toronto roller derby

What’s in a Name?: Rebranded 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!-

End of an Era: Betties Knock off Defending Champs in ToRD Semifinal

Smoke City Betties jammer WackerHer attempts to power through a Death Track Dolls wall in the ToRD semifinal. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Smoke City Betties jammer WackedHer attempts to power through a Death Track Dolls wall in the ToRD semifinal at The Bunker in Dowsnview Park on Saturday night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

At the midway point of the opening half, it was still anyone’s game.

From the opening whistle, the Smoke City Betties had managed to keep one step ahead of the defending champion Death Track Dolls, but with a scoreline that read 66-40, they hadn’t been able to distance themselves. It was still anyone’s game.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t: A methodical fourteen-minute, 50-0 run (in which they managed to nab eight out of nine lead jammers) extended the Bettie’s lead to 76 points. The Dolls would never get closer again, and after a second-place regular season and two-straight ToRD championships, they fell short in their attempt to make it three in a row in the 200-123 loss.

Betties blockers (l to r) Brickhouse Bardot, SewWhat?, and Jammher'head Shark contain Dolls jammer Common Dominator. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties blockers (l to r) Brickhouse Bardot, SewWhat?, and Jammher’head Shark contain Dolls jammer Common Dominator. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

On Saturday night the Betties (who finished third in the regular season) delivered a complete game effort from a determined, focused and unified team that seems to have saved its best efforts for the most important time of the season, and after dominant quarterfinal and semifinal wins looks poised to challenge the three-time champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls in Toronto Roller Derby’s ninth Battle for the Boot.

The Betties played such a complete game that it is actually difficult to pull out standout performances. Part of the key to the success that the team has displayed in this year’s playoff run seems to be that everyone is buying into her role on the track. In a post-game interview, blocker/pivot SewWhat? attributed this partially to an off-season turnover in leadership that required everyone to step up and take responsibility—something that the team obviously did not shy away from. And from emerging leaders like SewWhat?, Honey Boom Boom and LowblowPalooza, to first-year transfers like Anne Bulance and Brickhouse Bardot, to the veteran core of Tushy Galore and titmouse, the Betties have built the depth to compete against anyone in the league.

Dolls blocker Hannibelle looks to contain Betties jammer Wolverina. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Dolls blocker Hannibelle looks to contain Betties jammer Wolverina. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

As they have all season, the Betties used a deep, consistent jammer rotation led by the unflappable duo of WhackedHer (43 points and an 83% lead percentage at half, that translated to 51, 73% for the game) and Wolverina (who was the game’s leading scorer with 69 on a 77%) to terrorize the Death Track Dolls, who didn’t have the defensive depth to match the consistent turnover of diverse jammers. Overall the Betties had a 65% lead percentage at halftime (and an even more impressive 73% over the second half of the opening period, ) accounting in large part for the considerable 118-54 lead at the break.

Playing desperation derby, the Dolls actually had a better second half (eventually outscored 82-69 in the period) that was a little deceiving as their most sustained push (a 30-7 run) came over the last five minutes when the Betties had taken their skates off the gas and the game was out of reach.

The Dolls got a monumental effort from Sleeper Hold, who donned the star for a remarkable 22 jams on the night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls got a monumental effort from Sleeper Hold, who donned the star for a remarkable 22 jams on the night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Part of the change could be attributed to a momentous effort from second-year jammer Sleeper Hold who appeared in twelve jams in the second half alone (and finished the game with 66 points and a 41% lead percentage on 22 jams). The lack of depth in the position was the result of the bad luck that seemed to follow the Dolls this season. With rookie of the year candidate PrEditor unavailable for the remainder of the season (along with Scarcasm being unavailable for this game) and Devochka having just returned from injury (she got stronger as the game went on, and was excellent as pivot—receiving some key passes and managing 15 points on 60% in limited action with the star), the Dolls were left with Sleeper, rookie Common Dominator (who only had 18 jams worth of experience under her belt coming into the game), and D-VAS call up Battering Ma’am (who didn’t look out of place at all, recording 20 on 42%) to try to match the Betties offensive depth. The Betties rotation was rounded out by CN Power jammer Smoka Kola (54, 69%) and six-year veteran titmouse, whose numbers seem to pale compared to her counterparts (18, 27%). But upon closer inspection, the crafty veteran found ways to deliver and had the Nerd’s “stat of the night”: an incredible 7 stolen points, including 4 in the second half.

Similarly, the Dolls’ pack was lacking some key pieces as well, as both Dawson and Bloc Quebecois were not yet ready to return (Slam Wow and Junkie Jenny were already gone for the season). Another D-VAS call up (and former Doll) Lucid Lou was excellent given the circumstances, and Robotomy, Getcha Kicks, Hannibelle and Stringer Belle continue to provide a consistent core to the pack, but it simply wasn’t enough against a Betties team that was firing on all cylinders.

In the end, the 77-point victory allows the Betties to return to battle for the boot for the third time in history. The showdown with the Gores marks a rematch of the 2009 Battle for the Boot, and is the first appearance for the Betties since a 2013 loss to the Dolls.

Nerd Glasses

* The game was broadcast on Rogers TV. Stay tuned for rebroadcasts. Also, the thrilling preliminary game between the D-VAS and Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain was also broadcast. Definitely find the time to tune in to this thrilling game. (You can also watch track-side footage of both games on layer9.ca)

These two teams will be meeting again in Guelph on June 13th. If this game was any indication, it might be a road trip worth making for Toronto fans!

*Battle for the Boot 9 is on June 6th at the Bunker. Tickets are on sale now.

Lay of the Land: Where Canadian Teams Stand Midway Through WFTDA Season

The Nerd breaks down the rankings and records of Canada’s top WFTDA teams as the playoff push continues.

DIVISION 1

All four Canadian D1 teams have seen considerable action this season, and at the midway point, all seem fairly secure in their D1 status for the season. Barring any disastrous summers, the next few months should be dedicated to improving placement.

Photo by Bob Ayers (from TCRG All Stars home page)Terminal City All Stars

Current Ranking: 17th / 2015 Record: 4-0

Terminal City is officially the top team in the nation, but they have not in any way distanced themselves from Montreal and Toronto. Impressive wins over Helsinki and Nashville to kick off the season were followed by the narrow streak-stopping victory over Montreal (182-177) and an even narrower win over Boston (177-174). Interestingly, despite the loss to Vancouver, Montreal has better results against Nashville and Helsinki, and Toronto has a better result against Boston but lost (barely) to Montreal. It seems that there is nothing really separating Canada’s top three teams right now.

The Terminal City roster returns largely unchanged from last season but there have definitely been internal shifts, with the likes of Eve Hollows and Sundown taking on more on-track leadership and Maiden Sane rising to the top of the jammer rotation.

Next up for Terminal City are Wasatch (39th) and Rocky Mountain (14th) at Besterns on May 29th.

Photo by Ulrick Wery (from Skids home page)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

Current Ranking: 20th / 2015 Record: 4-1

Montreal started the season very well holding off frantic pushes from both Rideau Valley (166-140) and Toronto (180-171) before handling Nashville and Helsinki with relative ease and then suffering the team’s first ever defeat to a Canadian team in the last-minute loss to Terminal City.

Montreal is going through a minor rebuild this season from the bench staff right through to the jammer rotation. And while skaters like Ohi(0) and Demanda Lashing in the pack and Falcon Punch with the star have emerged as prominent pieces, there is still a very experienced core at the heart of this team that includes Jess Bandit, Mange Moi El Cul, Cheese Grater and Mel E. Juana.

The Skids have a busy June coming up with tough games against Boston (21st), Stockholm (32nd), and a tumbling Windy City (13th) scheduled.

CNPOWER 2015

Toronto Roller Derby: CN Power

Current Ranking: 24th / 2015 Record: 4-3

Toronto has been very busy so far this season and despite a considerable roster shuffle in the off season has looked strong in 2015. An impressive three-game winning streak over Rideau Valley, Steel City and Boston built up CN Power’s confidence going into a showdown with long-time rival Montreal, a game they led most of the way before losing narrowly. An up-and-down Spring Roll saw them sneak by Kansas City (191-188) before strong performances in losses to higher ranked Arch Rival (18th currently) and the surging Dallas Derby Devils, who have jumped 31 spots in the standings so far this season.

Toronto, largely, has a new-look jammer rotation with transfers Mad Megz, Smoka Cola, and Bay Street Bruisers graduate Bellefast all in the top four of the depth chart. Blocking, Misery Mae has added some much-needed power to the pack while Ames to Kill has emerged as a more-than-capable team leader.

Toronto faces some old (and also rebuilding) rivals in Naptown (35th) and Ohio (22nd) next.

vixens2014_logo-resize

Rideau Valley Vixens

Current Ranking: 34th / 2015 Record: 3-4

The Vixens remain somewhat of an enigma. Although their record speaks to the quality of competition the team has faced in 2015, they have had some inconsistent results. Starting the season with a big win over Steel City, Rideau Valley looked very good in losses to the higher ranked Toronto (32 point loss), Boston (23) and Montreal (26), they then crushed Green Mountain and held off a cagey Tri-City before coming up flat in a loss to Queen City (a team that, to be fair, has often seemed to baffle the Vixens—for whatever reason).

While the Vixens have been slowly extending their bench (and the B-Team Sirens are developing well), depth remains a problem. Skaters like Jamie’s Got a Gun (who has transitioned nicely from the junior to the senior game) and Restless Ross are taking on more responsibility in the pack, but they still have problems at the jammer position. With Shania Pain once again missing most of the summer schedule, they have yet to find a consistent third jammer capable of replacing her at this level, a gap that was evident in the loss to Queen City.

The Vixens do, so far, have a quiet summer planned, but have a very important showdown scheduled against Baltimore’s Charm City in July.

DIVISION 2

Canada has two teams securely in Division 2 playoff spots, and although both would love to advance to D1 by the season’s end (and it remains a possibility), either team could do some serious damage in the D2 playoffs and would both be considered contenders if they remained.

Photo by Brangwyn Jones from CRDA All Stars home page

Calgary Roller Derby Association All Stars

Current Ranking: 43rd / 2015 Record: 3-6

A very busy Calgary team is getting a crash-course in how hard it is to stay competitive in WFTDA’s Division 1. The darlings of the Association last season (built upon a record-setting surge up the standings), Calgary briefly slipped into D1 early in 2015 before settling back high in the D2 standings. Calgary hasn’t yet managed the big wins this season as they’ve faced some stiff competition, losing one-sided decisions to strong teams from Arizona, Jacksonville, Arch Rival and Dallas. However, most surprising was their recent loss to 54th ranked Tri-City (208-196) in a thrilling game between the cross-nation teams.

Calgary retains its core after last year’s run up the rankings and their jammer rotation (led by Team Canada’s Kryss Myass) has been shored up by the strong play of Mulan Bruise and Easy Break Oven.

Calgary awaits its schedule for Beach Brawl 2015 in June, and also has yet to announce an opponent for a June 6th home game.

TCRD travel team 2015

Tri-City Thunder

Current Ranking: 54th / 2015 Record: 6-2

After a seemingly ominously auspices start to the 2015 season (a one-sided loss to a rebuilding Ohio), Tri-City has turned its fortunes around and anchored by a solidly rebuilt jammer rotation has won six of the last seven games to all-but-secure a spot in the D2s once again (they were in the D1 playoffs last season, but the D2s in 2013). The only loss in that run was to the higher-ranked Rideau Valley (186-156) and included considerable upsets over Calgary (43rd) and Queen City (30th).

Changes all around have helped to shore up Tri-City’s game. Recent transfers Andy Slamberg and Anne Tastic join Fox Hadley, Wylde Leigh Coyote, and Fraxxure in a deep pack, while the jammer rotation has been completely rebuilt around transfers Honey Badger and Crazy Squirrel (with double threat AnneX providing the most consistent relief with the star).

Up next is a tough June meeting against 45th ranked Chicago Outfit in Chi-town.

THE BEST OF THE REST

The rest of Canada’s WFTDA teams are either currently unranked due to lack of sanctioned games (Muddy River and Winnipeg, for example, who both just picked up a handful of games after strong performances at Mayday Mayhem and will enter the rankings shortly) or have either fallen far out of D2 (Hamilton continues its slide, down now to 141st) or haven’t yet climbed their way into it (Forest City, for example, whose inconsistency has them still hovering at 136th).

However, the best of the rest is easily the Royal City Roller Girls’ Brute-Leggers, who after winning their first three sanctioned bouts, have leap-frogged the rest of the Canadian competition to find themselves ranked 105th and on the cusp of Division 2. The Brute-Leggers’ next sanctioned action comes in June at ECDX where they will square off against Salisbury (107th) and Connecticut (112th). It will easily be the stiffest test the team will have faced yet in sanctioned play, but they are both winnable games that provide a quality opportunity to build on what has been an incredibly successful start to their WFTDA run.

Nerd Glasses

*I’ll be at the Bunker in Downsview Park this weekend working with Rogers TV to broadcast Toronto Roller Derby’s playoffs! After their quarterfinal win on May 9th, the Smoke City Betties have advanced to take on the defending champion Death Track Dolls for an opportunity to play in this year’s Battle For the Boot. The night will begin with the D-VAS hosting Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain (5:00 PM), with opening whistle for the semifinal scheduled for 7:00 PM. Tickets are now available.

Weekend Recap: Terminal Ends Montreal’s streak; Betties advance in ToRD; Hammer City wins second in a row

A busy weekend in Canadian derby at all levels, from WFTDA sanctioned competition to B-team play to house league playoffs.

The final score also showing the 14-7 score of the frantic final jam (from the All Stars Facebook page; photo by Bob Ayers)

The final score also showing the 14-7 score of the frantic final jam (from the All Stars Facebook page; photo by Bob Ayers)

Terminal City All Stars 182 vs. Montreal’s New Skids on the Block 177

It’s been a long time coming. Forever, actually. At least in derby time.

On Saturday, May 2, 2015, Montreal Roller Derby’s New Skids on the Block lost a full-length WFTDA sanctioned game to a Canadian team for the first time in history when Vancouver’s Terminal City All Stars defeated them on a frantic last jam, 182-177, at The Big O in Eugene, Oregon.

It put an end to a streak of national dominance that I doubt we will ever see again. Although Terminal had defeated Montreal once before in a short, non-regulation game, beginning in July 2008, The Skids have been on a nearly eight-year, seventeen-game winning streak against the top teams that this country has to offer. During that time, they defeated Hammer City, Toronto, Rideau Valley, Tri-City, Oil City, Calgary and Terminal City; essentially, the cream of the crop of Canadian flat track.

Teams have been breathing down Montreal’s neck for two years now, most notably Toronto (who have 13- and 9-point losses to the Skids in that stretch) and Terminal City (who lost to them by 22 last year), and the Canadian Power Rankings crew had already shifted Terminal ahead of Montreal to kick off 2015’s rankings. But it’s one thing to do it on paper, and another to do it on the track.

Just last week in Montreal, Toronto had the Skids on the ropes for much of their game, including holding an 86-64 lead at halftime, but couldn’t hold off Montreal in the end. Similarly, Terminal City actually looked as if they were going to run away with it in the early going, amassing a lead that stretched to as much as 50 points before Montreal made it close at half, down 88-79.

A back-and-forth second half saw no team with a clear advantage and Montreal taking a two point lead into the final minute and jam. A Mel E Juana lead seemed to wrap things up, but with a scrappy Evada Peron on the track and time remaining, Mel was forced to engage and picked up a forearm penalty that allowed Terminal City to lock down the jam and outscore Montreal 14-7 for the 5-point win.

After opening the season with a 215-185 win over Helsinki, 18th ranked Terminal City ran the table this weekend, slightly upsetting Montreal, while also knocking off Nashville (182-122) and Boston (in another tight one, 177-173) to improve to 4-0 on the season. Meanwhile, after opening the season with four straight wins, the loss to Vancouver drops the 17th ranked Montreal to 4-1 on the season.

Nerd Glasses

ToRD House League Quarterfinals: Chicks Ahoy! 129 – Smoke City Betties 218

Monster Muffin battles through a Betties wall of Zomboney, pivot Honey Boom Boom, and Brickhouse Bardot. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Monster Muffin battles through a Betties wall of Zomboney, pivot Honey Boom Boom, and Brickhouse Bardot. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

A closing 26-10 jam for Chicks Ahoy’s! Monster Muffin (aided by some monstrous pack work from the excellent line of Morton, Biggley Smallz, Rosemary’s Rabies, and Furious Georgia) concluded a strong end to what had threatened to be a slaughter in the early going.

Toronto Roller Derby’s ninth house league playoffs got underway this past weekend with three-time Battle for the Boot champs Chicks Ahoy! falling to two-time finalists the Smoke City Betties in a quarter final showdown at Ted Reeve Arena in Toronto’s east end. The Betties advance to play the defending champion Death Track Dolls in the semi final on May 23rd.

The Betties were missing key pieces this weekend—most notably in the jammer rotation—but it didn’t phase them as they continued the dominance they’d shown in the regular season meeting between these two teams. Veteran titmouse returned to the rotation on Saturday, a position she’d seemingly transitioned out of, and tore up the track for the Betties, with whom she’s skated for six seasons now, joining Smoka Cola and WhackedHer as a trio for which the Chicks had no answers (not to mention some late-gaming jamming from another long-time Betties blocker Genuine Risk). However, the difference was more in the depth of the pack, one led by another six-year vet Tushy Galore and emerging leader SewWhat?, but increasingly dependent upon the offense of LowBlowPalooza and the considerable depth bulking up the rest of the bench.

Despite the fourth straight ToRD loss of the season, strong performances across the bench indicate this team is on the right track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the fourth straight ToRD loss of the season, strong performances across the bench indicate this Chick’s team is on the right track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Betties got off to a thoroughly dominant start, and were in complete control at half, up 161-41.

The second half was a different story, however, a combination of the Betties taking their foot of the gas and the Chicks refusing to end their season without a fight. Led by retiring nine-year skater Furious Georgia (who was eventually named the team’s blocking MVP) and her aforementioned linemates, and a jamming rotation built around an increasingly confident trio of Monster Muffin, R2-Smack-U, and Wheels of Misfortune, the Chicks actually outscored the Betties in the second half 108-58.

The Betties vs. Dolls semi final will be back at The Bunker on May 23rd.

Nerd Glasses 

Bay Street Bruisers Upend Plan B / Hammer City Crushes Striking Vikings

A number of Bruisers  excelled despite playing back-to-back games (including Morton, Joss Wheelin and Tushy Galore) seen here blocking SlaughterHouse Streeter. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

A number of Bruisers excelled despite playing back-to-back games (including Morton, Joss Wheelin and Tushy Galore) seen here blocking SlaughterHouse Streeter. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Hammer City Eh! Team picked up its second straight win overall, but first sanctioned win, in 2015 with a thoroughly dominant 477-51 victory over their WFTDA D3 counterparts the Striking Vikings of Alliston’s Renegade Derby Dames. It was the second straight sanctioned loss to begin the season for the Vikings after a 219-104 loss to Windsor’s Border City Brawlers.

Hammer City has had an up-and-down few seasons to say the least. After challenging for a D2 playoff spot in 2013, Hammer City has been on a rough tumble since, beginning this season in 109th, outside of D2 altogether; it was a run that included nine-straight losses. But after defeating Ohio’s Gang Green 140-148 last week, the Eh! Team seems to have some swagger back: the 477 points is the most ever scored by the team in a regulation or sanctioned game.

Finally, back in Toronto, two of Canada’s top team’s B-teams faced off when the Bay Street Bruisers hosted Tri-City’s Plan B. It was the first meeting between the two and was reminiscent of some of the old Thunder-CN Power struggles.

The Bruisers got off to a hot start, but couldn’t stay much more than a step or two ahead of Plan B, leading 25-15 ten minutes into what ended up being a fast, hard-hitting and relatively low-scoring game.

Missing a few jammers allowed Murdercat! to have her busiest game with the Bruisers, teaming up with Lexi Con, Monster Muffin and titmouse (the last two doubling up after the Betties/Chicks game earlier in the evening). It was strong, full-team effort that allowed the Bruisers to control much of the play in the first half on the way to a narrow 69-65 lead.

Picking up where they left off in the first, Plan-B came out hard in the second half, led by a 19-0 jam for the jukey Crazy Squirrel who seems to have found a home in Tri-City. She was part of a diverse jammer rotation along with Aggrosaurus, Kristy Skelton and SlaughterHouse Streeter, a combination that forced constant defensive adjustments from the Bruisers. Tri City took the lead 6 minutes in and managed to hold it for nearly 15 minutes before the Bruisers retook it and held on to the end for the 166-144 lead in a thrilling first match up between these two quality B-teams.

Beast of the East 8: A Preview of BOE 2015

BOE 2015 PosterOne thing that the Beast of the East has proven over the years is that it is virtually unpredictable: sixteen house league teams randomly selected from a variety of leagues in Ontario and Quebec; no accurate ranking system for teams that may—at most—face off once a year; and a twenty-minute game format that punishes mistakes brutally. It equals a recipe for bracket breaking.

So here’re two predictions for the unpredictable:

1. This year’s tournament could even be more unpredictable than most.

2. It’s going to be awesome.

Two years ago, in 2013, I declared that tournament to be the Beast of Beasts: unbelievable action, completely unpredictable (except, it turns out, for the finalists), and some of the most exciting moments in the tournament’s history. Then along came 2014 and the tournament managed to top even that historic event. This is simply, a tournament that just keeps getting better.

2014 was not only arguably the best Beast ever, it was actually one of the best roller derby tournaments I’ve ever been to. In the two Sunday playoff rounds, the average point differential was 8 points, with three games being settled by 4 points or less and one more going to overtime. And the two medal games (played in two twenty-minute halves) continued the trend with co-hosts La Racaille taking third by 17 points and Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls winning the tournament with a 15-point win, capping a most unlikely run to the final. Actually, no championship team has ever faced such adversity as the Gores did last year. After a one-sided tournament-opening win over Durham’s Motor City Madames, the Gores won their next three games by a combined score of 10 points to advance to a final that was tied at half-time. It was a heart-stuttering run unlike any seen before from a team that simply refused to lose.

This year brings back a handful of tournament regulars with the three Montreal teams joining Toronto’s Death Track Dolls and Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Forest City’s Thames Fatales as the sole remaining OBers (Original Beasters), while Kingston Derby Girls (Skateful Dead) and Ottawa’s Capital City Derby Dolls (Beauty School Dropouts) make their league debuts.

THE CONTENDERS

The Casses-Gueules caught many off guard in their run to the final. They're favourites this year. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Casse-Gueules caught many off guard in their run to the final. They’re favourites this year. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Particularly after teams had such a hard time distancing themselves from each other last year, this year’s collection of competitors boasts its fair share of contenders. Although a Montreal team has not won this tournament since 2010, they are always contenders (and La Racaille—the tournament’s most successful team historically—has made two straight final fours). At this year’s annual round robin tournament, Les Fills du Roi defeated their leaguemates (though narrowly) to immediately launch themselves into the position of being potential favourites.

However, don’t count out the defending champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls. Exhibiting the same tenacity that won them the Beast last year, the Gores have clawed and fought their way to first overall in the ToRD standings in a season where there doesn’t seem to be much separating the teams.

Rideau Valley’s Prime Sinisters debuted at the Beast last season and got noticeably better as the tournament progressed (losing narrowly in the quarters to eventual finalists, Casse-Gueules) eventually using that tournament as a launching point to winning the RVRG house league championship.

Finally, Roller Derby Quebec’s Casse-Guelles and Rouge at Gore have managed to slip under the radar for the last two seasons and turned heads with thrilling performances: they won’t have the element of surprise in 2015 and, indeed, should both be seen as potential contenders for the tournament.

This is the fourth appearance for the Tramps, but the first since 2011.

This is the fourth appearance for the Tramps, but the first since 2011 (Photo by Joe Mac).

THE DARK HORSES

With past dark horses like Roller Derby Quebec’s teams and Durham’s Atom Smashers establishing themselves as solid competitors (the Smashers won the 2015 Winter Wipeout, a Beast-style tournament), this year’s potential surprises may be harder to see. So I’m looking to two returning teams as potential troublemakers: Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps and Total Knock Outs. Both have histories at the tournament but haven’t appeared since 2011 and 2013 respectively. Only one Tri-City team has ever podiumed (2012 champs Vicious Dishes), so this established league is due for another strong showing.

NERD’S PICKS

Every year it seems more and more futile to try to establish picks for the tournament, but that doesn’t stop derby prognosticators from trying (and last year, I did managed to pick six of the eight quarterfinalists, which provides undoubtedly false confidence).

Look for possibly two Montreal teams to advance in Les Filles du Roi and Les Contrabanditas (though the Ditas could be in tough against the TKOs for that final spot), with ToRD (The Gore-Gore Rollergirls, Death Track Dolls) and RDQ (Casse-Gueules, Rouge et Gore) sending through two as well. That leaves only two spots open, one for RVRG’s Prime Sinisters and the last for Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps. In three previous appearances, the Tramps have failed to advance beyond the opening round (the only Tri-City team that has yet to do so), look for that to change this year.

However, take these predictions with a grain of salt. One thing that you can always guarantee at the Beast is that somewhere along the line, your bracket will be busted.

Nerd Glasses

**The Beast takes place at Arena St. Louis. Full weekend and daily passes are available here.

**Sadly, this year’s Beast will not be boutcast. But follow The Derby Nerd on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the event.

Montreal and Toronto Kick Off Beast with Highly Anticipated WFTDA D1 Showdown

On April 24th, 2015, two of Canada’s top roller derby teams—Toronto’s CN Power and Montreal’s New Skids on the Block—will meet for the sixth time.

The Skids and CN Power first met at the 2010 Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Derek Lang)

Two distinct cities and two distinct leagues. A history apart, yet deeply interwoven.

The history of roller derby in this country runs through a few leagues in a few major cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton, and, of course, Toronto and Montreal. And yet while roller derby has existed for virtually the same amount of time in both Toronto and Montreal, the paths they have taken through the game’s first decade in Canada couldn’t have been more different.

This will be the third consecutive year that CN Power and the Skids will kick off the Beast of the East.

This will be the third consecutive year that CN Power and the Skids will kick off the Beast of the East.

ToRD sits smack dab in the centre of the most active community of roller derby in the country, if not the world. You can’t go more than 50 kms in any direction and not run into a roller derby league of some size. And though leagues and numbers have fluctuated, there have been up to four leagues operating in the city of Toronto alone (and that’s not counting Durham in the GTA’s eastern end). And ToRD’s own remarkable history reflects this diversity and division.

Beginning, essentially, as a merger of a handful of teams that had sprouted up in the city in 2006, ToRD kicked off its first public season in 2007 as an unwieldy six-team house league: the biggest in the sport at the time. The focus was local, and in the midst of splits and new leagues, the focus was insular and then siloed within that closed community: so that the allegiances formed were to team, not necessarily league.

Montreal, on the other hand, has had a much more linear history, aided, in part, by the scarcity of surrounding leagues and influences. Even now 10 years later with provinces like Alberta, BC and Ontario bursting at the seams with leagues, Quebec remains slow in its embrace of the sport outside of Montreal.

In this isolation, the league began as a group of unified skaters, and Montreal Roller Derby grew as those skaters were parceled off into teams, eventually bringing together enough skaters for three teams to kick off their inaugural season in 2007.

Within a year of going public, both leagues had also formed travel teams, and that’s where the story goes in two different directions.

On Friday, April 24, CN Power and the New Skids on the Block will meet for the sixth time, with Montreal holding the dominant 5-0 edge coming into it. But where once a Montreal win would be guaranteed against any Canadian opponent, this time, Toronto comes in on relatively equal footing.

The Skids won narrowly, 233-216, at the 2014 Quad City Chaos. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

The Skids won narrowly, 233-216, at the 2014 Quad City Chaos. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

When the two teams first met in March 2010, Montreal was on the verge of distancing itself from the rest of the country. Early adopters of the pace strategies that would come to define the flat track game, the Skids also understood at a very early stage the importance of off-skates training and fitness as being key to the team’s success. Beginning in that 2010 season, Montreal went on a four-year run of dominance in this country, a run so dominant, that for many years, the Skids barely even bothered with Canadian competition. It wasn’t until 2013 when that began to change.

In the first two meetings between the rivals, the Skids won with an average differential of 224 points. Then, at the Beast of the East 2013, Toronto pulled noticeably closer, losing by 89 points. This kicked off a year in which the Toronto team would play its most competitive season, qualifying for the D1 playoffs for the first time. It was an organizational leap forward years in the making, as Toronto finally turned away from its internal focus to set its sights on the lofty heights of the WFTDA competitive game.

Then in March 2014, CN Power lost to the Skids narrowly on its home track by only 17 points. This remains the closest score that any Canadian team has come to the Skids in a regulation or sanctioned game. Thirteen months later, and the teams are arguably dead even.

Both rosters have gone through their share of changes since those early days of the rivalry, and this year there are new looks as well. Toronto has gone through a noticeable generational change, shifting out virtually its whole core jammer rotation while tweaking the pack. Montreal similarly has seen great change, with this season boasting seven new Skids on the roster. However, the strong organizational underpinnings in each of these leagues has allowed for a relatively seamless transition to these new generations of all stars.

Toronto has kicked off 2015 with a 3-0 record so far, while Montreal has been slightly quieter, winning its lone bout of the season. Interestingly, both teams have faced off against the Rideau Valley Vixens only weeks apart with remarkably similar results: Toronto won by 32, Montreal by 26, a difference that is statistically insignificant.

For perhaps the first time ever, on Friday, April 24, when Montreal and Toronto face off, it really is anybody’s game.

***CN Power and the New Skids on the Block face off at Arena St. Louis in Montreal on the 24th. Doors open at 6:00 PM with first whistle at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online.