Chicks Ahoy!

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.

wench beast 17 Neil

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.

Grudges BOE 17 Neil

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

Chicks Neil

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.

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

crowd-shot-season-opener

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.

arg-v-gores

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).

box-blow-neil

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.

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.

Betties Knock off Gores to Capture First Boot

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

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

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

Until suddenly, it wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then, the game changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle for the Boot 9: A Preview of the 2015 ToRD Championship

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Smoke City Betties had a tight regular season showdown, with the Gores winning narrowly 155-148. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Smoke City Betties had a tight regular season showdown, with the Gores winning narrowly 155-148. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Formed in late winter 2006, they are one of the oldest roller derby teams in Canada. From them, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, the GTA Rollergirls, and the Rollergettes all sprung forth. From hosting the first ever Canadian roller derby tournament in August 2006 to being one of the teams on the track for the opening whistle of the inaugural Beast of the East in 2008, this team’s imprint is stamped all over the history of Canadian flat track roller derby.

So central to the narrative of the sport are they, it’s almost hard to believe that the one thing that the Smoke City Betties have never accomplished is winning a Toronto Roller Derby championship.

On Saturday, June 6, 2015, they will have their third chance to do so when they face off against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in ToRD’s 9th Battle for the Boot.

The Betties and Gores first met int he championship game in 2009, with the Gores winning 128-88. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Betties and Gores first met in Battle for the Boot 3 in 2009, with the Gores winning 128-88. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The only other time these two teams—so indelibly linked—squared off for the Boot was way back in 2009 when the make-up of the rosters was so far different from what they are now: Back then, the rivals were loaded with first generation ToRD skaters, and after the Gores beat the Betties 128-88 in that game, there was a massive retirement of original Betties, with others (like Demolition Dawn and Dyna Hurtcha) moving on to different teams. What began was an almost brutal bottom-up rebuild of the team that took four trying years to accomplish. Then in 2013, their second shot at the Boot, they came up against a record-setting juggernaut in the Death Track Dolls.

This time, the turn around has only been two years and much of the core remains.

It’s been a different story for the Gores. One of ToRD’s great teams, they have dominated the opening decade of the league’s history. They have won three championships (tied with Chicks Ahoy!) and they have, remarkably, battled for the Boot in eight of ToRD’s nine championship bouts. However, despite three appearances in the final over that stretch of time, it has been four long years since the Gores last raised the Boot. A few skaters remain from that last championship win (Jill ‘Em All was there and Santa Muerte, Chronic, Miss Kitty La Peur, and Gamma Rei were all rookies), and I doubt any thought it would take so long to taste victory once again.

Not much separated the two teams during their regular season showdown, but Betties jammer Smoka Cola had, arguably, her best game of the season, scoring 70 points and holding a 63% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties jammer Smoka Cola had, arguably, her best game of the season against the Gores, scoring 70 points and holding a 63% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Based on regular season results, it would seem that the Gore-Gore Rollergirls have the slightest edge coming in. While overall, the Betties outscored the Gores in the regular season, the Gores had the stingiest defense overall, leading to a substantially better team plus/minus (+164 vs. +52). On top of that, there is that 7-point regular-season victory. Competitively, it’s tight in the pack, but considering the collective experience of Santa Muerte, Chronic, and Jill Em All, the edge may go to the Gores.

That being said, this Betties crew is a pack on the rise. With Tushy Galore planted firmly in core of this group, this season has seen the rise of a new generation of pack leaders, none more so than SewWhat?, who is quickly becoming one of the league’s most reliable blockers. LowBlowPalooza and Honey Boom Boom have stepped up their games this season as well.

The jammer rotations are also comparable. While the Gores used a relatively expansive six-jammer rotation (although all six only appeared in one game together), the Betties have stuck with the same tight four-jammer lineup all regular season—and they excelled with remarkable consistency. Smoka Cola led the way in scoring and lead percentage (183 points, 4.1 points per jam, 64% lead percentage) but all four members (Wolverina, WackedHer, and Kill’Her At Large) scored at least 110 points, registered at least 3.3 points per jam and had at least a 45% lead percentage. Pretty solid stats for a team that went 1-2 on the regular season. With Kill’Her At Large out with an injury for the playoffs, veteran jammer titmouse returned to the lineup just in time to slip into her role.

Toronto_roller_derby_Battle_for_the_Boot_2015The Gores employed a wider offense, and different jammers found success against different teams, and sometimes even just in different situations. The team’s leading scorer, for example, Taranosaurus Rex (123 points) managed to score a team-high 56 points against the Dolls in a game in which she registered only a 29% lead percentage. Overall, Lexi Con and Beaver Mansbridge were the team’s steadiest performers with the star. Lexi led the team with a 4.3 points per jam (on 50%) while Beaver led the way with a 61% lead percentage (scoring 77 points on a 3.4 points per jam). A bit of a not-so-secret weapon is Santa Muerte. Used in limited action, she was incredibly consistent when needed, managing 3.7 points per jam and a 75% lead percentage.

With two teams that seem so close on paper, it may end up coming down to game readiness. And that advantage favours the Betties. The Gores have not seen full-game action since February, while the Betties have been climbing through the ranks, playing meaningful, must-win playoff games, and virtually dominating them. If they can carry that momentum into the Battle for the Boot, it will be their battle to lose.

Nerd Glasses

**The Battle for the Boot 9 is on Saturday, June, 6th, at the Bunker in Downsview Park with opening whistle slated for 7:00 PM. The night will open with an all-star mashup, featuring two rosters built of skaters from CN Power and the Bay Street Bruisers. Opening whistle on that one is 5:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nerd Glasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nerd Glasses 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beast of the East 8: A Preview of BOE 2015

BOE 2015 PosterOne thing that the Beast of the East has proven over the years is that it is virtually unpredictable: sixteen house league teams randomly selected from a variety of leagues in Ontario and Quebec; no accurate ranking system for teams that may—at most—face off once a year; and a twenty-minute game format that punishes mistakes brutally. It equals a recipe for bracket breaking.

So here’re two predictions for the unpredictable:

1. This year’s tournament could even be more unpredictable than most.

2. It’s going to be awesome.

Two years ago, in 2013, I declared that tournament to be the Beast of Beasts: unbelievable action, completely unpredictable (except, it turns out, for the finalists), and some of the most exciting moments in the tournament’s history. Then along came 2014 and the tournament managed to top even that historic event. This is simply, a tournament that just keeps getting better.

2014 was not only arguably the best Beast ever, it was actually one of the best roller derby tournaments I’ve ever been to. In the two Sunday playoff rounds, the average point differential was 8 points, with three games being settled by 4 points or less and one more going to overtime. And the two medal games (played in two twenty-minute halves) continued the trend with co-hosts La Racaille taking third by 17 points and Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls winning the tournament with a 15-point win, capping a most unlikely run to the final. Actually, no championship team has ever faced such adversity as the Gores did last year. After a one-sided tournament-opening win over Durham’s Motor City Madames, the Gores won their next three games by a combined score of 10 points to advance to a final that was tied at half-time. It was a heart-stuttering run unlike any seen before from a team that simply refused to lose.

This year brings back a handful of tournament regulars with the three Montreal teams joining Toronto’s Death Track Dolls and Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Forest City’s Thames Fatales as the sole remaining OBers (Original Beasters), while Kingston Derby Girls (Skateful Dead) and Ottawa’s Capital City Derby Dolls (Beauty School Dropouts) make their league debuts.

THE CONTENDERS

The Casses-Gueules caught many off guard in their run to the final. They're favourites this year. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Casse-Gueules caught many off guard in their run to the final. They’re favourites this year. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Particularly after teams had such a hard time distancing themselves from each other last year, this year’s collection of competitors boasts its fair share of contenders. Although a Montreal team has not won this tournament since 2010, they are always contenders (and La Racaille—the tournament’s most successful team historically—has made two straight final fours). At this year’s annual round robin tournament, Les Fills du Roi defeated their leaguemates (though narrowly) to immediately launch themselves into the position of being potential favourites.

However, don’t count out the defending champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls. Exhibiting the same tenacity that won them the Beast last year, the Gores have clawed and fought their way to first overall in the ToRD standings in a season where there doesn’t seem to be much separating the teams.

Rideau Valley’s Prime Sinisters debuted at the Beast last season and got noticeably better as the tournament progressed (losing narrowly in the quarters to eventual finalists, Casse-Gueules) eventually using that tournament as a launching point to winning the RVRG house league championship.

Finally, Roller Derby Quebec’s Casse-Guelles and Rouge at Gore have managed to slip under the radar for the last two seasons and turned heads with thrilling performances: they won’t have the element of surprise in 2015 and, indeed, should both be seen as potential contenders for the tournament.

This is the fourth appearance for the Tramps, but the first since 2011.

This is the fourth appearance for the Tramps, but the first since 2011 (Photo by Joe Mac).

THE DARK HORSES

With past dark horses like Roller Derby Quebec’s teams and Durham’s Atom Smashers establishing themselves as solid competitors (the Smashers won the 2015 Winter Wipeout, a Beast-style tournament), this year’s potential surprises may be harder to see. So I’m looking to two returning teams as potential troublemakers: Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps and Total Knock Outs. Both have histories at the tournament but haven’t appeared since 2011 and 2013 respectively. Only one Tri-City team has ever podiumed (2012 champs Vicious Dishes), so this established league is due for another strong showing.

NERD’S PICKS

Every year it seems more and more futile to try to establish picks for the tournament, but that doesn’t stop derby prognosticators from trying (and last year, I did managed to pick six of the eight quarterfinalists, which provides undoubtedly false confidence).

Look for possibly two Montreal teams to advance in Les Filles du Roi and Les Contrabanditas (though the Ditas could be in tough against the TKOs for that final spot), with ToRD (The Gore-Gore Rollergirls, Death Track Dolls) and RDQ (Casse-Gueules, Rouge et Gore) sending through two as well. That leaves only two spots open, one for RVRG’s Prime Sinisters and the last for Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps. In three previous appearances, the Tramps have failed to advance beyond the opening round (the only Tri-City team that has yet to do so), look for that to change this year.

However, take these predictions with a grain of salt. One thing that you can always guarantee at the Beast is that somewhere along the line, your bracket will be busted.

Nerd Glasses

**The Beast takes place at Arena St. Louis. Full weekend and daily passes are available here.

**Sadly, this year’s Beast will not be boutcast. But follow The Derby Nerd on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the event.