After stumbling against Philly at ECDX, mid-season roster changes shook up the team chemistry, and after it had time to settle, the Skids knocked off Bay Area to become the first Canadian team to advance to WFTDA Champs where they put a scare into Angel City in the quarterfinals, which was enough to secure top spot. (1 / 19)
Despite the fifth place finish in their D1 playoff, it could be argued that Terminal City had a better playoff tournament than Montreal. They lost narrowly (164-162) against Philly before cruising through the consolation bracket. Their spot in the top 2, well ahead of the competition, remains secure. (2 / 18)
Although a 5th seed, Calgary tore through its D2 playoff tournament, including knocking off top seed Charm City along the way to finish in the top spot in the playoff. Finishing third overall in WFTDA’s Division 2 is more than enough to hold on to third spot. (4 / 45)
Went 6-1 in 2016 including a 147-144 unsanctioned win against D1’s Queen City. The teams only loss on the season came against an ever-improving Toronto Men’s Roller Derby team (200-159). However, their obvious talent and lack of WFTDA ranking continue to make top-level competition hard to come by. (3 /-)
A 4-7 regular season saw the Vixens tumble out of the D2 playoffs. However, the bright side is that many of those seven losses came against top-flight competition including the likes of Montreal, Jacksonville, and Philly. It was an incredibly challenging schedule that may have them currently under-ranked and that could pay track-experience dividends in 2017. (10/93)
They’ve risen from the dead once again! E-Ville has been in and out of the Top 10 over the years, and now reenters once again, surging into the middle of the pack for the first time since last year’s end-of-season rankings. E-Ville had an incredible year with a record of 8-1 including victories over Top-10 Winnipeg (207-132) and Watch-Listers Mainland Misfits (279-89). The team’s only loss on the season was to provincial rivals and D2 bronze medalists Calgary (241-114). (5 / 91)
Winnipeg inches forward a spot but gets stopped in its tracks by surging E-Ville (who defeated them 207-132 to earn the spot). The All Stars do hold their spot ahead of Muddy River based on strength of schedule. They went 8-5 on the season, helping them move to their highest WFTDA ranking yet. (9 / 84)
The little league that just keeps going. Muddy River’s consistency over the past few season has been incredible given their size and location. This year they travelled far and wide once again compiling a 6-4 record along the way, including early season wins over Capital City and Quebec. A big late-season loss to Orangeville’s Misfit Militia was unsanctioned and didn’t effect their 16-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings. (11 / 85)
The Dolly Rogers capped off their 5-4 season with a massive sanctioned win against Central NY that helped their 8-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings. Narrow wins against teams just outside of the Top 10 allow them to secure their spot and nudge forward, finally moving out of the long-held 10 spot. (8 / 106)
Tri-City had an up-and-down year in 2016, eventually finishing with a 5-10 record. After a promising two and one start (including a rare win over Toronto), Thunder lost seven of eight regular season games the rest of the way. A decent playoff run saw them improve their 9th place seeding to 6th in their D2 tournament. However, yet another off season shake-up to the jammer rotation means that Tri-City’s rebuild will be continuing into 2017. (6 / 57)
No changes to the Top 3 as Canada’s lone WFTDA playoff teams remain at the top of the sport in the nation. Montreal retains top spot based on an incredible performance at the WFTDA Championship tournament, playing, arguably, the team’s best game of the season against a very good Angel City team. After reloading their roster in 2016, The New Skids on the Block also look very good to remain atop the nation’s power rankings in 2017 as well. It remains to be seen whether Terminal City and Calgary (who became only the second team to win a Division 2 playoff tournament) can push through some expected 0ff-season roster changes to remain at their current levels.
The rest of the list has gone through some shifts and changes. Most notably, for the first time in the history of these Power Rankings, Toronto has dropped out of the Top 10. Although leagues like Orangeville and Muddy River are proof that size doesn’t always matter, the reality is that Toronto is simply too big and too deep to keep down for long and expect a slow but steady rise in 2017 as the All Stars rebuild. This drop, however, made room for a resurgent E-Ville. For the second year in a row, the Edmonton-based team makes an appearance on the year-end rankings. This time, however, it should be sustainable as the E-Ville Dead have the roster to remain in the conversation through 2017. The final major shift is with Tri-City. Thunder sees itself tumble to 10th place. The team had a solid 2016, but some post-playoff roster changes will see the team need to rebuild its offense once again.
Orangeville, Rideau Valley, Winnipeg, Muddy River, and Capital City all hold steady, nudging upwards based on Toronto’s and Tri-City’s dips.
E-Ville and Toronto have switched places on the Watch List/Top 10, while the Anarchy Angels, Roller Derby Quebec, and Royal City remain on our radars as we close out the 2016 season. However, there are some exciting new editions on the watch list.
The Northstars of Prince George’s Rated PG Rollergirls are coming off of an 8-0 season that saw them rise above the competition with a margin of victory of 158 points. These eight wins included big victories over B-travel teams from Top 10 Terminal City and E-Ville and two of Calgary’s house leagues, proving that they have graduated to a higher competitive stage. Similarly, one of Canada’s oldest flat track teams, Victoria’s Eves of Destruction are finally beginning to tear it up against some quality competition. Boasting a perennially successful local league, the EoD A Team went 5-0 on the season including a victory over the Jane Deeres (Calgary’s B-team) and former Top 10 team Mindfox out of Saskatoon to launch themselves onto the Watch List.
In real time it’s been a decade. In derby time, it’s been forever. On May 29th, 2007, over a year after two distinct groups began to meet and plan on how to play the sport, Toronto Roller Derby made its debut. The two teams who took to the track that night represented both arms of the founding teams of ToRD: the Smoke City Betties—one of only two Canadian flat track teams formed in 2006 still operating—squared off against the Bay Street Bruisers at George Bell Arena. The Bruisers themselves had formed after Toronto’s other original team, the Terrors, had divided into four separate teams.
The Smoke City Betties and the Bay Street Bruisers squared off in the first game in ToRD history in May 2007. (Photo by Angela Hayes)
The game played that night would now be nearly unrecognizable to the fans who will line the track at the Bunker on Saturday night to kick off ToRD’s 10th season. For one, the game was played in three twenty minute periods, but on the track the teams were still trying to figure out what flat track roller derby was all about. At that point in the sport’s development, the game looked closer to its banked-track antecedent than to what flat track derby would eventually become: there was a lot of skating and chasing and little of the aggressive grinding contact seen in the game now. That opening match in ToRD’s history would see the Betties outlast the Bruisers 83-81. It would be as close as the Bruisers would ever come to a victory in ToRD.
On Saturday, Chicks Ahoy! will take on the Death Track Dolls while the Gore-Gore Roller Girls will challenge those Betties in fitting historical games to kick off this historical season. These are long rivalries in the sport, as long as any in the Canadian game. Like the Bruisers, the Dolls and Chicks both sprung forth from the Terrors in the summer of 2006 and first squared off in ToRD regular season play in August 2007 with the Chicks taking a narrow victory 138-123. The Gores sprung directly from the Betties in the fall of 2006 when that team’s numbers become too large. The two would not meet in ToRD’s first season, but would face each other for the first time early in the 2008 season with the Gores trouncing the Betties 120-47.
Much has changed in the interim, most notably, two of ToRD’s original six house league teams survived only the first two seasons in that form. The D-VAS, after going 2-6 over that span and not making the playoffs, would fold. Following in their footsteps would be the Bruisers, who had never managed to pick up a win in eight attempts. The D-VAS, of course, would be resurrected as the league’s farm team in 2010, while the Bruisers would also return, serving as ToRD’s B-travel team from 2012-2015.
To prepare for this historic season, let’s take a further look into Toronto Roller Derby’s rich history.
Total Regular Season Record: 24-5
Battle for the Boot Appearances: 8 (2007-’12, ’14-’15)
Battle for the Boot Championships: 3 (2007, ’09, ’10)
Despite not winning The Boot since 2010, the Gores remain the most successful team in ToRD history. With a dominant record in regular season play (83% winning percentage) and eight appearances in the championship game, add to that a victory (2014) in two finals appearances (2011, ’14) in the venerable Beast of the East tournament, and the Gores have never had a down year in their existence.
The Gores’ early seasons were defined by a killer offence led by ToRD’s two all-time leading scorers Bambi and Dust Bunny (the only jammers in ToRD’s history to score over 800 career points). This offensive trend has continued allowing them to place six skaters in ToRD’s Top 10 career scoring list. One of those skaters, Lexi Con, remains with the team in 2016 and will anchor a jammer rotation that also potentially features Beaver Mansbridge, Murdercat! and Betties’ transfer Wackedher. But this team is also known for its standout blockers, including two of the greats of all time Brim Stone and Foxy Sinatra. The 2016 Gores are led by two long-serving veterans, Santa Muerte and Jill Em All and are bolstered by a core of experienced players (Chronic, Gamma Rei) and emerging on and off-track leaders (Moose Knuckles, Viktory Lapp, Full Deck and Stabby Road). A capable contingent of rookies and transfers (including Murdermom! who completes a rare mother-daughter duo) ensures that this should be another successful season for “The Dynasty.”
Total Regular Season Record: 16-13
Battle for the Boot Appearances: 5 (2007-’08, ‘10-’12)
Battle for the Boot Championships: 3 (2008, ’11, ’12)
ToRD’s second great team (though their regular season record is not much different from the Dolls’), the Chicks made five appearances in ToRD’s first six championship games, facing off against the Gores every single time and winning three Boots. Although featuring offensive superstars like Candy Crossbones (ToRD’s third all-time leading scorer) and Bala Reina (who had one of the most dominant seasons ever in 2012, becoming the only jammer to lead the league in every offensive category in a single season), the Chicks have actually been more known for their pack work, and their long line of dominant blockers and pivots speaks to that: Mach Wheels, Nasher the Smasher, Tara Part, Rebel Rock-It and Mega Bouche are just some of the historically great blockers who have taken the track for the Chicks.
Although success has been hard to come by for the Chicks since 2012, they may have built themselves back into contention. Led in the pack by veterans Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind, Rosemary’s Rabies, and off-season transfer Boxcar, the Chicks also feature the emerging leadership of Joss Wheelin’, Vag Lightning; however, the Chicks now have a potentially explosive offense as well. Anchored by Monster Muffin (who had a breakout year last year scoring 131 points), R2 Smack U and Wheels of Misfortune, the jammer rotation has been bolstered by the arrival of transfers Pink Slamminade and last year’s league leading scorer (with a record-tying 228 points) Sleeper Hold, who comes over from the Dolls. All indications point to a bounce back year for the Chicks.
Death Track Dolls
Total Regular Season Record: 15-14
Battle for the Boot Appearances: 2 (2013, ’14)
Battle for the Boot Championships: 2 (2013, ’14)
Although the Death Track Dolls have historically had success outside of ToRD (along with the Gores, they are the only ToRD team to record two podium finishes at the Beast of the East, for example), it wasn’t until 2013 that the Dolls were able to break through the stranglehold that the Gores and Chicks had held on the league (and this after missing the playoffs in 2012). That 2013 Dolls team was, arguably, the most dominant team in league history, setting a record for points per game (237, counting their record-setting Battle for the Boot score) and was the first team since the Gores in 2008 (who played two more games) to register two skaters with over 200 points in scoring for the season: Santilly In Yo Face and Rainbow Fight—whose records for points per jam (8) and lead percentage (88%) may never be touched. Despite big roster losses after that season, the Dolls continued to roll through ToRD in 2014 winning their second straight Boot in similarly dominant fashion, including setting a single season point differential record in the process (+468), a record that the Gores had held since 2008. While the Dolls managed one more solid regular season in 2015, retirements and roster shuffles finally caught up to the team, and they were defeated in the semi-finals.
The Dolls come back in 2016 as a team rebuilt, and it looks strong in the pack. While the team is being led by a core of next-generation Dolls, including co-captains Hannibelle and Robotomy, Getcha Kicks, and Block Québécois, the longest-serving Doll, Dawson (who begins her 8th season) has been rejoined by her long-time teammate Betty Bomber, who returns after a few years spent focusing on travel-team play followed by a brief retirement last year. Recent transfer Commander Will Wrecker bolsters the pack. While the pack depth has been rebuilt, the jammer rotation may still be a work in progress. Third-year Doll Devochka will lead a new offensive contingent this season that could include Bat Ma’am, Holly Rocket and Ellen Rage (with support from double threat Getcha Kicks).
Smoke City Betties
Total Regular Season Record: 9-20
Battle for the Boot Appearances: 3 (2009, ’13, ’15)
Battle for the Boot Championships: 1 (2015)
Last year, the oldest team in Canadian roller derby finally had its breakthrough. Although their three trips to the Battle for the Boot trails only the Gores and the Chicks in terms of appearances, the Betties won their first Boot last season, fittingly, against the Gores. Historically, it doesn’t get much deeper than the Betties in Canadian flat track. From 2006-2009 the first generation of flat track stars tore up the track, and jammer Jewel Kicker remains in ToRD’s Top 10 career scoring, one of only ten skaters in league history to record over 300 career points. She was part of the 2009 Betties team that became the first team other than the Gores or Chicks to Battle for the Boot (a team loaded with talent including Dyna Hurtcha, Memphis Kitty, Slaughter Lauder, Pretty Peeved and Demolition Dawn).
Last year’s season was one for the ages when after finishing third in the regular season, the Betties peaked at the right time romping through three rounds of playoffs to win the Boot (the first team to win three playoff games on route to the Boot). However, this year’s iteration of the team looks much different after considerable retirements and transfers following the championship win; interestingly though, the roster is bolstered by experienced transfers both from outside of the league (Booty Quake, Caume A Kazi) and within (Emmy Klimster, Extermiknitter) and the return of Mia Culprit to house league play. That being said, a strong core from last year’s champs does remain. Co-captains Lowblow Palooza and Anne Bulance, hard-hitting Brickhouse Bardot, triple-threat Honey Boom Boom , Jammer’head Shark, Fight of the Conchords, and long-serving Genuine Risk all return in the pack. One big loss is the jammer Smoka Cola (whose 183 points last season was the tenth highest total in league history), so while the rotation continues to be led by titmouse (the Betties’ all-time leading scorer) and could be bolstered by the return of Kil’Her At Large after a one-season absence, the team will need to develop its offense from within.
TORONTO ROLLER DERBY RECORDS AND STATS HISTORY
ToRD’s all-time leading scorer, Bambi, sneaks through on the inside as Gores’ pivot Brim Stone lines up Betties’ jammer Jewel Kicker in a 2009 regular season showdown. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)
In honour of ToRD’s 10 season, take a look back at some of the league scoring records. One interesting thing to watch this season is ToRD’s career scoring numbers as three skaters in the Top 10 are still active. The Gores’ Lexi Con is set to become just the fourth skater in history to record 500 career points, while the Betties’ titmouse and Chicks’ Sleeper Hold should both advance up the Top 10 (and either could, with a strong season, join Lexi in the 500-point club).
ToRD Team Records
Points Per Game/Season: Dolls 237 (2013)
Highest Score/Game: Gores 323 vs. Chicks (2013)
Highest Score/Combined: 398 (Dolls 245 vs. Chicks 148 )
Lowest Score/Game: Betties 22 vs. Chicks (2011)
Lowest Score/Combined: 129 (Betties 68 vs. Chicks 61 )
Winning Streak (playoffs included): 12 Games (Gores 2009-2011)
Losing Streak (playoffs included): 10 games (Betties 2009-2012)
Individual Scoring Records
*Dust Bunny (GGR)
*Candy Crossbones (CA!)
Lexi Con (GGR)
Taranosaurus Rex (GGR)
*Land Shark (DTD)
*Jewel Kicker (SCB)
Sleeper Hold (DTD)
*Desmond Deck (GGR)
Lead Percentage (Season)
Rainbow Fight (DDT)
Mach Wheels (CA!)
Lexi Con (GGR)
Mach Wheels (CA!)
Dyna Hurtcha (CA!)
Dust Bunny (GGR)
Dust Bunny (GGR)
Candy Crossbones (CA!)
Points Per Jam (Season)
Points Per Jam
Rainbow Fight (DTD)
Sneaky Dee (CA!)
Candy Crossbones (CA!)
Lexi Con (GGR)
Santilly In Yo Face (DTD)
Ice Pick (D-VAS)
Desmond Deck Her (GGR)
Bala Reina (CA!)
Highest Points in a Single Season
Lexi Con (GGR)
Sleeper Hold (DTD)
*Dust Bunny (GGR)
*Sista Fista (DTD)
Bala Reina (CA!)
Santilly In Yo Face (DTD)
Rainbow Fight (DTD)
Smoka Cola (SCB)
*The 2008 season consisted of five games per team. Every other season, three.
After making it all the way to the top of the heap of D2 in 2014, a Division 1 playoff berth this season proved a tough transition for the Vixens, but the team’s strong, steady leadership resulted in a strong performance despite a last-place finish. (4 / 42)
It was quite a year for Calgary, a season that saw them briefly enter Division 1 only to slip out of a playoff position altogether at the end of the year. However, this team grew by leaps and bounds and some late-season roster additions set Calgary up for a strong 2016. (5 / 62)
A promising start to 2015 (wins over Boston, Steel City and a narrow loss to Montreal) could not be maintained as a constantly shuffling roster resulted in some inconsistent and increasingly shaky performances leading to a last-place finish in their playoff tournament. They are on the cusp of D1 and it remains to be seen if the revamped roster can keep them in it. (6/39)
A fascinating year for Thunder who, despite finishing last in their Division 1 playoff tournament, managed to put in some strong performances against very good teams. There is expected to be another roster shake-up this off season (particularly with their jammer rotation once again), and it’ll be interesting to see how those play out. (7 / 49)
A quietish year for Les Duchesses nonetheless showed that this team is ready for a greater challenge (for example, they crushed low-D2 Suburbia by 378 points in August). The team’s only losses this season came against Montreal’s Skids and Sexpos. (8 / -)
They’re back! For the first time since June 2013, E-Ville makes an appearance in the power rankings. An incredible 7-0 run to start the season had them back on the radar but a small summer stumble kept them from cracking the Top 10. Some strong late-season additions inspired great results against Regina and Calgary. (13/ -)
Montreal retains top spot after a phenomenal run through the WFTDA D1 playoffs that saw them finish higher than any other Canadian team had previously. Similarly, after running the consolation bracket in Tucson, Terminal City matched Montreal’s previous playoff-high finish; in 2015, these two teams distanced themselves from the pack and are currently very secure at the top of the table. There was some other shifting at the top though, most notably through Toronto’s drop. ToRD is going through a generational shift on the track right now that could lead to some early season growing pains in 2016, but that could also pay off in the long run with some patience and hard work. This drop allowed Rideau Valley (the best of the last-place Canadian teams in the playoffs) and Calgary to leap-frog ahead.
There was no change from 6 through 9, but the Power Rankings Crew would like to welcome Edmonton’s E-Ville Roller Derby back to the Top 10. They crushed Regina in October 407-34 and put in a strong performance in a loss against Top 5 Calgary 178-105. Word on the track is that some exciting off-season roster changes could help bolster the team’s offense and make them a potential western threat next year.
It seems as if we’ve been watching the same teams all season! However, followers of the Power Rankings may recognize the return of Misfit Militia to our Watch List. We’d dropped them from the rankings this season because of their lack of affiliation and the inconsistency of their roster. But now the charter team of WFTDA apprentice Orangeville Roller Girls, the Misfit Militia are back in the thick of things. Word on the track is that many of their members who formerly split time in Toronto are focused exclusively on Misfit Militia now, and this immediately makes them a team to watch in the Canadian competitive derby scene.
The Agony and the Ecstasy: The moments following the final whistle of the 2014 WFTDA Championship game, with Gotham defeating Rose City 147-144. (Photo by Joe Mac)
It had been somewhat of a tumultuous few years for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Beginning in 2010 when the flat track game began to evolve in ways distinct from any other version of the game that preceded it, there were pushbacks toward the Association from virtually every corner; whether from the roller derby’s remaining patriarch Jerry Seltzer, or its bloggers like Windy Man, or even parts of the WFTDA’s membership itself, from 2010-2013 the sport of flat track roller derby came under attack in ways that would have seemed ludicrous during the all-inclusive love-in that defined the community from 2003-2009.
Personally, I truly fell in love with the game in the fall of 2009 when all the elements that people seemed to hate about the sport first surfaced. For me, the game of flat track roller derby existed only in name until that point, as the sport was basically just a mutated version of the banked track game played on a flat surface. It seems, in retrospect, that people were content with this pseudo-version of Seltzer-style roller derby, but logically, thinking that the strategies that defined the banked track would survive forever on the flat one is equivalent to thinking that ice hockey strategies could be transported to field hockey: different surfaces, different games.
In 2014, flat track roller derby truly came of age. The sometimes awkward adolescence that hobbled the game through its strategic and subsequent rules evolution of the past few years finally seemed to balance out; the game hasn’t changed much over the past two seasons (though of course its gotten better through refinement), nor have the rules (again aside from clarification and “tightening”) and in 2014 we finally got to see what flat track roller derby is going to look like.
If you want to see flat track roller derby at its finest, you can do no better than the first half of the Rose City vs. Atlanta game at the WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs (watch on WFTDA.TV).
Some people still hate what the game has become, and that’s fine, but after an incredible 2014 playoff season and a heart warming World Cup (played under the WFTDA rule set), the attacks on the WFTDA seem shallow now; they seem to be coming from people who simply don’t like the sport, yet still, inexplicably, want to be a part of it (perhaps due to reasons of self-centred sentimentality and nostalgia: “But that’s not what the game looked like when I discovered it!”).
Another criticism still levelled at the WFTDA is about the lack of fans, and even more ludicrously, the notion that flat track roller derby from 2003-2009 had this massive fan base that the game has now alienated by becoming too strategic, too slow (the implication being that we should make it more “showy”; that we should alter the rules in ways to attract fans, as opposed to altering rules to match the natural evolution of the game on a flat surface). The idea that flat track roller derby ever had a sustained, loyal fan base outside of its own membership is, to be blunt, simply not true. It’s a fallacy built around the illusion that because places like Seattle attracted a few thousand fans for a few if its house league seasons and Toronto sold out its venue for a year following the release of Whip It, we had some massive, loyal fan base that has since been eroded.
There is absolutely no consistent sample size to base this argument on (though that hasn’t stopped people), and the logical conclusion to the idea of forcing the game to change in a way to better entertain fans is RollerGames (which I am confident in saying that no one wants). The flat track game has only just “settled” in the past season or so; I believe we are probably still 5-10 years away from seeing the beginning of a devoted fan base, if at all. And really, that should never be the goal of a sport that is at an age when it’s still figuring itself out.
And while on the surface, growth does seem to be somewhat slowed at the highest level (this year’s WFTDA playoffs probably drew about the same amount of fans as last year’s, etc.), at the base, the game is flourishing. Men’s roller derby and junior roller derby both grew leaps in bounds in 2014, and the game spread to corners of the globe that would have seemed impossible a few years ago for various reasons (Hello CaiRollers!). The junior exhibition game at the World Cup, though initially seeming like an afterthought, was a sight to behold. The fact of the matter is that at the highest levels of the game, we are now tinkering. We are refining the game and making it better, more athletic. Smarter. And all the while, the base upon which this is supported is growing and strengthening.
One of my picks for game of the year was the Montreal vs. Toronto showdown at this year’s Quad City Chaos. Watch the complete game here. (Produced by Layer9.ca)
Sure, Canada didn’t surprise as it did in 2013 when Toronto and Terminal City both went on spirited and unexpected runs in their respective Division payoffs, and Montreal once again lived up to its moniker as being the Most Heartbreaking Team in playoff history with another last-gasp loss, this time to long-time rivals Charm City, but nonetheless it was a banner year for the sport in the country and saw the rise of a new, true, power from the west in the Calgary Roller Derby Association, whose record-setting march up the WFTDA standings has made them a team to watch in the coming season. Overall, with the very recent additions of St. Albert, Winnipeg and Guelph’s Royal City, there are now fifteen WFTDA leagues in Canada spread across all three divisions, and three hundred member leagues overall.
Globally, the game is growing competitively, not only at the National level, as we saw with teams like Argentina and New Zealand, but at the league level as well. Berlin (D2) along with London and Melbourne’s Victorian Roller Derby (D1) all announced themselves as players on the WFTDA circuit. And there are more in the wings. When you think about the struggles and in-fighting that have gone on in trying to put professional sports leagues like the NHL and the NFL into global markets, the fact that a still-amateur sport like flat track roller derby has been able to sustain a “league” with international membership is nothing short of astonishing.
In 2014, the sport of flat track roller derby came of age. The game is better than it has ever been, played by stronger and fitter athletes in more places on the planet than anyone could ever have conceived of. It’s a fine time to be a fan of the sport, and I’ve got a feeling that it’s only going to get better.
****Take a look at the gallery below to see some of my favourite photographs that appeared on this site this year. A very, very BIG thanks to photographers Neil Gunner, Greg Russell, andJoe Mac for allowing me to illustrate my ramblings with their fine work.
“I feel like Beyonce herself parted the seas and said ‘let there be joy.'” 2015 Chicks Ahoy draftee Vag Lightning on being selected by the team in the entry draft.
This was yet another big draft for Toronto Roller Derby bringing in a total of 24 new skaters to the home teams (plus three skaters either returning from a hiatus or who will also skate for CN Power), with the defending champion Death Track Dolls pulling in the largest numbers of skaters for the second year in a row, with eight new skaters added to the roster. Once again there was a great number of home grown D-VAS in the draft, mixed with some very impressive transfers.
Experience is the word that defines the Smoke City Betties’ 2015 draft picks. Coming off of a disappointing 2014 that saw them slip to the bottom of the standings and miss the playoffs, the Betties ended up selecting one of the most experienced set of draftees ever, all of whom are capable of having an immediate impact on the team.
Even the two homegrown skaters, Juggernaut J and Fight of the Conchords come with considerable track experience. Juggernaut was co-captain of this year’s D-VAS and one of its most consistent blockers, while Fight has the distinct honour of being the first TJRD graduate drafted by ToRD. Moving from Saskatoon where she began as a junior, she was surprised that in TJRD’s four years, they had yet to graduate a skater. While she says she feels some pressure, she’s also confident that she is ready: “Junior derby really gave me the fundamental skills to do what I do,” she said in the excitement of the moment. “I’m stoked to be part of this team and excited to be a part of ToRD.”
The Betties’ other five picks are all transfers with varying levels of experience. Isla B Damned comes all the way from New Zealand’s Richter City Roller Derby, Smoka Cola is a product of the highly competitive Misfit Militia out of Alliston, and Ann Bulance and Brickhouse Bardot are familiar to any fans of roller derby in the city, having most recently played for the Rollergettes. “There was a vibe; the universe was telling me I was going to be in black and blue,” said Ann who was not surprised to be picked by the Betties. “Heavy hitting and alt jamming,” Brickhouse said in response to what both she and Ann bring to the team. Both see this transfer to ToRD as the logical next step in their derby careers.
The Chicks Ahoy! had a bounce back season this year, returning to the playoffs after a year-long absence and looking much improved in every aspect of the game. They had a fairly substantial turn over this year, but picked players with a lot of depth of experience whether home grown or otherwise.
Annguard, Goreschach, Kimikaze and Vag Lightning were all core members of the 2014 D-VAS, while Slamureye, a 2013 transfer from Durham Region Roller Derby also payed some key minutes for the farm team. Holly Mackinaw is another more local transfer (Rollergettes) while the very experienced Monster Muffin brings vast experience and talent to the team (in particular to the Chicks’ now depleted jammer rotation) from her time with Alliston’s Renegade Derby Dames.
Vag lightning’s only comment on being drafted to the team summed up the positive energy around the draft party and the feeling of exhilaration of the draftees: “I feel like Beyonce herself parted the seas and said ‘let there be joy.'”
After a roar-back season that saw them win the Beast of the East and climb back to the Battle for the Boot (for a record-setting seventh time). Things look solid for the skaters in leopard print moving forward, and despite their draft position, managed to stack the roster with a wide range of skaters, led by the return of long-time vet, the smooth-skating Lady Gag-Ya, who brings years of travel team experience back to her Gores. Similarly, Extermi-knitter and Murdercat both have a lot of track experience from their time in Durham Region Roller Derby (and elsewhere for Knitter). “I really liked their defensive game this season,” said Extermi-knitter who also has experience jamming. “The Gores have some amazing jammers…I’m more useful as a blocker and I like blocking a bit more,” she said. Her leaguemate Murdercat could immediately enter into the rotation, adding to that already existent depth.
Stabbey Road (who began skating with the GTA Rollergirls before transferring to ToRD), Tara Fying and Knocker Mom are homegrown talent who will help fill out a pack that was at times terrifying to play against last season.
The Death Track Dolls
Goldie Lock N Load
For the second year in a row the Death Track Dollswon the Boot, but yet again also have to deal with a massive roster turnaround (having eight open spaces for the second year in a row). The Dolls made it work in 2014 because they drafted wisely and they drafted for depth. And they just may have pulled it off again this year.
The new Dolls are lead by two returning skaters who were key pieces of the 2013 championship team: UpHer Cut (who returns after a year-long hiatus from the game), and Scarcasm (who will do double duty with CN Power this year). But there is experience also in returning veteran skater Goldie Lock N Load (who returns to ToRD for the first time since 2009 when she played two seasons for the Smoke City Betties). She’s been busy for those five years in between refereeing, doing a little announcing, and, of course, running the Rollergettes.
Speaking of refereeing; two of Dolls’ picks, April Cruel and Lace Frehley, both got their starts in roller derby as zebra-print enforcers so will bring a strong knowledge of the game to the defending champs. Finally, Common Dominator, PrEditor and Elle Capwn (who was actually a injury-call-up for the Dolls this season) round out the homegrown talent in the draft.
Guest blogger and retired skater Speedin’ Hawking discusses her history of concussions and provides resources on diagnoses, rehabilitation, and how to ease yourself back into play.
“When you feel like this looks”
My 5-year derby-versary was approaching in only a few months. I was extremely excited to re-join our B travel team after a spot opened up, and brought that enthusiasm to my first practice back that night. Towards the end of practice we scrimmaged our A-team, as we often would. At one point when I was blocking, I got caught in a pick and took a clean hit in the chest. It caught me off guard and took me off my feet. My head flung backwards, and as I was falling, I am told that the back of my head made contact with another skater in motion who was behind me, thrusting it forward. My immediate reaction was a panic attack. I started hyperventilating and crying and was ultimately confused and really distraught. I quietly moved off the track to gain control of what I thought was just a weird emotional outburst, withdrew myself from the group and hid behind a pillar so as not to bring attention to my embarrassing reaction. I sat out for the few remaining minutes of the practice while our first responders and my loving derby wife checked me out and tried to put me at ease.
The author, Speedin’ Hawking, pivots for the Bay Street Bruisers in a game against Royal City in October 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)
I didn’t lose consciousness or forget my name, but I didn’t know exactly what had happened or how. I was really confused, and that is unusual for me as a fairly aware skater. I felt like I got my bell rung and immediately felt ‘out of it’. I drove myself home alone, which was a challenge in itself, as the road looked like that drunk driving commercial from the 80s. Bad idea.
If this was a concussion, it would have been my fourth in a year and a half. Given that I am a shorter skater at 5’2″, it’s not a surprise that half of these were due to being hit in the chin or jaw and made worse with the whiplash that came with it. The other half are because I am a bit of a spaz in my day-to-day life. I wish I could tell you it’s from being bad-ass.
Needless to say I took some time to stay off skates, and since have had to pack it in for roller derby. As sad as this is, I have found that since I have become a vet at this concussion thing lately, and more and more leaguemates of mine have been asking about it: What does it feel like? What can you do about it? Who do you go see? Should I get a hockey helmet? Face shield? You too??!! And so on. Or sharing quietly that they think they have one and ask what they should do.
I am not sure if you have noticed in your leagues, but I have never seen so many people off skates at the same time due to this injury. We have become fitter, better, more agile, faster and more aggressive skaters. We are weapons on wheels. We are making fancier moves on our skates. Our style of play has evolved to be more scrum-like. Our rules have recently changed to allow some clockwise movement. I am not sure if all these things are linked, but they can’t be ignored either. If this is the way things are going, then let’s look after our brains cause we only get one (at least for now: c’mon science, where are you on this one?).
I also sucked up precious screen time searching the Internet for answers as to how I was feeling, what’s normal, and what I should do as a coping mechanism to counter the fear and anxiety I was experiencing. Now that I am mostly symptom-free 5 months later (hurray!) I thought I would compile some resources as well as share my learning from a derby perspective. This way, they are on-hand for others with symptoms who might be new to this or for teammates, captains and coaches to refer to in case of future injuries. Thanks to others who have gone through this too who shared their tips and resources with me.
I am not a doctor, or a professional healthcare provider, just a gal who has been searching for more and more answers on the Internet every time she bonks her face in roller derby.
If you think you or your buddy might have suffered a concussion, please visit a physician (sports or specialist if you can rather than a walk-in clinic or even your family doctor. Get checked out as soon as you can. Even if you think it’s no big deal and you feel mostly fine. Even if you only feel “just a bit off”. It’s very easy to talk yourself out of your injury, especially if you have a game coming up, or are super busy in life, so you really need others close to you to call you on your bullshit.
Following is a summary of things you might be wondering about concussions along with some handy references.
WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
Your skull is your body’s built-in helmet. Your brain sits in your skull suspended in fluid. When you get rocked by a hit, your brain bounces around inside your skull, which can result in “bruising.” This could be because you fell and hit your head, but can also occur by being jostled or shaken.
Found to be highly related to concussions, whiplash can produce similar symptoms. Sometimes the tension or alignment in the neck that results can cause a pinching in your spine, which can have the same weird neurological effects as a concussion.
Ensure that your first-responders or coaches and managers in your league have been trained to screen and assess if a concussion may have occurred or can help with triaging the injury. Review WFTDA Safety Protocol Section 6 carefully as well as Appendix C-D for concussion info.
You might end up getting a CT Scan or in bad cases an MRI to be sure there’s no head trauma or blood clotting, but because it’s really hard to “see” bruising on your brain, there is really no conclusive way at this time to see how bad your concussion is. You break a bone, you get an x-ray and can see it. We don’t have that kind of thing yet for concussions.
So the best you can do is monitor your symptoms which is why it’s super important to see a doctor and talk this out with them. Bonus points if they have a specialty or are a sports physician who deals with this a lot.
There are tests that rely on testing your neurological responses, cognition and balance, but their accuracy is debated and there aren’t any broadly accepted tools at this time for diagnosis. A couple of them are:
The clinic you visit already for physio for your myriad of other derby injuries might also have someone there with a specialty in treating sports concussions.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Here is a list of common symptoms. This is your best way to track your progress, so really try to monitor how you feel. Write it down every day even. You might start seeing patterns emerge after certain stimulus. For example, during a regular work day post-concussion, it was normal for me to get a pressure headache between 3 and 4 pm due to computer usage and thinking so darn hard. I knew I was getting better when that would start to go away.
Think of it as a “buffet” of options, or a “portfolio”. You might not feel all of them at any given time, but even feeling one of them counts. Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have a concussion if you feel a bunch of these but then don’t feel nauseous, for example. A good sign is thinking that something is out of the ordinary for you. Also, you aren’t better until your symptoms go away completely.
If you decide to take anything to treat these symptoms (like ibuprofen or anti-nauseants), just be aware that you could be masking your symptoms which is your only reliable way to measure progress in your rehab.
This is actually a thing! You are not on crazy pills! You may have rolled away from a practice or game feeling alright after a hit, but then start feeling the effects later or a month later. Post-concussive disorder symptoms skew more on the psycho-behavioural side of things rather than physiological. So if you are seeing behavioural or emotional changes in yourself, this could be why. Like feeling extra “hulk-smash-y” or like you are PMS’ing, or like your old anxiety challenges have been triggered again. Try not to get too paranoid about it and go see a doctor to put you at ease and work on next steps to rehab.
Rest. That’s it. Cognitive and physical rest. Nothing fancy. Unfortunately this often means laying down and doing nothing, no brain stimulation. This includes abstaining from watching videos, listening to music, reading, writing, audiobooks. Stay off your smart phone! It’s like your body is now grounded as punishment for doing something dumb to your brain. You might be sensitive to light and certain frequencies of sound, so hang out in a dim and / or quiet room. Earplugs and sunglasses become your best friends.
Work with your physician to determine a plan for what’s best for you as far as timing, rest and return to activities and exercise. Determine if you have to take a leave from work or school, and if there is any disability support in place to assist you with keeping up. If you are typically a busy-body, then you might need someone to explicitly tell you how to rest.
Stay away from practice. Watching your teammates skate fast around and around while whistles go off can be overstimulating. As much as you might want to participate off-skates and be with your team, this environment does not help with your rehab. Hopefully your coaches and teammates understand.
Supplements: Unlike taking something to treat your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe supplements that promote brain healing and cognitive improvement. This might include:
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – promotes the production of energy in the brain’s blood vessels (1)
Magnesium – improves synaptic plasticity, aids memory and learning (2)
Vinpocetine – enhances cerebral blood flow and neuroprotective effects (3)
Physio / massage: Your treatment plan from your doctor might also include cranial massage or acupuncture to help with the pressure release and stimulate circulation to the brain to aid the healing process. I have had cranial massages, skull pecking, acupuncture in my head and even a deep neck flexor massage for whiplash. I have also been prescribed neck strengthening exercises as part of my physio.
Your treatment plan might even include some low-impact exercise to help increase blood flow to your brain. I found it also helps get those feel-good endorphins going to counter those downer feelings you might be experiencing.
RETURN TO PLAY
This is going to take time, and like all injuries, rushing back will only harm you in the long run. You want to be sure that you are fully recovered before trying to skate again in order to avoid aggravation or re-injury. Since multiple concussions have a cumulative effect, you don’t want to experience another, and especially not right away. It will set you back exponentially and can leave you with lingering or long-term effects.
Most concussion guidelines for sports have a pretty explicit return to play outline, however, ensure that your doctor clears you to skate initially (your sport is skating around and around for hours!) and then again to resume contact.
Captains and managers should also treat this injury as they would any other player injury. Depending on your league policies, a doctors note would be ideal. Know the steps:
No activity, complete rest
Light aerobic exercise
Sport-specific activities – like skating
Drills, no contact
Drills with contact
Take it step by step.
Start with light, low impact activity, like biking, walking or swimming, and move through the levels only if you are completely symptom-free. Not even a little headache. If you do feel your symptoms as a result, you need to continue your rest and rehab. Then try again at that level. This can sometimes be a slow, frustrating process.
There are also newer studies that suggest some exercise might also accelerate your progress. Best to just monitor how you are feeling. Try and see what might work for you and how you feel.
If you have suffered from multiples or even a single major event, know when it’s time to pack it in. Look at your risks vs rewards if you are considering returning, and consider how to avoid long-term damage (Decrease competitiveness? Try low contact? Take a couple of years off?)
As much as we are in love with our sport and the derby community, you only get one brain.
Like my catholic upbringing taught me, the surefire way to avoid accidents is abstinence from engagement in risky activities. But really, we can’t skate around in a safety bubble like in bubble sports, can we? No really, can we??!!!
We play a contact sport that celebrates our athletes’ differences in size and shape, and we would hate to see that change. We have complete understanding that sometimes accidents just happen in contact sports.
Here are some ideas, however, that could help avoid first or future concussions in roller derby, or at least reduce the frequency we are seeing. It would also be wonderful if the ruleset was evaluated for safety by medical professionals and revised accordingly in addition to considering changes related to improvement of game play and spectator experience.
Helmets and face shields: Helmets can be great for helping absorb impact when hit, and protect your skull, but can’t help as much when you get a shot in the face or whiplash. At least, start with a legit multi-impact helmet for real! With the hard foam. Take that rubberized helmet you bought and throw it in the garbage. Don’t let your fresh meat buy them when they are investing in gear at the beginning. Check out section 9.1.3 of the rules to find out what equipment variations pass. Just like all of your other gear try options on, or borrow from your pals till you find the proper fit. Acknowledge that your head shape just might not fit properly with certain models. Look for a balance of protection and functionality (lightweight, not too hot, etc.) Some might find that hockey-style helmets stabilize the jarring and head and neck a bit more. Some find that face shields help prevent face hits. There are many options, just don’t cheap out on this body part when it comes to protection.
Practice backwards blocking as a skill: This is a newer blocking style that is becoming more prominent in game play, however not one commonly taught as a foundation in fresh meat programs. Practice greater control when transitioning quickly. Practice more upper body blocking techniques, giving and receiving, with the aim of avoiding flailing limbs or head/face hits. Especially try safely backwards blocking and side blocking or “picking” with a variety of different-sized opponents.
Strengthen your neck and upper body: Roller derby is definitely a total body sport, so don’t forget these body parts in your dry land training. Now that there is much more backwards blocking and shoulder blocking, strengthen this part of your body so that you can safely absorb and deliver these upper body hits. For blockers, this may also help dealing with that transfer of momentum from jammers coming in hot to a slow or stopped pack.
Call out head and face hits: For coaches and managers, try to pay attention to these hits as much as you would cutting and back blocking if refs aren’t at practice to call the high blocks. I feel like we let this one slide a lot because “it just happens”, meanwhile, we might be enforcing sloppy play and letting repeated hits to the face or head happen, which over time could increase susceptibility if a bigger hit is received. Remember that this injury is cumulative. Pull or bench any players for egregious play for sure.
TALK ABOUT IT
Finally, talk this out with others in your league or reach out to our amazingly supportive sports community. As horrible as it was that a number of us got injured at the same time in our league, we’ve become a great little support group for each other. It has also helped raise awareness about the injury in our league. There’s a great deal of comfort in knowing that you have leaguemates concerned for your well-being that have experienced the same symptoms and are going through rehab with you, especially in dealing with the psycho behavioural effects. We have also shared a great deal of knowledge and referred others to the right doctors, as well as have some ideas for future projects in this area, so stay tuned!
We play an adrenaline-driven sport that on top of it all, we put our hearts into organizing, building, running and progressing. This can make it extra challenging to pull back when the time comes, whether it’s taking a short break or a long one.
There’s a great documentary called The Crash Reel that helps puts things into perspective and does a great job illustrating how passion for our sport can take over. Thanks Kamikaze Kitten for the recommendation and for being just a random Facebook message away!
Watch Trailer: The Crash Reel
Save your brain, you may need it later.
And if you are currently rehabbing a concussion, thanks for using up some of your screen time here.
Feel free to keep the conversation going here in the comments section, or by sharing your resources and experiences too!
The Grand Prix Madonnas moved into top spot in the league with the win over the Devil’s Night Dames. (Photo by Joe Mac)
The wear and tear of the “American Century” can be seen clearly on the face of Detroit. One of the largest cities in North American, for centuries Detroit has acted as an important strategic, economic and industrial centre—ushering in the automobile era, nurturing transcendent musical forms, and producing extraordinary sports teams that once inspired the nickname “City of Champions.” Of course, the transition into the 21st century has not been an easy one for the Motor City. Famously mired in a bankruptcy and feeling the damaging effects of the decline of the automobile industry, Detroit is struggling to reshape its image in a new millennium.
In recent years there has been a clear attempt to rebrand the city as an entertainment centre, and the downtown core has been somewhat revitalized by the opening of a few new casinos and other tourist-drawing sites, yet wide swathes of the core remain underdeveloped and abandoned.
The Detroit Derby Girls call the historic Masonic Temple home.
Near the intersection of Interstate 75 and Woodward Avenue is one such area. Massive buildings—beautiful beacons of the boom that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—stand empty; some are simply intricate facades standing sentry over gutted innards and crumbling supports. There are large empty lots—one of which, notably, will be the site of a hockey arena, the new home for the beloved Red Wings. Right now, however, the one shining beacon in the downtrodden area is a massive ornate neo-gothic Masonic Temple, the largest of its kind in the world, built late in the 19th century, and home for the better part of eight years to the Detroit Derby Girls.
DDG kicked off 2014 with the fifth game in its 2013-14 houseleague season featuring a showdown between the defending champion Grand Prix Madonnas and the perennial underdogs, the Devil’s Night Dames. Having come into the league in a 2011 expansion, the Madonnas have essentially been the top team since and heading into the game were riding a 6-game winning streak dating back to last season. The Dames, on the other hand, were mired in a 5-game winless drought and in three previous meetings, had yet to defeat the Madonnas (including a 191-36 drubbing last season).
However, the Dames are a team on the rise and now include a handful of members of Detroit’s WFTDA Division 1 All Start team (currently ranked 28th in the 40-team division). Led by their tireless captain, Murder City Mistress, the Dames roared out of the gates at the opening whistle on Saturday night and seemed to catch the champs off guard with their level of intensity. Having opened the season with a loss to the Pistolwhippers, the Dames had a slightly different look in their matchup with the Madonnas, seeing Doom Shakalaka take on the star and Terror Ettes (who had led the team with a 40% lead percentage in the opener) jump into the pack to bolster the pack offense.
The Grand Prix Madonnas joined the league in 2011 and are the defending league champions.
The first half was defined by huge shifts in momentum as each team battled through penalty troubles. Led by the astonishing Racer McChaseHer (who played in 73% of her team’s jams in the season opener and neared that number again in this one) and supported in the pack by Spanish Ass’assin, ShamWow and Peaches N. CreamYa, to name a few, the Madonnas ran into early penalty trouble that saw an early lead evaporate. The Dames, led offensively by team leading scorer Feta Sleeze (5.9 points per jam in the season-opening loss) pounced and took the lead midway through the first.
But once the Madonnas were able to ride out their penalty troubles, they roared back themselves with some consistent jamming from Racer and Lily I. Monster in particular, to rebuild a significant lead. Yet the Dames refused to relent and Doom (who started slowly) broke out late in the half, including registering a 20-point jam, to pull the team back within reach, down 104-73 at the break (significantly, the 73 first-half points was already more than the Dames had ever scored in a full game against their opponent). However, disaster struck in the final moments of the half when Murder City Mistress went down a significant injury (the third skater lost to a leg injury in two games for the Dames).
After the highs of such a competitive first half, the Dames never seemed to recover from the loss of their captain. Feta Sleeze (who led the team in scoring with 33 first-half points) took on the “C” in the second and wore it admirably, consistently drawing the unenviable matchup against Racer in the second half (Racer scored her career leading 1700th point in the half). Sufferin’ Sucka Bash stepped up in the pack in the second as well, playing a very strong half for the Dames with the stripe to lead her packs in the absence of Mistress—but despite her strong play, and consistent jamming from the likes of Lost and Found (who had been held to only 7 points in the first half), the Madonnas controlled the action in the second.
Despite the improved play this season, the Devil’s Night Dames remain last in the league.
Triple threat Rocky Brawlboa did it all for the Madonnas, with bruising pack work alongside some physical jamming, Rocky was all over the track in the second half (and was eventually named the game MVP). Sista Slit’chya followed a similar trajectory of increased level of play in the second, and the depth of pack supplied by Ana Matronique, Mega Bloxx and others was too much for the upstart Dames to handle. Only managing 27 points in a smothering second half, the Devil’s Night Dames couldn’t keep up and the Grand Prix Madonnas jumped back into first place in the DDG standings (2-0), while the Dames, at 0-2, remain on the bottom.
Injuries seem to be conspiring against an inspired and much improved Dames team this season, while the Madonnas (after surprisingly tight 7-point win in the opener against the Pistoffs) are rounding into form.
Although they briefly left the Masonic Temple a few years ago, DDG seems comfortably established in the beautiful old building. It was a packed house on Saturday night, featuring a raucous and appreciative crowd. Among the physical rubble of decline, the Detroit Derby Girls stand as a model of consistency, part of this city’s psychological hope for renewal.
The 2013-14 season is DDG’s ninth.
***A big thanks to the Detroit Derby Girls for having the Nerd as a guest announcer this weekend. A special, and personal, thanks goes to the fantastic announcing crew of AK 40oz, Hi-Death, Big Poppa Razzi, Handle Barbarian, and Mr. Mauler; and also to Rusty Wheeler for the excellent stats work.
Dolls’ blocker Slam Wow tries to contain Gores’ jammer Foxy Sinatra. (Photo by Greg Russell)
It’s been a long time coming.
That’s got to be on the sentiment on the minds of the fans and players of the Smoke City Betties and the Death Track Dolls. Perennial underachievers, the Death Track Dolls dominated the opening 15 minutes of their wild showdown with the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and held on for the historic 233-153 victory, marking the first time since 2008 that the Dolls have defeated the Gores. Meanwhile, in the opening game of the double header, the Smoke City Betties long rebuilding process symbolically ended as they bounced back from a season-opening loss to dominate defending champion Chicks Ahoy!, winning 229-95. The last time the Betties defeated the Chicks was in 2009, which just also happens to be the last time the Betties Battled for the Boot.
Slaptrick Swayze looks for a route around the Chicks’ pack (she scored 62 points in the first half). (Photo by Neil Gunner)
Finally, with the game 20-18 for the skaters in black and blue, the Betties used a power jam to take a lead that they would never relent: Slaptrick Swayze scored 14 on the jam—part of a 62 point half for the second-year jammer. At this point in the half, the Betties took complete control, outscoring the Chicks 78-13 over eleven jams to take a massive lead. Only a half-closing 23-point power jam skated by Rosemary’s Rabies had the Chicks within any sort of manageable distance, down 112-55 at the break.
Veteran Chick Kookie Doe pivots rookie Emraged as they hold Laya Beaton. (Photo by Neil Gunner)
The Chicks had optimistic hopes for the season, but it’s becoming clear that the lack of the experience is not something easily overcome, especially in a house league as competitive as ToRD’s. With the injury to key skater Roadside BombShel, heavy loads fell to the veterans of the team (namely Kookie Doe, Dyna Hurtcha, Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind and Furious Georgia, who all gobbled up a lot of tracktime once again, including a game-closing rare turn with the star by Robber Blind that included a phenomenal apex jump that caught everyone off guard). But with such a young roster, the baby Chicks are getting a lot of track time and are being forced into key situations. Smooth-skating transfer Chevy Chase Her continues to impress with the star, while rookie blocker Emraged was all over the track, and Joss Wheelin and R2-Smack-U continue to look ever more comfortable in the pack (even wearing the stripe).
Tropic Thunder and Renny Rumble contain Chevy Chase Her. (Photo by Neil Gunner)
While all of this youth is exciting for the future of this team, it makes for an inconsistent present (they were never able to earn more than two lead jammer statuses in a row). The Betties, on the other hand, looked much stronger after a shaky season opener, and dominated the second half of the game. After a brief pushback by the Chicks to open the second half (14 points over two jams), the Betties locked things down and picked up an incredible eight lead jammers in a row, to increase the lead to 163-73 at the fifteen-minute mark of the second half and put the game out of reach. Over the past few seasons of struggle, the Betties have built an experienced core of skaters that are being complemented nicely this season by well-selected draft choices. In the pack, co-captain Misery Mae, CN Power skater Renny Rumble, along with veterans Tushy Galore and Mouth of the South, are coming together with a toughness and, more importantly, a solidarity that has not been seen on this team in a while. They’ve also developed a nice, deep jammer core led by co-captain Hailey Copter and Swayze, but completed by Wolverina and increasingly impressive Finnish transfer Udre. The future is bright with a the rise of the likes of LowBlowPalooza and Zomboney (who made her ToRD houseleague debut).
The Betties never allowed the Chicks within 100 points the rest of the way and skated away with the impressive 134-point victory.
The Dolls’ explosive start caught the Gores off guard. (Photo by Greg Russell)
Gore-Gore Rollergirls 153 vs. Death Track Dolls 233
The second game of the double header was essentially over in the first ten minutes of the game, and certainly by the midway point of the first half as the Death Track Dolls amassed a 111-5 lead that—to their credit—never demoralized the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, but put the game out of reach and highlighted the importance of a strong start and absolute focus after the opening whistle.
In much the same way as the Betties, it’s been a tough few years for the Dolls. Since a 2009 season that saw them battle toe-to-toe against the Chicks, things have not gone smoothly for the Dolls. One-sided semifinal losses to the Chicks in 2010 and 2011 and a last-place finish in 2012, left the Dolls as the sole remaining house league team to never reach ToRD’s championship game. After a few well-managed drafts and an incredibly consistent roster over the past two years, the Dolls are finally ready to compete. Their new-found competitive focus was never more evident than in the first quarter of the game. Relentless defence, but with an eye always on an offensive transition, the Dolls burst out of the gates on the opening whistle and took it to a Gores team that did not seem ready to start the game. 20-0 after four jams followed by a string of seven straight lead jammer statuses had the Dolls up by 106 points early.
Veterans Junkie Jenny and Monichrome duel in the pack. (Photo by Greg Russell)
After avoiding the massive roster reshuffles that have slowed the other teams in the league, the Dolls have an unmatched depth at every position. From the formidable foursome of a jammer rotation (Bellefast, Getcha Kicks, Santilly In Yo Face and Rainbow Fight), to the phenomenal pivoting and leadership from co-captains Speedin Hawking and Scarcasm and also Ames to Kill, to the deep blocker corps led by Audrey Hellborn, Rhage in a Cage, and Downright Dirty Dawson, the Dolls look poised to continue this breakout season, and despite giving up a few late power jams, were up comfortably146-58 at the half.
Gores rookie Lexi Con and Dolls co-captain Scarcasm both had strong games. (Photo by Greg Russell)
The Gores righted the ship at about the midway point of the opening half, but the gap was too much to bridge. Early injuries to veteran triple threats Foxy Sinatra and Santa Muerte had the Gores relying offensively on R.I. Pink, rookie Lexi Con (who continues to impress this season and scored more than half their points in the opening half), and jukey transfers Taranasaurus Rex and Beaver Mansbridge (who also went down with an injury late in this one—which turned out to be only a minor sprain).
The increasingly chippy, hard-hitting affair was fairly even the rest of the way, and despite the score line, was an entertaining game to watch.
Dolls triple threat Rainbow Fight continues to emerge as one of the league’s top skaters. (Photo by Neil Gunner)
Chronic was effective in her return from injury, and while the pack continues to rely on vets like Kandy Barr and Junkie Jenny, there is a rising blocker crew led by rookie Purple Pain, who are quickly starting to take on more and more responsibility. Despite some impressive individual performances (and a second half that was deadlocked in terms of lead percentage and scoring—91-83 for the Gores), in the end, the experienced Dolls were too much for the three-time champion Gores and won the high-scoring game by 80 points.
It was a hard-hitting, fast-skating night of flat track roller derby at the Bunker that saw the Death Track Dolls (2-0) pull ahead in the standings over the Smoke City Betties (1-1) and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls (1-1), leaving the rebuilding Chicks Ahoy! (0-2) without a win and in danger of finishing at the bottom of the standings for the first time ever.
* Next up for all four teams is the annual Beast of the East tournament in Montreal.
The last time the Smoke City Betties defeated the Chicks Ahoy! was in 2009. In roller derby, local and otherwise, change was in the air. Externally, the sport was undergoing a massive shift: from the no-nonsense athleticism of the Oly Rollers to the trapping and isolation game introduced to the larger community by Denver, the game was evolving in exciting and controversial ways that are still playing out. Closer to home, ToRD had just shifted to its new, all-season venue, The Hangar, and an old guard of one of the first flat track teams in the country was making one final all-in push for the ToRD Championship.
The Betties and Chicks initiate the Bunker in 2009. For the first time since then, the Betties have a shot at defeating the Chicks. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)
Led by jammers Memphis Kitty and Jewel Kicker, double threat Slaughter Laughter, and pack skaters Hot Roller and Pretty Peeved (not to mention current Death Track Doll Demolition Dawn and an emerging triple-threat in Dyna Hurtcha), the 2009 Betties represented the final throes of a Betties team that had risen out of the ether to form one of the pillars of the Toronto, and Canadian, roller derby communities. That inaugural game at the Hangar would represent the end of an era in terms of the sport; it would be a showcase for how the game had been. Fast, hard hitting, with barely a break in the relentless speed, it was a defensive showdown the likes of which simply can’t exist anymore: skaters are too smart, the strategies too intricate. The game ended up being a 7-point Betties’ victory, the result of a ridiculously low-scoring, 68-61 game. The Betties would make it all the way to The Battle for the Boot that year–their only trip–only to fall to the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, a team that had spawned directly from the Betties when ToRD was formed.
Dolls’ sub (and future Doll) Land Shark lines up against Desmond Deck-Her late in the 2008 Dolls’ victory over the Gores. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)
To find the last time that that the Death Track Dolls beat the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, you have to look back even further, to 2008, and a controversial bout that will forever be known as the Sub-Game, when an underhanded Dolls team borrowed a few skaters from then home teams the Bay Street Bruisers and the D-VAS (all of the subs would end up becoming Dolls within the next few months when those two homes teams were contracted). Led by one of those subs, Land Shark (who would score 44 points), the Dolls would take down the Gores 112-93 to lock up a share of top spot in the regular season. Despite that season-closing victory, the Dolls would fall in the semi-final, ending their top season in ToRD to date.
This weekend at The Bunker, the Betties and the Dolls are looking to turn back the clocks to earn victories that feel like a long time coming. And in a season of change in ToRD, the time is now for these two perennial underdogs to overthrow the two teams that have combined to win every ToRD championship.
The Betties look to bounce back from disappointing loss, but will do so without injured blocker Tomy Knockers (centre) [with rookie LowBlowPalooza (right) and fourth-year skater Tropic Thunder bridging]. (Photo by Derek Lang)
Chicks vs. Betties
Last year when these teams faced off, the Betties looked like they were going to run away with it. Up 22-0 five minutes in, the Betties overwhelmed the Chicks out of the gates, only to have the Chicks completely turn the game around and dominate the rest of the way, winning 182-69. But much has changed between now and then, and with both teams coming off of season-opening losses, each will be gunning for a win. The Betties, who entered the season with high hopes, looked out of sorts in an inconsistent loss to the Gores last month. Led offensively by co-captain Hailey Copter (46 points in the loss) and in the pack by co-captain Misery Mae and rookie-transfer Tomy Knockers, the team showed flashes of great play, out scoring and out playing the Gores for stretches of time in the game. For the Betties, sticking together will be the key as a new core of pack skaters comes together. The Betties packs were loose at times, and controlled by the Gores, and they will need to keep things simple and tight to compete against the Chicks.
The Chicks have been leaning heavily on veterans like Dyna Hurtcha (lefy), Kookie Doe and Robber Blind while rookies develop. (Photo by Derek Lang)
The Chicks are not familiar with losing (they have won the past two ToRD championships) and will be looking to avenge their season-opening loss to the Dolls. More than any other team, the Chicks roster is full of new and inexperienced skaters, evidenced by the amount of track time swallowed up by veterans Dyna Hurtcha, Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind and Furious Georgia (all on the track for more than 50% of their team’s jams). With the loss of Roadside BombShel for the season, the offense will fall to co-captain Kookie Doe and rookie transfers Rosemary’s Rabies (who struggled at times against the Dolls) and Chevy Chase Her who improved with the increased track time and ended up scoring 64 points and recording a 67% lead percentage in the loss.
The Gores surprised in their season opener and will be looking to continue a four-year winning streak against the Dolls. (Photo by Derek Lang)
Gores vs. Dolls
The showdown for top spot against the two teams that have weathered the shifting ToRD rosters this season better than the others. The Gores actually shocked in the opener, pulling a surprising offensive weapon out of their back pocket in veteran blocker Foxy Sinatra (31 points, 57% lead percentage), which took some of the pressure off of an inexperienced jammer rotation led, in terms of experience, by R.I. Pink. Taranasaurus Rex was solid in limited action, and D-VAS grad Lexi Con made a strong debut, nabbing 47 points and holding down a 79% lead percentage. In the pack, Santa Muerte, Junkie Jenny and Kandy Barr led the way and will need to put in big minutes again against a tough Dolls pack. Word on the track is that veteran skater Chronic may be making her return from a stint on injury reserve, which would boost the experience of the pack.
The Dolls look to string together their first winning streak in four years. (Photo by Derek Lang)
The Death Track Dolls also entered the season with high hopes and have thus far lived up to them. The key for the Dolls so far is in its stifling pack work. Given the volume of experience on the team, more than any of the ToRD teams, the Dolls’ track time was incredibly balanced, a testament to their depth and consistency, but also to the experience on the team (they only have three pure rookies on their twenty-skater roster this season). But a key for the less-experienced Gores may be in containing a deep offense. Led by Bellefast and Santilly In Yo’ Face (69 and 66 points), the Dolls round out their rotation with strong and steady Getcha Kicks and emerging triple-threat Rainbow Fight (who managed a remarkable 86% lead percentage in limited action against the Chicks)—a formidable foursome that is currently unmatched in the league.
The Vixens’ Murphy and Rudolph hold CN Power’s Kookie Doe in the closing game of the QCC. (Photo by Greg Russell)
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)
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)
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)
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 Usual Suspects
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)
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)
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.
Lake Effect Furies (QCRG) 147 vs. Rideau Valley Vixens 172
CN Power (ToRD)155 vs. Ohio Roller Girls 201
Ohio Roller Girls 371 vs. Rideau Valley Vixens 38
CN Power 230 vs. Lake Effect Furies 178
Ohio Roller Girls 211 vs. Lake Effect Furies 125
CN Power 155 vs. Rideau Valley Vixens 168
Bay Street Bruisers (ToRD) 324 vs. Devil Dollies (QCRG) 88
Bay Street Bruisers 207 vs. Gang Green (Ohio B) 112