Derby News Network

Bigger Still: North Centrals Kicks off Most Anticipated WFTDA Playoffs Ever

Minnesota and Windy City met in the final of the North Central Regional Championship for the third year in a row. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

It seemed like for the first time in the whole tournament everyone who was in Niagara Falls, New York, for the Thrill of the Spill, the 2012 WFTDA North Central Regionals, was in the venue. Every bleacher seat and suicide seat was finally full; the crowd was loud from the first welcome that blared out over speakers. More than any other year even, this showdown seemed inevitable. Minnesota. Windy City. The North Central Regional Championship game.

Every year in the organized history of flat track roller derby, the WFTDA playoffs and championship has represented the best of this sport: the best the game has ever been played, the best sporting event that the game has seen, the most memorable performances, the greatest celebrations; it’s been the grandest stage. Regardless of in-fighting, dramatics, disagreements about the game, the culture, or the identity, the one constant has remained that this tournament is the tournament to win. Like or not, the WFTDA Championships is the biggest thing, athletically, that the sport has ever known. It hasn’t stopped out-doing itself every year. And this year, it is getting bigger still.

Minnesota (teal) and Naptown (white) met in the semifinals with Minnesota winning with surprising ease 283-86.

While like the sport itself, the buzz around it has continued. There’s a certain buzz around this year’s WFTDA playoffs that is new and unique to this year. Since the first ever WFTDA championship in 2006, every year has seen the sport advance considerably. From 2006 to 2009 the game on a national and increasingly international stage had to “find itself” on the flat track. By the 2009 championship tournament (aptly titled “Declaration of Derby”), the game seemed to have settled. The parameters had been set.  A team culled from national level USARS inline skating sports based out of Olympia, Washington, was bringing a level of athleticism and professionalism to the game that the sport—in any of its previous incarnations—had never seen. But it would be another western team, the Denver Roller Dolls, who, despite losing to those aforementioned Oly Rollers in the semi-finals, would be the team that would lead the forefront of the flat track game’s greatest evolution, and would lead the sport in its Great Leap Forward.

Arch Rival (in black) entered the tournament 4th, but exited in 8th spot.

2009 was so essential for so many reasons, not all to do with what was happening on the track. While the Derby News Network was already taking its spot in the derby world and had dabbled with boutcasting in 2008, it would be the 2009 championships that would truly see DNN and roller derby boutcasting reach the larger audience. Perhaps for the first time, there truly was a larger audience to reach. But as it were, the greater derby community tuned in to that tournament because they could, and what they witnessed there was the flat track game finally throwing off the shackles of the past and truly finding itself. For the first time it seemed like strategies and game-play philosophies were emerging organically from the fact that the game was being played on a flat track. And although they may not have invented it, it was Denver who introduced the derby world to flat track’s greatest (and admittedly most controversial) evolution: the slow game.  Perhaps just as importantly—as confused boos rained down on the track from the baffled fans—it gave the sport one of its first major on-track controversies.

Despite being overwhelmed in the 3rd place game against Naptwon, Ohio won big in the hearts of the fans.

Controversy surrounds the 2012 playoffs as well, and Oly is once again at the centre of it. Transfergate may be the overarching narrative of this Big 5 cycle, but in Niagara Falls at the North Centrals it isn’t quite the news that it most certainly will be when Westerns kick off less than a week after this opening tournament. Perhaps more than any other region (from top down), the teams in the North Central Region still adhere to a fast-pack game (though the once controversial aspects of the game that Denver ushered in in 2009, like isolating blockers to control pack definition and trapping on power jams, have become such a ubiquitous part of the sport that it’s funny to think they churned up such vitriol only three short years ago). There isn’t much passive offense in the North Central game, and when teams do employ it, for the most part, it’s being used as a set-up to other plays. The game is fast and it’s hard hitting.

Naptown (in red) will return to the WFTDA Championships for the second year in a row.

If they weren’t already the darlings of the region, the Ohio Roller Girls won legions of fans this weekend with their spirited play. Small in stature by the standards of the North Central (they looked like a junior league next to teams like Brew City and Windy City), they are big in spirit. After completing the busiest schedule in the WFTDA this past year (21 games), they still came into the tournament underdogs in their opener against Arch Rival. In the most thrilling game of the opening day, Ohio would show the resilience that has made them so successful and would constantly fight back; showing endurance gained from those countless games on the road, they roared back late in the bout as Arch waned. They won by 10 points to set up a showdown against Windy City.

In the semi-final against Windy City, they would leave it all on the track. Windy City was riding a 26-game regional unbeaten streak heading into this one, and they would be pushed all game by the upstarts from Columbus.  Battered, bruised, injured, Ohio would limp away from that 50-point loss to the defending champs knowing they’d done all they could. Unfortunately, they had little left for the third place showdown with Naptown who dominated the game from start to finish to ease their way into a second straight WFTDA Championship Tournament. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see Ohio’s Phoenix Bunz take Tournament Blocker MVP, but it was a surprising sweep when her teammate the Smacktivist was named top jammer. Small consolation for the hardest working team in the game.

It so rarely happens in sports, but the Minnesota Windy City showdown lived up to its high expectations.

The final delivered. Easily the best game of the tournament, it was wide-open, fast, full of hard hitting blockers and jukey jammers. A stunning display of the game by two of the sport’s most venerable leagues. Having played to a controversial tie earlier this summer, this one seemed capable of going the same route as neither team could gain an advantage in the first half. In the second, Windy seemed to pull away early only to have Minnesota climb all the way back. But as champions do, Windy City brought its best game of the tournament—and perhaps even the season—when it mattered most. The 165-153 win meant that the same three teams (in the same ranking order) will be returning to the championship this year.

The Thrill of the Spill couldn’t have provided a better start to this year’s WFTDA playoffs.

****For complete-game recaps head over to the Derby News Network where Justice Feelgood Marshall captured the blow-by-blow action.

2012 WFTDA Championship Participants

North Central Region

1. Windy City Rollers All Stars

2. Minnesota RollerGirls All Stars

3. Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens

2011 Roller Derby World Cup: Preview

On Thursday, December 1st, 2011, France and Canada will take the track to kick off what could be considered one of the most important gatherings of flat track roller derby teams in the sport’s decade-long existence. The 2011 Roller Derby World Cup marks the first time that international teams will come together to play in a competitive flat track roller derby tournament. The importance of this event in the dissemination and global exposure of the sport cannot be overlooked.

Taking place in the Bunker in Toronto on two tracks over an ambitious four-day period, the tournament will kick off with a round robin “seedings” mini tournament featuring bouts with shorter, 20 minute halves between teams who were grouped by a random draw based on experience and international diversity.  Concluding on Friday, all teams will then be placed in an elimination bracket based on how they fared in the round robin portion (due to the uneven number of teams—13—the top three seeds will receive a first round bye).

In 2008, Team Canada (captained by current Team Canada member 8 Mean Wheeler), travelled to the UK for a series fo bouts.

With so little cross-international play at this stage in the development of the sport (in 2008 Team Canada travelled to the UK to play a series of bouts), expectations are wide open for the tournament. Based purely on age of programs, total leagues and games played, the “big four” are USA, Canada, England and Germany (these are also the top four countries in terms of rostered skaters from WFTDA teams). In terms of sheer number of leagues, Australia and New Zealand have actually now passed Germany. But beyond that, expectations are wide open. Although choosing from a much smaller pool, Scotland and Sweden both boast a huge number of WFTDA affiliated skaters (18 and 19 respectively), with the majority of those players being chosen from the countries’ two WFTDA affiliated leagues (Auld Reekie and Glasgow in Scotland, Stockholm and Crime City in Sweden with the Swedes also picking up Knickerblocker Glory from London). Along with England (who are made up of a core 11 from the London Rollergirls who are ranked 5th in the Eastern Region), the knowledgeable cores that make up Sweden, Scotland and England could prove to be a big advantage in a tournament where teams will have to come together quickly (France and Finland have chosen from similarly small pools, but the comparative lack of experience takes away some of this advantage).

The host country, Team Canada is built around a core of Montreal players (6)

Semi-Precious gives a helpful push to Soul Rekker; both Rideau Valley skaters are members of Team Canada. (Photo by Derek Lang)

and a few other WFTDA-experienced skaters from Toronto, Tri-City and Terminal City, but beyond that is a mishmash of regional selections (the lone Maritimer on the team, Rainbow Fight, has had to be replaced due to injury); nonetheless, based on experience Canada should be considered one of the favourites in the tournament. They will be lead by the six members of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block (the first non-US team to qualify for the WFTDA playoffs) who should provide the core jammers with Iron Wench and Georgia W. Tush; blockers Smack Daddy, Lil’ Mama, and Bone Machine; and pivot Jess Bandit (who is also co-captain). Sharing the pivot stripe will undoubtedly be ToRD’s Brim Stone (co-captain) and Terminal City’s 8 Mean Wheeler, but Beretta Lynch (West Kootenays, and capable of playing any position) and Oil City’s TeeKnee (a Brim Stone style triple threat) could also lead the pack (Beretta Lynch could play any position). The Blocking contingent will be rounded out by injury-addition Semi-Precious (who, despite her late selection, is a more-than worthy addition), Red Deer’s Gunpowder Gertie  and Edomonton’s big hitting  Hell on Keller, while exceptional triple-threat Windigo (who plays south of the border for Houston Roller Derby) can be counted on in any role. The rest of the players provide a lot of depth at jammer with the wily Taz from Red Deer joining Forest City’s Killson, Tri-City’s Motorhead Molly and Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker as skaters who shine with the star. Canada should do well against France, Sweden and Brazil in the preliminary round. Although France and Sweden, featuring rosters built of players familiar with one another, should not be taken lightly, and Brazil (who will be lead by Gotham’s Brazilian Nut) are a pure wild card who could be capable of anything and have absolutely nothing to lose: always a dangerous combination.

Team USA, the pre-tournament favourites, will play a split-squad exhibition bout on Thursday.

Despite the limitless possibilities in this tournament, the one thing that everyone can agree on is the dominant potential of Team USA. The roster of the team is filled with the superstars of the sport from Sassy and Psycho Babble in the west, to Suzy Hotrod and Teflon Donna in the east, to Smarty Pants and Juke Boxx in between, there are absolutely no holes in this fantastic roster. So dominant could this team be that they will split for a “Stars vs. Stripes” exhibition on Thursday night that could prove to be one of the best bouts of the tournament. While spots 2-13 might be up for grabs, anything less than a first place finish for Team USA will be considered a massive disappointment.

*The tournament kicks off Thursday, December 1st, 2011, at 5:00 PM. You can catch all the action live on DNN (including the special Stars vs. Stripes exhibition bout that will be boutcast live on Thursday, December 1st, at 9:00 PM.)

Thursday, December 1:

5 P.M., Track 1: Canada vs. France
5:30 P.M., Track 2: Australia vs. Germany
6:20 P.M., Track 1: Argentina vs. Ireland
6:50 P.M., Track 2: New Zealand vs. U.S.A.
7:40 P.M., Track 1: Brazil vs. Sweden
8:10 P.M., Track 2: Australia vs. Finland
9 P.M., Track 1: USA vs USA expo bout

Friday, December 2:

9:30 A.M., Track 1: England vs. Ireland
10 A.M., Track 2: New Zealand vs. Scotland
10:50 A.M., Track 1: Canada vs. Sweden
11:20 A.M., Track 2: Finland vs. Germany
12:10 P.M., Track 1: Brazil vs. France
12:40 P.M., Track 2: Scotland vs. U.S.A.
1:30 P.M., Track 1: Argentina vs. England
2 P.M., Track 2: France vs. Sweden
2:50 P.M., Track 1: Brazil vs. Canada
4 P.M. – 5:30: Welcome Ceremony: Parade of Nations
5:30 – 10 P.M.: Beginning of elimination round

Saturday, December 3:

9:30 A.M. – 8:30 P.M.: Elimination and placement rounds

Sunday, December 4:

10:30 A.M. – 6:30 P.M.: Elimination and placement rounds
6:30 – 9 P.M.: Closing celebration and award-giving at the Bunker

Preliminary Round Groups Set for 2011 Roller Derby World Cup

Preliminary Round Groups

Group A


Group B


Group C

New Zealand

Group D


**It was broadcast on DNN on Thursday, November 17, 2011. Stay tuned for the archive.