Royal City Roller Girls

Flat Track Comes of Age: A Reflection on the State of the Game at the End of 2014

 

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)

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)

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)

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)

And Canada remains right in the centre of it all (or perhaps more accurately just north of centre). For a long time it seemed as if Canada was constantly playing catch-up, with the game in general but with its own internally dominant league as well, Montreal Roller Derby. And this year, the rest of the country caught up in a big way. Both Toronto and Terminal City pushed the Skids to new heights of competitiveness, and in 2015 the game at the national level is expected to be played on an ever-increasing playing field. The Rideau Valley Vixens defeated Berlin’s Bear City in an incredible final game of one of the most incredible tournaments that flat track roller derby has ever seen (hosted, no less, by Canada’s Tri-City Roller Derby), and those thrilling D2s were followed by an equally thrilling D1 playoffs that was capped off by one of the greatest games ever (and certainly, given the stakes, since the 2010 WFTDA Championship game), when Gotham held off Rose City (147-144) to retain the Hydra.

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, and Joe Mac for allowing me to illustrate my ramblings with their fine work.

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The Fresh Get Furious at the 2014 Fresh and Furious Tournament

The freshies continue to look less and less fresh every year as the Cannon Dolls and Les Bûches put on an impressive display of flat track roller derby in the championship final.

The medalists from the 2014 Fresh and the Furious. (Photo by Rocio "Robotomy" Gomez)

The medalists from the 2014 Fresh and the Furious. (Photo by Rocio “Robotomy” Gomez)

When you are at a tournament and looking for stories, many may emerge. The 2014 Fresh and the Furious tournament was no exception. At first, it seemed as if the story of the tournament was going to be the inclusion of junior-program graduates (there were four), and then it appeared as if it was going to be a story of an injury-riddled tournament (two broken legs and an asthma attack—all requiring ambulances), but then—reminiscent of the 2011 version of the tournament—one single team ended up writing its own story.

Capital City’s Cannon Dolls came into this year’s freshie showdown as a virtual unknown. This was the fourth consecutive year that Ottawa’s Capital City has sent a team to the tournament, but it was the first time that they had managed to advance beyond the double elimination round. And of course, not only did they advance, they ended up winning it all. Not since the Goldminer’s Daughters stormed the tournament in 2011, has such an underdog performed so well. And while that tournament saw the Daughters struggle early before coming on strong in the elimination rounds, the Cannon Dolls announced their presence early (they were the first team to surpass the century mark with a 118-33 victory over the Belleville Bombshells) and never really looked back on the way to a thrilling, last-jam 80-78 victory over Les Bûches in the tournament final.

Eventual champs the Cannon Dolls (green) defeated eventual quarterfinalists, Fox Force Five, in the double elimination round. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Eventual champs the Cannon Dolls (green) defeated eventual quarterfinalists, Fox Force Five, in the double elimination round. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

One of the continuing stories over the history of this tournament, has been the increased level of play in each subsequent year. This year was no different, and indeed, may have marked yet new heights. By the end of the tournament the Dolls and Les Bûches had pulled well ahead of the competition, and each did so with vastly different styles. The Cannon Dolls played tidy, efficient flat track roller derby, simple, but smart, and subtle in its sophistication. Led by a seemingly wise-beyond-her-years pivot named Edmonton (but aided in the pack by some surprising talent as well including Apple Sass and Icetina), the Dolls’ offense was paced by three speedy jammers (Labrosse, Kaio-Kensi, and Caume-A-Kazi) who displayed excellent footwork and a natural instinct for the game (it turns out they all come to the game with considerable skating experience in either hockey or figure skating). So while the team was able to field an explosive offense, it was their defense that really defined their success. They gave up only 34 points per game (compared to Les Bûches’ 83) and finished with the top overall point differential (+268) after their 5-0 run.

The host, Derby Debutantes, lost a nail-biter of an elimination game to Royal City's Our Ladies of Pain. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The host, Derby Debutantes, lost a nail-biter of an elimination game to Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Les Bûches were quite a different team. Full of offensively talented skaters (they too had a solid jammer rotation led by Le Grande Noirceur and Rapidass but completed by triple-threat Commionette), at times defense seemed an after thought. Averaging a tournament record of 121 points per game, they also gave up 75+ points in four of their five games. They had a looseness and swagger to their game that nearly backfired in the semifinal, but that they managed to reign in for the final game.

This year’s final four provided an interesting cross-section of the tournament. Two traditional powers (the defending champs Les Bûches and Toronto Roller Derby’s D-VAS) and two teams who were marking their final four debuts (the Dolls and the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers: another returning team that reached new heights this year). South Simcoe played a similar style game as the eventual winners, but didn’t quite have the depth of talent of the winners. Despite notching their fourth consecutive top-three finish, the D-VAS never seemed to find that extra gear in the tournament, and seemed to run out of steam in the semifinals where they were handily dispatched by the Cannon Dolls 119-7, easily the most lopsided result of the tournament.

There were some other strong leagues and stories in the final eight as well. For the second straight year a team from Orangeville (Fox Force Five) made the quarterfinals (they made it to the Top 4 in 2013) showing the continued strength of that team. Royal City, returned to the quarterfinals after a one-year absence, but the big surprise of the final 8 came from Northumberland’s Ganaraska Gravediggers. Facing an elimination game against the Renegade Derby Dames, a last-gasp pass gave the team the upset victory.

And this takes us back to one of the original stories of this year’s Fresh and Furious tournament: The Rise of the Juniors. They are here. And they are very, very good.

Northumberland's Iggy Popper (left) was one of four junior-program graduates in the tournament. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Northumberland’s Iggy Popper (left) was one of four junior-program graduates in the tournament. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While there will come a day when we look back upon this particular tournament as a seminal moment in the welcoming of graduates from our country’s various junior programs, it is not hard to see that in a few years, this tournament will be dominated by these skaters. The Gravediggers featured a tall, strong jammer named Iggy Popper, a graduate of both Toronto Junior Roller Derby and Peterborough’s junior program. She was just one of four. The Renegade Derby Dames featured two junior graduates in Shatterproof and Lil’ Mae-Hem (who both played key roles). Finally, ToRD’s D-VAS also debuted a recent graduate, with Fight of the Conchords playing a strong game, showing a nice instinct on the track, particularly for offense.

This year’s tournament once again continued the trend of increasingly impressive performances from apparently “fresh” teams, a testament to the strength of leagues’ training programs but also the impact of having junior skaters graduate to the senior levels: they are going to bring a lot of experience with them to the senior levels of the sport, raising the bar considerably.

In the end, Les Bûches and the Cannon Dolls proved to be head and shoulders above the competition: game play and strategy, endurance and discipline—the final was played at a level that belied the “fresh” moniker of the tournament.

THE ALL-NERD TEAM

It was hard to narrow down the immense level of talent displayed by the dozens and dozens of skaters who took part in the tournament, but if I had to throw together a single line of skaters (with two jammers) this would be it:

Pivot: Edmonton (Cannon Dolls)

Blocker: Crazy Squirrel (Renegade Derby Dames)

Blocker: Block Quebecois (D-VAS)

Triple Threat: Cammionette (Les Bûches)

Jammer(s): Labrosse (Cannon Dolls), Le Grande Noirceur (Les Bûches)

***A big congratulations should also be sent out to the D-VAS’ Holly Rocket, who picked up the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Heart Award, given to a player who demonstrates heart, determination and a positive attitude over the course of the tournament.

Toronto jammer Holly Rocket won the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Award for heart, determination and positivity on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto jammer Holly Rocket won the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Award for heart, determination and positivity on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

THE RESULTS

Double Elimination: ArenaD-VAS 67 vs. DRRDy Farmers 23

Fox Force Five 74 vs. Derby Debutantes 63

Belleville Bombshells 33 vs. Cannon Dolls 118

D-VAS 83 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 58

Fox Force Five 38 vs. Cannon Dolls 63

Debutantes 88vs. Belleville 66 (eliminated)

Our Ladies of Pain 90 vs. Debutantes 88 (elim.)

Fox Force Five 75 vs. DRRD 37 (elim.)

 

 

 

Double Elimination: BubbleGanaraska Gravediggers 32 vs. South Simcoe Rebel Rollers 67

Queen’s Court 91 vs. Windsor A-Salt 62

NEOFights 105 vs. Les Bûches 150

Thickets 68 vs. Renegade Derby Dames 87

South Simcoe 72 vs. Queen’s Court 56

Ganaraska 50 vs. Windsor 49 (elim.)

Les Bûches 111 vs. Renegade 78

Thickets 117 vs. NEOFights 114 (elim.)

Queen’s Court 31 (elim.) vs. Thickets 54

Renegade 73 (elim.) vs. Ganaraska 76

 

Quarter Finals

D-VAS 70 vs. Ganaraska 41

South Simcoe 70 vs. Fox Force Five 51

Cannon Dolls 59 vs. Thickets 15

Les Bûches 127 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 61

Semi Finals

D-VAS 7 vs. Cannon Dolls 119

South Simcoe 90 vs. Les Bûches 139

Third Place

D-VAS 68 vs. South Simcoe 56

Championship

Les Bûches 78 vs. Cannon Dolls 80

 

** The games were boutcast in HD by Layer9 . Check here for the complete archives.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls Prove to be the Beastliest at BOE 2014

Gores become first Toronto team to win the Beast of the East at Montreal’s seventh edition of the popular tournament.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

It has become quite a tradition that every spring, roller derby nerds in eastern Canada dutifully fill out their Beast of the East brackets. Some will even work out a few different versions based on hunches, hot teams, or un-hittable skaters.

Every year, without fail, by the end of the tournament, it becomes obvious that filling out this bracket is an exercise in futility.

2014 was no different, indeed it was the most unbracketable Beast in a long line of unbracketable Beasts, a testament to the format—beginning with a sixteen team double elimination round featuring 20 minute games—and the participants—house league teams with little inter-city experience and little data on which to base these matchups. It’s also just one of the myriad reasons why people have fallen in love with Montreal Roller Derby’s annual Beast of the East tournament, and why that affection grows year after year.

Very few prognosticators had picked Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls to win it all, a team that had failed to live up to high expectations in the past, and fewer still (IE: NOT ONE) saw their opponent in the final, Roller Derby Quebec’s Casse-Gueules, doing anything but providing great warm-up games for the true contenders in the early going. Power house teams were eliminated early (Les Contrabanditas), pre-tournament favourites fell in the quarterfinals (Death Track Dolls) and heart rates went through the roof as game after game after game came down to final jams, or even overtime when final jams just weren’t enough.

DOUBLE ELIMINATION ROUND

Forest City's Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

Forest City’s Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

The tournament kicked off with what everyone at the time thought was a pretty major upset, a last-gasp Casse-Gueules win over ToRD’s Smoke City Betties (54-49). It turns out that game was just an omen for what was to come: tight games and unexpected results.

There were a few blowouts, but even those turned heads (La Racaille’s 117-32 against a Riot Squad team that was playing its first games with a newly built roster), but for the most part, the games were close. The Smoke City Betties, Durham Region’s Motor City Madames (to their leagumates the Atom Smashers), Forest City’s Thames Fatales and Guelph’s Killer Queens all went two-and-done; meanwhile, led by ToRD’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Death Track Dolls, the surprising Casse-Gueules and Lunch Ladies (neither team having ever won a game in this tournament previously) won their first two games to book a spot directly in the quarterfinals.

The “must-win” elimination games that closed out day one just hinted at the thrilling action that would come. The surprising Atom Smashers (after a head-turning matchup against Les Filles du Roi and a 100-point performance in their second game) stuck around for half the game against La Racaile, before the veteran Montreal skaters pulled away in the end, ending the tournament for one of the “dark horse” picks of the tournament; the Riot Squad finally started to get it together by nearly doubling up FDR, while their two Rideau Valley leaguemates had to square off with the Prime Sinisters (led by their incredible one-two punch of Margaret Choke and Brennan) knocking out the defending champion (but totally rebuilt) Slaughter Daughters. Finally Quebec’s Rouge et Gore played strong late, shocking hosts Les Contrabanditas with a last jam comeback to move on to the quarter finals for the second year in a row.

KNOCKOUT ROUND

Rideau Valley's Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Rideau Valley’s Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Quarterfinals

The first three quarterfinal games provided one of the most exciting runs in Beast of the East history, beginning with the Casse-Gueules overcoming a bad late-game decision (when they called it off early) to hold off a surging Prime Sinisters, 50-46. In the second game, the Luscious Lunch Ladies, led by Team France jammer Pepe Le Punch, mounted a final jam 20-point comeback to force overtime (the first in BOE history), but had little left in the extra jam as the Riot Squad locked down the defense and won by 9. The Death Track Dolls never seemed to get into their game against a hungry La Racaille, and while their talent kept it close for the most part, they fell by 25 (86-61) in the end.

Finally, in an all-Gores matchup, Toronto’s Gores managed to hold on long enough despite a desperate push from the tireless Rouge et Gore out of Quebec (they skated with eight players for much of the tournament and stuck with a two jammer [!!] rotation of Nana Bistouri and Minnie Small for all four games). The Rouge et Gore’s Bistouri made three passes in the final 40 seconds, but Gore’s jammer Beaver made the one scoring pass necessary to book her team’s first spot in the final four since 2011 (64-61).

Semifinals

The semifinals picked up right where the previous round left off. Casse-Gueules showed once again that their performance in the tournament had little to do with luck and a lot to with preparation, and held off a Riot Squad team that visibly got stronger as the weekend went on, while the Rideau Valley team mounted a late-game push, they seemingly mistakenly called the final jam off with no-time left on the game clock (and about 50 seconds left on the jam clock) and down 75-68. The other semifinal was yet another last-jam nail biter, with the Gore-Gore Rollergirls coming back from nearly 20 down in the final two jams (they were down by 32 at one point) to shock the tournament’s most successful team historically, La Racaille, 68-67.

In the six playoff games leading up to the medal matchups, the combined point differential at the end of the regulation time was a paltry 40 points (more than half of that coming from one game). It was an extraordinary show of parity.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back and forth final.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back-and-forth final.

Finals

The final games (now played with two 20-minute halves) did not disappoint. La Racaille picked up its fifth medal in seven tournaments with a 148-131 win, and they were led by long-time skater K Dawg (who has been a member of La Racaille since the first BOE in 2008) and captain Russion Cruelette in the pack, with Legs//Cite and Falcon Punch leading the way with the star. Riot Squad (being rebuilt around a core of former Slaughter Daughter skaters including Sister Disaster, Hannah Murphy and Amanda Pummeler), really came together as the games went on (as did the other two Rideau Valley teams for that matter).

The final between the upstart Casse and the relentless Gores was also thrilling, tied 71 at half time, the Casse led for much of the game only to see the Gores roar back time and time again. The Casse were led in the pack by Feline Dion, Lady Mariane, and So Viet, with Beat’on The Quads, La Trappeuse and Booty Allen providing the jamming. Gores captain Santa Muerte fouled out 16 minutes into the first half, but instead of collapsing, the Gores thrived under the adversity, getting clutch jamming from a deep rotation (LumberJack Flash, Beaver Mansbridge, R.I. Pink, Guardian Paingel, and Taranasaurus Rex), and phenomenal on-track leadership from veteran Chronic and first-year transfer skater Machu Beatchu. All weekend long, the Gores showed an overwhelming, sometimes frantic, hunger that kept them in tight games late; they saved their most-calm performance of the weekend for late in the championship game, holding on for the 129-114 victory.

NERD’s PICKS

Machu Beatchu receives her MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

Machu Beatchu receives her Team MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

MVP: Machu Beatchu (Gore-Gore Rollergirls)

Playing in her first Beast, the Halifax-trained skater turned heads with her wonderful skating and incredibly aggressive blocking. Named Gores MVP as well, Machu is a young player with a bright future. Her play in the pack (not to mention as a capable relief jammer) intensified as the tournament progressed, and she was flat-out dominant in the final game.

*Honourable mentions to Beat’on The Quads, Chronic, Feline Dion, Legs//Cite, and Hannah Murphy.

Breakout Player: Beat’on The Quads (Casse-Gueules)

A phenomenal jammer, with surprising lower body strength, Beat’on The Quads was the captain of the most impressive (and consistent) team in the tournament. As a jammer, she was tireless, capable of pulling off back-to-backs and holding it together in clutch situations: nursing a slim lead, she actually mistakenly called off what could have been the final jam with time left on the clock in a must-win against the Sinisters, but, unfazed, went right back out, nabbed lead and calmly tapped her hips. It was a defining moment for a team that came of age this weekend.

*Honourable mentions to Feline Dion, Lumberjack Flash, and BlackeyE.

Photo by Joe Mac

No one outside of Quebec City saw the Casse-Gueules making it all the way to the final; the most surprising team in a tournament of surprises.

Breakout Team: Casse-Gueules (Roller Derby Quebec)

What’s left to say about a team that came in so-far under the radar that they were barely mentioned and yet managed to win four games in a row to make it all the way to the final? Last year it was Casse’s leaguemates Rouge et Gore who took home this prize, and this year roller derby fans were once again reminded of the quality organization that is Roller Derby Quebec.

*Honourable mentions to Luscious Lunch Ladies, Atom Smashers.

***This year’s Beast of the East was filmed by CUTV, who managed to come in on short notice, with no prior sports or derby experience, and did a fantastic job.

 

Beast of the East 7: A Preview of BOE 2014

Two days, sixteen teams, twenty-six games, and one winner. The 2014 Beast of the East promises excitement and unpredictability.

BEAST 2014 posterThe seventh annual Beast of the East comes at an exciting time in eastern Canadian roller derby history, and specifically in Ontario and Quebec’s history. Ontario alone now has eight full WFTDA member leagues (three of whom will be represented at the tournament). On top of that, Toronto is now ranked in the Top 20 (although that may change in the next rankings), Tri-City remains on the cusp of Division 1, and both Rideau Valley and Hammer City have more-than-valid shots at a place in this year’s D-2 playoff tournament. These are, indeed, boom times, and when there is such consistent competition at the top, it inevitably filters down through all ranks of the sport.

The great charm of the double-elimination Beast of the East is that it is exclusively a house league tournament, featuring the future (and even some current) stars of the sport in the region. This year, seven teams will be playing in their seventh Beast (Forest City’s Thames Fatales, the three Montreal teams and Toronto’s three representatives were all competitors in the original Beast), while another (Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters) will be in its sixth. Added to that mix of experience will be a contingent of new teams and leagues as well: Four teams will be making their second appearance, and two will be debutantes: the Killer Queens will be the first representatives from Guelph’s Royal City Roller Girls to make an appearance, while Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will join their leaguemates, the Motor City Madames, who will play in their second tournament.

These teams will have a lot to live up to, as by most accounts, last year’s tournament was the best of the bunch, featuring the highest level of competition the tournament had ever seen.

The 2013 Beast was also a tournament of firsts:

THE CONTENDERS

Least year's champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

Least year’s champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

If you look at the history of this tournament, it has been one dominated by three leagues. From 2008-2010 the hosts placed nine teams in the Top 3 (peaking in 2010 when the Montreal home teams ran the board). But since that time, only La Racaille (second last year) has medaled. The only other league to come close to this level is Toronto, who has had five medalists over the years. And finally, Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters have absolutely dominated the past three tournaments, winning two and losing in the final of the other.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After a few years of struggling to place teams, Montreal showed signs last year that they are ready for the top once again. All three teams are potential contenders, with winners of the recent MTLRD round-robin kick off tournament Les Contrabanditas leading the way (they remain the only host team to yet win the Beast). But that tournament was tight (La Racaille only lost to the Ditas by 3 points), and all three are viable threats.

Toronto Roller Derby has also become a perennial contender with both the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! picking up top three finishes in the past three years. While the Chicks (currently tied for second in ToRD’s house league) won’t be in this year’s tournament, the defending ToRD champs the Dolls will be back along with a resurgent Gore-Gore Rollergirls (who have underachieved since a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 championship game). Both should be considered threats.

The biggest (and most exciting) off-season change in Ontario roller derby was the reshuffling of Rideau Valley’s house league into three teams, two of whom, have to be considered contenders. The Prime Sinisters and the Riot Squad are both loaded with talent including many members of RVRG’s A-level travel team, the Vixens. While neither is quite the juggernaut that the Daughters were, they are both threats in this tournament.

THE DARK HORSES

Durham Region's Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

After last year’s thrilling run to the quarterfinals (including a last gasp 2-point victory in a must-win game against Toronto’s Smoke City Betties), no one should be surprised by the strength of Roller Derby Quebec’s Rouge et Gore. Nine members of the team form the core of the RDQ’s travel team, Les Duchesses, add coach (and member of Canada’s National Men’s Team) El Tennant to the bench, and this is a team that has a lot of track experience. Emboldened by last year’s run to the final eight, they should be a team to watch this year as well.

One team that may be off of people’s radars is Durham Region’s Atom Smashers. The Smashers are a team that features a nice balance of veterans (including former and current Toronto skaters in Amefyst and Lucid Lou, who appeared in this tournament with the Death Track Dolls for years) and up-and-coming stars. They have dominated Durham Region the last two years, winning the Gibson’s Cup twice (DRRD’s championship) and compiling an 11-2 record over that time.

NERD’S PICKS

This will be Riot Squad's fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This will be Riot Squad’s fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This year’s tournament feels particularly wide open, and given the unpredictable nature of the 20-minute format, making predictions sometimes seems like an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, the Nerd sees a final eight consisting of the three Montreal teams, Toronto’s Dolls and Gores, Rideau Valley’s Riot Squad and Prime Sinisters and Quebec’s Rouge et Gore, with a potential Sinisters vs. Riot Squad showdown in there as well.

On paper, these two Rideau Valley teams are virtually equal, and given the amount of collective experience on the two rosters, both should be considered top contenders to take top spot. Although the edge in depth may go to the Sinisters, the slightest edge in experience at the top could be given to the Riot Squad.

Of course, predictions are meaningless once the whistle blows. And first whistle blows at 8:00 AM on Saturday.

***The tournament will be boutcast (at least some of the tournament: stay tuned to the event page for further details and schedule).

***Tomorrow the Nerd looks at Friday night’s CN Power / New Skids on the Block showdown.

Beast of the East 2014 Participants Named

Beast of the East 2014 is the seventh annual house league roller derby tournament hosted by Montreal Roller Derby. It is a sixteen team, two-day, double elimination tournament featuring teams exclusively from eastern Canada. Listed are this year’s participants by league.

Montreal Roller Derby logoMontreal Roller Derby

La Racaille

Les Contrabanditas

Les Filles du Roi

All three Montreal teams return once again. Last year, La Racaille (champs in 2009, runners up in 2008 and 2010), reached their fourth final. After Les Filles du Roi’s victory in 2010, Les Contrabanditas (runners up in 2009) remain the only Montreal team to have yet won the tournament.

Rideau Valley ROller Gilrs logoRideau Valley Roller Girls

Slaughter Daughters

Riot Squad

Prime Sinisters

Although the Slaughter Daughters are the defending champions (and winners also in 2011), it is a very new roster that will take part in this year’s tournament. After last season, RVRG formed a new home team (the Prime Sinisters) and re-distributed their rosters. This is the fourth appearance for the Riot Squad and will mark the out-of-Ottawa debut for the Sinisters (they’ll debut at home against the Slaughter Daughters on April 12).

ToRD logoToronto Roller Derby

Death Track Dolls

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Smoke City Betties

For the first time in Beast history, only three teams will represent Toronto Roller Derby in the tournament (the Chicks Ahoy! did not get selected this season). Last year’s third-place finishers, the Dolls (also third place in 2011) lead ToRD’s charge. The Gore-Gore Rollergirls were runners up in 2011, while the Betties have not cracked the final four since 2009.

Forest City logoForest City Derby Girls

Thames Fatales

Luscious Lunch Ladies

The Thames Fatales will join the Montreal and Toronto teams as the only participants in all seven Beast of the East tournaments. Last year, Thames made the quarter finals for the first time since 2010. The Lunch Ladies will be making their second consecutive appearance in the tournament.

Roller Derby Quebec logoRoller Derby Quebec

Le Rouge et Gore

Les Casse Gueules

Although they competed as Les Duchesses in 2011 and 2012, last year, RDQ divided its travel team into two home teams, both of whom made their Beast debuts. Le Rouge et Gore turned some heads with an impressive run to the quarterfinals. Les Casse Gueules will be looking for its first tournament win.

Durham Region Roller Derby LogoDurham Region Roller Derby

Atom Smashers

Motor City Madames

The Motor City Madames return to the Beast for the second time after an appearance in 2012. This time though, they’ll be joined by their leaguemates the Atom Smashers, who will be making their debut.

Royal City Roller Girls LogoRoyal City Roller Girls

Killer Queens

Guelph’s Royal City has its first representative at the Beast of the East as the Killer Queens, one of three Royal City home teams, makes its debut. Royal City will be the fifteenth league to take part in the tournament.

The Beast of the East will take place over two days beginning on April 26th. For more information stay tuned to Montreal Roller Derby’s website.

Fresher and Furiouser: the 2013 Fresh and Furious Tournament

Les Buches became the second consecutive team from Quebec to win the Fresh and Furious tournament. (Photo by Francis St-Onge from Les Buches Facebook page)

Les Buches became the second consecutive team from Quebec to win the Fresh and Furious tournament. (Photo by Francis St-Onge from Les Buches Facebook page)

For the second straight year, a team from Quebec swept in to win the Fresh and the Furious tournament. Last year, Montreal’s Smash Squad were the stars of the show, and this year, Les Bûches—a team made up of skaters primarily from Quebec but also from Montreal, Rimouski and Trois Riviere—were the dominant team in the tournament, leading virtually every game from start to finish and going undefeated. It was actually clear early on that this was going to be a three-team tournament, as ToRD’s D-VAS and Hammer City’s Fresh Meat joined Les Bûches in distancing themselves from the competition.

But this is a “freshies” tournament, which means that there were the requisite surprises as well with Fergus (aided by a few key skaters from Grey Bruce) providing the Cinderella-like moments early on before Orangeville’s surprising final four appearance forced everyone to take notice. All in all, it was the grueling, epic, single-day tournament that everyone has come to expect from this tournament, only the level of play continues to advance at an impressive, almost unbelievable rate, showing that the future of the sport in the region is bright indeed.

DOUBLE ELIMINATION ROUND

The Arena

Les Buches and Hammer City met in a key early matchup. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Les Buches and Hammer City met in a key early matchup. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In the arena, things got off to a tight start when Border City’s Windsor A-Salt took out Woodstock/GTA’s Debutante Warriors (there was a number of mixed-league teams in this tournament, most borne out of the necessity of having enough skaters to fit under the strict eligibility rules). Last year’s finalists, the Top Herloins out of Royal City were smacked around by the Renegade Derby Dames early and eventually eliminated by Windsor. Capital City—a league to watch this season—had a rough go of it as well, falling in two straight. While the top two teams in the pool—Les Bûches and Hammer City—battled early with Les Buches taking the tight 88-61 win, before Hammer City put in two dominant performances, culminating in a mind-boggling 198-13 win over Durham’s DRRDy Farmers, to advance.

Les Bûches, Hammer City, Alliston’s Renegade Derby Dames, and Windsor all advanced to the quarter finals from the main arena.

Despite only having seven skaters, Crow City (Chatham) put in a heroic performance, going 1-2 in the double elimination round (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite only having seven skaters, Crow City (Chatham) put in a heroic performance, going 1-2 in the double elimination round. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Bubble

Aside from perennial contenders the D-VAS, the pool was wide open in the Bubble, allowing a few surprise teams to emerge. Fergus advanced straight through to the quarters with back-to-back victories over Queen’s Court (Buffalo) and the Smooth Operators (Peterborough’s 705 Roller Derby), becoming the only team in the first round to record multi 100+ point games in the process. After giving the D-VAS everything they could handle in the opener, Orangeville began its march to the final four with a tight victory over the Power Dames (made up mostly of Cornwall’s Seaway Roller Derby Girls) before eliminating 705 in a one-sided elimination game. The D-VAS advanced straight through with a 138-11 victory over a short-handed Crow City team (who easily won the spirit award for going 1-2 with only 7 skaters on their bench!). Finally, the NEOFights (a mixed team from Northern Ontario—a “fresh” version of the NORD team that recently finished second at the RDAC eastern championships) overcame an opening-game loss to knock off Queen’s Court and Crow City.

The D-VAS, Fergus Feims, Orangeville’s Pulp Affliction, and the NEOFights advanced to the quarterfinals from the Bubble.

An impressive and surprising run by Fergus was finally stopped by Hammer City in the quarterfinals. (Photo by Greg Russel)

An impressive and surprising run by Fergus was finally stopped by Hammer City in the quarterfinals. (Photo by Greg Russel)

QUARTER FINALS

After the double elimination round, the tournament shifted to a single-elimination knock out playoff. The NEOFights continued to round into form as the day went on (much like their big sisters counterparts did a few weeks before at RDACs) and gave Les Bûches all that they could handle in the quarters, but simply didn’t have the offense to penetrate Les Bûches increasingly stingy defense. Fergus’ shocking run finally came to an end against a very strong Hammer City team that managed a second-straight 100+ point game to advance. The D-VAS and Windsor continued a rivalry that has built in this tournament (they faced off twice last year, splitting the games) with the D-VAS providing too much depth for the Border City freshies, and Pulp Affliction extended its unlikely run by knocking off the favoured Renegade Derby Dames.

Orangeville turned some heads with a run to the final four, but were overwhelmed by Les Buches in the semis. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Orangeville turned some heads with a run to the final four, but were overwhelmed by Les Buches in the semis. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

FINAL FOUR

Orangeville’s exciting run came to an abrupt conclusion against Les Bûches, who dumped them 99-9 in the semi finals: It really was the point at which this mixed Quebec team truly came together. Nonetheless, it was an impressive, take-notice tournament for Orangeville who were lead by strong performances from Hall N Ass (who was actually a Tri-City fresh meat) and Starbust with the star and Kate Knevil and Red Hot Sonia in the pack to name a few. At a tournament of freshies, Pulp Affliction simply didn’t have a sophisticated enough offense to overcome Les Bûches increasingly stifling play.

The other semifinal was a contrast as Hammer City and the D-VAS renewed one of Canada’s oldest roller derby rivalries. Hammer City was every bit the equal to ToRD’s fresh team except for perhaps in depth (and discipline, as D-VAS power jams truly sealed the deal in this one). Led by a few astonishing fresh meat skaters in Jangerous (jammer) and Homewrecken Holly (pivot), Hammer City fell behind early and often on undisciplined play, and despite a valiant comeback in the end, simply ran out of time against Toronto, falling 77-61. It was the third-straight year that the D-VAS qualified for the final four, and their return to the final comes on the heels of last year’s third place performance.

The D-VAS advanced to their third straight final four and second championship in two years. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The D-VAS advanced to their third straight final four and second championship in two years. (Photo by Greg Russell)

By the final game—nearing twelve hours after the tournament commenced—the D-VAS were showing signs of strain, while Les Bûches were just rounding into top form. Les Bûches represent the first real boom in flat track roller derby in Quebec; despite the fact that they have one of the top leagues in the game in Montreal, the sport has been slow to take off in the province (there are about five women’s leagues in Quebec right now compared to around fifty in Ontario). But it has been a very good year for the leagues that do exist.

Roller Derby Quebec leads the second generation of roller derby in Quebec: their Rouge et Gore have had an impressive 2013 making the final eight at the Beast of the East before winning the Moncton Murder tournament. Three of those skaters, Nelson Mandale, Dina Myth and Vinny Neutron were key for Les Bûches this weekend (not to mention their leaguemate Dur a Queer who was dominant at times in the pack). Dey Moniak had a very strong tournament representing Rimouski, while a few Montreal Smash Squad skaters were key as well: Clara O’Key and Sugar Shane in the pack, while Gameboi was simply unstoppable with the star, while also performing exceptionally well in the pack.

Both finalists were loaded with individual talent, including Montreal's Clara O'Key (Buches pivot) and ToRD's Emraged (D-VAS pivot). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Both finalists were loaded with individual talent, including Montreal’s Clara O’Key (Buches pivot) and ToRD’s Emraged (D-VAS pivot). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Not that the D-VAS didn’t have their share of stars as well. Babushkill and Moose Knuckles were key in the opening victory against Pulp Affliction, while the trio of Full Deck, Emraged, and Android W.K. were difference makers all day. They all played multiple roles throughout the tournament, and the season of training with ToRD’s houseleague definitely showed as their track awareness and poise was evident.

But in the end, Les Bûches simply had too many weapons to contend with and overwhelmed a tiring D-VAS team late, pulling away for the convincing 122-45 victory and the Fresh and the Furious 2013 championship.

RESULTS

Double Elimination: Arena Windsor A-Salt 56 vs. Debutante Warriors 55Hammer City 61 vs. Les Bûches 88

Renegade Derby Dames 87 vs. Top Herloins 31

Cannon Dolls 40 vs. DRRDy Farmers 58

Windsor 16 vs. Les Bûches 118

Debutant Warriors (eliminated) 39 vs. Hammer City 83

Renegade Derby Dames 69 vs. DRRDy Farmers 30

Top Herloins 76 vs. Cannon Dolls 26 (eliminated)

Windsor 67 vs. Top Herloins 28 (eliminated)

DRRDy Farmers 13 (eliminated) vs. Hammer City 198

Double Elimination: BubbleNEOFights 52 vs. Area 705 66Queen’s Court 36 vs. Fergus Feims 113

Power Dames 38 vs. Crow City 43

Pulp Affliction 22 vs. D-VAS 52

Area 705 51 vs. Fergus 100

NEOFights 114 vs. Queen’s Court 34 (eliminated)

Crow City 11 vs. D-VAS 138

Power Dames 43 (eliminated) vs. Pulp Affliction 52

Area 705 26 (eliminated) vs. Pulp Affliction 96

Crow City 41 (eliminated) vs. NEOFights 85

Quarter Finals

Les Bûches 82 vs. NEOFights 33

Fergus Feims 64 vs. Hammer City 119

Renegade Derby Dames 53 vs. Pulp Affliction 56

D-VAS 58 vs. Windsor A-Salt 34

Semi Finals

Les Bûches 99 vs. Pulp Affliction 9

Hammer City 61 vs. D-VAS 77

Championship

Les Bûches 122 vs. D-VAS 45

Les Buches Logo

** The games were boutcast in HD by Layer9 through Canuck Derby TV. Check here for the complete archives.

Word on the Track: Montreal Splits in Chicago; Forest City City Rolls; Rankings Released

Montreal's Surgical Strike and Jess Bandit give Windy jammer Jackie Daniels a hard time. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal’s Surgical Strike and Jess Bandit give Windy City jammer Jackie Daniels a hard time. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

SKIDS 1-1 IN CHICAGO

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block (currently ranked 17th in the WFTDA) travelled to Chicago this weekend to take on Chi-Town’s two WFTDA teams: the Windy City Rollers (6th) and the Chicago Outfit (34th). It had been two years since Windy and the Skids faced off (Windy City took that matchup 130-105), and it seems that not much has changed since then. In another tight, exciting game between two teams that have high hopes for the WFTDA playoffs this year, the Windy City Rollers skated away with a 249-211 victory in what was a fast paced, high scoring game.

On the undercard for the evening, Toronto’s CN Power took on Windy City’s Second Wind and beat the B-Team 231-179. It was the first regulation (IE: non-sanctioned) bout of the year for Toronto and coming after an up-and-down Quad City Chaos, it provided a much needed confidence boost (the 52 point victory exceeded statistical expectations).

Toronto defeated Second Wind on Saturday before falling to Windy City on Sunday. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto defeated Second Wind on Saturday before falling to Windy City on Sunday. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal closed out the weekend with a closed, sanctioned bout against the Chicago Outfit on Sunday. The Skids avenged their Saturday night loss with a massive victory over the Outfit, 339-88, an impressive victory over another First Division team, and one that made the playoffs last year as well. The Skids improved their record to 4-1 on the season and look phenomenal early on in 2013. The one question that remains is can they maintain it? It has seemed in the past that the early-season-bout-heavy Skids have peaked too early in the year, only to run out of steam come playoffs.  They’ve got games this month against River City (the 14th) and Toronto (26th).

Jammer Bloodlust Barbie is a big part of the Timber Rollers developing offense. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Jammer Bloodlust Barbie is a big part of the Timber Rollers developing offense. (Photo by Joe Mac)

FOREST CITY ON THE VERGE OF FULL WFTDA STATUS

Forest City’s WFTDA Apprentice Timber Rollers hosted Toronto Roller Derby houseleague team The Death Track Dolls in their second (of two) mock sanctioned bouts as a requirement of their apprenticeship. For the first time, Forest City has separated its travel team roster from its home teams to improve competitive play, and it has seemed to pay off so far in 2013. Entering the game on the heels of victories over Tri-City’s B-team and Royal City’s Brute-Leggers, they faced off against the Dolls in their new venue, the Agriplex, to a near capacity crowd.

The Rollers flew off the jam line to start things off, amassing a 33-0 lead before the Dolls were able to get their first lead jammer status and their first points (courtesy of Audry Hellborn, who had a strong opening half with the star). It only stemmed the flow, as they increased their lead to 68-9 (Audrey would score the first 13 points for the Dolls) at the midway point of the half. Comparatively, the Rollers penalty box was quiet during the first half, while the Dolls ran into early penalty trouble and gave up three power jams in the period. The Rollers were up 102-37 at the half.

The Rollers have built the team around a strong core of veteran blockers led by Sufferjet, Dollface Massacre, Back Alley Sally, Freez’er Burn and Anya Face, but also a new generation of on-track leaders like Andi Slamberg and Glamarchist. While double threats Slamberg and Pixie Kix provided solid offense with the star, Bloodlust Barbie is the breakout jammer of the 2013 Timber Rollers and gave the Dolls a hard time all night.

In her second game with the Dolls, Rainbow Fight looks increasingly comfortable in her new league. (Photo by Joe Mac)

In her second game with the Dolls, Rainbow Fight looks increasingly comfortable in her new league. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Dolls entered the game with a far different lineup from the one that defeated the Chicks Ahoy a few weeks ago, and with some rookies and less experienced (or just newer skaters) getting a lot of track time, it took a while for the team to get going (they scored 28 of their 37 first half points in the final 12 minutes). The Dolls came out much stronger in the second, earning the first four lead jammer statuses. But while it was a much more even half (the Dolls would eventually outscore the hosts 62-58 in the half), the Rollers managed to keep pace and not relinquish the lead they’d so carefully built early in the game. A strong line of Dollface, Sufferjet, Freez’er and Pixie finally were able to shut down the suddenly hot Dolls early in the second, a confidence boosting jam that got the Rollers back on track.

The second half was actually an exciting half of derby marked by momentum shifts and scoring runs from each team, with the final score being 160-99. Dolls co-captain Scarcasm and Sinead O-Clobber were both strong on defence, while Getcha Kicks provided some strong relief jamming in the second half, and recent transfer Rainbow Fight was able to play her second game with her new squad and looked increasingly impressive in the pack, but especially on the jam line. Most importantly for the Dolls, second year skater UpHer Cut and rookie Chicken Sluggets (in her roller derby debut) gained a ton of track time, which could come in handy later this season as they continue their quest to finally reach the ToRD championship.

In the opening game of the night, a new-look Thames Fatales led by veteran blocker Jemicide, double threat Mirambo and rookie jammer phenom Kindree Surprise, took out their co-houseleague team the Luscious Lunch Ladies 186-82. The Ladies were led by Killary Tough, the mulit-talented and surprisingly agile Anne Tastic, and power jammer Torque E. Mada. One of this country’s oldest leagues, Forest City seems to have taken a turn toward a more competitive focus in 2013 and look to be well on their way.

Hammer City fell to 0-2 on the year, but nonetheless, seem to have turned a corner.

Hammer City fell to 0-2 on the year, but nonetheless, seem to have turned a corner.

CANADA STORMS THE FORT (AGAIN!)

Just over a month after ToRD’s CN Power and Bay Street Bruisers traveled south to take on the Fort Wayne Derby Girls, Hammer City and Royal City did the same this past weekend. In the opening game, the rapidly rebuilding Brute-Leggers took on The SWAT Team in a high scoring contest that saw the hosts hold on for the 218-168 victory. In the main event, the Hammer City Eh! Team took on Fort Wayne in a WFTDA sanctioned bout. Hammer City and Fort Wayne have a history that dates all the way back to 2007, but the last time these guys squared off in a WFTDA bout was in 2010 (a 119-44 Fort Wayne win). Hammer City, who have had a rough go of it for the past few years (including enduring the WFTDA’s longest losing streak), seem to finally be turning things around, and lost narrowly 199-177 on the weekend (falling to 0-2 on the season).

POWER RANKINGS RELEASED

And finally, just in case you missed it, the first ever Canadian Power Rankings were released on the Nerd yesterday. Read about the first rankings here.

Introducing: The Canadian Power Ranking

On Monday, April 1st, the first ever truly national Canadian Power Ranking will be released on the Derby Nerd.

Captain Lou brings years of coaching and announcing to the Power Rankings.

Captain Lou brings years of coaching and announcing experience to the Power Rankings.

For the past two years, Rollergirl.ca, most recently in conjunction with flattrackstats.com, has been doing a fantastic job in providing a consistent numbers-based ranking system for Canadian teams, which has provided an excellent source of comparative information about the burgeoning Canadian roller derby community and has led to some great cross-country discussion. In much the same way that the Derby News Network’s Power Rankings complement flattrackstats.com, the Canadian Power Ranking will be working to complement this great endeavor by adding a slightly more subjective look at things—although through objective lenses, of course.

Power rankings simply add value to the comparative discussion of teams; unlike purely statistical ranking systems, power rankings are a human (some would say opinion)-based system able to take a much wider range of variables into play. Power rankings can account for circumstances beyond the control of numbers, like changes in rosters (through injury, transfer etc.) and winning streaks—things that stats-based systems need time to account for. The best, most reliable power rankings, therefore, require more than one brain to be truly representational.

So, the Nerd is not going about this alone: to ensure broad, regional, unbiased decision making, some of our country’s finest derby nerds will be working together equally on the power rankings.

Captain Lou El Bammo comes to the team armed with an overwhelming amount of knowledge gleaned from days as a coach and bench manager with the Tri-City Roller Girls, where he worked with house league team the Venus Fly Tramps and the WFTDA travel team, the Thunder. Currently he’s on the coaching staff of the Royal City Roller Girls’ travel team, the Brute-Leggers. Along with watching the game from that side of the bench, he’s also been active on the mic, acting as a play-by-play and colour commentator for Rogers TV, Canuck Derby TV, and WFTDA.TV.

Andi Struction brings both a skater and an announcer's perspective to the sport. (Photo by Stephen Giang for SeattleWeekly.com)

Andi Struction brings both a skater and an announcer’s perspective. (Photo by Stephen Giang for SeattleWeekly.com)

The Nerd and Capt. Lou will be joined by a few representatives from western Canada. Dick Pounder was recently appointed Head Announcer for the Roller Derby Association of Canada (RDAC) and has been announcing games in Alberta and for the emerging Calgary Roller Derby Association for years. On top of that, he’s been known to lace up the skates and get out there on the track as well (skating previously for the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs and currently with the Red Deer Dreadnauts), so knows the game from inside and out.

And finally, Vancouver’s Andi Struction also brings that inside/out perspective to the proceedings. A skater with Terminal City Roller Girls since 2006 and currently an assistant captain with the house league team, Faster Pussycats, Andi is also a noted commentator and announcer. A former co-host of the Derby Deeds podcast, she’s been honing her chops on the mic at such major events as the Big O, Flat Track Fever and the RDAC regionals over the past few years

Announcer Dick Pounder has also played the game so knows the game from the inside as well. (Photo by Steve Recsky)

Announcer Dick Pounder has also played the game, so knows the game from the inside as well. (Photo by Steve Recsky)

Captain Lou also sees the Canadian Power Rankings as being an important part of the Canadian roller derby discussion: “Canada is really big and teams are really far apart…which makes it harder for the math to be properly predictive. There just isn’t enough correlative games to make a truly accurate list (based purely on stats),” he says, discussing the importance of this endeavor, and “since we don’t have a proper cross-pollination of games, creating a Power Rankings crew filled with people who have a lot of derby knowledge and are able to sift through disparate datasets to filter out the best of the best is the optimal solution.”

Andi Struction thinks the timing is right and is excited about the future of the sport in this country. ” ‘Canadian’ roller derby didn’t really exist because the east and west teams didn’t really have a chance to play each other,” she said. Dick Pounder agrees that this will be a big year for Canadian derby: “The WFTDA factor should prove to be interesting in Canada this year.”

Andi is also optimistic about the top leagues joining the WFTDA, which would encourage more top-level play. “With Calgary and Kootenay joining the ranks (soon), the eastern teams could potentially do western Canadian tours and hit three WFTDA birds with one stone.”

As alluded to, the Power Rankings Team will be limited by some of the challenges of living in a massive country like Canada with very little cross-region play. Some things to keep in mind about the Canadian Power Rankings:

  • The rankings will be a consensus-based: much like the system used by the DNN (and consistent across many sports). All four voters will present their personal choices to each other and then engage in debate until a consensus is reached.
  • The rankings will be quarterly: at least to start. Due to the lack of inter-region play, allowing time for a wider number of games seems advantageous right now.
  • The rankings will only consider A-level travel teams. It’s just simpler that way, and as more and more Canadian leagues follow the WFTDA model, the opportunity for A-level interleague play has been increasing as well, and it is becoming much easier to speculate how these teams would fare against one another.

    The Derby Nerd rounds out the Power Rankings team. (Photo by Todd Burgess)

    The Derby Nerd rounds out the Power Rankings team. (Photo by Todd Burgess)

We’re only a few weeks away from the inaugural ranking on April 1st, but there is a lot going down in those few weeks that will affect that premier ranking: The RDAC Championship is this weekend in Edmonton featuring A-level travel teams from the West, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes, while ToRD’s fourth annual Quad City Chaos (March 23rd, 24th) will feature two of Canada’s top teams, ToRD’s CN Power and the Rideau Valley Vixens, facing off against top level WFTDA competition. Both tournaments will be boutcast on Canuck Derby TV.

It’s going to be an exciting year for Canadian roller derby, all involved in putting together this Canadian Power Ranking are proud to be bringing another angle to the exciting discussion that will take place. Captain Lou also hopes that these rankings will inspire more than just healthy debate: “I’m hoping that new leagues just starting out will be able to look at the Power Rankings list and use it as inspiration to keep going through the hard times (and) I really hope that a Canadian Roller Derby Power Rankings list will inspire more cross-Canada roller derby bouts, so that east will meet west more often than they have in the past.”

Check back in on April 1st for the first Canadian Power Ranking.

ToRD Closes Out Home Season with Double Header Against Royal City

ToRD hosts Royal City in a double header. Doors at The Bunker open at 5:00 PM.

When ToRD’s Bay Street Bruisers and Royal City’s Brute Leggers met in Guelph’s Sleeman Centre this past June, the newly formed B-Team from Toronto was playing its second competitive game since being reborn as a travel team (the home team version of the Bruisers disbanded in 2009). Meanwhile, the Brute Leggers, another relatively newly formed travel team, were already well into a busy breakout season, holding a 3-2 record coming off of a hard-fought eight-point victory over Kingston’s Disloyalists.

The Bruisers would burst out to a substantial early lead in the June showdown, and would hold off a significant Brute Leggers second-half pushback for a 176-153 victory. That Bruisers’ win was the first of four in a row, which included a Roller Derby Association of Canada (RDAC) Eastern Canadian championship. The Brute Leggers have continued their busy season and now stand at 5-7 on year, but currently find themselves on a three-game losing streak that includes losses to Tri-City hometeam (and Beast of the East champs) the Vicious Dishes, the Renegade Derby Dames Misfit Militia, and GTA’s G-sTARs.

ToRD’s other farm team, the D-VAS, played for much bigger stakes the last time they met Royal City’s farm team, The Top Herloins. In the semi-finals of this year’s Fresh and Furious tournament, the D-VAS took an early lead only to have the Herloins pull ahead and hold off a late D-VAS surge for a miniscule two-point victory.

The Bruisers held off the Brute Leggers for a 20 point win at a June showdown in Guelph. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Both teams, however, are composed of young, mostly inexperienced skaters who have been going through a season of massive growth. It has to be assumed that much has changed between both of these teams since that July showdown four months ago. The D-VAS recently exhibited that growth with an impressive victory over The Disloyalists, avenging an early season 259 point loss. They defeated the Kingston team by a similar margin as the Brute Leggers did, which implies that this D-VAS team has developed significantly this season.

But just because the Bruisers and Brute Leggers represent teams higher up each league’s competitive ladder doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been change in the teams. The Bruisers present a much different roster from the one that squared off against Royal City in the summer. Overall, there are nine new skaters on the team, and five on the game-day roster who weren’t on the team in June. The Brute Leggers, who contain skaters that also play on the Top Herloins, have gone through an immense change, and since they started playing publicly in May of last year, have played a remarkable 23 games, picking up a lot of valuable track experience along the way.

The Top Herloins defeated the D-VAS by two points at the Fresh and Furious: GTA Drift. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

On top of the potential competitive nature of the bout, this D-VAS team will be playing its last game together before ToRD’s house league entry draft next month. Due to CN Power’s recent commitment to having its skaters commit fully to only the travel team roster, there are a lot of spaces open on ToRD’s four home teams; virtually all of the current roster of D-VAS will be drafted into the league for the 2013 season. The core of this team has been skating together for nearly two years now, and will soon find themselves distributed over four teams.  As for the D-VAS: word on the track is that there is a very talented crop of fresh meat ready to fill the spaces that will be opened on the farm team.

For the Brute Leggers, this will mark the conclusion of a busy, ground-breaking season that saw them pick up third place in RDAC’s Eastern Canadian Championship (which they also hosted!), but even more importantly play a lot of games. They played a range of talent level and didn’t back down from any challenges and have set the stage for a big 2013 season.

The Bruisers now represent the all-star skaters of ToRD’s houseleague, and with a handful of games already scheduled for south of the border, are looking to finish 2012 strong with the roster that will represent the team for the bulk of 2013. After this weekend, the Bruisers will hit the road with their big sisters CN Power and head to Grand Rapids to take on the G-Rap Attack in a double header featuring CN Power’s WFTDA sanctioned showdown with Grand Raggidy. A win on Saturday would go a long way in building confidence for the trip.

***The games will be played at The Bunker in Downsview Park.  Doors open at 5:00 PM, with the opening whistle of the D-VAS vs. Top Herloins game set for 6:00 PM. The Bay Street Bruisers vs. Brute Leggers bout will start at 8:00 PM.  Tickets are available online or at a handful of locations downtown.

***  The Caplansky’s food truck will be returning for the game, so come for dinner!

Bruisers Sit Atop Throne as Eastern Champions

ToRD’s Bay Street Bruisers, 2012 RDAC Eastern Canadian Championship (Photo by Greg Russell)

You could look at the outcome of the Roller Derby Association of Canada’s 2012 Eastern Canadian Championship and see that the status-quo had been maintained: No one would have been surprised to see Toronto, Forest City and Royal City finish as the top three teams in the tournament. But if that is all that you took away from this weekend, you’d be missing almost the whole story. With four of the ten games being settled by 10 points or less and only two breaking the 100-point differential, the real story was in the parity. There was fantastic, exciting roller derby provided during nearly every game with the tournament’s only winless team, Capital City’s Dolly Rogers, providing some of the most exciting moments, losing by miniscule margins of 9, 6, and 5 points. The tournament’s lowest ranked team, Nickel City’s Sister Slag, grew almost exponentially. They started the tournament getting knocked around by the eventual champs in the opening game before pushing a vastly more experienced team to the limit in their second. Then in the second of back-to-back games, they upset their favoured opponents to claim 6th spot.

It was a tournament that delivered on both fronts: great derby, but a great learning experience for the teams as well.

ROUND ONE

Sister Slag was paying close attention during their opening round loss to the Bruisers. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The only significantly one-sided bouts occurred (unsurprisingly) in the opening round. Second seed Bay Street Bruisers (Toronto) took down seventh seed Nickel City’s Sister Slag (Sudbury) by 137 points, though the far less experienced team from Sudbury certainly had moments, and used a strong opening and then final ten minutes to keep the score down. In the only other lopsided score of the weekend, third seed Misfit Militia (from Aliston’s Renegade Derby Dames) tore up the track against the G-sTARs (GTAR), building on a 160-10 half-time lead and riding some stifling pack work to a 326-point victory. The win sent a clear message and set up a highly anticipated semifinal matchup up between the tournament’s second and third seeds.

The final first-round bout lived up to the billing as the closest seeds the Brute Leggers (fourth) and the Dolly Rogers (fifth) swapped leads throughout (Capital City was up at half) to kick off the tournament with a thoroughly entertaining game that would be indicative of much of the weekend’s matchups. The Royal City hosts were able to put together a customarily strong second half to pull ahead and hold on for the 142-131 victory and an opportunity to face off against the defending champions, Forest City, in the semfinal.

The G-sTARs defeated the Dolly Rogers on their way to a fifth place finish. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

CONSOLATION ROUND

The opening round divided the teams into the consolation bracket and the single-elimination medal round, with the three losing teams from the opening round playing a round robin to determine the bottom three spots in the tournament. This round began with a showdown between the fifth and sixth ranked teams in the tournament, and it too did not disappoint finishing with the G-sTARs clutching a 140-134 victory against the Capital City Derby Dolls. Growing through a tough rebuild, the GTA skaters looked like a far different team this time around, shaking off their opening–round loss to win both of its consolation games. Built around veterans like Newfie Bullet, Lee Way Wreck’em and Holly de Havilland, and featuring a promising skater in Paper Jam, they were able to close out their tournament with a 19-point win over Sister Slag to secure fifth spot.

The Dolly Rogers used this tournament to announce its presence. Led by strong pack work from the likes of Whips N. Chaynes and eventual team MVP Delicate Plow’her, some crafty jamming from Sneaky Dekey and consistency from Ha-Lou-Ween (not to mention double-threat performances from Violently Jill and Deanna Destroi), Capital City impressed with their ability and preparation, but showed that they still lack the all-important game experience that allowed them to close out wins.  They closed out their tournament the way they began it, with a thrilling back-and-forth game characterized by large swings in momentum, only this time it was with a surprisingly resilient Sister Slag. Led by Elle Hoar (whose role seemed to grow as the tournament went on), and paced offensively by Legzy Megzy and Red Hot and Anna Maul, the Nickel City skaters seemed to grow closer together during the tournament and finished as a much tighter and more polished team than they were when it began. They closed out the final consolation game with a natural grand slam to break a tie and secure sixth place with the 149-144 victory.

MEDAL ROUND

The Brute Leggers were taken out of their game by Forest City’s physicality. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Perhaps the greatest level of tension and excitement came in the semifinals where the top four seeds squared off. In the first semi-final, the Brute Leggers dominated Forest City early on. With an offence paced by Hot Cross Guns and Hellcat of Panar and a pack anchored by Kim Scarsmashian, Forest City—responding with a jammer crew of Andi Slamberg, Mighty Thor and Torque e Mada and a veteran pack now ubiquitous in eastern Canadian derby—was only able to score 7 points over the first twenty minutes of the half. But with London blocker Mirambo raising the intensity level, knocking Royal City off balance, the defending champs began to claw back and were down 60-38 at half. Never able to get their heads back into it and thrown off by Forest City’s intense physicality, the hosts managed only 26 second-half points to fall 145-86.

The Bay Street Bruisers needed a late comeback to get passed the Misfit Militia, in one of the most exciting games of the tournament. (Photo by Neil Gunner).

In the second semi-final, the Misfit Militia roared off of the jammer line and barely looked back, throwing everything they could at the Bay Street Bruisers who could never really get anything going in  the first half. Consistent jamming from Randy Roll-lin and Zombabe and dominant pack work from Renny Rumble had the Bruisers stumped throughout. The Militia had a 27-point half-time lead. The dominance continued in the second half, but the persistence of jammers Bala Reina and titmouse, and the on-track leadership of eventual team MVP Chronic had the Bruisers sticking around, never letting the lead grow past 50 points, and when the penalty calls started going their way, they were ready. A 29-point Bala Reina power jam (much of it orchestrated with the Bruisers having only two Blockers, Chronic and Miss Kitty La Peur, on the track) with only ten minutes remaining had Toronto within 12 points and holding all the momentum. They controlled things for the final ten minutes aas frustration mounted for the Renegade Derby Dames and were able to hold on to advance to the final.

The Brute Leggers pulled it together to defeat the Misfit Militia in the third place game. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Misfit Militia never seemed to recover from the defeat, while the Brute Leggers pulled it together after their emotional loss to come back to control the third place bout most of the way and skated to the 190-129 victory. The championship game provided an entertaining first half that saw the Bruisers storm out 42-9 lead at the halfway mark. Strong jamming from Bala Reina and Bellefast continued to pace the Bruisers who were able to impose their style of play on the game early, and never let Forest City get comofortable. Although penalty troubles allowed London to get back into it only a few minutes later (they even briefly took the lead at the 10-minute mark), the Bruisers regained control to lead 78-54 at the half. The second half was all Bruisers with the lead increasing steadily to 135-86 at the midway point, before they held on for the 163-88 victory and took home the 2012 RDAC Eastern Canadian Championship.

The Bay Street Bruisers and Forest City All Stars (Eastern Region) join the Terminal City All Stars and Kootenay Kannibelles (West), Saskatoon Roller Derby and Pile O’ Bones Derby Club (central) at the Canadian championship. The Atlantic representatives will be determined at a tournament in St. John’s in September.

Bruisers’ jammer (and one of the team MVPs) Bala Reina was dominant in the final. (Photo by Greg Russell)

COMPLETE RESULTS

First Round

Brute Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) 142 vs. Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls) 131

Misfit Militia (Renegade Derby Dames) 354 vs. G-sTARs (GTA Rollergirls) 28

Bay Street Bruisers (Toronto Roller Derby) 253 vs. Sister Slag (Nichel City Roller Derby) 116

Consolation Pool

G-sTARs (1-0) 140 vs. Dolly Rogers (0-1) 134

G-sTARs (2-0) 194 vs. Sister Slag (0-1) 173

Sister Slag (1-1) 149 vs. Dolly Rogers (0-2) 144

Medal Round

Semifinals

Forest City All Stars 145 vs. Brute Leggers 86

Misfit Militia 130 vs. Bay Street Bruisers 140

Third Place

Brute Leggers 190 vs. Misfit Militia 129

Championship

Forest City 88 vs. Bay Street Bruisers 163