toronto roller derby

Cold Cuts and Charcuterie Reigns Supreme as Roller Derby Quebec Dominates Fresh ’15

It was an all-Quebec final at the Fresh and the Furious 2015 as Roller Derby Quebec squared off against Montreal Roller Derby (Photo by Jeff Davad courtesy of Jammer Line Magazine)

It was an all-Quebec final at the Fresh and the Furious 2015 as Roller Derby Quebec squared off against Montreal Roller Derby (Photo by Jeff Davad courtesy of Jammer Line Magazine)

So, Canada, in case you haven’t been paying attention, there’s a new flat track roller derby power rising in the east, and it is looking more and more ready to ascend to the top.

On Saturday, Roller Derby Quebec’s Viande Froide et Charcuteries (take a moment to let that great name sink in!) won the Fresh and the Furious 2015 in absolutely dominant fashion, completing a summer season in which the league’s two house league teams finished 1-2 at the Beast of the East and the travel team, Les Duchesses, has been quietly training at a high level, including one unsanctioned game each against Montreal’s two travel teams.

Quebec's Divacop and Taminator wrap up a Queen's Court jammer in a first round matchup. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Quebec’s Divacop and Taminator wrap up a Queen’s Court jammer in a first round matchup. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Roller Derby Quebec was already on most people’s radars, especially after the Beast run, but after this weekend’s performance by the league’s freshest skaters, there should remain no doubt that this is the league to watch. It was as dominant a run as we’ve ever seen at the one day, sixteen-team event: Five straight wins with an average differential of 87 points; 584 total points scored (a record), with a per-game average of 117 points; and the second highest scoring single game in tournament history (155).

And did I mention that they managed to do all this with seven skaters?

Rogue D-VAS' jammer Noodle Kaboodle attempts to get past Thicket blocker Erin Blockabitch in a first round game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Rogue D-VAS’ jammer Noodle Kaboodle attempts to get past Thicket blocker Erin Blockabitch in a first round game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Amalgamated leagues and tiny benches were the story of the grueling fifteen-team, one-day tournament (played on one of the hottest days of the summer at that), with a majority of teams skating with mixed rosters (including perennial powers Toronto Roller Derby, whose D-VAS—mixed with Kingston skaters—finished out of the Top 3 for the first time ever), and while for the past two years the Quebec teams had optioned to skate as a unified provincial team, this year Montreal sent a fully loaded Smash Squad (eventually finishing second) while the debuting Roller Derby Sherbrooke bolstered its numbers with a few extra bodies from Trois-Rivieres. With many teams under the 14-skater norm, two teams, the Thicket from Forest City and Quebec, ended up with less than 10. Quebec actually started with 8 skaters, but one of the team’s top jammers, Chlomydia, was injured early in the first game. The Viande Froide handled the loss brilliantly, showing the perseverance and incredible endurance that has become the hallmark of this league.

Eventual third-place finishers Our Ladies of Pain opened the tournament with a win over the Renegade Derby Dames. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Eventual third-place finishers Our Ladies of Pain opened the tournament with a win over the Renegade Derby Dames. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Quebec’s growing provincial dominance was a big part of the Fresh story in 2015. Montreal’s Smash Squad returned as an independent team for the first time since winning it all in 2012 and played wonderfully, dominating usually strong entries from Toronto, Royal City (in the semifinal), and the defending champion Cannon Dolls (from Capital City) in the opening game of the tournament. Sherbrooke’s Les Rebelles also surprised, and did so in dramatic fashion. After dropping the opening game to the Hamutantes (a GTA/Hammer City mixed team that also performed exceptionally), Les Rebelles needed to win two in a row to advance; first, they eliminated Ottawa’s Cannon Dolls in a thrilling 94-92 game, before managing to score one point as time expired to cancel a final-jam 10-point comeback by the DRRD’y Farmers in an 81-80 win that sent them to the quarterfinal knock-out round.

Sherbrooke's impressive run to the quarterfinals included a thrilling, last second one-point victory over the DRRD'y Farmers in a must-win elimination game. (Photo by Jeff Davad courtesy of Jammer Line)

Sherbrooke’s impressive run to the quarterfinals included a thrilling, last second one-point victory over the DRRD’y Farmers in a must-win elimination game. (Photo by Jeff Davad courtesy of Jammer Line)

Sherbrooke’s run eventually ended at the hands of Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain, who had a fantastic day (buoyed by the largest cheering section of the tournament). After a third place finish in 2011 and reaching the Fresh final in 2012 (as the Top Herloins), Royal City had not advanced beyond the quarters since, but did so this year, falling in the semifinals to the Smash Squad in a rematch of that 2012 final. Another league that quietly had a bounce back tournament was the lone US entrant, Queen City’s Queen’s Court. After a final four finish at the inaugural Fresh in 2011, the team had failed to advance beyond the first round since, but they narrowly knocked off Wellington’s surprising Bloody Marys to do so this year.

Despite the variety of fine performances, the narrative of this tournament ran directly through the winning team. A five-skater pack (featuring blockers Divacop, Dildodo Bombass, Ninge Turtle, Cunts’n’Roses, and pivot KillEasy) and a two-jammer rotation (Taminator and Izzy Gonzales, who seemed light years ahead of the competition) ran roughshod over the competition, dominating from start to finish and showing that even if Roller Derby Quebec has not ascended to the top of the pyramid of competitive Canadian derby just yet, the strength of its base (seemingly so far ahead of everyone else’s), means that it’s just a matter of time.

THE RESULTS

Double Elimination: ArenaNEO Fights 75 vs. South Simcoe Rebel Rollers 73Roller Derby Quebec 124 vs. Queen’s Court 10

Rogue D-VAS 47 vs. Thicket 67

Renegade Derby Dames 59 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 76

NEO Fights 14 vs. Quebec 155

South Simcoe (elim.) 69 vs. Queen’s Court 107

Thicket 58 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 114

Rogue D-VAS 102 vs. Renegade Derby Dames (elim.) 59

NEO Fights (elim.) 56 vs. D-VAS 70

Thicket (elim.) 91 vs. Queen’s Court 111

Double Elimination: Bubble 705 Bombshells 42 vs. DRRD’y Farmers 53Smash Squad 121 vs. Cannon Dolls 50

Les Rebelles 43 vs. Derby Hamutantes 136

DRRD’y Farmers 56 vs. Bloody Marys 96

Smash Squad 76 vs. Hamutantes 57

Cannon Dolls (elim.) vs. Les Rebelles 94

DRRD’y Farmers (elim.) 80 vs. Les Rebelles 81

Hamutantes 107 vs. 705 Bombshells (elim.) 37

Quarterfinals

 Our Ladies of Pain 102 vs. Les Rebelles 54

Roller Derby Quebec 102 vs. Hamutantes 45

Smash Squad 97 vs. Rogue D-VAS 37

Bloody Marys 59 vs. Queen’s Court 62

Semifinals

Roller Derby Quebec 103 vs. Queen’s Court 16

Our Ladies of Pain 76 vs. Smash Squad 153

Third Place

Our Ladies of Pain 119 vs. Queen’s Court 101

Championship

Roller Derby Quebec 100 vs. Smash Squad 46

**This year’s Louisa Kalimeris Heart Award went to Les Rebelle’s Malicious, who always seemed to jam with a smile.

**Once again, Layer9.ca was there to provide a live feed of all the action on both tracks. The archives are already up, so be sure to check them out. As an added bonus, most of the games featuring teams from Quebec include bilingual commentary.

The Fresh and the Furious Returns to Give Glimpse of the Future of Flat Track

Fresh 15 PosterIf you want to know what the future of eastern Canadian roller derby looks like, head on down to Ted Reeve Arena this weekend for the 2015 Fresh and the Furious tournament. This is the fifth year this GTA Rollergirls-hosted fresh-meat tournament will be held under this moniker, but it has its roots as far back as 2008 when it was called the Virgin Suicides Brawl, and has proven an incredibly important launching point for not only individual skaters in Ontario and Quebec, but for whole leagues as well. Actually, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that a majority of the current generation of skaters in Ontario and Quebec made their debuts at this very event, and the WFTDA teams in the two provinces are full of past participants.

A Beast of the East style, 16-team double-elimination tournament (held over one day on two tracks, mind you), this year’s bracket has a slight hitch as only 15 teams will be competing (Kingston and ToRD have merged their fresh meat teams for the event, neither having enough skaters who qualified under the “fresh” rules); however, this year’s tournament excitingly welcomes some new leagues as well.

Once again, layer9.ca will be there to live stream the complete event, with single cameras on each track until the later knock out rounds when a full boutcast will bring you the medal-round action.

For a link to the bracket, click here. And here’s a breakdown of where you can find each team. Beginning at 7:00 PM (seminfinals), the tournament shifts to one track.

THE BUBBLE

An amalgamation of the freshest skaters from six Northern Ontario leagues, The NEO Fights return to Fresh after an interesting 2014 tournament saw them become the highest scoring team to be eliminated in two games (they scored 219 points in their two losses and despite the early elimination, were the second highest scoring team in the first round); they kick things off against long-time participants South Simcoe at 11:00 AM, in the opening game of the tournament.

The Bubble track actually features a who’s who of Fresh history. Roller Derby Quebec (who formerly participated as part of a Quebec provincial fresh meat team) will debut against Buffalo’s Queen’s Court (Queen City remains the lone US team in the tournament—they’ve been a part of it since the start). The Kingston/Toronto mixed team, the Rogue DVAS, will take on Forest City’s Thickets (quarterfinalists last year). Wrapping up the opening round games in the Bubble are two perennial Fresh participants, the Renegade Derby Dames and Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain.

*Catch the Bubble live stream here.

THE ARENA

Wellington Roller Derby’s Bloody Marys will get a bye past their opening match, but will face the winners of the Arena’s opening game, featuring Durhams DRRD’y Farmers and the 705 Bombshells (another amalgam team featuring leagues in and around the 705 area code). 2012 champs Montreal’s Smash Squad returns to the tournament (after being part of the Quebec provincial team in the last two tournaments) and will square off against the team that won it all last year, Capital City’s Cannon Dolls. Finally, the host Derby Debutantes will close out the opening round games with a showdown against Les Rebelles, who represent the debuting Roller Derby Sherbrooke.

*Catch the Arena live stream here.

 

PAST WINNERS OF THE “SLOPPY CUP”

Sloppy Cup

 

YEAR WINNER RUNNER-UP THIRD PLACE
2008 Death Row Dames (HCRG) Venus Fly Tramps (TCRD) Slaughter Daughters(RVRG—then ORD)
2011 Gold Miner’s Daughters (GCRG) D-VAS (ToRD) Queens of Pain (RCRG)
2012 Smash Squad (MTLRD) Top Herloins (RCRG) D-VAS (ToRD)
2013 Les Bûches (Quebec) D-VAS (ToRD) Hammer City/Pulp Affliction (ORG)
2014 Cannon Dolls (CCDD) Les Bûches (Quebec) D-VAS (ToRD)

 

**Remember to tune in to layer9.ca starting at 11:00 AM on Saturday morning to catch all of the fresh and furious action. As an added bonus, games featuring teams from Quebec will have a bilingual live stream.

Different Name, Same Awesome Event: Uhaul Brawl Proudly Kicks off Toronto Pride

Tight walls from the Plaid Mafia at the 2015 Uhaul Brawl. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

Tight walls from the Plaid Mafia at the 2015 Uhaul Brawl. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

At the end of the week of Pride Toronto 2015, on the eve of the biggest annual Pride weekend in North America, the United States of America kind of stole the show. When that country’s Supreme Court rendered the decision to allow same-sex marriage across the board, the world, including those already well caught up in the midst of the rainbow wave in Toronto, rejoiced. It was a monumental moment in the ongoing mainstream shift in Western attitudes toward the LGBTQ2 community and will undoubtedly be looked back upon as a decisive moment in our march toward universal human rights. But, of course, we’re not quite there yet. On the morning of Friday, June 26, 2015, as news of the Supreme Court’s decision dominated headlines, roller derby fans in Toronto were only slowly awaking and shaking off the previous night’s festivities. It had been a long Thursday for those who’d attended the Uhaul Brawl, the city’s annual all-queer all-star roller derby event, which, for the third year in a row was co-organized between Toronto Roller Derby and the GTA Rollergirls. It’s been an important event in the history and development of the sport in this city, and arguably represents contemporary roller derby in its purest form: fun, athletic, and with a clear progressive agenda.While this was the seventh year for the event (first held in 2009 at the George Bell Arena), this was the first year since letting go of the event’s original moniker, the Clam Slam.

The Blundstone Brigade and The Glitterrazzi kicked off the night with an exciting game that went down to the final jam.

The Blundstone Brigade and The Glitterrazzi kicked off the night with an exciting game that went down to the final jam.

Since re-emerging in Austin in the early part of the 21st Century, women’s flat track roller derby has occupied a fascinating space in the North American sports community. Initially the flat track movement was a riot-grrrl inspired, third-wave feminist spectacle that made a mockery of sports culture, all the while flaunting a certain form of hyper-femininity that in equal parts drew people in and kept them out. The game and the places where it was played were celebrated as safe, celebratory spaces for women. The Clam Slam rose out of this ideology: celebratory, hyper-feminine, and even as the competitive level of the sport arose around it (and thus within the event as well), those core values remained. However, the justifiably giddy response around the Supreme Court’s decision hid many problematic issues. For one, it highlighted how slow progress can be in the planet’s richest democracy (Canada and many other Western nations had legalized same-sex marriage for at least a decade), and it also masked the plight of those in the trans community, for whom progress and acceptance have been much harder to come by. While homophobia is still undeniably rampant in North America (primarily driven by the religious right), the lives of those in the LGB community have never been more protected as they are now. The laws of the land have indeed shifted, and while the members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities still face discrimination, they now have institutional protection and a guarantee of equal rights across the board (even if, sometimes, they still have to fight for them). The same cannot yet be said for the members in the trans community. Although it has been three years since Ontario passed Toby’s Act into law, trans people, whether it be through a simple lack of access to washrooms or being placed in detention with those of the opposite gender (just to name two examples), still face the kind of surface—and institutional—discrimination that members of the LGB community have been mostly able to find protection from. It was out of this murky climate that the movement to change the name of Toronto’s annual Pride-affiliated roller derby game arose. “We knew that [the name] was something that we had to address because we know that it’s transmisogynist and we know that there are problems with that in roller derby as well as in other queer spaces,” explains Uhaul Brawl co-organizer, Vag Lightning (skating at Uhaul Brawl as the Notorious V.A.G.).

There were twelve different leagues represented over the two games at Uhaul Brawl.

There were twelve different leagues represented over the two games at Uhaul Brawl.

The initial idea was to change the name moving forward and to find something that didn’t focus on women’s genitals. But as the event neared, it became more and more obvious that the time for change was now: “We were going to do it for next year but we got called out—rightfully so,” Vag admits, adding that “there are people who didn’t sign up this year because of it.” Specifically, Vag cites the criticism of new D-VAS skater The Lavender Menace as catalyst for the change, as it was she who first publicly articulated her feelings of exclusion, feelings that were quickly echoed across social media.

As the realization that people were being hurt and excluded from the event because of the name became more and more obvious (which is counter to the very essence of the event), change was instituted immediately. While the name and attitude surrounding the event had left some on the outside looking in, the event itself had never had a policy of exclusion, and trans women have been skating in the games since the inaugural Clam Slam in 2009. However, Vag acknowledges that while trans women have skated in the event, none had ever been involved in the planning, which is common: “that is something the event has suffered from as well as other events for queer women. Maybe if more trans women had been involved in an organizing position, these changes would have been made sooner. We have to talk about why trans women aren’t involved in the planning.” But, she’s quick to point out, “It shouldn’t be up to trans women to tell other queer women that what we’re doing is problematic.” The birth of the Uhaul Brawl seems to be part of a larger change in the roller derby community, built around a redefinition of inclusion. The reasoning behind the change, explains Vag, was that “The name itself perpetuates the assumption of what a woman is in queer womanhood.”

This problematic assumption, when you sit down and think about it, is rampant in the roller derby community (“Beaver Fever” comes to mind), a vestige of its riot grrrl roots. “We like to pat ourselves on the back and talk about how progressive we are,” points out Vag, citing the recent Vagine Regime-focused film In the Turn as being a surprisingly disappointing example of the community making assumptions about what a woman is in queer womanhood. “We want to push for a bigger conversation,” Vag says, “as well as push for more change at the WFTDA level, including with the gender policy,” which, she, and others, have pointed out, is problematic.

Many skaters skated under different names, including Montreal's La Grande Noirceur, who skated as Le Petite Mort.

Many skaters skated under different names, including Montreal’s La Grande Noirceur, who skated as Le Petite Mort.

What the name change has already accomplished is opening up the discussion to the community, and while there was some quiet resistance to the change, it was mostly accepted with open arms, celebrated even. And when the whistle blew, it didn’t change what happened on the track: fast, fun, fantastic roller derby. For the record, The Blundstone Brigade won the opening game 156-154 after a furious last-jam comeback against the The Gliterrazzi, while Team Uhaul defeated The Plaid Mafia 187-133. While the US Supreme Court’s decision was undeniably monumental, instead of seeing it as an end point in a battle, it should be seen as a beginning point of a push for the rights of those who are still excluded. While changing the name of one all-star roller derby event in Toronto seems a small gesture, it is the accumulation of those small gestures that will inspire change. “Hopefully doing stuff like this will ripple out to other leagues and we can all start doing a little better because we owe it to ourselves,” Vag concludes. “We owe it to our community, and we owe it to trans women.”

**The 2015 Uhaul Brawl was live streamed on layer9.ca. You can watch the archives here.**

ToRD, GTAR Unite for 7th Annual Uhaul Brawl

Uhaul Brawl 15 BannerFor the third season in a row, Toronto’s annual Pride-affiliated all-queer all-star roller derby bout will be a cross-city affair, a collaborative effort between the city’s two biggest roller derby leagues, Toronto Roller Derby and the GTA Rollergirls but the history of the event has roots that shoot even further back. Although newly rebranded (more on that in the recap–stay tuned), this will be the 7th straight season that a Pride-affiliated roller derby game takes place as part of Toronto’s Pride celebrations and it remains an increasingly popular part of the week (the Torontoist listed it as one of the “15 Cheap Things to Do For Pride 2015″).

Circle City's Trudy Bauchery (skating for the Diggers) battles Montreal's Nameless Whorror and ToRD's Nasher the Smasher at the 2013 Clam Slam. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Circle City’s (Indianapolis) Trudy Bauchery battles Montreal’s Nameless Whorror and ToRD’s Nasher the Smasher at the 2013 Clam Slam. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Dating back to 2009 and held in ToRD’s former home at George Bell Arena in the city’s West End, the event formerly known as the Clam Slam was born. For the past five seasons, US skaters have been a big part of the event (some visiting skaters have included Rose City’s Mercy and Naptown’s Maiden Sane), and this year representatives from Buffalo’s Queen City Roller Girls will maintain the tradition, just one of twelve leagues that will have skaters represented in the two games.

Divided into four teams and two games, the first matchup will feature “intermediate-level” skaters playing a slightly shortened game featuring two twenty-minute halves. The second will be a full regulation game featuring slightly more advanced skaters (including members of the seven WFTDA-associated leagues, with Montreal, Toronto, Tri-City and Queen City all in Division 1).

The level of play in the past has been impressive to say the least: fast-paced hard hitting, the skaters not letting the all-star nature of the set-up detract from the competition and this year’s event should be no different.

Once again, for those out-of-towners who don’t want to miss the game (or miss seeing their leaguemates in action!), layer9.ca will be live-streaming both games (just to get warmed up, take a look back at the 2014 Clam Slam to get a sense of the level of play).  But there’s nothing like being there for the live event: tickets are available online or at select retailers.

Game Times and Roster (some skaters are skating under special names specifically for this event):

Game 1 (6:30 PM: Live Stream Link)

Blundstone Brigade The Glitterrazzi
132 Ca-thump! GTA Rollergirls
174 Poupée de sin, Poupée de sang Montreal Roller Derby
175 Simone De Beaver Montréal Roller Derby
3 Taboma Niagara Roller Girls
40 Flaming Hips Kingston Derby Girls
5309 Tits Inspecter Toronto Roller Derby
7 Xcalibur Tri-City Roller Derby
867 The Notorious V.A.G. (C) Toronto Roller Derby
8688 Dyke Spice Kingston Derby Girls
888 Tiny Beaver Montreal
9.75 Dykeosaur Durham Region
Et0h 2 y/o Drunk Toddler Toronto Roller Derby
M30W Devon Wrecks GTA Rollergirls
n00d Oliver Klozeoff ToRD
YE5 M.I.Gay Hammer City

BENCH: Devochka, Lowblow Palooza

084 Scream Queen Royal City Roller Girls
1000k VAGILLIONAIRE Toronto Roller Derby
246 Rubyfruit Rumble Toronto Roller Derby
2468 Malcuntent (C) Royal City Roller Girls
320 Bear Queen City Roller Girls
4pc NicNugget Queen City Roller Girls
63 Eaton Beaver Tri City Roller Derby
64 Two Spear-hit Toronto Roller Derby
6969 CAT the Conqueror Durham Region Roller Derby
72 Molly Malign Queen City Roller Girls
7435 Shakesqueer Toronto Roller Derby
83 Hot Fuzz Royal City Roller Girls
862 glitter snatch Toronto Roller Derby
99 Noodle Kaboodle Toronto Roller Derby
X3 Commander Box Toronto Roller Derby

BENCH: Coach Nail’er, Tits McGee

Game 2 (8:00 PM: Live Stream Link)

Plaid Mafia Team Uhaul
1 Gayly Copter Toronto Roller Derby
1000k VAGILLIONAIRE Toronto Roller Derby
1017 Clitty Smallz Toronto Roller Derby
12″ Jildo Toronto Roller Derby
1234 lous ur pants Toronto Roller Derby
1321 Queen LaQueefa (C) Tri City Roller Derby
15 The Littlest Homo Toronto Roller Derby
18 IGWE Toronto Roller Derby
25 Vause the Boss Toronto Roller Derby
313 Suzy SlamHer South Simcoe Rebel Rollers
51 Dana Scullcrusher Niagara Roller Girls
Full Dick Toronto Roller Derby
76 Getcha Kinks Toronto Roller Derby
828 Switch Hitter Royal City Roller Girls
911 Fraxxure Tri City Roller Derby

BENCH: Loose Knuckles, Jose Queervo

14 AnneX Tri City Roller Derby
1666 Sin Queen City Roller Girls
2 I HEART BUTTS Orangeville Roller Girls
21 Dyna Squirtcha Montreal Roller Derby
213 Sleeper Hold (C) Toronto Roller Derby
23 ThünderKünt Toronto Roller Derby
312 G-Stringer Toronto Roller Derby
519 Smashin’ Good Time Hammer City
52 SoFearMe GTA Rollergirls
55 Box Fairy Toronto Roller Derby
78 La Petite Mort Montreal Roller Derby
867 Gaycey McNally Toronto Roller Derby
917 Pepper Pot GTA Rollergirls
L7 Tara Part Toronto Roller Derby

BENCH: Genghis Khunt, Heavy Petter, Gayonce

** Doors at Ted Reeve Arena open at 6:00 PM. ToRD’s CN Power will be hosting the official after party at The Steady Cafe and Bar.

Betties Knock off Gores to Capture First Boot

One of the loudest crowds in Battle for the Boot history was treated to a stunning championship game. (Photo by Greg Russell)

One of the loudest crowds in Battle for the Boot history was treated to a stunning championship game, ToRD’s 9th Battle for the Boot. (Photo by Greg Russell)

For the vast majority of their third attempt at winning Toronto Roller Derby’s championship it seemed as if the Smoke City Betties were destined to suffer the same fate that had befallen them on their first two attempts. For 51 minutes, the game and the coveted Boot both seemed out of reach.

Until suddenly, it wasn’t.

In the end, Toronto’s oldest flat track roller derby team managed to find some deep reserve of desire that fueled a thrilling late-game comeback, stunning eight-time finalists (and three-time champions) the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, 171-140, in what many immediately declared to be the most satisfying Battle for the Boot in league history.

It is true that ToRD’s championship game has often been a letdown. Adjusting for style of game play, it is easy to argue that between 2009 (when the Betties lost to the Gores 129-88) and 2013 (when the Betties were on the losing end of record-setting 258-73 defeat to the Death Track Dolls), every championship game was a blowout. Even last year’s 184-139 showdown between the Dolls and Gores, while not a blowout by any means, was never really in question as the Dolls led from start to finish. But in a year of league parity (at least between the top three teams), it should really have come as no surprise that this championship game delivered.

The Gores got off to an exceptional start, led by their eventual leading scorer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores got off to an exceptional start, led by their eventual leading scorer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The game actually got off to an inauspicious start for the Betties, who, despite playing two playoff games over the last month, seemed the less prepared of the two teams. Behind some incredible defensive blocking, all four of the Gores’ primary jammers (Lumberjack Flash, Lexi Con, Beaver Mansbridge and Taranosaurus Rex) nabbed lead jammer status in their initial jams, eventually taking five of the opening six (which included a power jam) to take a commanding 28-3 lead.

Unfazed, the Betties roared back and flipped the board on the Gores, taking seven of the next ten leads to get back in it, yet still found themselves down 51-34 with ten minutes to play in the opening period.

The Gores got a fantastic opening half from jammer Lexi Con, who played, arguably, her best half of the season, and at the break led her team—and the game—in scoring (38 points) and lead percentage (87% over seven jams). However, on the Betties’ side of the score sheet, an interesting story was developing: after a slow start, ToRD’s second leading scoring in the regular season, Smoka Cola, seemed to be just getting warmed up: the first-year transfer nabbed lead in three of her final four jams scoring 28 of her 29 points over that stretch, while helping the Betties to get close at the break, down 89-67 at the half.

Strong Gores' packs were led by veteran blocker Jill 'Em All. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Strong Gores’ packs were led by veteran blocker Jill ‘Em All. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores had managed to hold their half-time lead by grabbing the final three lead jammer statuses and that momentum followed them into the second period. Although lead jammer status was about equal over the opening ten minutes, the Gores maintained clear control, getting phenomenal blocking from veteran Santa Muerte, while Jill ‘Em All (who returned to the Gores after a two-year hiatus to focus on the CN Power) led an, at times, devastating line along with Chronc, Gamma Rei and Emma Dilemma. One-third of the way through the second period and it seemed as if the Gores were in complete control: they used three power jams to build a substantial 30-point lead, 126-96.

But then, the game changed.

The Betties got some outstanding blocking across the board, including AnneBulance and Tushy Galore). (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties got some outstanding blocking across the board, including AnneBulance and Tushy Galore). (Photo by Greg Russell)

Led by some stand-out performances from across the board—including veterans, rookies, and transfers—the Betties slowly began to chip away. Heavy defense from Tushy Galore and Honey Boom Boom (who was outstanding in the game, playing perhaps the best derby of her career), was complemented by the calm on-track presence of rookie Fight of the Conchords, on-point line leadership from SewWhat?, and an increasingly larger role for first-year transfer AnneBulance. Six-straight lead jammers for the Betties anchored a series of ten consecutive jams where the Gores were held off the board, and after an incredible 14-point pick up from long-time Bettie titmouse (she finished with 41 points), the Betties found themselves within three—as close as they’d been since the opening whistle.

A Gores’ timeout did nothing to stop the Betties’ momentum, and when it was all said and done, a 64-0, ten jam run of complete dominance saw the Betties take their first lead of the game with nine minutes left to go; it was a run that sealed the Gores’ fate.

Smoka Cola (seen here pushing through a Jill 'Em All and Gamma Rei two-wall) was unstoppable in the second half. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Smoka Cola (seen here pushing through a Jill ‘Em All and Gamma Rei two-wall) was unstoppable in the second half. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In terms of offense, the story of the second half was Smoka Cola. After a strong first period, Smoka was simply unstoppable in the second: 100% lead percentage (seven for seven) and 50 points. At one point in the game-changing ten jam run, she even went back to back (grabbing lead on both), but it was a late power jam (the Betties’ second and final of the half) that sealed the deal.

After getting back-to-back leads, the Gores handed the star to Santa Muerte, who’d been somewhat of a secret weapon this season (in limited regular season action with the star she’d managed 3.7 points per jam and a remarkable 75% lead percentage). Unfortunately this time, matched up against Smoka Cola, it backfired. Drawing a cut, the Betties and Smoka Cola punished the Gores for 18 points (even with excellent penalty killing from Viktoty Lapp, Moose Knuckles and Miss Kitty La Peur).

It was the first Boot win in three attempts (2009, 2013) for the Betties. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It was the first Boot win in three attempts (2009, 2013) for the Betties. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite a frantic push at the end (they would take lead in four of the final five jams, led by some fantastic jamming from Beaver Mansbridge, who eventually led the Gores in scoring—50—and lead percentage—50%), the Betties retained control of the scoreboard and held off the Gores for the 29-point win.

This win was a long-time coming for the Betties, who were the last team to have their name engraved on the Boot, and in particular for those longest-serving skaters (Tushy Galore, titmouse, and Genuine Risk were three of twelve rookies on the team in a challenging 2010 season), and with a strong core in the place, this could just be the start of something special.

**The Battle for the Boot was broadcast on Rogers TV; check local listings for rebroadcast, with the evening of June 13 the likely first rebroadcast. And, of course, layer9.ca was trackside to capture all of the action. You can watch his footage here.

**Next up for flat track roller derby fans in the city is the Pride-affiliated 2015 U-Haul Brawl at Ted Reeve Arena on Thursday, June 25th).

Battle for the Boot 9: A Preview of the 2015 ToRD Championship

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Smoke City Betties had a tight regular season showdown, with the Gores winning narrowly 155-148. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Smoke City Betties had a tight regular season showdown, with the Gores winning narrowly 155-148. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Formed in late winter 2006, they are one of the oldest roller derby teams in Canada. From them, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, the GTA Rollergirls, and the Rollergettes all sprung forth. From hosting the first ever Canadian roller derby tournament in August 2006 to being one of the teams on the track for the opening whistle of the inaugural Beast of the East in 2008, this team’s imprint is stamped all over the history of Canadian flat track roller derby.

So central to the narrative of the sport are they, it’s almost hard to believe that the one thing that the Smoke City Betties have never accomplished is winning a Toronto Roller Derby championship.

On Saturday, June 6, 2015, they will have their third chance to do so when they face off against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in ToRD’s 9th Battle for the Boot.

The Betties and Gores first met int he championship game in 2009, with the Gores winning 128-88. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Betties and Gores first met in Battle for the Boot 3 in 2009, with the Gores winning 128-88. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The only other time these two teams—so indelibly linked—squared off for the Boot was way back in 2009 when the make-up of the rosters was so far different from what they are now: Back then, the rivals were loaded with first generation ToRD skaters, and after the Gores beat the Betties 128-88 in that game, there was a massive retirement of original Betties, with others (like Demolition Dawn and Dyna Hurtcha) moving on to different teams. What began was an almost brutal bottom-up rebuild of the team that took four trying years to accomplish. Then in 2013, their second shot at the Boot, they came up against a record-setting juggernaut in the Death Track Dolls.

This time, the turn around has only been two years and much of the core remains.

It’s been a different story for the Gores. One of ToRD’s great teams, they have dominated the opening decade of the league’s history. They have won three championships (tied with Chicks Ahoy!) and they have, remarkably, battled for the Boot in eight of ToRD’s nine championship bouts. However, despite three appearances in the final over that stretch of time, it has been four long years since the Gores last raised the Boot. A few skaters remain from that last championship win (Jill ‘Em All was there and Santa Muerte, Chronic, Miss Kitty La Peur, and Gamma Rei were all rookies), and I doubt any thought it would take so long to taste victory once again.

Not much separated the two teams during their regular season showdown, but Betties jammer Smoka Cola had, arguably, her best game of the season, scoring 70 points and holding a 63% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties jammer Smoka Cola had, arguably, her best game of the season against the Gores, scoring 70 points and holding a 63% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Based on regular season results, it would seem that the Gore-Gore Rollergirls have the slightest edge coming in. While overall, the Betties outscored the Gores in the regular season, the Gores had the stingiest defense overall, leading to a substantially better team plus/minus (+164 vs. +52). On top of that, there is that 7-point regular-season victory. Competitively, it’s tight in the pack, but considering the collective experience of Santa Muerte, Chronic, and Jill Em All, the edge may go to the Gores.

That being said, this Betties crew is a pack on the rise. With Tushy Galore planted firmly in core of this group, this season has seen the rise of a new generation of pack leaders, none more so than SewWhat?, who is quickly becoming one of the league’s most reliable blockers. LowBlowPalooza and Honey Boom Boom have stepped up their games this season as well.

The jammer rotations are also comparable. While the Gores used a relatively expansive six-jammer rotation (although all six only appeared in one game together), the Betties have stuck with the same tight four-jammer lineup all regular season—and they excelled with remarkable consistency. Smoka Cola led the way in scoring and lead percentage (183 points, 4.1 points per jam, 64% lead percentage) but all four members (Wolverina, WackedHer, and Kill’Her At Large) scored at least 110 points, registered at least 3.3 points per jam and had at least a 45% lead percentage. Pretty solid stats for a team that went 1-2 on the regular season. With Kill’Her At Large out with an injury for the playoffs, veteran jammer titmouse returned to the lineup just in time to slip into her role.

Toronto_roller_derby_Battle_for_the_Boot_2015The Gores employed a wider offense, and different jammers found success against different teams, and sometimes even just in different situations. The team’s leading scorer, for example, Taranosaurus Rex (123 points) managed to score a team-high 56 points against the Dolls in a game in which she registered only a 29% lead percentage. Overall, Lexi Con and Beaver Mansbridge were the team’s steadiest performers with the star. Lexi led the team with a 4.3 points per jam (on 50%) while Beaver led the way with a 61% lead percentage (scoring 77 points on a 3.4 points per jam). A bit of a not-so-secret weapon is Santa Muerte. Used in limited action, she was incredibly consistent when needed, managing 3.7 points per jam and a 75% lead percentage.

With two teams that seem so close on paper, it may end up coming down to game readiness. And that advantage favours the Betties. The Gores have not seen full-game action since February, while the Betties have been climbing through the ranks, playing meaningful, must-win playoff games, and virtually dominating them. If they can carry that momentum into the Battle for the Boot, it will be their battle to lose.

Nerd Glasses

**The Battle for the Boot 9 is on Saturday, June, 6th, at the Bunker in Downsview Park with opening whistle slated for 7:00 PM. The night will open with an all-star mashup, featuring two rosters built of skaters from CN Power and the Bay Street Bruisers. Opening whistle on that one is 5:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at the door.

Canadian Power Rankings: June 1, 2015

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone, Dr. Jenny Fever and Derby Nerd rank Canada’s top A-level travel teams every two months (or so). Read the April 1st Power Ranking here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1.Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars  – Vancouver finally became the team to the end Montreal’s unbeaten streak. Since that win they’ve gone 2-3, but the losses have come against top-flight competition (Rat City, Rocky Mountain and Denver). (/ 17)
2. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

 –  Their unbelievable Canadian winning streak finally ended, but it has seemed to inspire the team and they’ve been on a tear since, including a surprisingly one-sided win over Boston. (1 / 20)
3.CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)New CNP Logo A strong showing against Montreal was followed by an up-and-down performance at Spring Roll However, the team seems to be integrating changes nicely and should still improve as the season goes on. (3 / 24)
4.Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

 – An inconsistent Beaver Fever saw them hold off Tri-City before inexplicably falling to Queen City. This inconsistency could threaten their playoff chances. (4 / 34)
5. Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo +1 After some off-season adjusting, Thunder have been on a roll. Great showings at Beaver Fever and Spring Roll (including upset wins over Calgary and Queen City) has Tri-City back in the Top 5. (5/54)
6Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo -1 While briefly in D1 position, losses at Spring Roll (most notably to Tri-City) send them just out of the Top 5. Calgary has plateaued a bit after a surge up the rankings. (8 / 43)

7.Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)Duchesses Logo

 – Quebec’s travel team is just getting warmed up but holds its spot after a better result against Bangor than Muddy River had. Their upcoming showdown with the Lumbersmacks should be explosive.  (11 / -)
8. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo  +1  Muddy River keeps climbing after a second place finish at the grueling Mayday Mayhem tournament, where they defeated Winnipeg in the semifinals. (10 / -)
9. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo unranked Winnipeg finally enters the Top 10 after an impressive final-four appearance at Mayday Mayhem that helped improve their season record to 4-2 (all sanctioned play). (13 / -)
10. Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby)

Angel-logo-bw

-2 The Anarchy Angels remain in the Top 10 after a dominant performance at Flat Track Fever including a win over E-Ville. They are 5-0 on the season with an average differential of 250 points. (9/ -)

The Power Rankings had anticipated an end to Montreal New Skids on the Block’s all-time Canadian winning streak, and it finally happened in April. After coming back to take a narrow 9-point win over Toronto at home in Montreal, the Skids headed out west to the Big O where Terminal City had its chance. They took advantage. It was an intense, back-and-forth game that Vancouver was able to win on the final jam, 182-177. It ended a 17-game winning streak dating back to 2008 for Montreal and the results have the Power Rankings Crew holding the top three.

Rideau Valley also was able to hold on to its fourth spot with an up-and-down performance at Beaver Fever that included a solid 186-156 win over Tri-City. Speaking of Tri-City, Thunder returns to the Top 5 on a strong run at both Beaver Fever and Spring Roll that saw them upset Queen City and then Calgary. That loss is what sends Calgary tumbling a spot. The CRDA All Stars had briefly jumped into WFTDA’s Division 1, before slipping back to D2 where they hold a strong playoff position should they remain there.

While Les Duchesses barely hold the 7th spot, they will continue their burgeoning rivalry with Muddy River this summer, who has crept up next to them in the Power Rankings after a second-place performance at the Mayday Mayhem tournament in Colorado, where they knocked off Canadian counterparts Winnipeg (who are entering the Top 10 for the first time after a long time on the Watch List and then on the Bubble). As with Muddy River, expect a big WFTDA rankings debut for Winnipeg. Finally, Mainland Misfits Anarchy Angels are hard to judge as they have yet to truly face a challenge so far in 2015, but an impressive (dominant) run at Flat Track Fever keeps them safely in the Top 10.

On The Bubble

E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby) (12th)

Avalanche City Roller Girls (Fernie Roller Derby Society) (17th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (19th)

We’ve still got a long watch list to keep track of as the season progresses but there are three teams who remain directly on the Bubble. E-Ville, in particular, held off a strong challenge from Avalanche City at Flat Track Fever (keeping them both here on the Bubble), and finally Guelph’s Royal City Brute-Leggers started the season with an unsanctioned loss to Toronto’s Bay Street Bruisers only to go on a 3-0 run in their WFTDA sanctioned debut, securing an impressive initial ranking of 105th.

Nerd Glasses

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone, and Dr. Jenny Fever.

*Get caught up by reading the April Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-