DC Rollergirls

Rideau Valley Makes WFTDA History at Thrilling D2 Tournament in Kitchener-Waterloo

The Vixens defeat Berlin in an all-international final to become the first non-US-based team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament.

Canada's Rideau Valley Vixens are the first non-US team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament. (Photo from Vixen's Facebook page)

Canada’s Rideau Valley Vixens are the first non-US team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament. (Photo from Vixens’ Facebook page)

Since the team made its debut on a snowy February 27th, 2010, at the ToRD Hangar in Toronto, the Rideau Valley Vixens have been one of this country’s most enigmatic teams. Consistently fielding some of Canada’s finest skaters (including two members of Team Canada and a big chunk of Ontario’s provincial team), the team has not always lived up to the sometimes-lofty expectations thrust upon it. Until, that is, this past weekend, where they far surpassed those expectations, outlasting Berlin’s Bear City in an absolutely thrilling championship game to become the first team outside of the United States to win a WFTDA playoff tournament, earning them a spot in the Division 2 championship game in Nashville in November where they will square off against mighty Detroit.

Graduating to full WFTDA membership in June 2012, the Rideau Valley Vixens struggled to find consistency early in their WFTDA careers, hovering around the high D2 rankings and never quite able to string together more than three wins in a row, all the while capable of pulling off shocking victories (such as a 2013 victory over Toronto’s CN Power) as often as they were able to slump to disappointing losses.

After narrowly missing out of the D2 playoffs in 2013, things did finally begin to change for the better for the team this season. Kicking off 2014 on a six-game winning streak (that included an impressive non-sanctioned win over Misfit Militia), the team found itself surging up the WFTDA rankings, finally slipping comfortably into a playoff spot in May, as the sole Canadian team in the D2 playoffs (four others qualified for D1).

The Kitchener-Waterloo D2 tournament actually contained a series of historic moments: the first tournament hosted outside of the US (and Tri-City Roller Derby knocked it out of the park—universally praised for the organization); the first to feature a team from continental Europe (Bear City’s Berlin Bombshells); the first to feature nation’s capitals square off (it happened twice, first when Berlin knocked out DC in the quarterfinals); and, eventually, the first to feature a fully international final.

Gold Coast (and Team USA) skater Baller Shot Caller led her team all the way to the 3rd place game where they fell to a scrappy Killamazoo led by Javelin (33) and Neva Soba. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Gold Coast (and Team USA) skater Baller Shot Caller (jamming) led her team all the way to the 3rd place game where they fell to a scrappy Killamazoo led by Javelin (#33 left) and Neva Soba. (Photo by Joe Mac)

While the big-picture view of this tournament will focus on the history, at track level, the quality of the play stole the show; parity was the dominant story of the tournament, and it made for some phenomenal games. Of the 17 games, 9 finished with a differential of less than 20 points, and the event was bookended by the tightest results, with the opening and closing games of the tournament being settled by 3 points. Only one game—Rideau Valley’s 239-130 win over Boulder Country—featured a point differential of more than 100. Overall, the average point differential was 41.4. This, along with the first D2 Duluth’s 73 point average differential, provides the best indicator that the WFTDA’s new playoff system is producing the desired results

While this was the dominant tale, A sub narrative may have been the story of the upsets. The top two seeds (DC and Queen City) ended up playing for 5th, and while two of the top four finishers were expected (3rd seed Vixens and 4th seed Killamazoo finishing 1st and 3rd respectively), the other spots were filled by the 9th seed (Berlin) and the 7th seed (Gold Coast), both of whom had to endure (and survive) the Friday morning play-in games. Nonetheless, it was clear that despite the necessity for some slight internal adjustments, these 10 teams deserved to be here.

The final was an extraordinary display of what modern women’s flat track roller derby has to offer: furious play, as slow and gritty as it was fast and loose (the slower play an advantage to Rideau Valley), phenomenal clutch performances, and two teams that left it all on the track.

The Vixens led over the opening 5 jams before a 9-0 Bear City jam gave Berlin the lead 30-22. They would hold the lead until the 43rd jam of the game and would trade back one more time before Rideau would retake the lead two jams later and hold on until the end, holding off a 20-18 Berlin run in a frantic final jam that went the full 2 minutes. When the final whistle blew, the Vixens had managed a 243-240 victory.

Two critical moments defined the second half. The first consisted of both teams trading errors: A rare moment of confusion late in the second half (jam 42 of 47) on the Rideau Valley bench saw the Vixens not field a jammer. It looked to be the defining moment of the tournament, until, that is, the Berlin jammer (Master Blaster) attempted a risky apex jump that landed her in the penalty box, thus ending the jam. Critical errors traded so cancelling each other out.

Berlin's Master Blaster was simply phenomenal, leading the tournament in scoring and track time for a jammer. She was the worthy winner of the MVP award. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Berlin’s Master Blaster was simply phenomenal, leading the tournament in scoring and track time for a jammer. She was the worthy winner of the MVP award. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The second key moment came in the final jam. With the Vixens up by 5, they needed only to keep pace with Berlin. A key knock-out/drag back by Jane Rudolph on lead jammer Master Blaster late put the jammer a half lap back of her counterpart Soul Rekker, the Vixens’ jammer; this proved critical when Rekker picked up a last-second penalty and Master Blaster was just too far behind to catch up and score a full pass.

The play was indicative of the kind of performances that Rideau Valley got on the weekend from their core vets. In the final, with key blockers Hannah Murphy and Margaret Choke having fouled out by the midway point of the second (they’d been leading their team in track time to that point), it was incumbent upon others to step up, and step up they did. Rudolph was extraordinary in the championship game, and given the stage, veteran blocker Sister Disaster played the game of her career, key in moments of jammer relief (including two key star passes) and overcoming any physical disadvantage with heart and pure determination (she would lead the tournament in blocker plus/minus). Brennan was another critical force and first-year transfer BlackeyE has blossomed in Rideau Valley (her third league).

Berlin, playing short all weekend, used their blockers on a much more even rotation, with the extraordinarily feisty Catherine Beat-Her Bonez leading the way, but Bee Fattal (who lead her team with a blocker +122), Paulina Pocket, Emmazon and Heavy Rotation were all key.

But if you want to look at the key difference between the two finalists, it comes down to the jammer rotation. The Vixens dominated Berlin’s Donner Doro and Kozmic Bruise, limiting them to 34 and 36 points and 18% and 20% lead percentages respectively; however, eventual tournament MVP Master Blaster was another story entirely, and as she did all weekend, played over half of her team’s jams with the star (including 5 of the last 6 jams). She finished with 164 of her team’s points in the game and held a remarkable 72% lead percentage.

The Vixens had a slightly more balanced approach. Two first-year jammers (at the WFTDA level) Austin Tatious and Shania Pain (a transfer from the Yukon) played well above their experience level. Austin finished the game with 39 points and a 64% lead percentage, while Shania finished with 77 and 44% (and ended the tournament as the 5th leading scorer). But the story of the game (and the weekend) was the play of veteran Soul Rekker; in the final, she finished with 127 points and a 50% lead percentage and was critical in the last jam, going lap for lap with Master Blaster. Furthermore, she led the tournament in lead percentage (66%) and points per jam (6.5) among jammers with at least 30 jams.

Overall, both D2 tournaments have set a standard for the upcoming D1 teams to compete against. This tournament was run phenomenally in a beautiful venue with decent crowds that filled out nicely for the key Saturday night/Sunday evening games: the emotion in the building during the final was unbelievable. If these past two weekends are any indicator of what is to come in the 2014 WFTDA Division 1 playoffs, we should all expect nothing less than the best.

***All games were broadcast live on WFTDA.TV and will all eventually be available for free in the WFTDA.TV archives. Do yourself a favour and (re)watch them!

***Read blow-by-blow game recaps at Derby News Network and WFTDA.com.

FINAL STANDINGS

  • 1st Place – Rideau Valley Roller Girls (3 seed)
  • 2nd Place – Bear City Roller Derby (9 seed)
  • 3rd Place – Killamazoo Derby Darlins (4 seed)
  • 4th Place – Gold Coast Derby Grrls (7 seed)
  • 5th Place – Queen City Roller Girls (2 seed)
  • 6th Place – DC Rollergirls (1 seed)
  • 7th Place – Chicago Outfit Roller Derby (5 seed)
  • 8th Place – Demolition City Roller Derby (8 seed)
  • 9th Place – Boulder County Bombers (6 seed)
  • 10th Place – Grand Raggidy Roller Girls (10 seed)

Tournament Stats Leaders (minimum 30 jams unless indicated–Stats by Rinxter)

JAMMERS

SCORING* LEAD PERCENTAGE** TOTAL JAMS
Master Blaster (BCRD) 506 Soul Rekker (RVRG) 66% Master Blaster (BCRD) 90
Soul Rekker (RVRG) 345 Jessie Girl (KDD) 64% Lola Blow (CORD) 65
Lola Blow (CORD) 330 Master Blaster (BCRD) 62% Bitchin N Rollin (GCRG) 54
LiBRAWLian (QCRG) 282 LiBRAWLian (QCRG) 62% Matza Ball Breaker (CORD) 54
Shania Pain (RVRG) 235 Dubois/Doobie Trap (KDD) 62% Soul Rekker (RVRG) 53

*Gold Coast’s Bitchin N Rollin was the only other jammer to score over 200 points (225)

**Demolition City’s Stepheree finished with a 73% lead percentage over 26 jams.

BLOCKERS

TOTAL JAMS PLUS/MINUS
Bangs McCoy (DCRD) 119 Sister Disaster (RVRG) +151
Baller Shot Caller (GCRG) 109 Brennan (RVRG) +146
Heavy Rotation (BCRD) 106 Margaret Choke (RVRG) +134
Paulina Pocket (BCRD) 103 Murphy (RVRG) +123
Catherine Beat-Her Bonez (BCRD) 101 Bee Fattal /Karo’Bolage (BCRD) +122

Eager Beavers and Slammin’ Clams: 2013 Clam Slam kicks off Pride Weekend in TO

The participants of the 2013 Clam Slam (Photo by Joe Mac)

The participants of the 2013 Clam Slam (Photo by Joe Mac)

There was a time in the not-so-distant-past when walking into a hockey rink in Toronto’s east end and seeing a sea of rainbow flags and a raucous pride celebration going on would have been an anomaly. And on a weekend when Pride parade participants in Russia were being rounded up and arrested, to do so was a great reminder of the beautiful freedom we have in this city and this country. Pride has become an essential aspect of this city’s identity, a loud, proud weekend celebrating Toronto’s distinct sexual diversity. But it is also a symbol, a beacon of freedom that the population of not only this city, but also this country, should hold high.

As has become custom, Toronto’s Pride Weekend kicked off on Friday night with the fifth annual Clam Slam, a traditional Toronto Roller Derby event that was co-hosted this year with the GTA Rollergirls.  The Clam Slam is a Pride-affiliated event, an annual all-queer all-star bout featuring skaters from across North America playing this year for two teams, the Clam Diggers and the Eager Beavers. In the past, such derby superstars as Rose City’s Mercy and Windy City’s Jackie Daniels have taken part.

The opening bout was dominated by a Core of Hammer City skaters led by pivot Whacks Poetic (hitting Royal City's Bent Barbie (AKA: Steamy Steelborn). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The opening bout was dominated by a Core of Hammer City skaters led by pivot Whacks Poetic (hitting Royal City’s Bent Barbie (AKA: Steamy Steelborn). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While the core of this year’s rosters were once again made up primarily of skaters from Ontario, there were some special guests. Montreal’s Nameless Whorror was at her fourth Clam Slam, while Rachel Mad Ho came up from DC Rollergirls, Trudy Bauchery was in town from Circle City, and Eve Anne Hellical and Maiden America were representing the mighty Naptown Rollergirls from Indianapolis, Indiana. The event has become so popular that for the first time ever, two games were scheduled for the evening. The first game featured less experienced skaters from southern Ontario, many playing in their first ever Clam Slam.

Both Eager Beavers team benches were run by Swaggy and Mrs. Swaggy (the retired Aston Martini and ToRD’s Ames to Kill), and put up a good fight despite being slightly overmatched in the opening game. Led by South Simcoe’s Ladykiller Jane and ToRD’s Femmebot (AKA: Full Deck from ToRD’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls) in the pack and a triple threat in Half Rack (AKA: Android WK of the Death Track Dolls) who was excellent in the opener. But the story of the game was the core of Hammer City skaters at the heart of the Clam Diggers. Led in the pack by Whacks Poetic (who had her way offensively during this game with some excellent blocking) and Rock E. Road, Hammer City jammer Cancer Candy was the standout with the star in this one (Whacks and Candy would also play in the second game). Up by 33 at the half, the Diggers, who were managed by Flyin’ Bryan (of the Bay Street Bruisers) and Rear Factor (AKA: Sonic Doom of CN Power), held on the win the opener, 191-95.

Circle City's Trudy Bauchery (skating for the Diggers) battles Montreal's Nameless Whorror and ToRD's Nasher the Smasher. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Circle City’s Trudy Bauchery (skating for the Diggers) battles Montreal’s Nameless Whorror and ToRD’s Nasher the Smasher. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The second game of the night contained the most talented rosters in the event’s five-year history, and it showed on the track , as the teams produced the fastest, hardest hitting, and most talent-laden display of derby in Clam Slam history. Paced on the jammer line by Naptown’s Maiden America, but also featuring ToRD’s Santilly All Over Yo Face, the Clam Diggers exploded out of the gates. Featuring a formidable pack that included ToRD’s BruiseBerry Pie, Peterborough/Durham’s Lous Ur Pants, and Tri-City’s Sofanda Beatin, the Diggers pulled ahead early, but couldn’t pull away.

The Eager Beavers featured an equally impressive roster. ToRD rookie Lexxi joined her ToRDmates Getcha Licks, Ruby Pubie (AKA: Bellefast) and Rainbow (Fight) to form the core of the jammer rotation (Rainbow was all over the track, continuing her emergence as a true Canadian superstar). But the pack was loaded as well, led by Nameless Whorror, but also featuring ToRD’s Dyna Squirtcha and Nasher the Smasher, Forest City’s Mirambo and GTA’s Newfie Bullet. They were within reach at half, down by only 18 points, but couldn’t make up the gap in the second, falling 180-140 in a thoroughly entertaining game.

Naptown's Maiden America fights to break up a wall of Eager Beavers. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Naptown’s Maiden America fights to break up a wall of Eager Beavers. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the intensity on the track and level of talent on display, wins and losses don’t count for much at Clam Slam. One of the event’s key organizers (and five year Clam Slam vet) Monichrome (skating as Chromosexual in what would be the final game of her seven-year career) echoed the sentiments. “In some ways, it’s just a fun bout; you’re learning on the track to play with other skaters,” she explained when asked about the importance of the event. “But,” she added, “it’s also important to have LGBTQ visibility in the roller community.” While roller derby has always been a diverse and welcome community in terms of sexuality, it is important that the sport continues to display this and not take its celebrated diversity for granted. Indeed, in 2013 roller derby is leading the way in this regard.

The Eager Beavers' jammer Rainbow breaks through the pack. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Eager Beavers’ jammer Rainbow breaks through the pack. (Photo by Greg Russell)

“A lot of sports are just getting to the point where there is a little bit of talk of acceptance, but there aren’t a lot of athletes coming out,” Chrome said, alluding to the NHL’s “If You Can Play” campaign and the NBA’s Jason Collins, who became the first active player in North America’s “big four sports” to come out.  “The whole point of this event is about being out and being a strong ally for the Queer community.” And in the world of sport, there is no stronger ally than the Clam Slam.

**The bout was produced by Layer9 and boutcast on Canuck Derby TV. Watch the archive!

Clam Slam 2013 Rosters

Game 1

Clam Diggers

Eager Beavers
 3BUX  Cancer Candy (HCRG)
15  Rosemary’s Gayby  (ToRD)
17  Forca (RCRG)
52  Rock E. Road (HCRG)
73  Nellie McStung (GSRD)
83  Snatch Bandit (RCRG)
86  Whacks Poetic  (HCRG)
91  Red Hot Vagilly (GTAR)
862  VAGilante (ToRD)
1923  Tittyana Vaganova (GTAR)
6969  Kunt KillHer (GTAR)
B0TM    Fisting! Balls!  (ToRD)
 12  Ladykiller Jane (SSRR)
52  Femmebot (ToRD)
99  Beat Boxxx McRocks (PRD)
121  Zooey Smash’em Well (GTAR)
313  Suzy SlamHer  (SSRR)
737  Half Rack (ToRD)
1618  Bent Barbie (RCRG)
2468  Malcuntent (RCRG)
3845  Pandora’s Box (ToRD)
4444  Hematoma Hotrod (NRG)
S1  Kate Kane (ToRD)
5BY5  Willow Rosenblock (ToRD) 

Game 2

Clam Diggers

Eager Beavers

3BUX  Cancer Candy (HCRG)
14 Anne XXX (TCRG)
3S0X SewGay  (ToRD)
31 Bruiseberry Pie  (ToRD)
35 Chromosexual (ToRD)
60 HotBox (ToRD)
76 Maiden America (NRG)
86 Whacks Poetic (NCRG)
316 Eve Anne Hellical (NRG)
420 Sofanda Beatin (TCRG)
5PM Trudy Bauchery  (Circle City)
911 Fraxxure (FCDG)
1013 Fox Smoulder  (TCRG)
1129 Santilly All Over Yo Face (ToRD)
1234 Lous ur Pants (PRD)
L7 Hairy Pooter  (Crow City)
111 Nympha Is My Middle Name (ToRD)
2X4 Nasher the Smasher (ToRD)
21 Dyna Squirtcha (ToRD)
25 Lexxxi (ToRD)
26 Mega Bouche  (ToRD)
52 So Fear Me (GTAR)
69 Mirambo (FCDG)
76 Getcha Licks  (ToRD)
87 Sinead O’Clobber (ToRD)
101 Stacie Jones (TCRG)
202 Nameless Whorror  (MTLRD)
709 Newfie Bullet (GTAR)
5678 Ruby Pubie (ToRD)
6107 Kilary Tough (FCDG)
9ET Rachel Mad Ho (DCR)
C3P0 Rainbow (ToRD)
L7 Tara Part (ToRD)
2112 Rhage In Her Cage (ToRD)

Eager Beavers Bench: Swaggy, Mrs. Swaggy
Clam Diggers Bench: Flyin’ Bryan, Rear Factor