Naptown Roller Girls

Neil Gunner’s Into Battle to Launch at ToRD’s 2015 Season Opener

“I definitely had it in my mind to represent the full derby experience as much as possible.”—Neil Gunner on preparing to publish Into Battle, his book of roller derby photography that will be available this weekend at ToRD’s 2015 Season Opener.

"If I'm having to use my teammates to try to claw my way through, it's probably because I'm under heavy attack. That's how it feels when you're playing against Windy City." - Minnesota's Juke Boxx (now with London) on facing  Windy City in the final of the 2012 WFTDA North Central Regional Championship.

“If I’m having to use my teammates to try to claw my way through, it’s probably because I’m under heavy attack. That’s how it feels when you’re playing against Windy City.” – Minnesota’s Juke Boxx (now with London) on facing Windy City in the final of the 2012 WFTDA North Central Regional Championship.

Into Battle: The Roller Derby Experience in Photos and Interviews is a coffee-table sized sports photography book, but it’s not your typical sports book, nor is it your typical book of photographs. And those are both good things.

The book is not simply a collection of the author’s best or favourite photographs; it is instead curated thematically, divided into 27 sections that mimic the narrative of a roller derby event, from pre-game talks to stretching and gearing up, right through to the elation of post-game celebrations.

Beautifully and meticulously put together from the inside covers right through to the subtle background images of the text (ghostly shots of the floor the Bunker, home of Toronto Roller Derby), perhaps the most astonishing thing about the book is that it was self-published by the photographer himself, Neil Gunner. And everything from the vision to the actualization was all his doing.

“My main motivation was that I wanted full creative control, from art direction and layout to treatment of photos and skater stories to physical specs for the book,” Gunner explained in a recent interview. “I didn’t trust that some mass-market publisher would do justice to roller derby the way someone within our community would.”

So despite interest from an American publisher, Neil set out on his own with little more than his large collection of personal photos representing a number of events (from house league matchups to the WFTDA playoffs) and 19 distinct leagues from throughout Canada and the United States, and only a slowly evolving vision for the book.

“When I started the process, I had no idea if it was even going to work,” he admits now, “It all depended on the skaters – if they were willing to share, we were in business. Thankfully, the vast majority were very open and engaging; once I’d done a couple of interviews, I knew I was on to something.”

Interestingly, the book emerged out of a somewhat constructed collaboration that went beyond the natural game-time collaboration between photographer and subject. Instead of simply organizing the photographs into thematic sections, Gunner also made the fascinating choice of interviewing the subjects of the photos and using those words to accompany the photos as opposed to his own descriptions; this was one of the ideas that preceded the publishing of the text and ended up inadvertently shaping the content as well.

“When I started, I didn’t immediately think ‘chapters’; I wasn’t even sure what the theme would be… As I started to complete interviews and create transcripts, I could see themes and patterns emerging; it was just a matter of putting those patterns together. Over several weeks, the patterns became categories, which became sections and then chapters, right down to individual page spreads…The photo and story I chose for the introduction—where Arch Rival’s High Pains Drifter (Bench Coach) and Downtown Dallis are having their heart to heart—when I put those stories together, I thought, ‘This is it. This represents the whole derby attitude.’ It set the tone for the entire book.”

"I was just thinking  to myself, desperately like, 'Grab Acid's hand and take that whip.'" - Ohio's Smacktivist on a 2012 playoff showdown with Naptown.

“I was just thinking to myself, desperately like, ‘Grab Acid’s hand and take that whip.'” – Ohio’s Smacktivist on a 2012 playoff showdown with Naptown.

Neil Gunner (whose derby photography can be found on his Flickr site) is unique in one way from most derby photographers: He is very selective about what photos he releases to the public after a bout or tournament, sometimes to the point where a double header, for example, will produce as little as twenty pictures; so even in his regular derby photography, he is building a narrative and it’s something that he is conscious about: “One thing you’ll notice when you look at my derby photography in general: I like to curate and I like to tell a story, if I can. Sort of a dramatic documentary. The one thing I knew from the start was that this (book) couldn’t be just a bunch of photos with no context – I mean, who’d care, right?”

This structural decision makes for a surprisingly engaging read. As with any book of photos, it’s entirely possible to open randomly and be impressed by the pics and the layout, but rare in photography books is the ability to read it from start to finish as you would a novel or even a game recap.

But collecting and selecting the images and doing the interviews—while undeniably a massive undertaking—is just the first step in the production of a book; beyond that, the actual production can take as much time or more and can offer immense challenges, particularly from someone self-publishing a book for the first time. As Gunner admits, it required a lot of patience and the willingness to learn on the fly: “Every step of the process presented a unique set of challenges. The ones I didn’t see coming all had to do with production. For instance, I taught myself InDesign in order to build the book layouts. I learned all about retouching to fix a couple things within some photos.”

But the biggest challenge, he explains, was the actual preparation of the images for printing: “Photos intended for paper and a multi-million dollar printing press require a different output format than photos intended for a computer screen (CMYK versus RGB for those interested). The conversion process isn’t hard, but the trick is maintaining image quality: images reproduced on paper often lose something. I did a lot of testing, and this is one reason why finding the right printer is so important.” He ended up choosing a printer from Manitoba, and along with printing, they were able to offer advice as well.

As you learn through talking with people who have self-published, finding and receiving help along the way is key in the production. The term “self-publishing” itself is a bit of a misnomer, especially when producing a book as technically and structurally challenging as this one. All the steps a “traditional” publisher would take still need to be taken, and Gunner made sure to seek out help where needed, which included hiring a print production management team, Heidy Lawrance Associates, who ended up putting him in touch with the Manitoba-based printer and gave advice about aspects such as layout.

And that help extends into post production where he hired a copy/substantive editor, Stephanie Halldorson from h:editing, as well as a proofreader, Tan Light. “Believe me,” Gunner is quick to point out, “the book was very much improved by their attention.”

But when it all comes down to it, the stars of the book are the photos themselves and the subjects they contain. And the years of shooting roller derby have given Neil a refined eye for the sport and the action it contains.

There is a wide range of levels of derby captured in the book. The opening two-page spread of the “Teamwork” section (pp.76-77), for example, provides one image of a farm-team level game in Toronto opposite an image of a WFTDA elimination playoff game between Ohio and Naptown; despite the disparity in the levels of the game, the subject matter (two blockers attempting to whip their jammers past quickly advancing defenses) and the captured intensity are equal and presented as such.

"It was a messy, messy couple of seconds." - Windy City's Killanois on this encounter with a Montreal pack.

“It was a messy, messy couple of seconds.” – Windy City’s Killanois on this encounter with a Montreal pack.

The set-up also allows for narratives to be told over two pages. One example appears in the “Contact” section where a sequence (pp. 46-47) showing the knocking down of a jammer (Windy City’s Killinois) by a couple of Montreal blockers is described over both pages, with the narrative of the blocker (Montreal’s Mel-E. Juana is the interviewed blocker) and the jammer accompanying the images. Similarly, a three-photo spread (pp. 160-161) in the “Tenacity” section shows an ongoing battle between a blocker (Forest City’s Mirambo) and jammer (Toronto Roller Derby’s Bala Reina). It’s a compelling style, and one of the reasons that makes this book of photography so “readable.”

In the end, what Gunner has managed to produce is as compelling a book about roller derby as the contemporary revival has seen. Add to that the fact that as a DIY project, it was a labour of love in line with the cultural aesthetic of contemporary roller derby, and you have a book that successfully captures a community.

While talking with Neil about the book, you get a sense that despite the effort, he enjoyed making it as much as we’ve enjoyed reading it. “You really have to enjoy the process. It’s a huge amount of sustained effort; several phases were a full-time job. So you’ve got to have fun along the way or you’ll never get through it. Which is why I’m eternally grateful to every skater who agreed to do an interview over a beer.”

When asked if self-publishing was the right decision, he doesn’t hesitate, “it was absolutely the right decision.”

ToRD 2015 Season Opener BannerInto Battle will be available at Toronto Roller Derby’s 2015 season opener, a double header featuring a rematch of the 2014 Battle for the Boot (Death Track Dolls vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls) and Chicks Ahoy! vs. Smoke City Betties. Neil Gunner and others who appear in the book will also be available to sign autographs.

Tickets are now available.

Peaches Does Roller Derby: The Clam Slam, WorldPride, and the Most Important Woman in the World

In which the Nerd reflects on the importance of WorldPride, the Clam Slam’s role within it, and how for a few days in September 2012, he was convinced that Peaches was the most important woman in the world.

The Clam Slam, this year a WorldPride Affiliate event, is in its 6th year.

The Clam Slam, this year a WorldPride Affiliate event, is in its 6th year.

As the giddiness of another Toronto Pride celebration begins to fade, the thrill of the event wears off, and it’s hard not to become reflective: on how inclusive and open a city we live, about how wonderful it is to celebrate diversity and difference and live in a place where those things are met with celebration instead if fear.

This year, the world came to our city to celebrate the first ever WorldPride held on North American soil. It meant an increased focus, increased participation, but it also meant an increased awareness of what life is like for members of the LGBTQITSLFA (LGBT) community outside of Canada. In turning our eyes to the struggles of those in places like Uganda, for example, we are able to see how lucky we are here.

Not, of course, to imply that the situation in Canada is perfect. It most certainly is not. We need only look to the thinly veiled homophobic actions and comments by the mayor of the largest city in our country to know that there are still battles to be fought on our own home soil. What we are lucky about here in Canada is that the battle has (mostly)  moved away from the systemic and legal arenas and onto the front lines: it’s become a battle of hand-to-hand combat against the last stragglers in the army of the close-minded. But because of the numerous victories, the battle has also shifted to become both more expansive and more specific, shifting focus toward trans rights or the rights of those members in the LGBT community who are also visible minorities.

In Canada, while these individual battles still rage, we have the support of the system. Most members of the LGBT community in Canada are afforded equal rights by the law. That is a powerful weapon with which to fight the individual ground battles that are still occurring. It is a weapon that many people in the world do not have at their disposal.

Plaid Mafia's WhackedHer (skating as VAGilante) gets sandwiched during the opening game of the Clam Slam.

Plaid Mafia’s WhackedHer (skating as VAGilante) gets sandwiched during the opening game of the Clam Slam. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Arguably, the most moving event at WorldPride was the mass wedding performed at Casa Loma on Thursday, June 26. Featuring nearly 120 couples from around the world, many were from countries where same-sex marriage is still not allowed. What was most shocking was that many participants were from wealthy, developed countries like Australia and South Korea. A grim reminder of how far we are from living on a globally free planet.

Across the city in Ted Reeve Arena, at the same time that this remarkable wedding was happening, representatives from 16 North American roller derby leagues were taking part in the 6th annual Clam Slam: a Pride-affiliate all-star roller derby bout run through a collaboration between Toronto Roller Derby and the Great Toronto Area Rollergirls. This year, however, there was a very special guest on hand to blow the opening whistle of the second and final game of the evening: Peaches. The singer would return the favour a few days later when a group of ToRD skaters appeared on stage during her concert.

Now an international phenomenon, Peaches has been a growing icon in the LGBT community (and well beyond!) since her first album, The Teaches of Peaches, was released in 2000. It has never seemed strange to me that the rise of Peaches’ career has coincided with the rise of flat track roller derby. Both, to me, are absolutely essential aspects of North American life in the 21st century, and both are intricately intertwined with the LGBT community as well.

2003 was an astonishing year—perhaps the first true year of the 21st century (in the same way that some people refer to 1963 as being the first year of what we think of as “The ’60s”). 2003 would be the year of SARS, the year the first deer was cloned, and the Hubble telescope would see so deep into space, it could see galaxies that existed in the few millennia after the Big Bang.

In 2003, Belgium would follow the Netherlands in legalizing same-sex marriage at a national level, while closer to home, the province of Ontario would become the first jurisdiction in the Americas to allow it.

Fans of flat track roller derby also know that in the Austin, Texas, in April, the Texas Rollergirls would host the first official game of flat track roller derby, playing under a rule set that would eventually lead to the WFTDA rule set played so widely today.

The album cover of Peaches' second album, Fatherfucker (2003).

The cover of Peaches’ second album, Fatherfucker (2003).

Peaches would release her second, break-through album, Fatherfucker in September of that year; its very title an affront to any sort of attempt at wide mainstream acceptance. Through two albums, she’d created a gender-defying persona with a heightened sexuality. And, as evidenced by the album title, she didn’t give a fuck what you thought of her. At all. She was going to be herself and she was going to shove that self in your face: you could either look away or you could do your best to take it all in and be awed by it.

My partner was enthralled by Peaches from the first time she heard Peaches’ voice slip in over top of the raw, low-fi beats that begin “Fuck the Pain Away,” the opening track of Teaches of Peaches. Her growing passion for Peaches just got bigger after she discovered and started playing roller derby, a community that as a whole seemed to share my partner’s love for the singer.

One of the first things I noticed about the roller derby community was how big the LGBT community was within it. The revival of the sport had been very much wrapped up in third-wave feminism and was fueled by a punk rock sensibility; especially in Montreal, where I was first seeing the game, roller derby and the LGBT community were fused to the point where I didn’t much think about one without the other. But I also noticed right away that the sport itself—and how inclusive, empowering and all encompassing it could be—led to a certain transcendence of politics. I once wrote about how struck I was that skaters weren’t traditionally feminist in that they didn’t seem to be caught up in a fight for acceptance or inclusion; they simply expected it.

For me, Peaches has always represented a similar attitude. A similar transcendence. For the most part, the persona of Peaches takes the point of view of a woman in her song writing, but she isn’t interested in adhering to any sort of traditional notions of what being a woman is, and as her career has gone on, her persona has become more ambiguous. She just is. There is an overt sexual “baseness” to her writing that is grounded in an extremely physical experience. She is living through her body, experiencing life through her body, and that body happens to be a female one.

Naptown Jammer Maiden America (playing for the Eager Beavers) attempts to pass Montreal's Nameless Whorror (Clam Diggers). (Photo by Greg Russell)

Naptown Jammer Maiden America (playing for the Eager Beavers) attempts to pass Montreal’s Nameless Whorror (Clam Diggers). (Photo by Greg Russell)

Along with her recording career, Peaches has also made some movies, most notably the “electro rock opera” Peaches Does Herself. A sort of psychedelic memoir, it begins as a kind of portrait of the artist as a young women, in which the audience is introduced to a mythologized version of Peaches’ creation. It is, throughout, a celebration of the female body and a carnivalized romp through a woman’s sexual awakening and then experience. Through this process, the film also lays bare the constructed nature of human gender and sexuality, then defies those constraints as the film becomes more surreal and the desires and gender of the characters become more fluid.

I was at the world premiere of Peaches Does Herself, and I remember leaving the Bloor Hot Docs cinema that night convinced that Peaches was the most important woman in the world. She represented the avant garde of female identity in the 21st century: a super-empowered, hyper-sexual being who celebrated her body—all bodies!—with a wild glee.  She was, to put it simply, free to explore how she wanted to be a woman.

Of course, I know it is naïve to think of any performer as the most important anything in the world, yet I am still convinced that the very existence of someone like Peaches makes our world a better place to live.

And I could—and have—said the same about women’s flat track roller derby. Here’s a competitive game built and shaped by women in the midst of a sporting environment absolutely dominated by men. Here’s a game that has not only welcomed the LGBT community but celebrates it, has put it at the core of its growth and has allowed it to shape the nature and attitude of the game. Here’s a sport that has eschewed all traditional notions of what a sport is and how it should be, taken a punk-rock DIY approach and made it work on a national, then cross-border, and now global scale. Roller derby, like Peaches, has become a force of nature. And I think our world is a better place for it.

 

***For the record, the Clam Slam was once again a great success that produced two really, really entertaining games of roller derby. In the first, the Plaid Mafia used a late-game comeback to defeat Team Uhaul 194-178. In the second, the Eager Beavers held off a late charge by the Clam Diggers to record the 193-154 victory. Both games were boutcast live; watch the archives here.

WP Affiliate banner***Portions of this article were excerpted from a book-length work in progress***

Toronto Hosts Ontario in Inaugural bout; Bruisers go 2-1 at B-Cup

ToRD's CN Power hosted Team Ontario in the provincial team's first game. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

ToRD’s CN Power hosted Team Ontario in the provincial team’s first game. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

It was a historic night at the Bunker in Downsview Park on Saturday as Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power played host to the inaugural game for the recently formed Team Ontario. It was a preseason tune up for ToRD’s 29th ranked WFTDA Division 1 team, and the first time derby fans got to take a look at the non-Toronto based members of our provincial team. Adding to that collection of talent were the seven Team Ontario skaters on CN Power’s roster. It was a thrilling game played at an incredibly high level. In the end, Toronto had a little too much fire power for their provincial counterparts as the hosts won 211-152.

A bulk of Team Ontario’s members came from the province’s other top WFTDA leagues in Rideau Valley (Ottawa) and Tri-City (Kitchener-Waterloo), but the squad also featured skaters from Timmins (Nasty Nads), Alliston (Mad Megz), Detroit (USS DentHerPrize) and Philadelphia (Whacks Poetic, formerly of Hammer City) among others. Despite missing the key members from Toronto, it was a formidable lineup.

Tri-City's Freudian Whip and Philly's Whacks Poetic hold back Motorhead Molly.

Tri-City’s Freudian Whip and Philly’s Whacks Poetic hold back Toronto’s Motorhead Molly.

The game actually started off in Team Ontario’s favour. With Thunder jammer Ova Kill on the line and a nasty duo of Leigh Wylde (AKA: Leighzzie Borden; Wild Leigh Coyote) and Hannah Murphy laying heavy D on CN Power’s Dusty, they caught a rusty CN Power off guard to spring out to an 8-0 lead. But Toronto, coming off of its best season after making a run in the WFTDA playoffs last year, just took a while to get warmed up. Toronto took their first lead of the game on a power jam 5 minutes in, part of a string of five straight lead jammers that would give the home team an 18-8 lead. As befitting a team that practices together on a regular basis, Toronto’s transitions were quicker, keeping them a step ahead, and the cohesiveness of some of the lines could not be matched (Nasher the Smasher and Dyna Hurtcha were every bit the equal of Murphy and Wylde—and when forming a line with Renny Rumble and offensive maven Jubilee, were nearly impenetrable). But Team Ontario was coming together as the game wore on as well, and some phenomenal individual work from the likes of RVRG’s Margaret Choke and Tri-City’s Fox Smoulder in the pack and Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker with the star, kept them in it. Ontario drew back-to-back power jams late in the first half to keep it tight at the break, with the hosts clinging to an 84-66 lead.

Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha and Nasher the Smasher hold back Soul Rekker. All three are also members of Team Canada.

Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha and Nasher the Smasher hold back Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker. All three are also members of Team Canada.

Despite it being an exhibition, CN Power came out to play in the second half. They tightened their jammer rotation, and actually opened the half with Dyna Hurtcha on the jam line for a 4-0 start. Two of the 8 Team Canada members in the game, Rainbow Fight—making her debut with Toronto’s top team—and Bala Reina, went back-to-back-to-back to help pad CN Power’s lead, which they extended to 99-68 after only five minutes of the second. While Rainbow especially, was a standout with some phenomenal jamming, it was relentless pack work from Toronto’s deep blocker group that proved to be the difference. A well-executed 20 point power jam 10 minutes in seemed to give Toronto an insurmountable lead (129-73). However, Team Ontario wasn’t quite done. Continuing a story that had been playing out all night, Hannah Murphy and Leigh Wylde continued their excellent work together and managed to take a few rounds of a game-long battle with Toronto jammer Rainbow Fight. With five minutes to go, Soul Rekker picked up 20 points on a power jam to pull Ontario back within reach, 184-149, but a few strong late-game jams by Dusty (who seemed to get stronger as the game went on) helped seal the deal for the home team who held on for the thrilling 59 point win.

In the end, the extraordinary level of play provided a fantastic showcase of the level of roller derby in this province. Not only did the game feature Ontario’s best, Canada’s national team was well represented as well. Three members of Team Ontario (Hannah Murphy, USS DentHerPrize and Soul Rekker) and five members of CN Power (Bala Reina, Dusty, Dyna Hurtcha, Nasher the Smasher and Rainbow Right) are all on the team that will represent Canada at the 2014 World Cup in Dallas. Based on this small display, things are looking good for our national team.

Team Ontario's roster vs. ToRD's CN Power

Team Ontario’s roster vs. ToRD’s CN Power

BRUISERS WIN CONSOLATION BRACKET AT B-CUP

B-Cup 2014 PosterFar south of the border, ToRD’s B travel team, the Bay Street Bruisers, headed to Bloomington, Indiana, to take part in the 8-team invitational, the B-Cup, featuring B-travel teams from Naptown, Minnesota, Madison, Cincinnati, Nashville, Tri-City and the hosts Bleeding Heartland. The Bruisers are coming off of a very active off-season that saw a massive reordering of the roster as a new generation of ToRD skaters join the B-team. With that in mind, it was a very fresh, very new and inexperienced group that took to the track at Cardiac Arena for their opening game of the tournament. Facing an experienced Nashville team, the new-look Bruisers were simply overwhelmed in the early going. While there were flashes of excellence (particularly late in the game), the Bruisers couldn’t get much going in the 241-89 loss against a tight Nashville team that would end up going all the way to the final, where they would lose to Mad Rollin 203-147.

That sent the Bruisers to Sunday’s consolation bracket with a chance to play for 5th place, an opportunity that would not be wasted. It seemed to just be a matter of gaining track experience for the team, as they looked completely different in their second game of the tournament. With the time to bond, the Bruisers responded and gave a hint of what is to come for 2014. They crushed the hosts Bleeding Heartland 378-49 (the largest differential on the weekend, and the second highest point total) a score that could have been even higher had the Bruisers not expanded their jammer rotation to include virtually everyone on the bench late in the game as they tried to preserve energy for the following contest. They continued to roll in the consolation final, facing off against Cincinnati. It would be a significantly tougher test, but their pack defense (which improved most notably over the course of the three games) was up for the challenge. Up 117-68 at half, it was a sequence at the 25-minute mark of the second that truly put the game away.

With the score 118-81 and Cincinnati charging, the Bruisers gave up a power jam. But some smothering power kill defense limited the damage to five points, and on the following jam, the Bruisers nabbed a power jam of their own and made it count, with Sneaky Dee picking up 20 points to increase the lead to 148-86. It would prove to be the defining sequence of the game as Cinci was never able to recover, and the Bruisers held on for the 243-115 win to earn 5th place and cap a successful weekend.

***Also a big shout out to Tri-City’s Plan B who took part in the tournament as well (they lost their games against Naptown and Cincinnati). And finally, congratulations to Forest City’s Timber Rollers who hosted Ann Arbour in their first ever WFTDA home game (and second WFTDA sanctioned bout). Ann Arbour took it 228-159.

ToRD Travel Teams Kick off 2014 Season with High Expectations

2014 CN Power

CNP 2014 by ezio+ian

This weekend, CN Power will kick off its 2014 season with an intriguing exhibition game against the non-ToRD members of Team Ontario (the provincial team will actually be calling up some of its “second team” members to fill out the roster). All in all, 21 members of Team Ontario will take part in the bout at the Bunker on Saturday.

The Set-up

2013 was a banner year for Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power. It was a slow-build sort of season, beginning with some big wins over the likes of Killamazoo and Fort Wayne but some setbacks as well, such as a stunning loss to Rideau Valley Vixens at QCC. In the end, it all seemed for the best as the team slowly rounded into form, culminating in a playoff-clinching two-point victory on the road in Bleeding Heartland (which was followed by a stunning 301-98 deconstruction of a former D1 team in Milwaukee). And then, of course, the run in Salem.

Read Beck Wise's Boston vs. Toronto game recap on Derby News Network (featuring photos by Donalee Eiri)

Click on photo to read Beck Wise’s Boston vs. Toronto playoff recap on Derby News Network (featuring photos by Donalee Eiri)

Having just watched Terminal City go on a surprising run in their own Divisional tournament, Toronto, ranked last in their 10-team playoff field, continued where Vancouver left off and pulled off playoff upsets of their own: a 215-90 take down over Sacred City (Sacramento), and eventually an even bigger upset over the historic Boston Derby Dames 204-198. Even their quarterfinal loss to Atlanta was a stunner; their hard fought 219-171 loss surpassing even the wildest of expectations.

CN Power finished 2013 9-8 in sanctioned play (counting playoffs) and 10-8 overall. They are currently ranked 29th in the WFTDA and 2nd in Canada.

But CN Power’s (and ToRD’s) success also spilled out into other venues as well. Joining Bay Street Bruiser Bench Coach Flyin’ Bryan Killman on Team Canada are five members of CN Power. ToRD’s top travel team also dominates the Team Ontario roster with eight members (one, Bambi, has since retired).

The Roster

Given the incredible success and growth of the team in 2013, arguably the most important aspect of the 2014 roster is the lack of change. 17 of the 20 skaters from the 2013 roster return. In addition, the replacements—all graduates of ToRD’s B-team program—don’t represent a drop off in talent. Ames to Kill (who was a call-up for the playoffs last season), Scarcasm, and national team member Rainbow Fight are all game ready and were essential parts of the on-track leadership core of the Bay Street Bruisers last season. Ames and Scar provide strong pack depth for a team loaded with some of the best blockers in the country (including Team Canada’s Nasher the Smasher and Dyna Hurtcha), while Rainbow Fight is an incredibly talented triple-threat who should be able to fit in wherever she is needed.

CN Power will have to contend with the loss of leading scorer Bambi (seen here against Ohio at QCC 2014). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

CN Power will have to contend with the loss of leading scorer Bambi (seen here jamming against Ohio at QCC 2014). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Rainbow will undoubtedly spend some time with the star, helping to fill out an impressive offensive roster that will need to make up for the retirement of ToRD’s all-time leading scorer Bambi, who retired in the off season. In the playoffs last year Bambi finished with a 50% lead percentage while scoring 258 points on 5.5 points per jam. While Rainbow will be looked upon to pick up some of this slack, the rest of the jammer core remains in place. Fellow Team Canada members Bala Reina (202, 5.3, 45% in the playoffs) and Dusty (126, 3.8, 33%) remain, while the rest of the rotation will be filled out by Motorhead Molly (59, 1.7, 37%), Kookie Doe (who missed the end of the season due to injury) and Candy Crossbones and Dyna Hurtcha (both of whom will probably spend the majority of their time in the pack).

CN Power’s new captains are long-time ToRD vets and former Chicks Ahoy! teammates Nasher the Smasher and Tara Part. Rounding out the pack are playoff standouts BruiseBerry Pie, Renny Rumble and Jubilee, but there is astonishing depth as well as Mega Mouth, Betty Bomber, Panty Hoser, Lady Gagya, Santa Muerte, and Mia Culprit all return for the 2014 season.

After the retirement of long-time Bench Coach His Unholiness the Reverend Ramirez in the off season, former 709 Derby Girls Coach (and currently with the Smoke City Betties) Wade Wheelson joins veteran Bench Manager Sonic Doom on the bench in 2014.

***Catch CN Power in preseason action this Saturday at The Bunker against Team Ontario, in the provincial team’s first ever game. Doors open at 5:00 PM, opening whistle at 6:00 PM. Tickets available online or at various downtown outlets.

2014 Bay Street Bruisers

Photo by Ashlea Wessel (ashleaw.com)

This weekend, while their big sisters are hosting Team Ontario, ToRD’s B-travel team, the Bay Street Bruisers, will be hitting the road and heading to Bloomington, Indiana, to take part in the 4th annual B-Cup tournament featuring eight B-teams, seven representing D1 teams and the 8th from Tri-City (ranked 4th in D2 and on the verge of making the leap into the top division).

The Set-up

Toronto Roller Derby has one of the deepest programs in Canadian roller derby, and a key to that depth is the Bay Street Bruisers. Since taking shape as ToRD’s B-travel team for the 2012 season, the Bruisers have compiled a remarkable 14-3 record. In 2013, the Bruisers continued their success in Canada and began travelling with CN Power south of the border as well. Last year they  notched wins over B-teams from Ohio, Bleeding Heartland, Killamazoo, Brew City and Montreal among others.

The Bruisers defeated the Montreal Sexpos in August. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Bruisers defeated the Montreal Sexpos in August. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Their losses last season came against Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters (who were the top ranked house league team in Canada) and the A-level Misfit Militia, both incredibly talented teams. Arguably, the most important win of the season came against Montreal’s Sexpos (162-101) in a showdown between the nation’s top two B-teams. It was a game loaded with pressure as the Bruisers faced the B-team from Canada’s top league: a B-team that only two years before had nearly beaten CN Power.

The Bruisers finished 2013 with an 8-2 record and are currently the 9th ranked team (and top B-team) in Canada.

The Roster

The Bruisers went through a major off-season transition as a group of new skaters took over the reigns from the first generation. Captained by veteran jammer (and third-year Bruiser) Bellefast and Just Jes (the returning skater formerly known as Aston Martini), the Bruisers do have a returning core of skaters to build around. In the pack, veterans like Robber Blind, Junkie Jenny, Kandy Barr, Biggley Smallz and Misery Mae remain with the team, while Tushy Galore and former captain Chronic return to the fold after single-season hiatuses (they were a dominant duo on the track together in their first stints with the team).

Chronic (left) and Tushy Galore will be reunited on the Bruisers after helping the team win the 2012 RDAC Easterns. (Photo by Neil Gunner).

Chronic (left) and Tushy Galore will be reunited on the Bruisers after helping the team win the 2012 RDAC Easterns. (Photo by Neil Gunner).

As for the offense, jammer titmouse returns for a third season with the Bruisers, while Lexi Con returns after a breakout 2013 run, and Chevy Chase-Her will finally get to see some track time after injuries sidelined her last year. Finally, triple threat Getcha Kicks rounds out the returning skaters.

While there are a handful of new faces to the team, they bring with them a lot of experience. SewWhat? is in her second season with ToRD after stints with various leagues in Australia and the Rollergettes. Joss Wheelin, Android W.K. and LowBlow Palooza are all also second year skaters with ToRD; all three developed through he D-VAS system. ToRD rookies Honey Boom Boom and Sneaky Dee may be in their first year in the league but had successful seasons with the D-VAS in 2013 and had both played with the Rollergettes before that, so bring a lot of track experience with them. And finally, Matchu Beatchu transferred from Halifax in the off season and already has one ToRD houseleague game under her belt.

Flyin’ Bryan Killman, part of Team Canada’s management team, returns for his second year on the Bruisers’ bench.

***The B-Cup tournament will be boutcast on DNN. The Bruisers kick things off against Nashville at 11:30 AM on Saturday. You can view the boutcast schedule here.

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

Toronto Storms the Fort: CN Power and Bruisers Win Big in Indiana

CN Power LogoCN Power 266 vs. Fort Wayne logoBomb Squad 100

Bay Street Bruisers LogoBS Bruisers 245 vs. Fort Wayne logoSWAT Team 100

Coming off of impressive home wins against Killamazoo, Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power and Bay Street Bruisers hit the road on the weekend for a double header in Fort Wayne, and both came away with impressive, message-sending victories. Two weeks ago at home, Toronto’s travel teams both won by remarkably similar amounts, and they did so again against Fort Wayne. Despite a packed Memorial Colliseum and a vocal partisan crowd, the visitors were unfazed and continue to look impressive as they build toward their first major showdowns of the season at next month’s Quad City Chaos.

Before embarking on their first road trip of the season, CNP released its 2013 team photo by Adam Coish. (coishphotography.com)

Before embarking on their first road trip of the season, CNP released its 2013 team photo by Adam Coish. (coishphotography.com)

In the opening game of the double header, the Bay Street Bruisers came out flying , going up 18-6 after two jams (despite giving up a very early power jam that the pack was able to fend off). Strong jamming and stifling pack defense had the Bruisers up significantly, 66-8 10 minutes in. Then the hometeam came storming back, and for almost ten minutes threatened to take control of the game. Slipping into penalty troubles (both in the pack and with jammers), the Bruisers gave up five lead jammer statuses in a row and suddenly the home team was within reach, 81-42. But the Bruisers switched gears, earning lead on 7 of the final 9 jams of the half, but more impressively locked down the defense, not allowing a single point over the final 10 minutes or so to lead 165-42 at the half.

This dominant run continued at the start of the second half as well as the Bruisers opened up with 5 of the first 6 leads and built an overwhelming 181-42 lead. But as it did in the first, things went awry near the midway point of the frame. The SWAT Team’s defense improved considerably as the game went on and they did not give up a significant power jam in the second half (on two occasions, the teams swapped jammer penalties), unfortunately for the home team, they couldn’t quite solve the Bruiser defense, and Toronto held on for the 145 point victory.

In the main event, Bomb Squad hosted CN Power almost a year to the day after their first meeting last year, a 13-point nailbiter that was in doubt almost the whole way through. What a difference a year can make.

A quiet end of season for Toronto (their only bout over the last few months of 2012 was a short-handed loss to Grand Rapids), meant that in terms of rankings (on flattrackstats and WTDA), these two teams were in very similar positions. But as they did against a slightly favoured Killamazoo two weeks ago at home, CN Power defied expectations and showed that in 2013, this is a focused and determined team, ready to climb the standings.

Fort Wayne got out first picking up a 2-0 jam by Adkins Riot with strong back-of-pack defense able to hold off Toronto co-captain Dusty (AKA Defecaitlin). But CN Power battened down the hatches and went on a 19-0 run before Adkins Riot once again was able to put up some points for Fort Wayne (this time on a 10-point power jam). It was back and forth early with the teams sharing 50% lead percentage and similar scores (23-17, Toronto) nearing the ten minute mark.

Then one jam turned the game around.

Fort Wayne lost their second straight game to kick off the 2013 WFTDA season.

Fort Wayne lost their second straight game to kick off the 2013 WFTDA season.

Despite continued punishing pack work from Fort Wayne’s phenomenal Enya Grave (who recently spent time playing for mighty Naptown), Toronto blocker twosome Dyna Hurtcha and Tara Part orchestrated a 24 point jam for Dusty that gave Toronto a 47-17 lead, part of a dominant 6-jam run in which the hosts were kept off the board. Fort Wayne’s Pink Painther finally got the home team back on track with a big 19 point power jam pick up that helped get the Bomb Squad back in it (within 14 points at the 20 minute mark of the half). But it was another well executed power jam, this time pivoted by co-captain Lady Gagya and jammed by Rebel Rock-It, that helped CN Power pull ahead significantly 126-48 at the half.

The impressive Memorial Coliseum was silenced by the beginning of the second half, and CN Power held steady in the half to maintain and slightly build their lead. Not to say that there weren’t moments of excellence from the hosts and some strong individual play from Enya Grave (who even took on the star in the second half), triple threat Adkins Riot, pivot Dodger L. Bows and the hard hitting Top Shelf (to name a few); but it was another well-balanced performance from CN Power, even more steady and consistent than their win against Killamazoo two weeks ago. The team continues to show impressive jammer depth (Bambi, Bala Reina, Dusty and Rebel Rock-It all looked comfortable on the track and brought their own unique style to the star, keeping the opposing defense off balance), and the pack work has been excellent, with Dyna Hurtcha and Tara Part, and then Betty Bomber and Nasher the Smasher, providing dynamic duos, with Lady Gagya continuing to show strong leadership as pivot.

Naptown_Roller_Girls_logo

CN Power played well in a loss against a very strong Naptown team on the second leg of the road trip.

By the 20 minute mark of the second half, CN Power was up 191-80, and never let up over the final 10 minutes (something that has happened to the team in the past) and ended the game on a Bambi-skated power jam to lift the team to an impressive 166-point victory.

On Sunday CN Power continued their road trip in Indianapolis against Naptown in a closed bout. While Toronto would drop this game 239-96, the score was actually better than predicted by flattrackstats.com, and allowed CN Power to continue its climb up the rankings. Although WFTDA has yet to release official rankings yet, Toronto has now climbed into the all-important Top 40 on flattrackstats.com (39th— within the potential Division 1 cut off). In rollergirl.ca’s Canadian rankings, CN Power is now ranked 3rd, having gained some distance on 4th ranked Tri-City, and now nipping at the coattails of Terminal City.

**Next up for both the Bay Street Bruisers and CN Power is the ToRD-hosted Quad City Chaos that will feature teams from Queen City, Rideau Valley and the Ohio Rollergirls.

CN Power Hits the Road: Bruisers tag along for first leg of two game road trip

CN Power opened the season with a home win over KIllamazoo. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

CN Power opened the season with a home win over KIllamazoo. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

CN Power kicked off its 2013 WFTDA season with a big 263-169 win over regional rivals the Killamazoo Derby Darlins: in three seasons, Toronto now has three wins over Killamazoo, two at home, one away in Michigan.  After ending 2012 with a loss, it was a confidence-boosting way to kick off 2013.

This weekend, ToRD’s top team heads to Indiana for back-to-back games against vastly different opponents. On Saturday, February 16, CN Power will play against the Fort Wayne Bomb Squad. It’s been almost a year to the day that Fort Wayne first hosted Toronto in WFTDA action, with Toronto coming away with the victory in a thrilling 16-point win. Both teams went in different directions at that point, with CN Power taking off on a winning streak and Fort Wayne losing two straight before coming on strong again at the end of the year.  The teams finished close in the 2012 WFTDA regional rankings, with Toronto sitting in 14th in the North Central and Fort Wayne 16th.

Fort Wayne has played two games so far in 2013: a non-sanctioned win against Southbend, and a loss in their WFTDA opener 180-117 against Bleeding Heartland.

On Sunday, CN Power will head down the interstate to Indianapolis to take on the Region’s 3rd ranked Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens.  The last time these two teams met was in December 2011, and while a shorthanded CN Power put in a scrappy performance, they were overwhelmed by the Tornado Sirens.  Naptown, went on to have a spectacular 2012, going 9-6 in regular season games (against top-level competition), then taking third spot in the North Central Regionals before taking down host Atlanta at the Championships and falling in a respectable quarterfinal loss to eventual champs Gotham (which had them finishing in the top 8 in the WFTDA). With world class jammers like Amooze Bouche and Maiden America, and phenomenal blocking from the likes of Asian Sinsation and Dora the Destroyer, this is a team to watch in 2013.

Naptown has already played twice in the early going of 2013, notching big wins against Cincinnati (254-107) and Bleeding Heartland (211-85).

CN Power co-captain Dusty had a strong return to the lineup after a long injury layoff. (Photo by Derek Lang)

CN Power co-captain Dusty had a strong return to the lineup after a long injury layoff. (Photo by Derek Lang)

CN Power got off to exactly the start they wanted to with the win over Killamazoo. There are great expectations for the team this season, with the skaters now moving full time to the travel team roster. The adversity the team faced last season helped build depth in the roster. The jammer rotation seems solid, with Dusty, Bambi, Kookie Doe and Rebel Rock-It taking up primary roles, with 2012 Bay Street Bruiser standout Bala Reina waiting in the wings for her shot. Candy Crossbones has been playing in the pack more (with much success) but can always be called upon when a physical jammer is needed. Potential triple threat Bruiseberry Pie has also shown that she is more than capable of picking up any slack with the star as well.

The pack is once again led by the calm, consistent play of Tara Part and Nasher the Smasher, but has considerable depth as well. Co-captain Lady Gagya continues to develop her solid positional play, while Betty Bomber and Dyna Hurtcha stepped up in a big way in the opening game and are at the heart of the lineup. The depth in the pack comes from a core of veterans including Mega Bouche, Panty Hoser, Jubilee, Mia Culprit and Santa Muerte, with newcomers Renny Rumble and Chronic rounding out an impressive roster.

The Bay Street Bruisers defeated Killamazoo's B-Team in their home opener. (Photo by Derek Lang)

The Bay Street Bruisers defeated Killamazoo’s B-Team in their home opener. (Photo by Derek Lang)

ToRD’s B-travel team, the Bay Street Bruisers will be tagging along for the first leg of the roadtrip, facing off against Fort Wayne’s SWAT Team in the opening part of a double header on Saturday. Like CN Power, the Bruisers are also coming off of a big victory to kick off the 2013 season, and after a successful first season as Toronto’s farm team, also have high expectations for the year. Led by an established jammer core of Bellefast, Getcha Kicks and Hailey Copter (formerly known as titmouse), Taranasaurus Rex had a breakout game against Killamazoo, taking advantage of a few relief opportunities to put up 33 points and hold a 100% lead percentage.

The pack is anchored by a solid veteran core including co-captains Canadian Psycho and Dawson along with Speedin Hawking, Foxy Sinatra, Sinead O’Clobber,  Monichrome, Junkie Jenny, Furious Georgia, Robber Blind and Audrey Hellborn (who will make her Bruisers debut in Fort Wayne); they are joined by emerging skaters Scarcasm, Ames to Kill, Biggley Smalls, Tomy Knockers, Rhage in a Cage to fill out a very deep B-team roster.

Fort Wayne’s SWAT team has been busy so far in 2013, and played in this past weekend’s B-Cup tournament in Bleeding Heartland; although they are only 1-3 early in the season, that track experience is invaluable, and they’ll be looking to turn things around at home against the Bruisers.

Saturday night’s double header will be live streamed by the Fort Wayne Derby Girls.

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

2012 Season Preview: CN Power

CN Power 2012

2011: A LOOK BACK

CN Power completed its apprenticeship and kicked off life as a member of the WFTDA’s North Central Region in 2011, making a commitment to compete. And it was a successful initial foray into the highest levels of competitive flat track roller derby. The team kicked off 2011 with a preview of things to come  when they crushed WFTDA team Killamazoo Derby Darlins 197-35 in a February home game (Killamazoo was ranked 19th in the North Central at that time). CN Power completed its apprenticeship when it hosted Montreal’s New Skids on the Blocks, Tri-City Thunder and the Rideau Valley Vixens at the second annual Quad City Chaos, going 2-1 with victories over Thunder (112-98) and Vixens (156-40) to finish second in the round robin tournament for the second year in a row.

CN Power overwhelmed a short handed Eh! Team in October. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

After acceptance into the WFTDA at the end of the summer, the Toronto all stars continued to dominate the lower levels of the North Central completing a home-and-home sweep of Killamazoo (220-76) before destroying traditional rivals from Hammer City, the Eh! Team (277-22). The team stepped up the competition in the fall facing a considerable challenge in Grand Raggidy (ranked 11th), losing 148-68 in Grand Rapids. CN Power got back on a winning streak with a hard-fought 139-129 victory over Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies (14th in the Eastern Region) and Rideau Valley’s Vixens.

In December, CN Power faced its stiffest challenge ever against Naptown. (Photo by Michael Guio)

CN Power closed out 2011 on a Midwest road trip that saw them face off against North Central powerhouse Naptown (falling mightily 266-67) before taking out their frustrations on Louisville’s Derby City Rollergirls 295-28. All in all, going 9-3 on its first full season with a set roster and after gaining admittance to the WFTDA, it was an impressive year for a team that previous to this had never played more than seven bouts in a season (in 2010, after only four in 2009 and one in 2008).

For a complete list of scores and results, click here.

Mia Culprit returns to CN Power. She was part of the first ever CN Power team that challenged the Eh! Team in 2008. (Photo by Derek Lang)

2012: LOOKING FORWARD

After a series of makeshift rosters suffered crushing losses to end 2010, CN Power reorganized and restructured and 2011 was the first year try outs lead to a set roster. In 2012 the competitive structure remains and three new skaters have been added to the team. League veteran and current member of the Smoke City Betties Mia Culprit returns to CN Power (she was part of the first ever CN Power lineup in 2008) adding power and depth to the pack, which will also be bolstered by the arrival of Chicks Ahoy! member Marmighty, who turned some heads with her league play in 2011. And finally 2011 rookie of the year Kookie Doe (also of the Chicks Ahoy!) rounds out the additions and adds depth to the jammer rotation. Lady Gagya joins Brim Stone as co-captains for 2012.

CN Power already has a steady and consistent flow of competition lined up for 2012 with spring bouts scheduled against Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies and a March 3rd home debut against Rochester New York’s Roc City All Stars. They also have two tournaments lined up: along with hosting the third annual Quad City Chaos (March 31-April 1), they will also take part in the Midwest Brewhaha in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (June 2-3).

Fort Wayne is CN Power's first opponent in 2012.

CN Power kicks off 2012 this Saturday with a critical road game showdown against Fort Wayne in Indiana.  The Fort Wayne Derby Girls are a historic flat track team, playing in the WFTDA since 2007. They were also involved in some of the sport’s earliest cross-border showdowns in their dealings with the Hammer City Eh! Team.  Currently they are ranked 14th in the North Central, but climbed as high as 12th in 2011 (they went 5-6 in WFTDA action in 2011, facing off against some of the toughest competition in the region). They played their first bout of 2012 on January 21st with a definitive 204-80 win against 23rd ranked NEO Roller Derby (Akron, Ohio).

You can catch all the action live from Fort Wayne on the Derby News Network beginning at 6:00 PM eastern.

2011 Team Stats Highlights

  • Over a grueling twelve-game schedule, Nasher the Smasher (49%), Brim Stone (44%) and Tara Part (42%) were on the track for over 40% of CN Power’s jams (triple threat Dyna Hurtcha was on for 37%). Defecaitlin was the busiest jammer, jamming for 24% of CN Power’s jams.
  • Nasher led the team in blocks and knockdowns, while tied with Mega Bouche for assists.
  • Defecaitlin  led the team in scoring with 445 points (49 points per game, 3.83 points per jam). Dyna Hurtcha (340) and Candy Crossbones (314) also scored over 300 points on the season. Despite appearing in only three games, Bambi managed to score 149 points (49.7 points per game).
  •  Defecailtin also led the team in jammer +/- (+213) and lead % (59%).
  • Given her amount of track time, it’s no surprise that Nasher racked up the most penalties (43 minors, 21 majors for 27 minutes).  Dyna Hurtcha (22) and Mega Bouche (20) also registered at least 20 minutes in penalties.

ROSTER

Nasher the Smasher spent more time on the track in 2011 that any other CN Power skater. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Aston Martini 510hp (Blocker)

Bambi 33 (Jammer)

Betty Bomber 23 (Blocker, Jammer)

Brim Stone (C) 21:8 (Pivot, Blocker, Jammer)

Bruiseberry Pie 31 (Blocker, Jammer)

Candy Crossbones 2020 (Jammer)

Defecaitlin 2  (Jammer)

Dyna Hurtcha 21 (Blocker, Jammer)

Hurlin Wall 89 (Blocker)

Jubilee 27 (Blocker)

Kookie Doe 807 (Jammer)

Lady Gag Ya (C) 212db (Blocker)

Marmighty 41 (Blocker)

Lady Gagya joins Brim Stone as CN Power co-captain in 2012. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Mega Mouth 26 (Blocker, Pivot)

Mia Culprit 22 (Blocker)

Nasher the Smasher 2×4 (Blocker, Pivot)

Panty Hoser 99 (Blocker, Pivot)

Rebel Rock-it 7 (Pivot, Blocker, Jammer)

Santa Muerte 111 (Blocker, Jammer)

Tara Part L7 (Pivot, Blocker)

MANAGERS:  

The Rev. Ramirez

Sonic Doom

The Derby Nerd

CN Power goes 1-1 on final road trip of 2011

This fall ToRD’s CN Power attained full WFTDA status and began play in the North Central Region. In only a few short months the team has made staggering leaps forward and has turned a few heads in the process. It has been somewhat of a whirlwind season for the team, but one that has positioned them nicely to make a potential run at the playoffs next year, their first full year in the WFTDA, but it will certainly not be easy, and big losses to highly ranked playoff teams show that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  The final road trip of CN Power’s season took them to Indianapolis to play two games, games that would be representative of the highs and lows of this initial foray into the highest levels of contemporary roller derby: a stiff challenge against the 3rd ranked Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens, and a thoroughly dominant performance against the 20th ranked Derby City Roller Girls.

Beginning WFTDA play in 2008, Naptown’s profile has risen steadily in the North Central Region, making the playoffs in 2010 and culminating in a run to the WFTDA Championships this year where they ran into a formidable wall called the Philly Roller Girls. They were bumped from the tournament in the first round; nonetheless, the team’s thrilling performance at the North Centrals, in which they often seemed down but not out, showed that Naptown has the depth of talent and certainly the will to be a continuous contender. Playing out of the 8000 seat Pepsi Coliseum on the Indiana State Fair grounds, Naptown has a big profile in its home city, and is part of the first wave of truly successful, big-stadium flat track roller derby teams in the WFTDA. For CN Power, it was the first taste of the big time.

Rebel Rock-It put the first points on the board for CN Power. (Photography by Michael Guio)

The ToRD travel team was caught a little wide-eyed and in awe to open the bout against the Tornado Sirens, quickly falling behind 41-0 behind the steady jamming and solid pack recycling of the hosts. Missing a few key jammers, CN Power reached into its own deep bench to put some first-time jammers on the line, and it was one of those first-timers, regular pivot Rebel Rock-It, who put the first points up on the board for the visitors nabbing 6 points about five minutes in to break the goose egg and allow the team to relax. CN Power seemed to settle down after that and with strong pack work from Nasher the Smasher (who also fell into some uncharacteristic penalty trouble later in this one), Panty Hoser and Jubilee early were able to hold the hosts pack and prevent them from running away with it. In the team’s best jam of the bout, another regular blocker, Aston Martini, danced confidently through a solid pack to pick up 15 points in her first jam with the star for ToRD’s travel team. But behind amazing jamming from the likes of Maiden America (41 first half points), R.I.P. Tide (28) and Blue Messiah (27), the Sirens were able to pull ahead 115-35 at the half.

Naptown's Asian Sinsation and Dora the Destroyer were dominant in the pack.

Perhaps displeased with allowing the visiting upstarts to contain them in the late stages of the first half, Naptown came out blazing to kick off the second. Asian Sinsation and Dora the Destroyer were dominant in the pack all night and the diverse Cereal Killer was a thorn both in the pack and with the star; and in a period of dominance that highlighted the experience gap between the two teams, Naptown took complete control of the game, scoring 74 points in the opening four jams of the half to pull ahead 189-35. A critical time-out calmed the nerves of CN Power and allowed the team to refocus (only giving up 76 points for the rest of the game). Tara Part and Brim Stone continued to show strong leadership and reliable blocking on the track, while Hurlin’ Wall stepped up and seemed to relish the physical challenge posed by the opposing team as she had one of her strongest games with the team. Dyna Hurtcha was a steadying presence on the jammer line and it was a late 19 point pick up on a power jam that breathed new life into CN Power and helped them finish strong and skate off the track with their heads held high. Penalty troubles were really the difference in this one (CN Power gave up 7 power jams in the second half) as the discipline and steadiness of the veteran Sirens allowed them to skate relatively cleanly and keep control of the game throughout. In the end, the 266-67 loss was actually a solid showing for CN Power, exceeding the predicted expectations of Flat Track Stats.

Hurlin Wall had a strong bout for CN Power.

It was a different story on day two of the season-ending road trip as CN Power faced off against Louisville Kentucky’s Derby City Roller Girls (a team that last year was ranked as high as 17th in the North Central). After a sluggish start that saw both teams come out of the gates neck and neck, about half way through the first half, CN Power settled in and started to pull away for a 122-24 lead at the half.

In the second half the Toronto skaters completely took over the bout. Defensively, the Toronto packs were too much for the overwhelmed Derby City skaters as every skater on the CN Power bench contributed to the fierce pack work that typified the second half. The jamming core of Dyna Hurtcha, Betty Bomber and Rebel Rock-It had little trouble putting up points in the half (Bomber closed out the game with a natural 30 point jam to add an exclamation to the day), and CN Power eventually ran away with it, giving up only 4 points in the half and pacing themselves to a 295-28 victory to end 2011 on a high note.

Although only full members of WFTDA for a few months now, CN Power has certainly announced themselves as a team to watch in the North Central. Finishing 2011 with a 9-3 record, their only losses came to top-ranked WFTDA competition in Montreal’s New Skids on the Block (6th in the East) and Naptown (3rd in the North Central), and the far more experienced Grand Raggidy Roller Girls (11th NC). They thoroughly dominated lower ranked North Central teams all year and early on, at the Quad City Chaos, scored a big unsanctioned victory over the Tri-City Thunder (16th NC), Toronto’s closest WFTDA rivals. While it remains to be seen where CN Power falls in WFTDA’s year-end rankings (which will be the team’s first official ranking), Flat Track Stats has shown CN Power to be on a steady incline up the rankings, having them at 37th overall and 12th in the North Central to close out 2011. 2012 already looks to be an exciting year for Toronto’s premier roller derby team as they’ve got big sanctioned bouts lined up with Fort Wayne, Roc City and Grand Raggidy, not to mention tournament play including a Quad City Chaos that could be a full WFTDA sanctioned tournament for the first time.

**Stay tuned to torontorollerderby.com for updates to the 2012 season; did you know that season tickets are already on sale?? Available online!**