In December of this year the first ever World Cup of roller derby will be played over three days on two tracks in the Bunker, the new home of Toronto Roller Derby; on Saturday the Bunker got its first taste of action as ToRD hosted a double header welcoming the Royal City All Stars (out of Guelph) and the Montreal Sexpos to the city to initiate the new venue. Both bouts of the double header were played on the smaller, more intimate Track 2 as the main track was still under construction (both tracks will be in use during the World Cup). With special guest provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath on hand to blow the first whistle, the energy level and sense of anticipation for the first action in the venue was palpable. The home league ended up splitting the games in this successful launch.
Game 1: Royal City All Stars 203 vs. D-VAS 42
Having just completed its first full bouting season, Royal City has proven to be a league to watch. The three hometeams had a successful year in Guelph playing out of the Sleeman Centre and had a successful travel season as well: in June the travel team had a fantastic performance at the Blood Spill on the Hill, CWRDA’s Eastern Championship, finishing 5th overall. The Queens of Pain (a mix of players from hometemas the Killer Queens and Our Ladies of Pain) took an impressive 3rd place at the 2 Fresh 2 Furious tournament in July. This weekend marked their first foray into playing against competition from ToRD. Before the bout, Royal City coach Professor Wrex implied that the team was hoping for a strong performance to prove that they were prepared for competition beyond ToRD’s team of undrafted skaters: After 60 minutes of smart, dominant derby, they certainly proved that point.
The D-VAS were playing far more than just another bout. Just over a month away from ToRD’s annual entry draft (with a large, talented draft pool, this year’s draft has been the most highly anticipated ever), this bout marked the last time the D-VAS had a chance to make an impression on the hometeam captains. It was a multi-generational roster that took to the track on Saturday (including 6 skaters who had just finished Fresh Meat in June, ToRD’s most recent intake), providing a cross section of ToRD’s future stars. While there was a vast array of experience levels (and the problems, such as penalties, that come with it), the skaters fought hard straight through to the end, and were actually successful in accomplishing the mandate of the D-VAS: to gain experience and learn the sport.
The D-VAS actually got off to an explosive start when debut D-VAS Roadside Bombshell roared through to a 5-0 grand slam (she would pick up the most leads for the D-VAS in the first half). But as Royal City settled in and shook off the early bout jitters, their pack slowly took control: with better timing allowing for quicker transitions, Royal City quickly got back into it and took the lead on a Hot Cross Guns jam. Then tragedy for a D-VAS skater: Raunchy Hextall, making a much anticipated return after a long injury absence, went down on her first jam of the bout with a broken collar bone, a heartbreaking end to the night for the dedicated D-VAS.
With a commanding 99-19 lead at the half, Royal City didn’t look back in the second. Royal City Pivot Mandy Maggotbone lead the way once again for this ever-improving pack, but was aided gamely by Ginger Slaughters, Cannonball Doll and the Archbitch of Slamterbury. They began to experiment with their jammer rotation late as well, but not before Hot Cross Guns, Lady Gorejess and the Hellcat of Panar had established a dominant lead. D-VAS Laya Beaton once again proved to be a powerful and confident skater (who will need to refine her approach to avoid penalty troubles); very fresh D-VAS General Patten, a fantastic skater, also laid down another performance that should guarantee that she jumps the draft queue; and despite a late ejection, blocker Renny Rumble seems game-ready, and was the ToRD future stars’ most effective blocker against a tight pack in the one-sided loss.
Game 2: Sexpos 44 vs. CN Power 79**
Fans of flat track roller derby in Toronto could not have asked for a better bout to close out the night than the one provided by Montreal’s Sexpos and ToRD’s CN Power. The Sexpos, Montreal’s B travel team, is a B team by designation only as they are the equal to any league A team in Canada, which they proved on this night giving CN Power everything it could handle before falling behind in the second half of their 35 point loss, the team’s first to a Canadian squad.
From the opening whistle this bout was everything that flat track roller derby should be. With an extraordinary ref crew that kept the game moving swiftly and fairly, the bout was sometimes blazingly fast, sometimes grindingly slow; it was gritty at times, beautiful at others, but most importantly, it was always smart. With both teams showing respect for their opponents, the bout started off with each side straining to get a sense of the other. CN Power crept out to an early lead that was quickly chipped away. The early head-to-head battles resulted in many lead changes that had an appreciative crowd only growing louder by the second. The jammers from both sides seemed equally matched with CN Power running an experienced rotation anchored by the agile Bambi and the tough Candy Crossbones, while the Sexpos responded with Ti-Loup, Greta Bobo (both coming off of breakout home seasons in MTLRD) and recent transfer Honey Badger. Dyna Hurtcha and Brim Stone also entered the rotation, giving CN Power a physical, potentially defensive advantage at jammer. By the midway point of the half the Sexpos inched ahead 16-9, but hard fought Dyna Hurtcha jam brought CN Power back into it, 16-14. And that’s when Montreal’s pack took over.
Led by excellent pack work from Chasing Amy, Bikini Skills, Ninja Simone and Sparkle N’ Maim, the Montreal team built formidable back walls on the opening pass that were successful enough to dominate the remainder of the half, allowing their jammers to take most of the leads and baffling the CN Power blockers. It was enough for the Sexpos to pull ahead for a 33-24 lead at the half.
CN Power came out prepared for the second half. Unable to establish their own control of the bout, they decided to disrupt the Sexpos’, and it worked to great effect. Opting to keep it slow and refusing to allow the Sexpos to establish their back walls, Toronto pulled within 4 on the opening jam of the half. Candy Crossbones then took full advantage of a slow-pack power jam (one of only two on the bout) to pick up ten points and give CN Power the lead. Subsequent jams by Bambi and then yet another physical jam by Dyna Hurtcha (in which she scored a big jammer take out on her lead pass) solidified the CN Power lead, 48-33; a lead that would not be overcome. The second half was clearly CN Power’s, holding the Sexpos off the scoreboard for almost half of the second period and only 11 points in the final 30 minute frame (to CN Power’s 55) to gain an impressive 79-44 victory.
For CN Power, the win was more symbolic than anything, but the victory gave the ToRD team a psychological fix that was much needed after tough, one-sided losses to Montreal’s A team, New Skids on the Block, in the last two Quad City Chaos tournaments (2010, 2011). The impressive depth of the Sexpos is indicative of the formidable depth of Montreal’s very impressive league and they were an excellent opponent (tough, skilled and smart) for CN Power as the ToRD all stars begin their WFTDA play and prepare for 2012, which will be their first full season in flat track roller derby’s top league.
* Next up for CN Power will be the Hammer City Eh! Team at the Bunker on October 1st. This will be an all-important WFTDA North Central showdown. The Smoke City Betties will also be in action against the Hamilton Harlots in the first half of the double header. Stay tuned for more details.
(**Disclaimer: The Derby Nerd made his bench managing debut for CN Power**)