead.  D-VAS Laya Beaton  once again proved to be a powerful and confident skater (who will need to refine her approach to avoid penalty troubles); very fresh D-VAS General Patten, a fantastic skater, also laid down another performance that should guarantee that she jumps the draft queue; and despite a late ejection, blocker Renny Rumble seems game-ready, and was the ToRD future stars’ most effective blocker against a tight pack in the one-sided loss.

CN Power's Candy Crossbones lines up against Sexpos' Ti-Loup. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Game 2: Sexpos 44 vs. CN Power 79**

Fans of flat track roller derby in Toronto could not have asked for a better bout to close out the night than the one provided by Montreal’s Sexpos and ToRD’s CN Power. The Sexpos, Montreal’s B travel team, is a B team by designation only as they are the equal to any league A team in Canada, which they proved on this night giving CN Power everything it could handle before falling behind in the second half of their 35 point loss, the team’s first to a Canadian squad.

The Sexpos set some nearly impenetrable walls in the first half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

From the opening whistle this bout was everything that flat track roller derby should be. With an extraordinary ref crew that kept the game moving swiftly and fairly, the bout was sometimes blazingly fast, sometimes grindingly slow; it was gritty at times, beautiful at others, but most importantly, it was always smart. With both teams showing respect for their opponents, the bout started off with each side straining to get a sense of the other. CN Power crept out to an early lead that was quickly chipped away. The early head-to-head battles resulted in many lead changes that had an appreciative crowd only growing louder by the second. The jammers from both sides seemed equally matched with CN Power running an experienced rotation anchored by the agile Bambi and the tough Candy Crossbones, while the Sexpos responded with Ti-Loup, Greta Bobo (both coming off of breakout home seasons in MTLRD) and recent transfer Honey Badger. Dyna Hurtcha and Brim Stone also entered the rotation, giving CN Power a physical, potentially defensive advantage at jammer. By the midway point of the half the Sexpos inched ahead 16-9, but hard fought Dyna Hurtcha jam brought CN Power back into it, 16-14. And that’s when Montreal’s pack took over.

Led by excellent pack work from Chasing Amy, Bikini Skills, Ninja Simone and Sparkle  N’ Maim, the Montreal team built formidable back walls on the opening pass that were successful enough to dominate the remainder of the half, allowing their jammers to take most of the leads and baffling the CN Power blockers. It was enough for the Sexpos to pull ahead for a 33-24 lead at the half.

Down by 9 at the half, CN Power solved the Sexpos' back wall and dominated the second half. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

CN Power came out prepared for the second half. Unable to establish their own control of the bout, they decided to disrupt the Sexpos’, and it worked to great effect. Opting to keep it slow and refusing to allow the Sexpos to establish their back walls, Toronto pulled within 4 on the opening jam of the half. Candy Crossbones then took full advantage of a slow-pack power jam (one of only two on the bout) to pick up ten points and give CN Power the lead. Subsequent jams by Bambi and then yet another physical jam by Dyna Hurtcha (in which she scored a big jammer take out on her lead pass) solidified the CN Power lead, 48-33; a lead that would not be overcome. The second half was clearly CN Power’s, holding the Sexpos off the scoreboard for almost half of the second period and only 11 points in the final 30 minute frame (to CN Power’s 55) to gain an impressive 79-44 victory.

This was a smart, defensive, fast-paced bout that was a pleasure to watch. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

For CN Power, the win was more symbolic than anything, but the victory gave the ToRD team a psychological fix that was much needed after tough, one-sided losses to Montreal’s A team, New Skids on the Block, in the last two Quad City Chaos tournaments (2010, 2011). The impressive depth of the Sexpos is indicative of the formidable depth of Montreal’s very impressive league and they were an excellent opponent (tough, skilled and smart) for CN Power as the ToRD all stars begin their WFTDA play and prepare for 2012, which will be their first full season in flat track roller derby’s top league.

* Next up for CN Power will be the Hammer City Eh! Team at the Bunker on October 1st. This will be an all-important WFTDA North Central showdown. The Smoke City Betties will also be in action against the Hamilton Harlots in the first half of the double header. Stay tuned for more details.

(**Disclaimer: The Derby Nerd made his bench managing debut for CN Power**)

Gores vs. Chicks in Toronto / Skids vs. The World in London.

The last time these two teams met was at the 2010 Battle for the Boot (won by the Gores, 107-31).

Gore-Gore Rollergirls (1-0) vs. Chicks Ahoy! (1-0)

Surprise, surprise.

After one round of ToRD’s 2011 regular season, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Chicks Ahoy! find themselves battling for first overall. Historically, these are the two top teams in Toronto Roller Derby and not much seems to have changed this year. Neither were particularly tested in their opening bouts of 2011, as the Chicks dominated a disorganized Smoke City Betties squad 131-22, and the Gores were in control of an overmatched Death Track Dolls for most of their 107-43 victory. And although the Gores earned a one-sided victory the last time these teams met (at the 2010  Battle for the Boot), this is a much different Chicks team. The veteran Chicks squad that qualified for their third championship match in 2010 had the feeling of a “last-chance team,” and there was a certain predictability about them. The influx of fresh faces on the roster has given this year’s team a new spark, and a renewed focus. It was a change predicted by Gores co-captain Brim Stone. “I think the Chicks will have a much stronger and more consistent season [in 2011],” she said in a preseason interview, and so far that has played out after a strong exhibition bout and the one-sided home opener. “But the Gores will still be able to take them!” Brim was quick to add.

Brim Stone has joined the Gores' jammer rotation this season. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

And until a team proves otherwise on the track, the Gores are still the team to beat in this league. The opening bout victory was their tenth straight ToRD win dating back to 2008, and they looked confident and collected in doing so. The Gores are much more experienced at integrating newcomers into the roster than the Chicks, and once again the rookies do not look out of place. Replacing Lunchbox though, has been a much bigger challenge. “She was a key personality…and always the calm voice of reason!” says Brim Stone, noting that the star jammer’s skates “were big skates to fill.” And at least in the first bout of the season that task has fallen straight to Brim’s feet; she will be important in matching up against the Chicks’ veteran jammers like co-captain Candy Crossbones. When asked how she thinks the Chicks will perform against the Gores in this bout, Candy exclaims, “Hopefully better than [the championship]!” The Chicks seemed frustrated during that last meeting and Candy admits as much. “The Gores can be frustratingly good,” she says, “I know we have the raw talent to match or beat them, but it remains to be seen whether we can challenge their awesome teamwork.”

And teamwork will undoubtedly tell the tale in this one.

Chicks' rookie, Kookie Doe was a go-to jammer in her ToRD debut agains the Betties. (photo by Sean Murphy)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Lead Percentage: Currently, the top 6 rated jammers in the league are on these two teams, and don’t expect the offensive matchups to change for this one. Both teams primarily rely on a three-jammer rotation, and each team’s rotation is anchored by two more-than-capable veterans. Current JQ rating leaders Dyna Hurtcha and Candy Crossbones lead the way for the Chicks, while the Gores respond with Bambi and Dust Bunny, who are, statistically, the two most dominant jammers in ToRD’s history. Neither team has much depth beyond their top two, but Brim Stone, who apprenticed somewhat in 2010, took on the role in the season opener, while the Chicks relied on Kookie Doe who was surprisingly effective against the Betties last month. With all four of the main jammers capable of playing solid jammer defence (Candy Crossbones seems to revel in it, while Dyna’s experience in the pack makes her a formidable physical presence), getting lead jammer status to control the outcomes will be key. While Dyna Hurtcha currently has the highest lead percentage (79%), when you look at overall team lead percentage, the two teams are virtually even at 67% (Chicks) and 65% (Gores). The key will come down to how well Kookie Doe is able to build on her impressive debut, and how well the Chicks are able to support her against a significantly stiffer challenge from the Gores. The difference maker here could be the much more experienced Brim Stone (who is still a relative rookie with the star) winning a one-on-0ne showdown with her Chicks counterpart.

Nasher the Smasher (lining up Betties' titmouse) has cleaned up her act in 2011. (photo by Sean Murphy)

2. Discipline: 29-5-7. These numbers represent the Chicks’ accumulated totals of minor penalties (29), major penalties (5), and penalty minutes served (7); significant because all three numbers are the lowest in the league. While it’s true that one clean game against the last-place team in the league doesn’t fully dispel years of major penalty woes, the Chicks’ newfound commitment to discipline should not be overlooked or underestimated. Nasher the Smasher is a prime example: In last year’s bout versus the Betties (which was even more one-sided than this year’s), Nasher still managed to pick up 13 minors, 3 majors and served 6 penalty minutes in 24 jams. This season against the Betties, Nasher stayed perfectly clean for 21 jams on her way to a league leading +57 plus/minus (she’s tied with teammate Tara Part, one ahead of Gores’ Hurlin’ Wall). Similarly, in the 2010 championship bout the Gores punished the Chicks by taking advantage of the Girls in Green’s 29 penalty minutes. On the flip side, while the Chicks are having one of the cleanest seasons in team history, the Gores find themselves uncharacteristically second in majors (8) and tied for second in minutes served (11). Staying out of the box will be key in this one.

For the most part, the Gores controlled the pack at the 2010 ToRD championships. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

3. Pack Control: As much as the jammers are going to have a huge influence on this one, she who controls the pack controls the game. Aside from a few well-executed, Rebel Rock-It led power kills, the Gores seemed to have complete control over the pack the last time these two teams squared off, and the Chicks simply cannot let that happen again. With traditional lead-pivot Brim Stone joining the jammer rotaton, pivoting was spread out, especially with second-in-command Molly Boom suffering some penalty troubles against the Dolls.  But with a veteran stable capable of donning the stripe (Lady Gagya, Kandy Barr and Junkie Jenny) and a rookie who looks to be a pivot-in-training (Emma Dilemma), the Gores are still a pack to be reckoned with. However, with Rebel, Tara, Nasher and Mega Bouche pivoting for the Chicks, it’s not that they are lacking in experience or ability: the difference the last time these two teams met was that the Gores controlled the play—they created on the track—while the Chicks just seemed to be reacting to the Gores’ game. Whoever “creates” in this one, could come away with a victory.

The winner of this bout will move into first place in ToRD’s regular season standings, one step closer to that all important bye straight to the 2011 Battle for the Boot. The loser will be left to watch the April 16th Dolls vs. Betties bout scouting a potential semi-final opponent.

**Tickets for the April 9th bout are on sale online or at a number of downtown vendors. Doors at the Hangar open at 6:30p.m., with opening whistle set for 7:30 p.m.

ONE MORE THING

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block, Canada’s top roller derby team (and 14th ranked overall) will be heading overseas this weekend to take part in the Anarchy in the UK tournament hosted by the London Rollergirls. This is the first WFTDA sanctioned tournament to be held overseas, and also taking part will be the Charm City Roller Girls (Baltimore) and the Steel City Derby Demons (Pittsburgh). The four teams will play in a two-day round robin, facing each other once in full, WFTDA sanctioned bouts. Since all of these teams play in WFTDA’s Eastern Region, the results are significant.  Charm and Steel City come in as the top ranked teams in the tourney (3rd and 5th respectively), while Montreal sits 7th and London remains unranked due to lack of activity. But, these rankings are still based on 2010’s end-of-year stats (2011 1st quarter rankings should be out shortly), and a lot has happened already this year. A more accurate pre-tournament predictor could be DNN’s power rankings and Flat Track Stats. DNN has Charm leading the way at 9th In WFTDA (all regions), but it’s Montreal next in their ranking (14) with Steel City (18) and London (22) rounding it out. Flat Track Stats is similar, but they have Montreal and Charm in a statistical deadlock at 10th and Steel City behind in 19th. Meaning that the bout to watch this weekend could be Montreal and Charm City’s Sunday match up (11 a.m. eastern, on DNN).

**Read Lord Copper’s DNN preview here. Catch every bit of the action live on DNN.

**Good News: Because of the time difference, all of Saturday’s bouts will be over well before the Gores and Chicks take to the track at the Hangar!

Quad City Chaos Recap (Part 1): The Bouts

Rideau Valley Vixens and CN Power kicked off QCC 2011. (photo by Sean Murphy)

DAY ONE

CN Power (ToRD) 156 vs. Vixens (RVRG)  40

It had been a year since these two teams last faced off and while this one was closer than 2010’s 150 point Toronto victory, CN Power still looked a step ahead of their cross-province rivals. Defecaitlin, Candy Crossbones and Land Shark tore up the track, and despite taking some bruises from Semi-Precious and Surgical Strike in the pack, dominated offensively for the hosts. It was only after a well-taken timeout about 12 minutes in that the Vixens were able to pick up lead jammer and put up a few points, down 37-2.

But the real difference in the bout was in the pack, and CN Power looked strong there as well. The familiarity of a set roster seems obvious early in 2011 with a taughtness on the lines that has been lacking in the past. While the pack looked strong as a unit from pivot down to the last blocker on the bench (with Mega Mouth and Scorcher forming a nice complement), Jubilee stood out physically and positionally, including a few jams where she single-handedly took Vixens’ star jammer Soul Rekker out of the play and dominated one on one. With Rideau Valley getting consistently better as the bout went on, and Ripper A. Part emerging as a legitimate offensive threat, a late surge could only take a chip out of CN Power’s 116 point victory.

Thunder's Gunmoll Mindy fights to hold the front against the Vixens' Assassinista. (photo by Todd Burgess)

Thunder (TCRG) 109 vs. Rideau Valley Vixens (RVRG) 84

Coming off of a tough, WFTDA sanctioned closed bout against Montreal, Thunder dressed a travel-team-rookie heavy roster that also featured new Hammer City transfer Perky Set. It didn’t seem to affect the team’s play though as they stormed off to a quick lead early on, against a Rideau Valley squad playing back-to-back games. Freudian Whip took on the star in this bout, adding to a strong jammer contingent featuring Lippy Wrongstockings, Kitty Krasher, Skate Pastor and Motorhead Molly. Pack control was the difference early, with Leigh-zzie Borden setting the tone with some physical play and Skate Pastor picking up 15 points on a well-executed power jam mid-way through the half leading to a 64-29 halftime lead.

After a physical bout against ToRD to kick things off, Rideau Valley showed a lot of fight in against the Thunder, and an adaptability that bodes well for the future of the Vixens (they recycled strategies used against them quickly). A strong start to the second half led by some scrappy jamming by Dee Dee Tee, and increasingly capable pack work kept the Vixens in it. Individually, Ripper A. Part came alive in the second half Semi-Precious continued to be a menace in the pack, and Soul Rekker dominated two major-point power jams to top off a solid push back that made things close at the end; but it was too little too late, and the experienced, confident Thunder capitalized on mistakes and a few strategic miscues from the Vixens to hold on for a 25 point victory.

CN Power's Defecaitlin had the most success against the Skids' Iron Wench this weekend. (photo by Todd Burgess)

New Skids on the Block (MTLRD) 284 vs. CN Power (ToRD) 21

CN Power entered Saturday’s prime-time bout with the confidence built from a very big victory. A year ago, these two teams were at very different stages in their development. And in that final bout of the Quad City Chaos 2010, the hosts looked overwhelmed and were outplayed handily, to the point where it didn’t look like the two teams were even playing the same sport. Although the final outcome was similar in 2011, this was a CN Power team that had learned a lot from its previous loss and a revamped, refocused lineup might have still looked a step or two behind the Skids, but they are now employing the same strategies and playing a similar style of derby. Defecaitlin proved to be the best matchup for Iron Wench all weekend, managing to have the best lead % against the Montreal superstar in the tourney. Her strong play (aided by great positional work from Nasher the Smasher) helped CN Power get off to a very good start, keeping it close early on before a devastating jammer take out by Trash N Smash on Land Shark knocked Toronto’s jammer out of the bout and allowed Georgia W. Tush to pick up 15 and open up a 25-5 lead.

Georgia W. Tush and Smack Daddy adjust their skates on the Skids bench. (photo by Joe Mac)

A few rookies were making their debuts this weekend, Aston Martini and titmouse (who didn’t look intimidated at all when lined up against Iron Wench) for CN Power, while Hustle Rose and Hymen Danger made their debuts for Montreal on Saturday (both graduates of the hometeam-B Team system in place in Montreal). The Toronto rookies (including Hurlin’ Wall) looked very good on the night, showing no fear playing against one of the top teams in the sport. The Skids seemed to settle in during this bout, as great teams usually do, and played flawless, mistake-free derby. At even strength CN Power was able to hold their own against the Skids, but with Montreal being so strong at the fundamentals, they took advantage of every mistake ToRD made and punished them on pack advantages and power jams helping to run up the score late in the second half to secure their big victory.

Montreal and Rideau Valley kicked off day two of QCC 2011. (photo by Sean Murphy)

DAY TWO

New Skids on the Block (MTLRD) 320 vs. Rideau Valley Vixens 23

Not surprisingly, given the expanse in experience levels between these two teams, this was the most one-sided bout of the tournament. At the same time, the Vixens didn’t look intimidated and took their game to the Skids. DDT continued her scrappy jamming for the Vixens and once again Assassinista emerged as a fearless blocker and capable pivot on the track. But there was only so much they could do against a team as unified and together as Montreal. It was 162-10 at half.

One interesting thing to note for the Skids was that they were debuting a rookie who had yet to play a bout in Montreal (or anywhere for that matter). Dame of Doom, a speed skater, is making the transition to roller derby this year and will play her first season in the Montreal Roller Derby League in 2011 (she’ll suit up for last year’s regular season runners-up Les Contrabanditas). This weekend, as an alternate, she looked steady in the pack and strong on her skates, but it will take some time for her to catch on to the nuances of the sport (something that was not a problem for the other Skids rookies this weekend). Montreal topped 300 points for the third time in their past five games to secure top spot in the tournament standings once again.

Motorhead Molly and Candy Crossbones lineup in the closing bout of QCC 2011. (photo by Joe Mac)

CN Power (ToRD) 112 vs. Thunder (TCRG) 98

The most anticipated bout of the weekend did not disappoint as southern Ontario rivals Thunder and CN Power met in a rematch of a 2010 bout in Tri-City won by the Thunder 122-50. In that one, Thunder looked much more composed and together than the Power and were able to impose their style of play on the bout and dominated in the end. Toronto looked focused and determined out of the blocks and caught Thunder off guard with some strong jamming from Defecaitlin, Candy Crossbones and Betty Bomber that had ToRD’s all stars out to a 15-0 lead five in. But in a bout that would be characterized by wide swings in momentum (and no shortage of lead changes), a well played power jam by Skate Pastor (aided by some great traps by the veteran Thunder blockers) saw Thunder take their first lead of the bout 21-17 ten minutes in. The usual crew of Jill Standing, Anita Martini, sin-e-star, and Bareleigh Legal were aided once again by strong play from Leigh-zzie Borden, Gunmoll Mindy and Freudian Whip who is emerging as a triple threat for Tri-City. CN Power took advantage of their own power jams to hold on to a 56-43 lead at the half.

As expected, Thunder and CN Power played the tightest bout of QCC 2011. (photo by Sean Murphy)

At even strength these two teams were going hit for hit and momentum was shifting jam by jam. Great walls, fast-pack defense and slow traps made this one an exciting bout to watch. Tara Part, Mega Mouth and Jubilee were giving Thunder a hard time in the pack all bout, with Dyna Hurtcha racking up assists for her jammers (and pulled in a lot of points on a very physical power jam). Thunder switched things up early in the second with Leigh-zzie Borden taking a jam with the star and Tri-City pulled close again 65-56 five minutes in. Both teams, fatigued after a long weekend of competitive derby, began to run into some penalty trouble in the middle of the half, but it seemed to affect Thunder more, briefly taking them out of the bout for a period. The major difference could have been ToRD’s willingness and ability to play the kind of slow-pack, gritty, defensive bout that Thunder excels at. Signs of obvious frustration were evident from Tri-City as ToRD built up a forty point lead midway through the second half. But the sign of a good team is the ability to regroup in the midst of adversity, and Thunder adjusted. Some great team play (and a great whip from Gunmoll Mindy aiding Kitty Krasher to score 4 and get things rolling), saw Thunder pull close. CN Power managed to ride out the push back with some solid pack work and wall building, and more big hits from Hurlin’ Wall who is becoming a big part of this Toronto team, and held on for a 112-98 victory and second spot in QCC 2011.

** Thursday, the Commentary.

** Canuck Derby TV came to town to boutcast the QCC in its entirety. You can watch the archived bouts here.  Stay tuned to ToRD.TV for interviews and layer9’s trackside boutcast.