Team Canada Releases Roster for the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup

Team Canada 2014

Team Canada

On Sunday, December 29th, 2013, Team Canada management released its 30-skater roster for the 2014 Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup to be held in Dallas, Texas, on the weekend of December 4th, 2014.

The roster includes ten returning players (indicated with an *) from the 2011 team that came in second place, losing to USA in the final.

There are nine skaters from Montreal’s New Skids on the Block, Canada’s top ranked WFTDA team (15th in WFTDA, 1st in Canada). There are six skaters from Terminal City’s All Stars (37th, 3rd), five skaters from Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power (29th, 2nd), and two returning skaters from the Rideau Valley Vixens (69th, 7th). The remaining Canadian leagues represented were Red Deer (4th in Canada) and Calgary (WFTDA Apprentice, 14th in Canada).

Team Canada will feature six skaters who play for US-based WFTDA leagues (after having only one in 2011). The represented leagues are the Texas Roller Girls (3rd),the Windy City Rollers (8th), Atlanta Rollergirls (10th), the Philly Roller Girls (14th), Boston Derby Dames (16th), and Detroit Derby Girls (28th).

The Roster

Bala Reina (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Buffy Sainte Fury (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars, Public Frenemy)
Chasing Amy (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Demanda Lashing (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block, Les Filles Du Roi)
Dusty (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Dyna Hurtcha (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Evada Peron (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
Eve Hallows (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars, Bad Reputations)
*Georgia W. Tush (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Greta Bobo (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Heavy Flo (Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles)
*Jess “Bandit” Paternostro (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
Kim Janna (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
KonichiWOW (Windy City RollersAll Stars)
Kriss Myass (Calgary Roller Derby AssociationAll Stars)
*Lil’ Mama (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Luludemon (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
*Mackenzie (Terminal City RollergirlsAll Stars)
Maya Mangleyou (Boston Derby DamesBoston Massacre, Nutcrackers)
Mel-e-Juana (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Murphy (Rideau Valley Roller GirlsVixens, Slaughter Daughters)
Nasher the Smasher (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Nattie Long Legs (Atlanta RollergirlsDirty South Derby Girls, The Toxic Shocks)
*Rainbow Fight (Toronto Roller Derby –  CN Power)
Sarah Hipel (Texas Roller GirlsTexacutioners)
*Smack Daddy (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Soul Rekker (Rideau Valley Roller GirlsVixens, Slaughter Daughters)
Surgical Strike (Montreal Roller DerbyNew Skids on the Block)
*Taz (Red Deer Roller Derby AssociationBelladonnas)
USS DentHerPrize (Detroit Derby Girls, All Stars, Detroit Pistoffs)

Team Canada Management

Head Coach: Ewan Wotarmay (Montreal Roller Derby)

Assistant Coach: Mack the Mouth (Terminal City Roller Girls)

Manager: Flyin’ Bryan Killman (Toronto Roller Derby)

2014 Worl Cup logo

When the World Caught Up: Gotham looks (almost) beatable in winning fourth Hydra

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but their opponents stole the show.

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but its opponents stole the show.

Sometimes when you give performers a stage larger than any other that they have ever been on, they wilt under the spotlight. But sometimes they also rise up to meet that grandeur of that stage and give the performance of their life. At this weekend’s WFTDA Championship not one, but two teams were placed under the glaring light of that spotlight and were inspired to give the kinds of performances that will go down in history.

At the 9th Women’s Flattrack Derby Association championship, Gotham Girls Roller Derby, the sport’s greatest team thus far, won its fourth championship and third in a row, continuing an unprecedented run that had up until this weekend been defined by its dominance. Having won more than 40 games in a row over three years, with the final 22 of them having been by more than 100 points, the defending champs entered the weekend seeming very much like a monolith of dominance. And while they maintained their streak and proved—definitively once more—that they are the best there is, it was the opposition that stole the show.

Read Ogden Smash's Gotham vs. B.A.D. recap for Derby News Network (featuring photography by Danforth Johnson)

Read Ogden Smash’s Gotham vs. B.A.D. recap for Derby News Network (featuring photography by Danforth Johnson)

In its first championship, Ohio offered little resistance to Gotham in the quarterfinals (although they narrowly managed to avoid being part of a record-setting defeat with a comparatively strong second half in the 509-64 loss), and while everyone expected the Bay Area Derby Girls to do considerably better, no one in Milwaukee’s US Cellular Arena gave them much of a shot. Down 22-2 after three jams, things seemed to be unfolding as expected for Bay Area: Mighty Gotham once again tightening the noose early. But then something interesting happened: The B.A.D. Girls wouldn’t go away. Only a late 20-point power jam kept Gotham ahead by a significant amount (102-47 at half). The second half was much the same, with Bay Area winning over the hearts of the crowd and keeping pace with their opponents before succumbing to the champs 174-125, which was, impressively, the tightest margin Gotham had won by since June 2012.

The Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners, the grandmothers of our modern game, were apparently watching that semifinal (they’d already handily dispatched Denver in their semifinal 298-129) and must have drawn confidence from it; nonetheless, there were few, if any, who gave the skaters from Austin much of a chance in the final—indeed word around the track was that the B.A.D. vs. Gotham semi had essentially been the championship game. (Bay Area went on to finish third, handling Denver 224-174).

Gotham and Texas have a history that dates back all the way to the first WFTDA championship in 2006, where Texas defeated Gotham 32-16 in a ten-minute round robin seeding-game. Since then, they have met six times in sanctioned bouts with Gotham winning them all by increasingly larger margins culminating in Gotham’s 247 point victory (313-66) just six months ago at ECDX. With similar rosters and not much time between games, who would have expected anything different?

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall's Gotham vs. Texas recap for DNN (featuring the photography of Danforth Johnson)

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s Gotham vs. Texas recap for DNN (featuring the photography of Danforth Johnson)

Unlike the Bay Area showdown though, Gotham was unable to even pull ahead early with Texas leading 23-14 after four jams. Indeed, the two teams would trade leads throughout and only a very late 25-3 run over three jams would allow Gotham to pull away and successfully defend its Hydra with a narrow 199-173 win. In the pack, Smarty Pants, Polly Gone and Fifi Nomenon cemented their status as superstars, and while tournament MVP Bloody Mary led the way with the star, it was Hauss the Boss who would be the shocker in the final, pirouetting and leaping her way around Gotham packs and not looking out of place at all on the game’s grandest stage.

Beyond the shocker of those two games, the 2013 tournament was the best yet, and displayed an incredible growth of the game from a strategic and athletic point of view. Friday’s first-round matchups provided one of the greatest days of derby in tournament history, with an average margin of victory in the 20s. And while the quarterfinals didn’t quite provide the same level of intensity, there were moments of brilliance: for example in the Texas vs. Atlanta quarterfinal there was a jam that began as a tightly knit scrum start that didn’t break apart as it approached and then moved beyond turn one; then turn two. As the amoebic-like mass of bodies churned and grinded its way around the track, the crowd slowly began to clap, then cheer, then stand to applaud the gritty, sticky brilliance of the defensive derby on display: it was flat track roller derby at its very best.

The WFTDA ruleset has taken a lot of criticism, with many saying that the game is too slow, but there was little of those kinds of discussions this weekend, and one can expect that there won’t be many more to come. As slow as the slowest moments in the games were, there were breathtaking bursts of speed—the fastest roller derby ever seen. And this is the beauty of the WFTDA ruleset: that contrast between grinding slowness and blazing speed that can be achieved. And while the rules are still in relative infancy and will continue to evolve (for example, there are still too many no-impact penalties called in the game, and there is still some discomfort over allowing a pack speed of absolute 0), but the quibbles of the recent years seem fairly insignificant after the display of the potential for the game seen this weekend. That Texas vs. Gotham final was as good a game of roller derby that has ever been played, with a level of intensity and excitement worthy of any sport at any level.

And not to be overlooked, the first ever Division 2 final between Santa Cruz and Jet City was just as exciting as its D1 counterpart; a last-jam one-point thriller (195-194 for Jet City) capping off a successful D2 experiment that is providing a massive competitive platform for the next generation of Ohios and Angel Citys and Atlantas—teams that could crack the top of the WFTDA list some day.

As hard as it is to walk away from another season, a brilliant season that saw international teams compete at an increasingly higher level (hello London, welcome to champs, and Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver welcome to the party), that saw the sport reach new heights of competitive parity–as hard as it is to walk away, we can all take comfort in knowing how strong the future of flat track really is.

**A special thanks (and congrats) to the Brew City Bruisers for hosting such a fantastic tournament.

**All games were boutcast live and will be archived on WFTDA.TV.

Hydra 2013 WFTDA Champs

Terminal City Climbs Three Spots in Second WFTDA Divisional Playoff

Texas, Philly and Angel City are heading to Milwaukee.

Texas, Philly and Angel City are heading to Milwaukee.

The second Canadian and third international team in WFTDA playoff history, acquitted itself well this weekend in Richmond, Virginia, at the second Divisional tournament in the WFTDA 2013 Big Five season. Scoring an upset in their Friday night opener to book a bout against the historic Texas Rollergirls in the quarter finals (one of their stated goals of the weekend), Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars went 1 – 1 in the consolation round to jump three spots, finishing 7th in the Division.

Read the blow-by-blow recap by Ogden Smash on Derby News Network (featuring the photography of Jennifer M. Ramos)

Read the blow-by-blow recap of Terminal City vs. Tampa by Ogden Smash on Derby News Network. (Featuring the photography of Jennifer M. Ramos)

Terminal City laid its cards on the table on the opening jam of their first game, using their vaunted star-pass strategy to ensure no more than a four-point pick up for Tampa, who took the first lead of the game. Unfazed, Terminal City quickly jumped back in front, gaining a lead that they would not relent, yet they would never really be able to put away a scrappy Tampa team either as they would be virtually tied in second half scoring, with Terminal City holding on for the 180-154 upset. Vancouver stuck with a strict lineup all weekend, using a four-jammer rotation of Kim Janna, Evada Peron, Bobbi Barbarich and luludemon. The consistency and variety of their jammers allowed them to provide a varied offense that kept defenses guessing.

While they were clearly overmatched against Texas, they nonetheless put in an outstanding effort and found significant success offensively, able to score 125 points against the perennial powerhouses and founders of the modern, flat track version of the sport. While Terminal City’s lines were fairly consistent on the weekend (and the bench kept fairly short), pack penalties—particularly against Texas—kept things varied. Pivots Buffy Sainte Fury, Scarlett Bloodbath and Kim Mackenzie were excellent all weekend: always hyper aware of what was shaping up and quick to grab the star when necessary. They also got very consistent pack work from Lisa Suggitt, Jocelyn Ingram, Flower Plow’her and Megan Griffith.

Read the blow-by-blow recap by Justice Feelgood Marshall for Derby News Network.

Read the blow-by-blow recap of Terminal City vs. Jacksonville by Justice Feelgood Marshall for Derby News Network.

The first consolation round showdown with Jacksonville was a fast-paced and fairly even bout that Jacksonville took control of early. Despite playing their cleanest game of the weekend, Terminal City could not catch Jacksonville after they took an early lead. Trading jams back and forth throughout and staying relatively clean, the teams put on a show that concluded as one of the best games of the weekend, with Jacksonville winning narrowly 162-127.

And finally, after a slow start against New Hampshire in the 7th place game, Terminal City turned it around to dominate. The jammers had a rough go at it in the early going, facing tough New Hampshire defensive walls. Both luludemon and Kim Janna had tough times penetrating, while Evada was able to juke around the strong formations. Eventually, Terminal City was able to capitalize on New Hampshire mistakes and began to draw penalties (and were dominant on power jams). Fantastically played back-to-back power jams late in the 1st period (the second of which featured luludemon scoring 29 points while Suggitt, Plow’her, Scarlett Bloodbath and Ash Richardson decimated the New Hampshire pack by dominating pack definition and sending all four opposing blockers to the box), put the game away (they’d run away with a 250-154 win).

Read the blow-by-blow recap of Terminal City vs. New Hampshire by Danger (ismymiddlename) on Derby News Network. (Featuring photography by Tom Klubens)

Read the blow-by-blow recap of Terminal City vs. New Hampshire by Danger (ismymiddlename) on Derby News Network. (Featuring photography by Tom Klubens)

While their consistent pack work was huge in their success, the varied offense was key to their game. Each of the four primary jammers had moments to excel, and each had moments when her particular skill set shone. For example, luludemon, who struggled against Texas and even Tampa, was dominant against New Hampshire (76 points) and Jacksonville (58). While Evada Peron found her jukey style better suited against the impenetrable TXRG defense (she led with 41 points) and Tampa (where she dominated with 83 points, a +76 jammer plus/minus, and a 90% lead percentage). The powerful Barbarich and athletic Janna, despite never leading the team in scoring, may have provided the most consistent performances of the weekend, with both managing above 30% lead percentages against Texas, and Janna scoring 50 points on a 60% lead percentage in the opener against Tampa, and Barbarich providing an outstanding well-rounded performance against New Hampshire in the placement clincher (72 points on 80% lead percentage).

It was an impressive WFTDA playoff debut for Terminal City, a performance that will propel them even higher up the rankings than they have already climbed this season (these games count toward next season’s rankings, and because they are playoff games, have a greater weight). If they hadn’t already made a names for themselves, Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars certainly have now.

**Catch all the games archived at WFTDA.TV.

**Read full game recaps on the Derby News Network.

Canada Day USA: Montreal and Toronto Upset Southern Neighbours at ECDX

With both teams displaying excellent first-year players and deep benches, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Toronto’s CN Power scored hard-earned victories in exciting games against Charm City (153-131) and Maine (148-120) respectively on Saturday at Philly’s East Coast Derby Extravaganza. Montreal finished the tournament 1-1 including a 197-55 loss on Friday night to the South Central powerhouse Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners, while Toronto went 2-0, coupling their victory over Maine with a 375-60 victory over Harrisburg Area Roller Derby’s Nuclear Knockouts in a chippy, penalty filled bout.

Montreal increased its record to 7-5 in WFTDA games on the season and despite the loss to Texas on Friday night may have done enough to find themselves ranked as high as 3rd or 4th for the Eastern Regionals. Veteran Montreal blocker Lil’ Mama said that they were hoping to go at least 1-1 in the tournament, and that despite their narrow victory over Texas in 2011, they were still heading into that one very open-minded and hoping for a positive learning experience but remaining optimistic as well: “We went into (last year’s) game with no expectations either and it just turned out like that (a Montreal upset), so we knew they were coming for vengeance,” she said. But despite the loss to Texas (who are ranked #1 in WFTDA’s South Central Region and 5th on DNN), the victory over Eastern rivals Charm City made this weekend a massive success.

Last year when Charm and Montreal met at Anarchy in the UK, high hopes were met with great disappointment for the Skids when Charm took advantage of a short-handed Montreal team to blow them out 207-85. Charm was on a role this season as well, having won five in a row including a narrow victory over Minnesota who had themselves scored a narrow victory over Montreal recently. Skids’ rookie jammer Apocalipstick was ecstatic after the game, admitting that they “never expected (the win), so it’s even better.”  And Montreal seems to be rounding into form at just the right time with a recent victory over Steel City meaning that they have now recorded back-to-back victories over rivals ranked above them (4th and 3rd to Montreal’s 6th), leaving only (the virtually inactive–two games against unranked European teams) London Rollergirls in the way of a Top 3 ranking for Regionals.

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s blow-by-blow recap of Toronto vs. Maine on Derby News Network. (Photo by Dave Wood for Derby News Network)

Toronto’s CN Power entered the weekend with an almost absurd amount of injuries to starting players, making an already tough matchup against Maine (higher ranked, on the cusp of a playoff spot) suddenly seem overwhelmingly daunting.

“We were obviously hoping to go 2-0, yeah,” said Toronto blocker Mega Bouche at the end of the tournament.” But expecting? Not really.” The veteran skater explained that they actually used the lowered expectations as motivation (the whole team also wrote Tara Part’s #L7 on their legs in honour of their injured pivot who’d undergone surgery the week before). Complaining about the amount of “chatter” around their injuries, Mega said that on Saturday morning the team came together and “we just said ‘nope’: we can’t do this to ourselves…we can’t let (missing players) affect how we play together on the track as a team… We knew that (we were down players), but we are a strong blocking team, so we just wanted to prove that we could do this with or without these awesome players that we were missing.” And although they took a lot of time to adjust to the roster changes (they were behind until the very last jam of the first half), they stuck together and were relentless in their pursuit of the victory, even falling behind by 30 points again in the second half until they wore down Maine enough to start forcing mistakes late.

“Everyone just played together really strongly,” CN Power rookie jammer Kookie Doe said of the Maine victory. “We just remained calm and worked at it piece by piece.” Although she travelled to Brewhaha and got some late-game action in a loss to Ohio earlier this season, this weekend marked a breakout moment for Kookie, who scored a remarkable 171 points in the blowout win on Sunday against an overmatched Harrisburg Area Roller Derby. “I was really nervous,” she admitted about the increased workload, “but we have a great team of blockers and everyone is so supportive; I rely on them.”

When asked if she’d stepped up her game, she modestly deflected.  “Maybe (I’ve stepped up)…one thing I’ve realized is I feel like I can really trust my blockers…it was beautiful. When I approach the pack, I feel like they are there telling me (where to go).” But Mega Bouche chimed in at this point, a little more blunt in her assessment of the rookie’s big weekend: “(She was) so fucking awesome today.”

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s blow-by-blow recap of the Charm vs. Montreal game on DNN. (Photo by Dave Wood for DNN)

Montreal is not playing with a full roster this weekend either and also gave a ton of track time to rookie skaters and new comers. Apocalipstick was one of those skaters who found herself skating every third jam against one of the top teams in the game (Charm). “It was amazing; I had no expectations because I had nothing to compare it to…it was just one jam at a time.” But she is also quick to point out those missing players (superstar jammer Iron Wench [Team Canada MVP 2011 World Cup] and triple threat Smack Daddy [Tournament MVP 2011 World Cup]), and looking forward, knows that when they return, the depth that the team has developed will serve them well. “We’re not putting any numbers on what we’re going to do at Regionals,” she said. “We just want to go out there really strong.” That being said, Lil’ Mama feels the team has done enough to garner a coveted 3rd place ranking for the playoffs: “We’re hoping (for third), that’s our goal. We’ve been playing some hard teams (in) heavy hitting games so that we could learn.”

Despite going 9-1 in WFTDA bouts this season, Toronto is a little more realistic about their chances of a playoff birth. The win over Maine at least opens up the possibility of a Top 10 position, but the WFTDA rankings have not been kind to Toronto this year and the CN Power skaters may have to shift their focus to next year’s Regionals. “Absolutely,” Mega said confidently when asked about at least advancing to next year’s playoffs, but admits that “the (100-point loss) to Ohio stung,” and probably had a big impact on their chances at making Regionals.  But the North Central’s 9-15 positions are a tight mess right now, and who knows how it will all pan out.

There was a huge Canadian cheering section on hand for every one of Montreal and Toronto’s games, in large part due to the busload of Montrealers that followed the Skids to Philly. Once known for their after-party antics more than their on-track awesomeness, the Skids may not themselves be the partiers they once were, but still wanted to make sure they represented, “Why do you think we brought 80 people?” Lil Mama points out. But in the midst of an American roller derby tradition, the loud fans spurred on both Canadian teams, symbolic of the heightened performances by both teams. “The cheering was incredible,” said Apocalipstick. “I really felt like I was being lifted by everyone while I was playing.”


Montreal New Skids on the Block (6E) 55 vs. Texas Texacutioners (1SE) 197 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

Montreal (6E) 153 vs. Charm City (3E) 131 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

Toronto CN Power (15NC) 148 vs. Maine Port Authorities (11E) 120 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

Toronto (15NC) 375 vs. Harrisburg Nuclear Knockouts (23E) 60 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

***The interviews with the Montreal and Toronto skaters will appear in their entirety on this week’s Derby Deeds Done Dirt Cheap podcast, so tune in!

Canada heads to ECDX

Battered, beaten and bruised, Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power is one of two Canadian teams heading to the East Coast Derby Extravaganza this weekend, joining Montreal’s New Skids on the Block in the popular Philadelphia tournament. What started as a promising season for Toronto has tailed off as of late due to a spate of injuries that has decimated the roster. So while the WFTDA playoffs may be out of reach this season, this tournament will represent a big stepping stone for Toronto’s visibility in WFTDA and a nice launching pad for a regrouped, refocused–not to mention more experienced–CN Power in 2013.

The New Skids, on the other hand, enter the tournament finding themselves in one of their most secure positions ever in terms of WFTDA standings. Locked into a playoff spot, this will be Montreal’s third season competing in the Eastern Championships and the second season they will (presumably) enter as one of the top six seeds (thus earning a direct path to the quarterfinals). What does remain to be seen is where in the top six they fall, this weekend’s games will very much impact that.

While Toronto (15th NC) is coming off of a successful  Midwest Brewhaha in which they demolished Fox Cityz (25th NC) by 400 points and held off Burning River (16th NC) 158-125 to pull to 7-1 on the WFTDA season, an injury bug that began to affect them before the tournament has run rampant over the roster. Missing four key jammers and a top pivot (to name a few) CN Power will have a far different look in their ECDX games. They kick things off in a tough contest against Maine Roller Derby’s Port Authorities (11th E) who are in the midst of a dog fight for a playoff spot that has slipped from their grasp this season. Maine has been inconsistent this season never winning more than one in a row (though they haven’t lost two in a row either) and enter the tournament having held off Suburbia (14th E) in a 227-199 victory and then falling to Boston (7th E) by a respectable 63 points.

On Sunday morning, Toronto should have a slightly easier time as they face off against Harrisburg’s Nuclear Knockouts (23rd E). After a 2011 season that saw Harrisburg win three of its final four games, 2012 hasn’t been kind to the team so far. 0-3 so far this season, they are coming off of 365 and 188 point losses to Providence (12th E) and Dominion (16th E) respectively.

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block have a chance to improve their Eastern Region playoff seeding this weekend.

Montreal (6th E) has a much stiffer test this weekend. Kicking things off with the marquee Friday night matchup, Montreal will take on the Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners (1st SC). Montreal is 6-4 this season, with losses coming to tough competition in Philly (2nd E), Naptown (3rd NC), Kansas City (2nd SC) and Minnesota (2nd NC).  Texas remains a juggernaut in the South Central and have been dominant this season once again compiling a 5-1 record with their single loss being a 149-117 loss to Rose City (3rd W). Montreal has the most to gain out of this matchup; coming off of a minor upset win against Steel City (4th E), a chance to score a victory over a highly ranked opponent could help them squeeze their way up another rung in the Eastern Region ladder. Montreal actually defeated the Texacutioners in 2011, beating them 104-88 during the Austin team’s early season slump.

Things don’t get any easier for the New Skids on the Block on Saturday with a matchup against regional rivals, Charm City (3rd E). Despite losses to a few key players, Charm has been dominant in 2012 brushing aside good teams in Queen City (13th E), Nashville (3rd SC) and the Chicago Outfit (5th NC), before finally being challenged by Windy City (1st NC) and Minnesota (2nd NC). On top of this, they also proved to be bi-trackually solid after winning the second Pro Roller Derby Invitational in Glendale (a banked-track tournament). Charm City and Montreal met at last year’s Anarchy in the UK, where Charm dominated 207-85.


Friday, June 22, 7:30 PM:  Montreal vs. Texas

Saturday, June 23rd, 2:30 PM: Toronto vs. Maine

Saturday, June 23rd, 6:30 PM: Montreal vs. Charm City

Sunday, June 24th, 11:00 AM: Toronto vs. Harrisburg

The 2012 ECDX will be boutcast live on WFTDA.TV.

Divide and Conquer: A Preview of the 2011 WFTDA Championships

Continental Divide and Conquer: The 2011 WFTDA Championships (Denver, Colorado; November 11-13)

For fans of flat track roller derby there is no more exciting weekend than the annual WFTDA Championships. It represents the pinnacle of the young sport, and each year provides a canvas upon which the newest strategies, the latest skill developments, and the increased athleticism that the sport requires are painted. Due to the young age of the sport and the accelerated pace at which it is growing, it is possible to say that each year, the WFTDA Championships has provided the best flat track roller derby ever played. And this year will undoubtedly prove to be the best yet.

The first WFTDA champs, the Texas Rollergirls, join every other previous champ at this year's tournament.

Since the Texas Rollergirls Texecutioners won the inaugural championship in 2006 and catapulted the young sport into the North American sports and pop culture consciousness, there have been four other champions crowned: Kansas City Roller Warriors (2007), Gotham Girls Roller Derby (2008), Oly Rollers (2009), and Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (2010). They will all be present at the 2011 WFTDA championships. While WFTDA has never crowned a two-time champion, this seems like the best chance for that to happen.

But considering the young age of the sport, this tournament has been more about developing the game than anything. In 2006 when virtually every flat track league on the planet (there were only 20 leagues in 2005, the year that the United Leagues Coalition—soon to be the WFDTA—was formed) converged on Tucson, it was an opportunity for all the leagues from the disparate corners of the United States to get together and share in the development and help nudge along the evolution of the sport.  From those early rules-refining days in 2006/2007 to Duke City and eventually Denver’s isolation and trapping revolution in 2008/2009, every major change and growth in the sport has been disseminated through the championship tournament.

2009 champs Oly Rollers were the first team to appear in back-to-back championship games.


While the Texacutioners became the first team to make two championship finals (2006 and 2009), last year the Oly Rollers became the first team to qualify for two consecutive finals. Despite the fact that the Oly juggernaut could very easily make it a third straight trip to the final in 2011, traditionally defending champs have not fared well in this tournament. After Texas dominated in 2006 and defeated Tucson 129-96 in the final, it seemed as if the god mothers of the sport would never be beaten, but they did finally lose the following year and ended up getting knocked out in the 2007 semifinals to Rat City. Rat couldn’t parlay that historic victory into a championship though and fell in the first WFTDA champs classic 89-85 to Kansas City. Although Kansas would win their first three in a row in 2008, their streak would come to an emphatic end when Windy City rolled over them 155-39 on the eve of the 2008 championship (where Kansas City would stumble further, finishing out of the top four).

By that 2008 tournament, Gotham had replaced Texas as the dominant force in the sport and after crushing Duke City and Philly in the early rounds would put an end to Windy City’s amazing season with a 134-66 trouncing in the final. Gotham would then cruise through the 2009 season undefeated only to be upset by Philly in the Eastern final by 1 point (ending a remarkable 18 game winning streak). Continuing the trend of defending champs falling hard, they would be eliminated by Oly in the 2009 quarterfinals to finish out of the top four.

By the end of the 2009 tournament, where Oly defeated the historic Texacutioners 178-100, it was clear that the Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas were the new leaders in flat track. From their entry into the WFTDA in January 2009 to their eventual loss to Rocky Mountain in the western final in October 2010, they put together the greatest run in the sport’s early history, winning 22 straight bouts. But even the mighty Oly suffered the curse of the championship and although they became the first team to return to defend their title, they fell in a one-point heartbreaker (147-146) to Rocky Mountain in last year’s championship.

The defending champion Rocky Mountain Rollergirls have not been as dominant in 2011.

The defending champion Rocky Mountain Rollergirls have continued the dubious trend. Despite starting 2011 strong with big wins over Philly and Rose City, they have faded this season. A tight win against Bay Area in May was followed by the team’s first back-to-back losses since 2009 (to Charm and Oly). In this year’s Western Regionals they were only able to scrape by Rat City in the semis (117-107) before losing to Oly in the West final (143-106). While they remain favourites heading into the tournament, they do not look like the terrifying machine that rolled into the Championships in Chicago last year.


Only two of the teams enter this tournament with undefeated records in 2011 WFTDA play: Gotham (10-0) and Oly (12-0).  At the other end of the spectrum, a number of teams enter the tournament with just over a .500 record: Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8), Charm City All Stars (9-7), and Nashville‘s Music City All Stars (7-5). The rest of the teams settle somewhere in the middle. The opening round features the “bottom eight” teams vying for a spot in the quarterfinals with the four regional winners. While Rocky Mountain (2nd West) should roll over Nashville (3rd South Central) and Philly (2nd East) should ring Naptown’s (3rd North Central) bell, look for a Charm City (3rd E) minor upset over Minnesota (2nd NC) and a similar Rose City (3rd W) upset over Kansas City (2nd SC). (It should be noted that Rose City and Naptown are the only two teams making their Championships debut). This chain of events would set up for some intriguing quarterfinal matchups, none more so than the potential Gotham vs. Rocky Mountain showdown that could occur Saturday morning.

Gotham Girls Roller Derby looks poised to win their second WFTDA championship.

Gotham has been absolutely dominant this season winning their bouts with an average margin of victory of 185 points (Rose City and Denver were the only teams to give them “trouble”: holding them to 68 and 71 point victories respectively). On top of that, Gotham seemed to improve as the season went on: they beat Steel City in April by 244 points; by the time of the Eastern Regionals (when both teams were peaking) they managed to increase that margin to an astonishing 374 points (the 404-30 semifinal victory was one of, if not the, most dominant performance in tournament history). As good as Rocky Mountain was, their performances this year (particularly that stunning July loss to Charm) has not been as confidence inducing. Call it the championship hangover, but it is highly conceivable that once again, the defending champs will make an early exit and finish out of the top four.

Naptown joins Rose City as they only first timers in the 2011 WFTDA Championship.

If any team can compete with Gotham this season, it is the Oly Rollers. While the two teams do have common opponents this year (Montreal, Denver and Rose City) it is difficult to compare the two records because of the markedly different styles they play. Gotham has seemingly mastered “bispeedual” derby: IE: they can skate with the best of them, but certainly don’t mind mucking it up in a slow, gritty game as well (they’ve embraced all isolation strategies and other evolutions of the sport including the walled and/or slow starts that are the latest trend). All along Oly has maintained their very simple game and are the masters of traditional “hit and run” derby. They are phenomenal skaters with otherworldly endurance and have shown that they can run opposition ragged. So while it is easy to see Oly advancing to their third straight final, it is much more difficult to see them defeating Gotham’s complete-game roller derby. Gotham, who has moved to the top of DNN’s Power Rankings and also the top of flattrackstats.com’s stats-based rankings, seems to be on the verge of reclaiming the Hydra Trophy that they last held in 2008.

As with last year, it could very well be an all East-West final four (Gotham, Oly, Rose and Charm), although Texas (who made up for a mediocre season with an amazing run at the South Central Regionals) seems in the best position to spoil the party given their potential quarterfinal showdown with Charm City (they met in May with Texas squeaking by in a 6 point victory).

So, is this the year that a two-time WFTDA champion is finally crowned? Will the coasts continue their derby dominance? Will the progenitors of flat track, the Texacutioners, return  to their final-four form? Thankfully, we won’t have to wait much longer for the answers.

2011 WFTDA Champs Participants (2011 Records / DNN Power Ranking)


1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars (10-0 / #1)

2. Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8 / #11)

3. Charm City Roller Girls All Stars (9-7 / # 12)


1. Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas (12-0 / #2)

2. Rocky Mountain Rollergirls 5280 Fight Club (7-2 / #3)

3. Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice (9-5 / #4)

South Central:

1. Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners (12-8 / #8)

2. Kansas City Roller Warriors All Stars (10-2 / #9)

3. Nashville Rollergirls Music City All Stars (7-5 / #19)

North Central

1. Windy City Rollers All-Stars (13-2 / #10)

2. Minnesota Roller Girls All Stars (9-3 / #13)

3. Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens (12-3 / #14)

The bracket for the 2011 WFTDA Championships in Denver, Colorado (November 11-13). (Click to enlarge)

**** Read DNN’s team-by-team preview here. Tune in to all the action live on WFTDA.com.****

The Nerd’s thoughts on the playoffs so far:

Pondering the Playoffs 1: Eastern Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 2: Western Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 3: South Central Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 4: North Central Regionals

Ponderin the Playoffs 3: WFTDA’s South Central Region

Kansas City hosted this year's South Central Regionals.

Last year, after losing in the South Central final to Kansas City, the Texas Rollergirls staggered into the WFTDA Championships. They had to crawl their way through a defensive battle against the BAD Girls in the opening round only to be crushed by Gotham in the quarterfinals. With an unofficial eighth place finish, Texas had, remarkably, finished out of the final four for the first time in the young history of WFTDA. For the progenitors of flat track roller derby it was a shocking reminder that the sport was no longer theirs and theirs alone. The game had gone global; the upper level had been raised. And they weren’t keeping up.

At the 2011 South Central Regionals the Texas Rollergirls announced that they are back.

The Texas Rollergirls are back on top in the South Central.

The Texacutioners took back the South Central championship on the weekend in a rematch of last year’s regional championship against the Kansas City Roller Warriors, and I don’t think I’d be stirring anything up if I said it was a surprise. Texas has had anything but a consistent WFTDA season. They kicked off 2011 with a seven-game winning streak including huge victories over inexperienced competition (Big Easy by 377, Green Country by 219) and experienced competition alike (Houston by 126). Then a few tough road trips to both the east (Philly and Charm) and west coasts (Rat City and Oly) sent the team into a tail spin that saw them close out the 2011 regular season with only two wins in their final ten games; a streak that included a huge loss to the BAD Girls (185-59), the team they had eliminated from the Championships only nine months before. So to come into the tournament and not only win, but to dominate right through the seminfinals (a 218-75 victory over third place Nashville) was an impressive turnaround: a case of a team bringing it together at just right the time.

In 2006 the Texacutioners won the first ever national flat track championship.

It’s been fascinating to watch the Texas Rollergirls’ role in the sport change. Only five years ago, at the 2006 Dust Devil National Championship, they were still very much the teachers, still populated by the original flat trackers who’d written down and then disseminated the rules. By 2010 they’d experienced their first losing season ever (7-8 overall) after virtually dominating the sport for three years (though they were only able to capture that lone ’06 WFTDA championship, they were always in the discussion and had lost to Oly in the 2009 championship game). Obviously, in the midst of a 12-8 2011 that has seen them face off against some of the top teams in the game and win a regional championship, the Texacutioners are showing that they are still very much a relevant team in this sport.

While there is obvious disparity in all the regions (and still more obvious “talent groupings”), the divisions are more top-heavy and less consistent in the South Central. Texas and Kansas City absolutely dominated the tournament winning their semi-final and quarterfinals matches by combined scores of 352 and 362 points respectively. Nashville, though crushed by Texas in the semifinal, outclassed Atlanta in the third place bout (213-38) to definitively claim their spot at the Championship tournament (for the second straight year). After that, from Atlanta (fourth) at least through to Tampa Bay (ninth) there is very little separating the teams.

But despite the two impressive histories of the top seeds (Kansas City won the 2007 WFTDA Championship), nothing that I saw this weekend leads me to believe that they have a chance against the powerhouses from the coasts. While this tournament produced some fantastic and competitive bouts (more so at the lower rankings than in the other regions), the play lacked a certain sophistication that was evident in the East and West Regionals. I still have yet to see a team put together a game to match either of Gotham’s from this year’s Eastern Regionals (I’m still shocked when I think about their absolute dismantling of a very good Steel City team in the semifinal).

Team Canada's Windigo was a standout for Houston (#1491, left).

One story from this championship that shouldn’t go overlooked for Canadian roller derby fans was the outstanding play from Team Canada member Windigo, who was a standout pack player for Houston this weekend (and even showed her versatility by donning the star on occasion). She’s going to be a key component to Canada’s team at the upcoming World Cup and so far has confidently displayed an ability to step up on the big stage.


WFTDA CHAMPS PARTICIPANTS (2011 records/DNN ranking in parentheses):


1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars (10-0 / #2)

2. Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8 / #11)

3. Charm City Roller Girls All Stars (9-7 / # 12)


1. Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas (12-0 / #1)

2. Rocky Mountain Rollergirls 5280 Fight Club (7-2 / #3)

3. Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice (9-5 / #5)

South Central:

1. Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners (12-8 / #10)

2. Kansas City Roller Warriors All Stars (10-2 / #7)

3. Nashville Rollergirls Music City All Stars (7-5 / #19)

Nerd Meat Part 2: After the Great Divide

Nerd Meat: The Nerd Does Derby

Part 2: After the Great Divide

On that first day, three weeks ago now, as the skaters of ToRD’s 2011 Fresh Meat crew took their first tentative laps, the fear was palpable. There were falls, there were struggles just to stand. The looks in the people’s eyes told it all. I’m sure I had it too; that wide-eyed look of fear.

In a short period of time, under the guidance of some of ToRD’s senior skaters, we’ve already come pretty far. One particular skater I’d seen struggle just to get up on that first day was now skating laps with ease. I skated next to her and complimented her on her confidence. When I asked her what had changed, she told me she’d just stopped thinking so much. Three weeks in and already thinking like an athlete. Another skater said that it helped that the first thing we learned to do was fall. Knowing how to fall (and knowing that it doesn’t hurt) helps immensely. I’m falling a lot because I’m still learning how to stop. My new mantra: “Roller skates don’t have heel stops; roller skates don’t have heel stops…”

Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Death Track Dolls play in ToRD's 2011 home opener. (Photo by Sean Murphy)

It has been a great week for roller derby fans in Toronto. Last weekend, at the regular season opener,  the fresh meat made for a formidable volunteer crew, which was much needed on a stormy, yet still busy night. It was a successful and entertaining season opener, won by the defending champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls. But on Sunday, flat track circles were buzzing about Montreal’s exploits on a recent west coast roadtrip. Just the night before a dramatic bout had been broadcast on DNN (the Derby News Network); Montreal’s all stars, The New Skids on the Block, had fought back from an early first-half deficit against the hard-hitting Jet City Bombers to take it—rather decisively down the stretch—121-100. But even that paled in comparison to the Skids’ earlier upset over Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls, one of the oldest, most well-known and respected flat track leagues in the world. Again, after digging a first-half 40 point hole to the 6th ranked team in the nation, the 24th ranked Skids showed their patented resilience and extraordinary conditioning in out-enduring the Seattle skaters and shocking them with a 110-103 win. I don’t think that it would be too much for me to say that it was the most important victory in Canadian flat track history (so far!). In 2010, Montreal had turned a lot of heads in WFTDA (becoming the first non-American team to qualify for regionals); it looked like 2011 could be the year they are ready to contend.

Required Reading:"#24 Montreal stuns #6 Rat City, 110-103" by Justice Feelgood Marshall of DNN (Pic: Axle Adams)

One thing that had struck me about this week was the ever-increasing media coverage of the sport (both in volume and in nature). The revival is as much about the internet as anything else: the ability to share, to correspond easily and efficiently, and to broadcast internationally without the need of massive sponsorship or any finances at all. But the nature of the traditional media coverage is also changing. In Toronto, roller derby had previously been relegated to “lifestyle” or “entertainment” coverage in the local media: covered by the kind of reporters who would ask a skater the significance of her name or the inspiration for her “costume,” as opposed to how many points she’d scored, or what strategy she’d used to break free from those tough traps. But this week City TV (a network that had successfully built itself on a willingness to journey outside the status quo), sent the sports team to cover the season opener and on Monday evening they broadcast a recap of the bout. The focus of the recap was the outcome of the game; the footage was of on-track action. I was so happy I almost cried.

Despite the necessity of the internet, traditional media has been and will continue to be an important part of the revival. It actually didn’t take long for the American media to get on board and within three years of 2003’s Great Divide, the roller derby revival had gone national. Despite being reduced to about 15 skaters, BGGW continued to strive to bring back banked track roller derby. It could be argued that things went too banked, too big, too fast, and devastating injuries on the track, coupled with bouts being played in half-empty cavernous arenas, meant that success was not immediate. The newly formed Texas Rollergirls, on the other hand, were quietly going about (literally) rewriting the rules of the sport. The commitment to the flat track meant that they could bout in much more intimate settings and took advantage of that to jam pack a roller rink full of fans.

On April 27th, 2003, The Texas Rollergirls hosted the first ever official flat track roller derby bout under what would eventually become the WFTDA rules. The modest environment allowed the crowd to feel a part of the proceedings, and fans lining the track in “suicide seating” quickly became a popular staple in flat track roller derby; the fans were on the same plane as the skaters; they were part of the action. The years 2003-2006 were truly a gestation period for the sport, a time of slow, evolutionary growth. Within a year, it was obvious that the BGGW model was not sustainable. They changed their name to The Texas Roller Derby Lonestar Rollergirls, moved into a smaller space (their practice warehouse), and, in a move of bitter irony, the She-E-Os ceded control of the league, creating a skater-run organization based on the thriving situation the flat trackers across town had created. The committee controlled, skater-run organizational model would be as successful as flattening the track in terms of accessibility: it would prove to be a model easily adapted.

Rollergirls premiered on A&E on January 2nd, 2006.

Paralleling the growing sophistication of the sport, the media coverage would grow as well. With its flashy violence, colourful drama, and direct ties to the past—and despite its early internal dramas—banked track roller derby was the obvious early star of the revival. This culminated in the 2006 A&E series Rollergirls, which set out to follow the Lonestars skaters through a full season. Big on personal drama, low on skating specifics; big on the spectacle of the banked-track events, low on analysing track strategies, Rollergirls, in its voyeuristic look at the lives of the colourful banked track skaters, was a compelling show, dramatic and easily digestible. But it was far from being a show about a sport. Indeed, it’s actually possible to watch the full series and come away with absolutely no knowledge of the sport (other than, maybe, that the girls with the stars on their helmets score points). In some ways Rollergirls could easily be looked at as a kind of sequel to Hell on Wheels. Or, at least, half a sequel, giving closure to the story of the skaters on the banked track. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Blood on the Flat Track was released on June 14th, 2007.

Far from Austin, in the Pacific Northwest, there was another film crew charting the revival as well. Lainy Bagwell and Lacey Leavitt’s Blood on the Flat Track chronicles the rise of the one of the earliest of the flat track leagues, that same team Montreal had just upset, Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls. The documentary is no less compelling in its characterization or narrative than Rollergirls, but in its style, scope, and focus couldn’t be more different. As natural sequels to Hell on Wheels, a quick comparison of the two captures the essential differences between banked track and flat track roller derby. In terms of the sport, A&E’s series was all style over substance, while Blood on the Flat Track created its narrative around the growth and development of the sport and Rat City’s emergence as one of Seattle’s most important (and popular) sports organizations. It also focused on the creation of the travelling All Star teams and the preparation for the first ever national flat track roller derby tournament. While Rollergirls told the story of an insular, (virtually) single-league sport, Blood on the Flat Track gloriously captured the early days of a national, and eventually international, revolution.

In February 2006, Tucson Roller Derby hosted The Dust Devil Invitational (now also known as the 2006 WFTDA Nationals) a national tournament featuring 20 of the first flat track roller derby leagues on the planet, won, not surprisingly, by the TXRG Texecutioners. With this tournament, the flat track incarnation of the revival had officially gone national and set off a wave of global influence that spreads to this day.

In March of that same year, less than a month later, in a twist of peculiarly coincidental timing, A&E announced the cancellation of Rollergirls.

At fresh meat, I finally managed a crossover on the quads; was finally able to extend my leg over the knee pads and get those four wheels down (overconfident, my first attempts had been disastrous). The look of wide-eyed fear was gone from most of the women, replaced by a glitter of excitement, those first hints of confidence. A new sort of wide-eyed wonderment.

The animosity between the banked trackers and the flat trackers no longer exists. Banked track roller derby is still played in the states, and there is even a national championship. But it is flat track roller derby that has caught on and has spread from deep in the American south all the way to the slick floors of a Hangar in Toronto.

Essential Viewing Essential Viewing
Rollergirls The 2006 A&E series that chronicles one full season of the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls, Austin’s banked track roller derby league. An in-depth look at the strong and fascinating personalities that made up the early banked track league. Blood on the Flattrack: The Rise of the Rat City Rollers.Chronicling the dramatic early evolution of flat track roller derby through one of its greatest (and most successful leagues). Indirectly shows the national growth of the sport too, as Rat City prepares for the first national championship.

Nerd Meat Archives.

Nerd Meat: Part 1

Nerd Meat: The Nerd Does Derby

Part 1: Putting the Flat in WFTDA

On of my favourite shots of The Hangar (CN Power vs. New Skids on the Block at QCC '10)

On Sunday, January 30, I approached the doors of ToRD’s Hangar with a bag of gear slung over my shoulder. I don’t know how many times I’d approached that entrance, and I’d even done it with a bag or two of some skater’s gear on my shoulder. I may not remember every time, but I certainly remember that first time: Canada Day 2009, a full day of free, open-door scrimmages. It was a remarkable change from watching hockey-arena derby with vision obscuring glass, netting placed in inopportune places, and that cold separation of fan and track. I also felt, at that moment, that ToRD was embarking on a new period of growth and was easing itself into the mainstream of roller derby (IE: the WFTDA stream). Even being at a hangar was somewhat symbolic of this shift as some of the most venerable roller derby leagues (in Seattle for example) had cut their teeth in abandoned hangars. Toronto Roller Derby had found its home, and perhaps, its identity.

Despite being two years into the Hangar experience and having stepped over that threshold many times before, this temperate day in January 2011 was noticeably different. I wasn’t entering as a spectator or as a writer or commentator. And that gear wasn’t another skater’s; it was mine.

The popularity and exposure of roller derby has been growing steadily since its resurgence in the early-mid ‘00s, and this Fresh Meat intake was a result of that; over 80 women had signed on and had shown up. It was equal to the total number of skaters currently playing on ToRD’s hometeams. And momentarily—with everyone hanging around the bleachers chatting and putting on gear—it looked like an actual roller derby league. Women of every size, shape, colour, age and ability pulled on gear that, in most cases, looked shiny and unworn. It was a group that defied easy definition in every way except that they all wanted to skate.

One brave woman who sat next to me had never even seen a bout. She asked me which taped lines on the floor represented the track and I pointed them out. It struck me almost immediately that this woman—who’d never seen a bout, never roller skated—summed up perfectly the rapid growth of modern roller derby, the sport played under WFTDA rules. Roller Derby had failed so spectacularly (and publicly) in the past, yet now there were hundreds of leagues and thousands of women playing at various levels in increasingly far-flung locales on the planet. With a quick glimpse of those in attendance I realized that there was one main reason why 80 women felt they could come out and take-part in this physically and mentally demanding sport. They felt they could be there lacing up skates (many for the first time) for the same reason that I felt so confident about lacing up skates for the first time: The track was flat.

It might seem remarkable, but it’s actually possible to pin-point the exact moment in history that roller derby changed forever and began the series of events that led directly to that evening in ToRD’s Hangar when 80+ women gathered to learn to skate. It all began with a contentious moment around a backyard campfire in Austin, Texas, when a group of fed-up women stood up in a sign of solidarity and took matters into their own hands. It was early spring 2003, and the difficult decisions made that night would end up directly shaping the lives of countless women all over the world.

The documentary that captured the conception of 21st Century roller derby.

The fact that this divide was so well documented in the 2007 documentary Hell on Wheels actually arose serendipitously itself, and is a story well known in roller derby circles. Documentarian Bob Ray, fully-funded and ready to record, lost his initial subject on the eve of a shoot but had heard of a group of women involved in a roller derby revival. He turned his camera on the four women who were the self proclaimed “She-E-Os” of Bad Girl, Good Woman Productions—the company leading the revival. Over a few years the women refined their vision picking up a lot of rollergirls along the way and played a few “campy” bouts in an attempt to raise the considerable amount of money needed to buy the banked track. In the spring of 2003, increasingly dissatisfied with the tight-fisted control maintained by the She-E-Os, a few of the women gave an ultimatum. The She-E-Os would not relent. And then, at a full-league, backyard meeting, three quarters of the skaters stood up and walked away from the corporate model laid out by BGGW Productions forever altering the nature of the sport.

It is an awkward moment in the film, as the initial protagonists of the story became the antagonists in such a sudden, dramatic fashion. Those skaters who stood up and walked away would not abandon the sport and community they’d all grown to love, but instead they would collectively form the Texas Rollergirls, a DIY, committee-run, skater-owned league comprised of four hometeams and, of course, the mighty Texecutioners travel team. Perhaps even more importantly, these were the women who would eventually be instrumental in creating the United Leagues Coalition (ULC), the precursor to what we now know as the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

WFTDA arose out of the the United Leagues Coalition (ULC)

Although “The Great Divide” initially had nothing to do with the literal direction of the sport, the philosophical differences that led to the split would be reflected in the changes of the “new” roller derby: While BGGW continued to work toward becoming an old-school, banked track league (now known as The TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls), the Texas Rollergirls decided to drop the track and keep it flat, which created a dramatic shift in the way the sport could, and had to be played. It’s pretty easy to argue that the banked track was a big part of why roller derby had always faded away.

As a spectacle, banked track roller derby favoured speed over strategy, drama over competition, and the banked track easily became a platform for the kind of staged, sports entertainment that typified early roller derby. The initial incarnation was also, essentially, a single league (Bay City Bombers not withstanding), owned by one person, that travelled around the country, remaining a once-or-twice-a-year spectacle to be watched passively by spectators. There were no local leagues, no one ever played or got to watch it on a regular enough basis to understand the rules (which were vague anyway, and only marginally followed at best).

An intimate look at "The Great Divide."

Dropping the track changed everything; it  required a different sort of athleticism, and slowed the game down to the point where the traditional “hit-and-run strategy” would not be the only (or even the best) way to play. But the most important thing it changed, and the fundamental reason that roller derby is finally here to stay, was accessibility. It’s the accessibility that has inspired the hundreds of leagues in North America and the world, the increasing number of junior leagues, and the thousands of fans watching on a regular basis. It’s the accessibility that is slowly, but quite steadily, laying a foundation for the future of the sport. Only a decade in and there are already separations in level of play; there are recreation leagues, low contact leagues, and even within WFTDA there is a wide disparity between the top and bottom ranked teams (I can see, very soon, a division system being implemented to avoid the disparity that exists in the Association right now). And the rules have finally been refined to a point where alterations and corrections are becoming rare, and the evolution of the game has slowed enough that it is now possible to see the direction it is headed in.

Just as the league model had become one of a community instead of a corporation and the sport was watched by fans instead of spectators, roller derby on the track had become a sport instead of a spectacle.

So when I was at the Hangar on that Sunday afternoon in Toronto in 2011, skating my first few laps with ToRD’s latest diverse fresh meat intake, I was thinking about how important a single moment around a campfire eight years before was for me and for so many others, and how amazing it was that the simple decision to lower the angle of a sports surface could have such a profound effect on so many lives.

Essential Viewing Required Reading
Hell on Wheels Released in 2007, this documentary charts the earliest days of the revival, right up to The Great Divide between the flat trackers and the banked trackers. A fascinating, well-made documentary in its own right, complex in its characterization and despite unexpected twists, balanced in its view. Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track by Melissa Joulwan The inside story of the creation and rise of flat track roller derby by Texas Rollergirl, Melicious, who was a leading voice in the Divide. From the split through to the ground-breaking first WFTDA Championship in 2006. Includes player and team profiles.

* Next Week: First bout with the new fresh meat group; the early evolution of the sport on the track and in the media.

* Read The Prelude.

Nerd Meat: Prelude

Nerd Meat: The Nerd Does Derby


I was a big roller derby fan. By the end of 2010, I’d been to too many bouts to count, seen numerous leagues in action, had to set aside a new space in my closet just for roller derby t-shirts, and my partner had become a skater on the Death Track Dolls. At some point I’d begun to write fairly regularly about it and took road trips just to see bouts; I had even done some colour commentary in Montreal and was lined up to announce ToRD’s locally televised championship game. I was as big a fan of roller derby that you could find.

Then I went to the 2010 Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) Championships and everything changed.

Uproar on the Lakeshore has proven to be a seminal moment for flat track roller derby

On November 5th, 2010, I walked into the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois, for day one of the Uproar on the Lakeshore. Early on in the tournament and it was already in full swing. There were thousands of fans crammed into the lower bowl of the Pavilion, vendours hawking their wares on the concourse, beer and popcorn sellers squeezing their way through the face-painted, sign-sporting fans in the seats. It was like walking into any North American sporting event, only in the centre of it all was a blue, sport-court track, and skating around it were two roller derby teams. The B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls (San Fransisco) and the legendary Texecutioners (Austin) were already well into the first bout of the tournament, and were engaged in a defensive duel that was taking the fans by surprise: the precocious skaters from the left coast were not only keeping up with the women who’d invented the sport, they were frustrating them to no end. In the end the defending runners-up from Texas held on for a low-scoring victory that would end up being the first sign of a massive paradigm shift in the sport. But at the time, I wasn’t capable of thinking on that scale: I spent most of that first day staring in amazement, my neck swiveling in wide circles attempting to take it all in. Figure out what it all meant.

It probably didn’t coalesce as nicely as I like to remember it, but I eventually came to some realizations that weekend. Thoughts that I’d been having about the sport—the state of the game, its role in my life and the world, the future of it, thoughts that every rollergirl and superfan have probably had—were finally forming into something coherent. I realized that in roller derby, and in women’s flat track roller derby in particular, I was seeing the early stages of the 21st century playing out (at least from a Western perspective). It was a fully wired, internet driven, grass roots (yet increasingly global), non-partisan, ant-judgmental, post revolution…revolution.

The Rocky Mountain Rollergirls are the 2010 WFTDA Champions

Now, I don’t want to sound too hyperbolic, but in the simplest way, I realized that roller derby had grown so beyond its roots—a bunch of strong-willed women in a roller rink in Austin, Texas, concluding that roller derby didn’t need to be banked—that it was here to stay. This had been something that I’d never taken for granted before. Everyone—even my grandmother—was aware of roller derby’s semi-dubious history, its ebbs and flows and shifts and alterations; its languishing in the dregs of sports entertainment; basically, its unshakable status as a spectacle. No matter what the incarnation, it had never lasted, always fading when the novelty of the latest spectacle faded. But in Chicago that weekend, beginning when the Gotham Girls (New York) crushed the Texacutioners in the quarterfinals and ending when the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls were in the midst of a late-game comeback that would see them defeat the defending champion Oly Rollers in the most dramatic fashion imaginable—a bout that at least in these early days of flat track lore will undoubtedly carry the mantle of “The Greatest Game”—it became quite apparent to me that roller derby had grown beyond the Texas Rollergirls, it had grown beyond all of the skaters in the Chicago that weekend, the thousands of fans in the building, the many tuning in to DNN for live coverage, and when we were all gone the sport would not be and it would be played by someone else and watched by countless others, and changed, tinkered with, made better—but for the first time in its somewhat troubled history, roller derby was not going to fade away.

When I got back to Toronto, I decided that I needed to put on some skates.

So I signed up for ToRD’s next fresh meat session, headed to Cardinal Skate Co. to get suited up by Rollerbug (AKA: Kandy Barr of the Gore-Gore Rollergirls), went to the Hangar for the meat and greet session, paid my dues and got insurance, determined to gain a new perspective on this sport that I’d come to love, to get to know it from the inside out.