Ohio 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.

Advertisements

Montreal Sweeps in Return to Quad City Chaos

Montreal goes 3-0 while Ohio narrowly avoids being upset by Toronto at the fifth annual Quad City Chaos.

Saturday night's Montreal vs. Toronto game lived up to the considerable hype surrounding it. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

Saturday night’s Montreal vs. Toronto game lived up to the considerable hype surrounding it. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

It may not have been the biggest crowd to ever line the track at the Bunker, but the crowd that took in the final game of the first day of the 2014 Quad City Chaos was arguably the loudest. At least since the venue was home to the first ever women’s World Cup in 2011. And while that says something about the level of derby knowledge the crowd had, it also spoke to the growing importance of the rivalry of the combatants: Toronto and Montreal.

Despite considerable expectations to the contrary, when the weekend’s final game came to its conclusion, things had stayed nearly the same. There were no upsets based on rankings all weekend, and while both Montreal and Toronto gained, Ohio probably will have slipped just a bit and Bleeding Heartland’s tumble down the standings was probably not slowed, all four teams hopefully came out of the fifth annual QCC feeling pretty good about their games.

Returning for the first time since 2011, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block continued where they’d left off, extending their QCC winning streak to nine games after dominant wins over Ohio and Bleeding Heartland and a thrilling 17-point victory against the hosts in the aforementioned Saturday night prime time game. The team’s strongest performance of the weekend was definitely its first, a surprisingly one-sided win (385-158) against the Ohio team that had eliminated the Skids from last year’s playoffs. They also put up the largest single-game scoring total of the weekend (469 points against Bleeding Heartland), but they were susceptible to penalty trouble, allowing the Flatliners to put up a surprising 168 points in the same game.

A lot of questions followed Ohio into this weekend, and they showed they are still a team to be reckoned with, improving with every jam.

A lot of questions followed Ohio into this weekend, and they showed they are still a team to be reckoned with, improving with every jam.

After reaching the pinnacle of the sport in 2013, Ohio was reeling from the retirement of two of its most essential players (about which much has been made), but after a slow start against Montreal (they never looked in that game early Saturday morning), they got better all weekend. A tidy performance against Bleeding Heartland was the precursor to the Sunday win over Toronto, a game I’m sure the hosts would love to have back. After being controlled for much of the first half (Ohio was playing great, but seemed a step or two behind a smooth-skating Toronto team and were down 30 at the half), the Ohio All Stars roared back in the second, opening with a 97-14 run that caught a suddenly loose-looking Toronto off guard. It was an excellent half of roller derby for Ohio, their best of the weekend, and a positive sign for the team.

The hosts came in with high expectations and despite going 1-2 for the second year in row, mostly over-performed. A sloppy opening against Bleeding Heartland (the hard-hitting Midwesterners managed to befuddle all the teams at some point in their games) was followed by a half of absolute derby dominance, where they outscored their over-matched opponents 252-6. Emotionally, the greatest success for Toronto came in the highly anticipated matchup against Montreal, a game they briefly led early in the second half (117-113), before a ferocious comeback was slowed by impeccable Montreal defense. And finally, they looked clear in control of their final game against Ohio, before a weak second half allowed the Columbus-based team a chance at redemption. Nonetheless, the 14-point loss to a team ranked 7 spots ahead of them in the WFTDA rankings has to be considered a success.

REGULATION RESULTS

Photo by Neil Gunner (neilgunner.com)

Bruisers’ MVP Android W.K. holds back Gang Green’s MVP Blitz Lemon.

While their big sisters fell to 1-2 on the weekend, for the second consecutive season, the Bay Street Bruisers went 2-0 at the tournament (increasing their 2014 record to 4-1), including a surprisingly dominant 304-94 win against Ohio’s Gang Green in the third meeting between the two teams (they’d split the first two). Sunday’s game between the Sexpos and the Bruisers showed that the increasingly vital rivalry between Toronto and Montreal is not just limited to A-travel teams. The teams had last met in August with the Bruisers coming away with a 61-point victory. However, a handful of skaters from both of those squads have since graduated to A-level play, so it was two very different B-team rosters that took to the track at the QCC.

While the Sexpos had actually gained in experienced players since that August meeting, it was a much younger Bruisers squad that took to the track this weekend. The teams were virtually even, trading leads consistently throughout, it was easy to conclude that the team that made the final error would be the team that would ultimately lose, and it played out that way with the Sexpos getting unfortunate jammer penalties in the closing jams of the game to allow the hosts to hold on for the 27-point win.

Blitz Lemon picked up tournament MVP for the Gang Green; OhiO for the Sexpos; while Android W.K. nabbed the prize for the host Bruisers.

THE PERFORMERS

The Usual Suspects (and A-Team MVPs)

Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha was a triple threat all weekend (here going one on one with Montreal's Honey Badger).

Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha was a triple threat all weekend (here going one on one with Montreal’s Honey Badger).

In a tournament featuring four WFTDA D-1 teams, it’s no surprise that the list of tournament MVPs reads like a veritable all-star lineup. Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha was a beast all weekend, arguably her team’s best blocker and jammer, she played with a level of intensity that did not wane from opening whistle to closing. Ohio’s Smacktivist would probably have been the tournament MVP, as their value to their team was unmatched. A tireless, phenomenal jammer, Smacktivist was basically off-on against Toronto. Nuck L. Sammie is one of the lone Bleeding Heartland vets remaining from last year’s team, and the speedy, agile jammer led the way all weekend. Finally, Montreal’s Jes Bandit, one of our nation’s finest players, rounds out the A-team MVPs. Her leadership (not to mention her top-notch defense) led the way for the Skids’ consistent performance.

The Steppin’ It Uppers

Ohio's Ava Tarr (right) and Ena Flash form a solid two-wall against Bleeding Heartland.

Ohio’s Ava Tarr (right) and Ena Flash form a solid two-wall against Bleeding Heartland.

This is always the hardest to gauge because there are many skaters who could fall into this category. And while Toronto’s Motorhead Molly may have had the game of her life against the Skids on Saturday night, the tenacious and fiery Renny Rumble gets the nod here for her consistent performance in the pack all weekend. For Montreal, it’s equally hard to judge with Chasing Amy emerging as an on-track leader and Honey Badger successfully coming all the way back from injury, but Surgical Strike continues to find new levels of excellence to achieve. Bleeding Heartland is full of skaters who have been forced to step up their play, and this weekend blockers Mauls Dolls (who also fearlessly took the star on occasion) and the powerful Uh Huh Hurricane led the way. And finally, with the retirement of two key skaters, Ohio’s Ava Tarr (who already had a big role on the team) has been pushed into the spotlight, and especially after an incredible performance on Sunday against Toronto, she seems more than ready to be an on-track leader of the team.

The Breakout Players

Toronto's Renny Rumble (left) and Candy Crossbones hold back Bleeding Heartland's Speedium Rear.

Toronto’s Renny Rumble (left) and Candy Crossbones hold back Bleeding Heartland’s Speedium Rear.

From Bleeding Heartland, the recently graduated junior skater Mersadist did not look out of place (emotionally or physically) all weekend and will undoubtedly become an important piece to build around. Montreal’s Miracle Whips, herself a recent graduate from the B-team Sexpos seems to be the team’s emerging top jammer (loaded with talent and potentially, with a just a little more track experience, she could eventually become that team’s premier jammer). Ohio’s Ena Flash (who previously played for the London Rollergirls and Glass City) has immediately been given first-line minutes this weekend for the rebuilding OHRG All Stars, and didn’t shrink under the expectations at all. And for the hosts: Candy Crossbones. You may wonder how a 7-season veteran and travel-team original can be a breakout player. Well, it happens when six years into your jamming career (having slipped a bit on your team’s jammer depth chart), you completely rebuild your game and within a year or so end up becoming an every-other-jam blocker/pivot who can be relied upon in any given situation while playing on a team inching its way into the highest levels of competitive play.

Congratulations to Toronto Roller Derby and all the participating teams for another excellent Quad City Chaos.

THE SCORES

Saturday

Montreal New Skids on the Block 385 vs. Ohio All Stars 158 (watch)

Toronto CN Power 384 vs. Bleeding Heartland Flatliners 69 (watch)

Toronto Bay Street Bruisers 304 vs. Ohio Gang Green 94 (watch)

Ohio All Stars 291 vs. Bleeding Heartland 94 (watch)

Toronto CN Power 216 vs. Montreal New Skids on the Block 233  (watch)

Sunday

Toronto Bay Street Bruisers 212 vs. Montreal Sexpos 185 (watch)

New Skids on the Block 469 vs. Bleeding Heartland 168 (watch)

Toronto CN Power 172 vs. Ohio All Stars 185 (watch)

**All the games were boutcast in HD by the ToRD.TV crew (and guests). Click here for the full archive.

Roller Skatin Banner

Quad City Chaos 2014 Preview

Quad City Chaos 2014 is the fifth addition of the two-day four-team round robin tournament, featuring two B-team games for the second year in a row.

QCC2014 PosterIn March 2010 when Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Hammer City’s Eh! Team kicked off the first ever Quad City Chaos, they were also making history by playing in the first ever all-Canadian WFTDA sanctioned game. Fast forward five years and history is about to be made again as Quad City Chaos 2014 will be the first ever fully Division 1 tournament to be played on Canadian soil.

Both Ohio and Toronto return from last year’s tournament, where Ohio went 3-0 and the hosts fell to a disappointing 1-2 (their worst record at the tournament). However, the tournament proved to be a fantastic launching point in the season for both teams, as Ohio went on to qualify for its first-ever WFTDA Championship tournament and CN Power eventually played their way into Division 1 and a berth in the Divisional Playoffs. This year marks the QCC debut of Bleeding Heartland’s Flatliners and the return of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block for the first time since 2011; they are on a 6-0 winning streak dating back to those first two Quad City Chaos tournaments.

CNP 2014 by ezio+ianToronto Roller Derby: CN Power (29th)

The 2013 Quad City Chaos was an up-and-down affair for the hosts. After pushing heavily favoured Ohio to the limit in a 45-point loss, they couldn’t muster the energy to fend off the scrappy Rideau Valley Vixens who pulled off one of the great upsets in Canadian roller derby history by defeating Toronto to close out last year’s tournament. The losses dropped Toronto’s overall QCC record to 8-4.

Fast forward one year and a lot has changed. Toronto eventually found another gear in 2013 and rolled right into the WFTDA playoffs, scoring massive upsets over Sacred City and Boston before playing, arguably, their best game in a loss to Atlanta. The performance helped them leap 20 spots in the rankings and they remain in the 29th position in the WFTDA.

CN Power has not seen much action yet in 2014, though they picked up a win in an incredibly tough preseason exhibition game against the non-Toronto-based members of Team Ontario and are coming off of a thoroughly dominating 394-92 win against former rivals from Killamazoo. Toronto’s roster has not changed much since last season with only three new faces added to the fold (all graduates of the Bay Street Bruisers), and the experience gained from a challenging 2013 has made this a battle-hardened team who should continue the upward swing in 2014.

new-skids-on-the-blok-2014Montreal Roller Derby: The New Skids on the Block (17th)

Montreal Roller Derby has reached heights unsurpassed by any other Canadian team: a perfect record against Canadian competition in regulation/sanctioned games; four straight appearances in the WFTDA playoffs; a team-high WFTDA ranking of 8th achieved last season; they have never slipped from the top spot in the rollergirl.ca Canadian Rankings. Simply put, they are the greatest roller derby team Canada has yet to see.

However, the near perpetual upward momentum of this team seemed to get halted or at least slowed during last year’s playoffs, where they entered their tournament as a second seed, only to stumble when the path to Championships seemed wide open. What has resulted is one of the bigger off-season roster shakeups the Skids have seen (including the retirement of our nation’s top jammer, Iron Wench). But there are some new, exciting skaters on the team, all graduates of the Les Sexpos B-team.

This will be the first action of 2014 for the new-look Skids. They do have a perfect 3-0 record against the hosts (including an 89-point victory last April) and are 0-2 against the Ohio Roller Girls. Their first meeting came way back in 2009 (a narrow 4-point win for Ohio), but last season it was Ohio who ended the Skids’ chances at a Championship berth in the WFTDA Divisional playoffs with a 212-149 victory.

OHRG All Stars 2014 Photo by Dorn BygOhio Roller Girls: All Stars (22nd)

The Ohio Roller Girls are one of the game’s most venerable teams. An original WFTDA league, OHRG has gone through major organizational changes over the years before settling in to the two-team travel team system that has seen them reach new heights. This will be the third-straight year that the Columbus-based team makes the trek north and the second in a row for QCC, where they went 3-0 to claim top spot last year.

Since 2011, no team has played more sanctioned games than Ohio; including playoffs, they have compiled a remarkable 51-18 record during that stretch (including a 21-4 run in 2012). After narrowly missing a shot at Champs in 2012, Ohio knocked off Montreal in last year’s playoffs to finally make the leap. At Champs, they managed to knock off Rat City before succumbing to mighty Gotham in the tournament quarterfinals.

Despite some major off-season roster changes (one of the game’s all-around great skaters Phoenix Bunz retired along with long-time OHRGer Pippi Ripyourstockings), Ohio kicked off 2014 with a 194-128 win over Nashville. The also hold 2-0 records against Montreal and Toronto and a 4-0 lifetime record against Bleeding Heartland. Ohio faced and defeated all three teams in 2013.

Bleeding Heartland Logo

Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby: Flatliners (42nd)

A WFTDA member since the 2009 season, Bleeding Heartland achieved new heights last season. A 6-7 regular season that included victories over Cincinnati, Burning River and Grand Raggidy, the Flatliners entered the WFTDA playoffs with an all-time high ranking of 35th. However, a heart-breaking three-point upset loss to Cincinnati in the playoffs (after leading for virtually the whole game) sent the Bloomington-based team spiraling to one-sided losses against Arch Rival and Grand Raggidy (marking the second time they lost a playoff game to a team they’d defeated in the regular season).

The playoff losses knocked Bleeding Heartland down to the cusp of Division 1 (40th) before 2014 season–opening losses to Naptown dropped them even further to 42nd. They are now going to be in a struggle to return to the playoffs. They are 0-4 lifetime against Ohio (including a 154-point loss last season) and lost in their only meeting against Toronto last season. 2014 will mark their QCC debut.

Photo by Ashlea Wessel (ashleaw.com)B-Team Showdown

For the second year in a row, ToRD’s Bay Street Bruisers will act as co-host of the Quad City Chaos. Currently Canada’s top B-travel team (and currently 9th overall on Rollergirl.ca’s Canadian Rankings), the Bruisers went 2-0 at last year’s QCC, including a win over Ohio’s Gang Green, one of their opponents at this year’s tournament. The Bruisers are 2-1 in 2014, with a loss to Nashville’s B-team followed by wins over B-teams from Bleeding Heartland and Cincinnati on their way to a 5th place finish at the 2014 B-Cup Challenge in Bloomington, Indiana.

The Bruisers will face off against Ohio’s Gang Green for the third consecutive season (they’ve split the previous meetings).  This season, Gang Green already has a win over the same Nashville team that defeated the Bruisers in the B-Cup Challenge. Montreal’s Les Sexpos and the Bruisers met for the first time last August in a highly competitive game that saw the Bruisers pull away in the second half. Les Sexpos are currently the second-ranked B-team in Canada and are currently ranked 11th overall. They’ll face off in Sunday’s B-team game against the Bruisers.

**The ToRD.TV crew will be boutcasting every moment of QCC; tune in to Layer9.ca. The full schedule is available here on Torontorollerderby.com.

**Day and weekend passes will be available at the door. Advanced tickets for the Saturday night prime time double header are available online.

Catch Up on the Past QCCs!

2011 Quad City Chaos Poster.

2011 Quad City Chaos Poster.

 

Quad City Chaos 2013

Quad City Chaos 2012

Quad City Chaos 2011

Quad City Chaos 2010

 

 

Roller Skatin Banner

2013 WFTDA Championships Preview

Hydra 2013 WFTDA ChampsAtlanta Rollergirls (8th) vs. London Rollergirls (13th)

(Friday, 2:00 PM)

Last year’s host Atlanta heads to the 2013 WFTDA Championships on the strength of an 8-1 regular season record; however, their record was padded by wins against lesser-ranked opponents, and they recorded relatively narrow playoff wins over Toronto and Rat City before losing to the B.A.D Girls 233-106 in the Divisional final.

London Rollergirls, the first international team to ever qualify for the championship tournament, amassed a 3-3 record on limited play in the regular season, but it came against top-notch opponents (including Windy City, Rose City and the Oly Rollers). In the playoffs, a narrow win over Rose City followed by a narrow loss to Denver set up a must-win against Montreal, which they handled well, defeating their international rivals by 101 points.

SKATERS TO WATCH

Atlanta_Rollergirls_logoATLANTA:

The pack is led by former Gotham skater, Wild Cherri, a formidable, frightening blocker. But it is a pack that has a lot of depth. Other key Atlanta skaters are Queen Loseyateefa (56% playoff jam percentage: IE, she was on the track for 56% of her team’s jams), Alassin Sane (53%) and Switchblade Siousxie 53%). Siousxie though, is also potentially penalty prone (averaging 5 minutes a game in the playoffs). Siousxie somewhat makes up for this by leading her team with a +49 plus/minus.

Atlanta’s jammer rotation is led by Jammunition, who has already donned the star 40 times in the playoffs. She leads the team with a 60% playoff lead percentage, has scored 199 points and has registered an impressive +127. The rest of the rotation is filled in by Belle of the Brawl (115 points, 39% lead percentage), Merchant of Menace (89, 27%) Bruze Orman (73, 54%) and Hollicidal (69, 48%).

LONDON:

London Brawling, featuring 11 Team England skaters, helped provide a World Cup preview.Despite also being a primary jammer, the incredible Stefanie Mainey is also a key London blocker, appearing in 41% of her team’s jams. Also look out for Raw Heidi (53%), Knickerblocker Glory (62%), Olivia Coupe (59%) and Shaolynn Scarlett (55%). Raw Heidi has the highest blocker Plus minus at +108, followed closely by Scarlett’s +103.

Kamikaze Kitten has been one of the top jammers in the 2013 playoffs, putting up an impressive line of 317 points (6.6 points per jam!), 56% lead percentage, and +166, scoring an incredible 50% of her team’s points so far. While London does have a strong, four-jammer rotation, there is an intense and noticeable drop off in lead percentage among the rest: Rogue Runner (135, 21%, +27), Stefanie Mainey (97, 40%, -2), and Lexi Lightspeed (57, 23%, -27).

*Read the Derby News Network’s preview of Atlanta and London.

OPPONENTS: Texas Rollergirls  (3rd)

(Saturday, 10:00 AM)

The winner will have to face off against perennial powers, Austin’s Texacutioners. Champs at the inaugural event in 2006 and runners up in 2009, Texas Rollergirls have finished in the top four in every tournament except 2010. TXRG cruised past Terminal City and Naptown in the playoffs and held off Philly to win its divisional.

After going 5-3 in the regular season with  losses to Gotham and Bay Area (the top two teams in the league) and a narrow three-point defeat at the hands of Windy City, the sport’s most experienced league once again seems poised to make noise when it matters the most.

TXRG logoSKATERS TO WATCH

Texas takes a balanced approach with its pack, riding a core of Smarty Pants, Polly Gone, Barbara Ambush, Sarah Hippel, and Fifi Nomenon almost equally. Polly, Hippel and Ambush have all run into penalty troubles at some point during these playoffs, but nothing serious as Texas was rarely challenged in their divisional.

While Hippel and Fifi Nomenon are used as depth jammers, Texas has been running a pretty tight three-jammer rotation through the playoffs that has been fairly evenly productive. Olivia Shootin’ John leads the way with 326 points (8.6 PPJ) a 55% lead percentage and an incredible +210.  Watch also for Hauss the Boss (234, 47%, +96), and Bloody Mary (208, 45%, +114).

*Read DNN’s preview of Texas.

Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (10th) vs. Angel City Derby Girls (6th)

(Friday, 4:00 PM)

After winning the WFTDA champs in 2010 and losing in the semis the following year, Rocky Mountain has been on a rebuild since, but it’s been a quick rebuild. 9-2 in the regular season (with wins over Rat City, Kansas City and Denver), Rocky Mountain knocked off Houston and Windy City before running into Gotham in the Divisional final (losing by a respectable 216-99).

Angel City roared up the rankings this season on the strength of an 11-1 record (only loss was to Rat City), although their schedule has been criticized as being a little too soft. After crushing New Hampshire in the opening round, they were upset by Philly in the semis before handling Naptown 222-130 to secure the spot in the Championships.

SKATERS TO WATCH

rocky mountain rollergirls logoROCKY MOUNTAIN:

The key to Rocky’s rebuild is in a pack that used to be filled with skaters like Psycho Babble, Deranged and Amanda Jamitinya. Triple Shot Misto has emerged as an unbelievable presence in the pack (and can jam as well when needed) while Bob Loblaw, a veteran, has grown into a much bigger role. Also expect to see Winona Fighter, Assaultin’ Pepa and May Q Pay on the track a lot.

Rocky’s three-jammer rotation is led by Casstrator (156, 41%, +26), Sweet Mary Pain (147, 60%) and Alpha Q Up (125, 29%). Look for Toxic Taunic in relief, who managed 51 points in limited playoff action on a 47% lead percentage.

ANGEL CITY:Angel_City_Derby_Girls

Angel City has a very balanced approach to its blockers, with the impressive Soledad, Jane Wilkins, Duchess Von Damn, Laci Knight, Krissy Krash and Rachel Rotten all hovering around 50% jam percentage. Big-hitting Soledad and Laci Knight both have had penalty troubles in the playoffs. Rachel Rotten has the highest plus/minus in the playoffs at +109.

Angel City also spreads out their jammers as well, although led by a core of Chica Go Lightning (214, 59%, +110) Mickispeedia (143, 37%), and Cris Dobbins (95, 48%). Look for Ghetto Fabu-lez (70, 80%) and Tyra Shanks (36, 54%) in relief.

*Read DNN’s preview of Rocky Mountain and Angel City.

OPPONENTS: Denver Roller Dolls (4th)

(Saturday, 12:00 PM)

Denver returns to defend its third place finish at last year’s championships. They had an up and down 6-6 regular season that saw them lose twice to cross-town rivals Rocky Mountain, (potentially their quarterfinal opponent). It was a tough schedule though, and prepared them well for the Divisionals where they crushed Cincinnati, had some trouble with London and finally dispatched surprising Ohio 304-134 to win the Division.

Denver LogoSKATERS TO WATCH

Denver’s pack is led by a couple of the best blockers in the game: Tracy Akers and Shaina Serelson who finished the Divisionals with amazing plus/minuses of +396 and +359 respectively. Look for one of these skates to always be on the track. The core is also made of Jessica Rivas and Susie Long, although Rivas has run into some penalty trouble sitting for 14 minutes in the playoffs so far.

With last year’s playoff hero Sandrine Rangeon out of the lineup, Julie Adams (313 points, 68% +215) is back at the front of the rotation. There is a ton of depth though with Stacie Willhelm (229, 50%), Amanda Sharpless (142, 61%) and Krystal Sprouse (117, 38%) rounding out an impressive rotation

*Read DNN’s preview of Denver.

Ohio Rollergirls (21st) vs. Rat City Rollergirls (18th)

(Friday, 6:00 PM)

After tearing up the North Centrals last year and becoming the sweethearts of the WFTDA, in 2013 Ohio took it to the next level and have qualified for champs for the first time. One of the hardest working teams in the sport, Ohio went 15-5 in the regular season before knocking off Arch Rival and upsetting Montreal in Divisionals. They eventually  ran out of steam against Denver (304-134) in a one-sided loss in the finals.

One of the game’s original leagues, Seattle’s Rat City returns to champs for the first time since 2008! They went 4-4 in the regular season against top-notch competition, before brushing past Boston the Divisionals and losing to Atlanta in the semifinals. They handled Detroit easily, 254-129, to secure their berth in the tourney.

SKATERS TO WATCH

Ohio logoOHIO:

Ohio is led by two skaters have announced that they will be retiring at the end of the season, Pippi Ripyourstockings and Phoenix Bunz. With an incredibly short bench, look to see a ton of Pippi, Outa My Wayman, Bratislava Bruisers and Loraine Acid (who were all on the track for at least 60% of Ohio’s jams in the playoffs so far).

Phoenix Bunz, one of the game’s best all-around players, was a monster in Divisionals, basically jamming or blocking constantly, recording 211 points and recording a 50% lead percentage. The Smacktivist led the team in scoring with 243 points. Kitty Liquorbottom (72 points, 21%) rounds out the short rotation.

RAT CITY:Rat_City_Rollergirls_logo

Rat City is led by the excellent Carmen Getsome who can (and will) do it all on the track. The pack play is well balanced with only K. Beezy and Shorty Ounce playing 50% of Rat’s jams in the playoffs. Look for Full Nelson, Method of Madness and Rumble Fish as well. Method of Madness and Full Nelson recoded amazing plus/minuses (+127, +125).

While Carmen is often used as a jammer, she is also so effective in the pack that she will probably be used in relief. That leaves a majority of the work to go to Jukestapose (179 points, 47% lead percentage), Luna Negra (167, 50%), and Jalapena Business (75, 48%). Sintripetal Force provides the depth and managed an impressive 142 points in limited playoff action (she scored 110 points on 11 points per jam in the clincher against Detroit).

*Read DNN’s preview of Ohio and Rat City.

OPPONENTS: Gotham Girls Roller Derby  (1st

(Saturday, 2:00 PM)

Either Rat City (returning after a long absence) or Ohio (in their first ever appearance) will be rewarded for their win by having to play the three-time champ Gotham in the quarterfinals. Winners of the past two WFTDA championships, Gotham completed another unbeaten regular season (9-0) but did suffer a loss to MRDA champs, Your Mom’s Roller Derby to remind them what losing feels like (they hadn’t lost a game since the 2010 WFTDA semifinals). They won all of their divisional games by at least 100 points including a record-setting 545-21 victory over Oklahoma City.

Gotham logoSKATERS TO WATCH

Despite playing without perennial strengths Fisti Cuffs and Mick Swagger in Divisionals, the Gotham packs looked unbelievable. Led by Donna Matrix, Anna Bokkocks, OMG WTF, Hela Skelter and the always imposing Sexy Slaydie (who is riding a WFTDA playoff leading plus/minus of +440 so far in the playoffs), there aren’t many holes in these walls.

Led by the best jammer in the game, Bonnie Thunders (367 points, 77% lead percentage and +315 in the playoffs) the Gotham jammer rotation is frighteningly deep: Suzy Hotrod (291, 65%), Vicious Van GoGo (184, 65%), Claire D Way (157, 61%) all bring something different to the line.

*Read DNN’s preview of Gotham.

Philly Rollergirls (14th) vs. Windy City Rollers (9th)

(Friday 8:00 PM)

When Philly and Windy met in June this year, Philly snuck away with a one-point win, meaning that this game is anyone’s to call. Philly had an up-and-down year, despite a 10-3 record. They got it all together for the playoffs though, where they swept aside Kansas City and easily upset Angel City before giving Texas everything they could handle in the Divisional final (253-210).

Windy City rode a 9-2 regular season into the playoffs where they crushed another long-time WFTDA team Madison in the opening round. Despite falling in the semifinals to Rocky Mountain, they held off chief-rivals Minnesota in another nail-biting 160-154 victory to earn their spot.

SKATERS TO WATCH

Philly LogoPHILLY:

Philly has incredible depth in the pack, anchored by a core of Shenita Stretcher and Teflon Donna who have as much experience as nearly anyone in the game. In the playoffs, track time leaders have also included Castro, Persephone, Tarantula, Heavy Flo and Ginger Vitis. The pack can run into penalty troubles though, with Tarantula Persephone, and Shenita Stretcher all picking up over 10 minutes in penalties so far (jammer Devoida Mercy also has 10 minutes).

Philly boasts one of the game’s most impressive jammers in Vanessa Sites (AKA V-Diva), and she was awesome in Divisionals, scoring 328 points on a 57% lead percentage (and finishing with a +188). Devoida Mercy (162, 38%), Clam Jammer (146, 52%), and Antidote (94, 45%) round out the rotation.

WINDY:Windy City Logo

Anchored by the physically imposing Sargentina and Bork Bork Bork, the Windy pack is depth defined: Konichiwow, Moby Nipps, Ruth Enasia, Yvette Yourmaker and Hoosier Mama all put in a lot of track time in Divisionals. Bork Bork Bork finished with a +196 plus/minus, and no Windy blocker has wracked up more than 9 penalty minutes so far in the playoffs.

Prototypical double threat Jackie Daniels (101 points, 52% lead percentage) anchors a deep and talented five-jammer rotation. Ying O’Fire led the team in scoring in Divisionals (215 points) and recorded a 57% lead percentage. Killa Nois (124, 50%), Athena DeCrime (146, 58%), and veteran Varla Vendetta (59, 52%) round out a tough offense. 2012 playoff superstar Sandrine Rangeon has also joined the team: the size and success of her role remains to be seen.

*Read DNN’s preview of Philly and Windy City.

OPPONENTS: B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls (2nd)

(Saturday, 4:00 PM)

Popular thought coming into this season was that if anyone could unseat Gotham, it is the Bay Area Derby Girls. They kicked off 2013 living up to those lofty expectations winning 5 in a row. But then shocking back-to-back losses to Windy City and Denver put all of that into question. While they did follow those defeats with a win over Texas, it wasn’t until an absolutely dominant Divisional playoff where B.A.D looked like themselves again, crushing Victorian, Detroit and Atlanta to earn the first-round bye.

SKATERS TO WATCH:Bay_Area_Derby_Girls_Logo

The names of Demanda Riot and bell RIGHT hooks are enough to inspire fear in any jammer, but this deep B.A.D team also includes transfer Amanda Jamitinya (and former champ with Rocky in 2010), Dolly Rocket, Kristi Yamagotcha, Murderyn Munroe, Sherlock Homeslice and Brawllen Angel. Demanda (+374), bell (+337), and AJ (+336) all recorded monstrously high plus/minuses in Divisionals

If that’s not enough, they have an amazing, four-jammer rotation to match the deep pack. Chantilly Mace has been dominant in the playoffs, scoring 312 points and recording a 71% lead percentage. But that doesn’t mean you can overlook Bricktator (215, 50%), Lulu Lockjaw (194, 55%) or Nock Nock (166, 56%) all with at least a 50% lead percentage.

*Read DNN’s preview of the B.A.D Girls.

DON’T FORGET THE D2 TITLE!

The first ever Division 2 Championship will be settled on Sunday as well, with Sac City and Blue Ridge kicking off Sunday’s action at 12:00 PM in the D2 third place game. At 2:00 PM Jet City and Santa Cruz will contest the first ever D2 Championship.

Finally, Derby News Network also profiled the reffing crew of this year’s championships. Read it here.

*** All games will be boutcast live on WFTDA.TV.***

wftdatvlogo

WFTDA Playoff Recap: Montreal bows out; London heads to champs

Denver, Ohio and London are the first teams to qualify for the 2013 WFTDA Championship tournament.

Denver, Ohio and London are the first teams to qualify for the 2013 WFTDA Championship tournament.

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block came into the opening weekend of the 2013 WFTDA playoffs with high hopes and the high seeding to match. Under the WFTDA’s new playoff seeding system, the Divisional groupings had teams much more evenly distributed than ever before, seeing traditional powerhouses like Rose City (5th) and scrappy upstarts like Wasatch (7th) given challenging seedings. It was made clear early on that Denver was the cream of this crop, while last year’s fan favourites Ohio finally put it all together to advance to the Championship tournament. Montreal, on the other hand, struggled throughout, never seeming to get it all together for a complete game, finishing fourth after a loss to their playoff rivals, London, who became the first international team to qualify for the WFTDA Championship tournament.

Gaining a bye to the quarterfinals, Montreal opened against a Wasatch team that had been forced to play a qualifying game earlier in the day (a one-sided win over Grand Raggidy). Facing a history of three-straight Friday losses in the playoffs, Montreal hoped to turn things around against the team from Salt Lake City. However, it was Wasatch who stormed out of the gates and had Montreal scrambling for almost the entire first half. Multiple early jammer penalties to Mel E Juana and Lil Mama (which would become a huge problem during the tournament) had Montreal in a deep hole early. However, it was uncharacteristically loose packs that were truly the Skids undoing. Although the trio of Jess Bandit, Surgical Strike  (often joined by vet Rae Volver) provided the most consistent pack of the night for the Skids, for the most part, Wasatch’s relentless blockers easily won the pack battles.

Read Lex Talkionis' complete Wasatch v. Montreal recap on Derby News Network (featuring the photography of Bob Dunnell and Dave Wood)

Read Lex Talionis’ complete Wasatch vs. Montreal recap on Derby News Network (featuring the photography of Bob Dunnell-pictured-and Dave Wood)

Nonetheless, the experienced and playoff-hardened Montreal skaters held it together in the second half and once they had a lead (they took their second and final lead with 14 minutes remaining in the half), were able to maintain it and hold off a weakening Wasatch attack. The 188-159 victory propelled Montreal into the final four, guaranteeing the Skids their highest finish in a tournament, and giving them two shots at a Championship berth.

Unfortunately, it was a similar story against Ohio in the second game. Inconsistent jamming and loose pack work (there were some awkward formation decisions, especially on power kills) gave Ohio the early lead, one they would not relinquish throughout. Heavy penalty troubles kept Montreal packs small and inconsistent, leaving the Skids unable to stick with any sort of consistent lines. The jamming was inconsistent as well, with Mel E Juana following strong jams with penalty-filled ones, a more conservative Greta Bobo struggling to pick up leads, and even the indefatigable Iron Wench committing a handful of penalties.

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall's full game recap on DNN (featuring photography by Dave Wood-pictured-and Bob Dunnell)

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s full Ohio vs. Montreal recap on DNN (featuring photography by Dave Wood-pictured-and Bob Dunnell)

Ohio, on the other hand, came into the tournament more prepared than they ever have been before. Last year, the skaters from Columbus seemed burned out by the time they reached Regionals, and with a lighter regular-season load in 2013, they were fresher and sharper than ever and controlled Montreal completely in the first half.

While Montreal tightened things up in the second, they were unable to complete the comeback. At about the midway point of the second, they were within striking distance and playing their best derby of the game, but they couldn’t draw Ohio into the kind of mistakes they needed to. Also uncharacteristically, Montreal seemed resigned to the loss over the last five or six minutes (despite finally getting leads consistently and being within the 40-50 point range) letting the clock run down and leaving two timeouts and an official review on the board, perhaps saving themselves for what they knew would be a tough, third-place bout.

The third place game marked the third straight season that Montreal and London would meet in the WFTDA playoffs (add to that an Anarchy in the UK showdown, and this matchup counts as London’s biggest rivalry), but it would not have the drama of the others. London was clearly playing the best derby of the team’s history on the weekend, having the wherewithal to withstand Rose City’s relentless push and defeat them in the quarterfinals, but also to stick with Denver (defending WFTDA third-place team, and a valid contender this season) in their semi-final.

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall's full game recap on DNN (featuring the photography of Dave Wood).

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s full London vs. Montreal recap on DNN (featuring the photography of Dave Wood).

Montreal’s Skids certainly played their best game of the weekend in the third-place bout, but they trailed virtually the whole game, and despite a few pushbacks, were never able to get within 80 points in the second half, untimely jammer penalties once again their undoing (although to the jammers’ credit, they were often drawn due to depleted packs). The win meant that London has become the first international team to qualify for the WFTDA Championship tournament joining Ohio and Denver from this Division (Denver took down Ohio in the final). Montreal’s fourth place finish, was their best ever at a playoff tournament as well. And it was fitting that the most experienced international playoff teams played in that deciding bout, a matchup that seemed almost destined to happen.

Although Montreal is out, for the first time ever, Canada can keep cheering at the WFTDA playoffs! Next weekend, in the second Divisional tournament, Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars will be heading to Richmond, Virginia, where they will open the tournament against Tampa Roller Derby at 12:00 PM on Friday.

Read the Nerd’s full Canadian-Content preview here.

*All of the games were boutcast live on WFTDA.TV. Watch the archives here.

* Read the blow-by-blow recaps of each game on Derby News Network.

Ohio Goes Unbeaten, Rideau Valley Surprises at 2013 Quad City Chaos

The Vixens Murphy and Rudolph hold CN Power's Kookie Doe in the closing game of the QCC. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Vixens’ Murphy and Rudolph hold CN Power’s Kookie Doe in the closing game of the QCC. (Photo by Greg Russell)

THE RESULTS

Four minutes remaining. Down by nineteen points in a game that on more than a few occasions seemed like it had slipped out of their grasp, Rideau Valley Vixens Coach Adam decided to jam second-year Vixen, Kuehl. A versatile skater capable of donning the star, she hadn’t once lined up at the jam line in this, the final bout of the 2013 Quad City Chaos. She was lined up against Candy Crossbones, one of the host team CN Power’s most experienced jammers; a skater who had burned this Vixens team on more than one occasion in the past.

Sometimes, it pays to play a hunch.

The 2013 Quad City Chaos closed out with one of the bigger upsets in recent Canadian roller derby when the upstart Rideau Valley Vixens refused to submit in a fantastic, back-and-forth game that at least twice saw Toronto build leads that seemed almost insurmountable. Kuehl ended up with 20 points on that jam, a power jam, before the Vixens’ dominant defence shut down CN Power the rest of the way. It ended a four game losing streak for the Vixens against their big sisters to the south, dating all the way back to February 2010, and their first ever game together as a team.  It allowed them to lock up second spot in the round robin tournament.

Ohio had a leg up on the competition this weekend, going 3-0 in the round robin tournament. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Ohio had a leg up on the competition this weekend, going 3-0 in the round robin tournament. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Every year the competitive level of the Quad City Chaos has risen to new heights and it was certainly no different this year. The weekend kicked off with a tie-breaker bout between the aforementioned Vixens and Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies. It was the third time these teams had met in the past six months or so, having split the previous two meetings. The first half was furious in its play: fast, hard hitting, tight, only at the end of the half were the Vixens able to build a 27 point lead. They would hold on in a second half that saw neither side give an inch resulting in a virtual dead even period and a 25 point victory for the Vixens.

It would propel Queen City through a competitive, but ultimately frustrating weekend. Perhaps the most consistent team in the whole tournament, they would frustrate all their opponents, yet fail to defeat one. Only one year removed from a near 100 point loss to CN Power, they would push the hosts to the brink on Saturday’s prime-time matchup that turned into a chippy, penalty-filled affair that would see four foul outs and constant pack disadvantages. They would lose by only 52. They would similarly, and just as surprisingly, put up a similar fight against the Ohio Roller Girls on Sunday. Depsite the fact that Ohio was ranked 50 spots ahead of them in the WFTDA standings, the Furies gave Ohio everything it could handle (they were within 20 points at the midway point of the second half) before Ohio was able to pull away at the very end and secure a competitive 86-point victory.

The Vixens may have surprised, but the Furies played three strong games despite going 0-3. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Vixens may have surprised, but the Furies played three strong games despite going 0-3. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Ohio, to nobody’s surprise, were simply too good: too track ready, too unified, perhaps just too experienced to be upset by any of the teams in attendance. In a surprising Saturday afternoon game, they dominated eventual second-place Vixens 373-38. Aside from Montreal, the Vixens had never faced a team as highly ranked as Ohio, and it showed as they had no response for the relentless Ohio attack. Nonetheless, the Vixens were their usual scrappy selves and the experience will no doubt raise them to another level. Ohio’s toughest challenge came against the host CN Power. Looking to avenge a 100 point loss last May, CN Power was much more consistent and played, easily, their best, most complete game of the weekend and were within reach, down 100-68 at half. A 20-4 run to kick off the second gave Ohio a lead that they wouldn’t relent, holding on for the 46 point win (201-155).  It was a great performance by the host team, but not one they would be able to maintain all weekend.

They significantly varied their roster for the Saturday night showdown with Queen City, flipping five skaters from their Ohio roster; they would make a similar flip for the Vixens game on Sunday. While it was an excellent opportunity to add depth of experience to the bench, it resulted in a team that never quite looked fully unified come Sunday afternoon. The Vixens simply overwhelmed them in the Sunday game with their relentless play and their ferocious determination. They had very few rosters changes to work with and ended up running with a small core of senior skaters who were impenetrable in the end.  It was a tough loss for Toronto, but one that will hopefully be mined for lessons at this early juncture of the season.

The Bruisers won their 9th and 10th games in a row, including defeating Ohio's Gang Green. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Bruisers won their 9th and 10th games in a row, including defeating Ohio’s Gang Green. (Photo by Greg Russell)

REGULATION RESULTS

In the two regulation games played on the weekend, the host B-Team, the Bay Street Bruisers, continued their hot streak, winning their 9th and 10th games in a row. On Sunday, the Bruisers dominated the Devil Dollies, a Queen City House league team, 324-88, before facing off against Ohio’s Gang Green on Sunday. Gang Green were the last (and so far only) team to defeat the Bruisers (last May).  Early penalty troubles had Gang Green out to a quick lead, but the Bruisers battled back and took the lead with only 10 minutes remaining in the half. The Bruisers went on a 54-0 run to kick off the second that essentially put the game away. They held on to avenge last season’s loss with a 207-112 win.

THE PLAYERS

The Usual Suspects

Ohio's Smacktivist and CN Power's Nasher the Smasher were both exceptional on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Ohio’s Smacktivist and CN Power’s Nasher the Smasher were both exceptional on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Nasher the Smasher was the eventual MVP for the host, CN Power, and was a key, steadying factor in the strong performance against Ohio. Similarly, Toronto jammer Bambi thrived in that game as well, and again against the Queen City (neither played against Rideau Valley). For the Lake Effect Furies, Team USA’s Addy Rawl juked her way through a successful tournament, using the track exceptionally well with a great side-to-side game. Furies captain CU~T provided great on-track leadership this weekend as well, executing well on power jams, especially, while pivoting.

Ohio’s Phoenix Bunz continues to emerge as one of the game’s great players, so much so, that there is not a roster in this sport that she would not look good on, and she does it all as well, a reliable, speedy jammer and an impenetrable blocker. Ohio jammer the Smacktivist was dominant, displaying her trademark power and surprising agility with the star. And for the Rideau Valley Vixens, Hanna Murphy (formerly Semi Precious) remains one of this country’s star blockers/pivots. Frighteningly fitter now, she remains a one-woman recycling machine on the track. Eventual team MVP and veteran blocker Da Big Block was also great on the weekend for the Vixens, a skater who lives up to her fitting name.

The Vixens' Brennan who debuted at QCC 2012, continues to step it up for Rideau Valley. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Vixens’ Brennan, who debuted at QCC 2012, continues to step it up for Rideau Valley. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Steppin’ It Uppers

While Betty Bomber has long been a key triple threat for CN Power, her play just continues to become more and more steady, to the point where she has emerged as one of the team’s most reliable blockers. Phenomenal when at a pack disadvantages, Bomber knows when to take risks, but also when to reel it in. Another veteran who is just getting better with age is Queen City’s Vajenna Warrior. A big, powerful blocker, she is also very strong on her skates and is deceptively agile. A monster in the pack this weekend, she frustrated many an opponent.

It’s sometimes easy to forget Kitty Liquorbottom on the Ohio roster. A quiet, efficient jammer, Kitty’s consistency and balance is an essential part of the Ohio’s offense. Also, it is hard to just isolate a player who stepped it up for Rideau Valley as the whole team brought it this weekend. Two players who have increasingly been growing their roles on this team though (and who were outstanding this weekend) were Rudolph (formerly Frostbite Me) and Brennan (formerly Eh Nihilator). Both are exceptional positional players who were key in the pack all weekend.

The speedy, jukey CN Power rookie Bala Reina is playing an increasingly big role on the team. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The speedy, jukey CN Power rookie Bala Reina is playing an increasingly big role on the team. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Breakout Players

CN Power rookie jammer Bala Reina got a lot of track time against Queen City and Rideau Valley and took clear advantage of it. A smart, speedy jammer, Bala is slowly working her way into the rotation and helping to extend the depth of the roster (recent transfer Motorhead Molly only played one game for CN Power, but is another spectacular new jammer for the team, which until recently had lacked depth at the position).  Bratislava Bruisers is an Ohio skater who is taking on a larger role on a roster jammed with talent and was a consistent spark to her team all weekend.

For the Rideau Valley Vixens, a team that has lacked depth at the jammer position, two skaters had breakout weekends with the star. Pix E Cutz has emerged as a key skater for the Vixens this season, while rookie jammer CarnEDGE looked unfazed by the pressure and actually led her team in scoring in the loss against Ohio. Finally, the biggest breakout skater of the weekend was Queen City’s LiBRAWLian. A phenomenal talent with a multi-sport background, this jammer has been skating for less than a year but is already one of the exciting new faces of the WFTDA and has the potential to lead the Furies into a bright future. Frighteningly, she seems to be improving by the jam at this stage in her development.

THE SCORES

Sanctioned Games

lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies (QCRG) 147 vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens 172

CN Power LogoCN Power (ToRD)155 vs.Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls 201

Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls 371 vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens 38

CN Power LogoCN Power 230 vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies 178

Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls 211 vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies 125

CN Power LogoCN Power 155 vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens 168

Regulations Games

Bay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers (ToRD) 324 vs. devil-dollies-logoDevil Dollies (QCRG) 88

Bay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers 207 vs. Gang_Green_Logo_GreenGang Green (Ohio B) 112

**The bouts were all streamed on CanuckDerbyTV. You can catch all of the action in archived video here.**

**Click on the photos to be redirected to the corresponding galleries. Also, check out Joe Mac’s game by game albums.**

Mascot Love: The CN Tower and the Lake Effect Furry (?) share a moment. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Mascot Love: The CN Tower and the Lake Effect Furry (?) share a moment. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Quad City Chaos 2013: Preview

The 2013 Quad City Chaos is the 4th edition of the tournament.

The 2013 Quad City Chaos is the 4th edition of the tournament.

It’s the end of March, which means it’s time for Toronto Roller Derby’s Quad City Chaos. For the first time in the tournament’s brief history, the fourth edition of the annual invitational will be a completely WFTDA sanctioned tournament—the first of its kind in Canada. While WFTDA teams have always been a part of the tournament (Hammer City and Montreal were both full WFTDA members at the first QCC in 2010, and last year three of the four teams were), the fact that this is a fully sanctioned tournament raises the profile of the event and makes it a more appealing destination. With four excellent teams at the top of their games, this year’s tournament should be the most competitive and exciting yet. Add to that the inclusion of ToRD’s second travel team, the Bay Street Bruisers, hosting two games of their own, and the tournament has an even greater depth of competition.

THE TOURNAMENT

The QCC is a two day, round robin tournament that was topped by host CN Power in 2012 (the hosts have a 7-2 lifetime record in the tournament), but was dominated by Montreal in the first two years, when the New Skids on the Block compiled a 6-0 record while outscoring the opposition a staggering 1455-222. Those first two years, coming as they did after flat track roller derby’s “Great Leap Forward” in 2009, proved important sharing grounds for Canada’s top travel teams. In 2010, Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars finished last in the tournament (0-3), but used the event as a taking off point to become the dominant WFTDA Division One team they are now. Both the Tri-City Thunder (2011, 2012) and Hammer City Eh! Team (2010, 2012) have taken part in two tournaments, with the Thunder holding a 3-3 record and the Eh! Team sitting at 1-5.  Finally, Ottawa’s Rideau Valley Vixens (returning this year), have taken part in the last two tournaments. In 2011, they were in tough going 0-3, before going 1-2 last year including a thrilling, competitive loss against the Tri-City Thunder.

THE TEAMS

CN Power's Betty Bomber. Art work by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

CN Power’s Betty Bomber. Artwork by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

CN Power (WFTDA Rank: 49th)

The host CN Power have used this tournament as a spring board for their season since the inaugural event in 2010. Last year, the team went 9-2 in sanctioned play including 7-0 in tournament games (at QCC, ECDX and Brew Haha). With CN Power skaters pulled from home teams in 2013 and focusing exclusively on WFTDA play, expectations are higher than ever.

This season, CN Power is already off to a hot start, going 2-1 with one-sided wins over Fort Wayne and Killamazoo, and a well-fought loss to one of the top teams in the game, Naptown. CN Power has lost only to Montreal in the QCC, and this year, based on recent results, they enter as clear favourites in their games against Queen City (they’ve beaten them two in a row) and Rideau Valley (they have never lost to the Vixens); they are in tough against Ohio, the second highest ranked team to ever play in the tournament and a team that beat them by 100 points in their only meeting last year.

The Vixens' Hanna Murphy (formerly known as Semi Precious). Art work by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

The Vixens’ Hanna Murphy (formerly known as Semi Precious). Artwork by Quick Draw (Adam Swinbourne)

The Rideau Valley Vixens  (WFTDA Rank: 71st)

After competing in last year’s tournament as a WFTDA apprentice league, they burst onto the WFTDA scene in 2012. Going 7-6 overall and 4-2 in WFTDA sanctioned play, it was easily the busiest season for the Vixens and has undoubtedly brought them to another level in their play. Stacked with a formidable front line led by Team Canada skaters Hanna Murphy (formerly known as Semi Precious) in the pack and Soul Rekker on the jam line, they are backed up in the pack by 2012 breakout blocker Margaret Choke and veterans Sister Disaster and Da Big Block. But there is a rising crop of talent on the team as well. Potential triple threat Pix E. Cutz is a force, while Keuhl (AKA: Mudblood) Brennan (Eh Nihilator) and Rudolph (Frostbite Me) all emerged last year as key components of the team. This year keep an eye on newcomers The Warden (an emerging jammer with house league team, Riot Squad) and Eastern Block’her who skated last season with Capital City, a team that earned a solid reputation despite a last-place finish at last year’s RDAC Eastern Regionals.

The Vixens are 0-1 so far this year, kicking things off with a loss to Queen City. This weekend could be a challenge for the Vixens. They’ve split their only two games with the Furies, have never defeated CN Power, and Ohio will be the highest ranked WFTDA team they have faced since playing Montreal at QCC 2011. Nonetheless, the Vixens may have the least to lose and, therefore, the least amount of pressure.

The Lake Effect Furies (Queen City) (WFTDA Rank: 68th)

LiBRAWLian of the Lake Effect Furies. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

LiBRAWLian of the Lake Effect Furies. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Queen City had an inconsistent 2012, going 8-8 overall and 7-8 in sanctioned play, but lost ground against opponents such as Toronto and Tri-City. Their inconsistency is best seen, perhaps, in their performances against the Vixens which included an 89-point loss at the end of last summer, compared to a 90-point victory to kick off this year: making their meeting this weekend a tie breaker of sorts, but also an interesting measure of which (if either) of those previous results is correct.

The Furies have a depth of talent on the bench. Offensively, Addy Rawl, who was a Team USA alternate at the World Cup and has continued to skate with the American National program, leads the attack. Furies rookie LiBRAWLian is a jammer to watch after an incredible breakout house league season in 2012. CU~T, Ivana LeiHerOut, Head Mistress, and Day TripHer supply veteran leadership in the packs. Melania Kosonovich returnd to Queen City this season after time away that included skating a season in Los Angeles.

The Furies are 2-0 so far in 2013 on strong victories over Rideau Valley and Black-N-Bluegrass, and look to continue that strong start against the stiff competition at QCC. They’ve lost two in a row against CN Power and have never faced Ohio.

Ohio's Phoenix Bunz. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Ohio’s Phoenix Bunz. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Ohio Roller Girls All Stars (WFTDA Rank: 23rd)

The Ohio Roller Girls may be the hardest working team in the WFTDA. In 2012, they went a remarkable 20-2 before going 1-2 in the North Central playoffs, being eliminated by Naptown: No one in 2012, played more sanctioned games than the skaters from Columbus.

An original WFTDA member, Ohio earned a massive, well-deserved reputation last season gaining big victories over Madison, Brew City and Arch Rival to name a few, and went 2-0 on their first Canadian roadtrip (burning through southern Ontario in May of last year). Led by the incredible, multi-talented triple threat Pheonix Bunz (2012 North Central blocker MVP), the offense will also be paced by a solid jammer rotation of The Smacktivist, Kitty Liquorbottom and Hellionboi, all supremely talented and boasting lots of big-game experience. But there is considerable depth in the pack as well. Led by veteran blocker Amy Spears, the packs also boasts hard-hitting Bratislava Bruiser and positional maven Loraine Acid.

Ohio is already off to a fast start in 2013, boasting a 2-0 record after wins over Bleeding Heartland and Burning River. They enter the QCC as clear favourites. While they’ve only ever faced CN Power, they are (and have consistently been) ranked much higher than their three QCC opponents.

Bellefast of the Bay Street Bruisers. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

Bellefast of the Bay Street Bruisers. Artwork by Quick Draw (AKA: Adam Swinbourne)

B-TEAM SHOWDOWN

For the first time ever, the Quad City Chaos will also feature B-Team matchups.

First off, ToRD’s Bay Street Bruisers will take on Queen City’s Devil Dollies on Saturday. The Dollies, one of Queen City’s house league teams, has a long history in Canada, being one of only two US teams to play in the Beast of the East; they did so in 2008. The Bruisers then take on Ohio’s Gang Green on Sunday. This second showdown will be a rematch of the first ever Bruisers game last May, when the Ohio B-Team defeated the Toronto B-Team 173-109. It was the Bruisers only loss since being resurrected in 2012, and they will be out for revenge on Sunday.

All Games will be streamed live on Canuck Derby TV.

SCHEDULE:

Saturday, March 23rd

10:00 AM: lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies (QCRG) vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens

12:00 PM: CN Power LogoCN Power (ToRD) vs.Ohio logo Ohio Roller Girls

2:00 PM: Bay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers (ToRD) vs. devil-dollies-logoDevil Dollies (QCRG)

5:00 PMOhio logo Ohio Roller Girls vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens

7:00 PMCN Power LogoCN Power vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies

Sunday March 24th

11:00 AMBay Street Bruisers LogoBay Street Bruisers vs. Gang_Green_Logo_GreenGang Green (Ohio B)

1:00 PMOhio logo Ohio Roller Girls vs. lake effect furies logoLake Effect Furies

3:00 PMCN Power LogoCN Power vs. Vixens LogoRideau Valley Vixens