There’s just something about the Beast of the East.
With the flat track roller derby community on the eve of its biggest regular season weekend of the year—where dozens of the best men’s and women’s flat track teams in the game will converge upon Eugene, Oregon, for three days of brutal WFTDA and MRDA action over three tracks—it seems remarkable that in the day and age of competitive algorithms and opponent weight, a comparatively modest house league tournament in a similarly modest neighbourhood rink in Montreal has captured the hearts of so many. And the fact that it continues to do so year after year is a testament to the importance of the grass roots movement at the heart of modern roller derby.
Celebrating its tenth year, the Beast of the East—a two-day double elimination tournament featuring home teams primarily from Quebec and Ontario—has over the years developed its own mythology. The longest continuously running tournament in Canada’s modern roller derby revival, the event has weaved its way into the very genetics of the sport in eastern Canada. And this year, for the first time since 2012, the tournament was reopened to teams from Canada’s east coast, and the Muddy River and Anchor City Rollers represented the region well.
In the mythology of the Beast, the team that has muscled its way into the centre of the narrative is Montreal Roller Derby’s La Racaille; and the skater who is the undeniable hero in this mythology is the Iron Wench. Arguably our nation’s best and, at one point in time, most well-known jammer, Wench stepped away from the spotlight (and briefly the sport) after a heartbreaking 2013 WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournament. Back on the track with La Racaille since 2016, the public outside of Montreal must wait until April of every year to see her skate. And in the past two years, that legend at the centre of the Beast mythos has continued to grow.
La Racaille entered Beast 10 as the defending champs and the tournament’s most successful squad. The only team to have won over 30 games in the tournament’s history, they were two-time champions (2009, 16), five-time finalists (2008, 10, 13), and had managed a third-place finish in 2014 as well. The one thing that La Racaille (nor any other team) had ever done was to successfully defend the Beast. And in an all-Montreal final for the second year in a row, they pulled it off: yet another accomplishment in the incredible history that the team has already established. And they did so in dramatic fashion: the 124-122 two-point victory over leaguemates Les Contrabanditas was the closest since the Slaughter Daughters pulled off a last-jam comeback to defeat the Gore-Gore Rollergirls 87-85 in 2011.
Double Elimination Round
The double elimination round featured an interesting mix of traditional powers dominating along with some unexpected underdogs pulling off some impressive wins. Ten-time participants Les Contrabanditas, La Racaille, and the Death Track Dolls (with a combined eleven Top 3 finishes between them) advanced directly to the quarterfinals with two-straight wins on Saturday morning (although the Dolls were tested mightily in a two-point win over Quebec’s Casse-Gueules). The fourth team to do so, however, were Halifax’s Harbour Grudges who pulled off 63-54 and 56-34 victories over Durham Region’s Atom Smashers and Toronto’s Smoke City Bandits respectively to be the surprise team of the opening round.
There were tougher roads to the quarterfinals for cohosts Les Filles du Roi and (who dominated the Bandits in the must-win game after a narrow loss to Casse-Gueules); Capital City’s Cupquakes (who won the Beasts’ second ever overtime game when they eliminated the Gore-Gore Rollergirls 69-67 after a wild, thrilling 24-22 OT jam); Moncton’s Mad Hitters (who eliminated the Smashers and Les Casse); and Toronto’s Chicks Ahoy! who, despite an early loss to the Ditas, dominated their way out of day one with a record-setting 181-39 win over tournament debutantes Les Rebelles out of Sherbrooke (a game that featured a remarkable 40-point jam from ToRD’s Monster Muffin).
The quarterfinals did not deliver the kind of tense matchups that the elimination round saw, but was most notable for strong performances in losing causes. The Mad Hitters’ tournament came to an end at the hands of La Racaille in a more-than-respectable 53-29 loss. The last time a Muddy River team came to the Beast—the now defunct Reines of Terror in 2012—they were two and done after being outscored 210-34 in those two games (including a 139-0 shutout), a far cry from the competitive performance put forth by the Hitters. Similarly, The Harbour Grudges gave the Chicks Ahoy! all they could handle before the traditional ToRD power pulled away. A severely shorthanded Death Track Dolls also pulled away from the Cupquakes late in their quarterfinal showdown to make the final four for the first time since 2013.
The Dolls simply didn’t have the fire power to match up against an inspired Ditas in the semi finals (falling 91-54), before a thrilling, last gasp effort from Iron Wench helped La Racaille stun the Chicks 65-63 in the other.
What it all led to was a classic medal round showdown featuring two league-on-league battles. The Chicks and Dolls last met in the third-place game all the way back in 2011 with the Death Track Dolls picked up the team’s first (of two) Beast trophies; this year, the Chicks got some measure of delayed revenge picking up their own second Beast trophy with a 157-79 victory.
You’ve got to go back even further, to 2009, to find the last time Montreal’s Contrabanditas and La Racaille squared off for the Beast title. Iron Wench is the only remaining member of that great 2009 Racaille team that took down the Ditas 49-34, and once again she led her team back to the crown again, though this time getting help from her other throw-back counterparts: Squarrior (returning to the league) and the freshly unretired Greta Bobo were part of the team’s old-school jammer rotation (and it was Bobo who was out for the critical final jam). And all three were needed to contend with a determined Ditas team who were led offensively by Wild Card (the former Dyna Hurtcha), who similarly retired from travel team play to focus on home teams, and who over the Ditas inspired run, put her own statement on this legendary tournament.
Beast by the Numbers
2: The differential in the final, tying the previous record set in 2011.
2: The number of overtime games in Beast history after the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Cupquakes played the Beasts’ second overtime game (the first was a 2014 quarterfinal won by the Riot Squad 71-62 over the Luscious Lunch Ladies).
36: The number of games won by La Racaille in Beast history (only two other teams have won over 20).
39: Number of points scored by Iron Wench in a single jam against Les Rebelles in the first round.
40: Number of points scored by Monster Muffin in a single jam against Les Rebelles in the first round.
181: Points scored by Chicks Ahoy! in first round. A team scoring record (the previous being 164).
220: Combined points scored by Chicks Ahoy! and Les Rebelles in their first-round game (181-39). Also a record.
Review the full bracket here.
Select trackside footage available on layer9.ca.