Winnipeg Roller Derby League

End-of-year Power Rankings: December 2016

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone, and Derby Nerd periodically rank Canada’s top A-level travel teams. Read the the mid-season 2016 (June) Power Rankings here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block  – After stumbling against Philly at ECDX, mid-season roster changes shook up the team chemistry, and after it had time to settle, the Skids knocked off Bay Area to become the first Canadian team to advance to WFTDA Champs where they put a scare into Angel City in the quarterfinals, which was enough to secure top spot. (1 / 19)
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars
 – Despite the fifth place finish in their D1 playoff, it could be argued that Terminal City had a better playoff tournament than Montreal. They lost narrowly (164-162) against Philly before cruising through the consolation bracket. Their spot in the top 2, well ahead of the competition, remains secure. (2 / 18)
3.Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo  Although a 5th seed, Calgary tore through its D2 playoff tournament, including knocking off top seed Charm City along the way to finish in the top spot in the playoff. Finishing third overall in WFTDA’s Division 2 is more than enough to hold on to third spot. (4 / 45)
4. Misfit Militia (Orangeville Roller Girls) Misfit Militia Logo  +1 Went 6-1 in 2016 including a 147-144 unsanctioned win against D1’s Queen City. The teams only loss on the season came against an ever-improving Toronto Men’s Roller Derby team (200-159). However, their obvious talent and lack of WFTDA ranking continue to make top-level competition hard to come by. (3 /-)
5. Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)Vixens Logo +1 A 4-7 regular season saw the Vixens tumble out of the D2 playoffs. However, the bright side is that many of those seven losses came against top-flight competition including the likes of Montreal, Jacksonville, and Philly. It was an incredibly challenging schedule that may have them currently under-ranked and that could pay track-experience dividends in 2017. (10/93)
6. E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)

evrd_final_logo

unranked They’ve risen from the dead once again! E-Ville has been in and out of the Top 10 over the years, and now reenters once again, surging into the middle of the pack for the first time since last year’s end-of-season rankings. E-Ville had an incredible year with a record of 8-1 including victories over Top-10 Winnipeg (207-132) and Watch-Listers Mainland Misfits (279-89). The team’s only loss on the season was to provincial rivals and D2 bronze medalists Calgary (241-114).  (5 / 91)
7. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo  +1 Winnipeg inches forward a spot but gets stopped in its tracks by surging E-Ville (who defeated them 207-132 to earn the spot). The All Stars do hold their spot ahead of Muddy River based on strength of schedule. They went 8-5 on the season, helping them move to their highest WFTDA ranking yet. (9 / 84)
8. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo +1 The little league that just keeps going. Muddy River’s consistency over the past few season has been incredible given their size and location. This year they travelled far and wide once again compiling a 6-4 record along the way, including early season wins over Capital City and Quebec. A big late-season loss to Orangeville’s Misfit Militia was unsanctioned and didn’t effect their 16-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings.  (11 / 85)
9. Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls)
Capital City Derby Dolls Logo
+1 The Dolly Rogers capped off their 5-4 season with a massive sanctioned win against Central NY that helped their 8-spot jump in the WFTDA rankings. Narrow wins against teams just outside of the Top 10 allow them to secure their spot and nudge forward, finally moving out of the long-held 10 spot. (8 / 106)
10.Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo  -6 Tri-City had an up-and-down year in 2016, eventually finishing with a 5-10 record. After a promising two and one start (including a rare win over Toronto), Thunder lost seven of eight regular season games the rest of the way. A decent playoff run saw them improve their 9th place seeding to 6th in their D2 tournament. However, yet another off season shake-up to the jammer rotation means that Tri-City’s rebuild will be continuing into 2017. (6 / 57)

The Rankings

No changes to the Top 3 as Canada’s lone WFTDA playoff teams remain at the top of the sport in the nation. Montreal retains top spot based on an incredible performance at the WFTDA Championship tournament, playing, arguably, the team’s best game of the season against a very good Angel City team. After reloading their roster in 2016, The New Skids on the Block also look very good to remain atop the nation’s power rankings in 2017 as well. It remains to be seen whether Terminal City and Calgary (who became only the second team to win a Division 2 playoff tournament) can push through some expected 0ff-season roster changes to remain at their current levels.

The rest of the list has gone through some shifts and changes. Most notably, for the first time in the history of these Power Rankings, Toronto has dropped out of the Top 10. Although leagues like Orangeville and Muddy River are proof that size doesn’t always matter, the reality is that Toronto is simply too big and too deep to keep down for long and expect a slow but steady rise in 2017 as the All Stars rebuild. This drop, however, made room for a resurgent E-Ville. For the second year in a row, the Edmonton-based team makes an appearance on the year-end rankings. This time, however, it should be sustainable as the E-Ville Dead have the roster to remain in the conversation through 2017. The final major shift is with Tri-City. Thunder sees itself tumble to 10th place. The team had a solid 2016, but some post-playoff roster changes will see the team need to rebuild its offense once again.

Orangeville, Rideau Valley, Winnipeg, Muddy River, and Capital City all hold steady, nudging upwards based on Toronto’s and Tri-City’s dips.

The Watch List

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby) (12th)

Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec) (13th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (14th)

Northstars (Rated PG Rollergirls) (15th)

ToRD All Stars (Toronto Roller Derby) (16th)

The A Team (Eves of Destruction) (18th)

E-Ville and Toronto have switched places on the Watch List/Top 10, while the Anarchy Angels, Roller Derby Quebec, and Royal City remain on our radars as we close out the 2016 season. However, there are some exciting new editions on the watch list.

The Northstars of Prince George’s Rated PG Rollergirls are coming off of an 8-0 season that saw them rise above the competition with a margin of victory of 158 points. These eight wins included big victories over B-travel teams from Top 10 Terminal City and E-Ville and two of Calgary’s house leagues, proving that they have graduated to a higher competitive stage. Similarly, one of Canada’s oldest flat track teams, Victoria’s Eves of Destruction are finally beginning to tear it up against some quality competition. Boasting a perennially successful local league, the EoD A Team went 5-0 on the season including a victory over the Jane Deeres (Calgary’s B-team) and former Top 10 team Mindfox out of Saskatoon to launch themselves onto the Watch List.

Nerd Glasses

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Dafone

*These are the final Power Rankings of the year. Read the mid-season Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

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Canadian Power Rankings: December 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 August 1st Power Ranking here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

 – Some big off-season changes resulted in a slow start for the New Skids on the Block, but since a May loss to Terminal City, the Skids have been on fire, coming within 28 points of a Champs berth and finishing 4th in their Division, the highest finish for a Canadian team in the WFTDA playoffs. (1 / 15)
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars
 –  It was a year to remember for Terminal City: historic regular season wins over Montreal and Rat City previewed a phenomenal playoff performance that included knocking off the legendary Mad Rollin’ Dolls to win the consolation bracket for a 5th place finish in the division playoff tournament.   (2 / 23)
3.Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

+1  After making it all the way to the top of the heap of D2 in 2014, a Division 1 playoff berth this season proved a tough transition for the Vixens, but the team’s strong, steady leadership resulted in a strong performance despite a last-place finish. (4 / 42)
4.Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo  +1 It was quite a year for Calgary, a season that saw them briefly enter Division 1 only to slip out of a playoff position altogether at the end of the year. However, this team grew by leaps and bounds and some late-season roster additions set Calgary up for a strong 2016.  (5 / 62)
5. CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)New CNP Logo -2 A promising start to 2015 (wins over Boston, Steel City and a narrow loss to Montreal) could not be maintained as a constantly shuffling roster resulted in some inconsistent and increasingly shaky performances leading to a last-place finish in their playoff tournament. They are on the cusp of D1 and it remains to be seen if the revamped roster can keep them in it. (6/39)
6Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo  A fascinating year for Thunder who, despite finishing last in their Division 1 playoff tournament, managed to put in some strong performances against very good teams. There is expected to be another roster shake-up this off season (particularly with their jammer rotation once again), and it’ll be interesting to see how those play out. (7 / 49)

7. Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)Duchesses Logo

 –  A quietish year for Les Duchesses nonetheless showed that this team is ready for a greater challenge (for example, they crushed low-D2 Suburbia by 378 points in August). The team’s only losses this season came against Montreal’s Skids and Sexpos. (8 / -)
8. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo  Although the travel team has been inactive this quarter, Winnipeg holds its spot on the strength of its phenomenal 9-2 season. (12 / 112)
9. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo Also having a quiet quarter, the lack of movement from other teams in the Top 10 allows them to hold steady. (14 / 105)
10. E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)

Eville Logo

unranked They’re back!  For the first time since June 2013, E-Ville makes an appearance in the power rankings. An incredible 7-0 run to start the season had them back on the radar but a small summer stumble kept them from cracking the Top 10. Some strong late-season additions inspired  great  results against Regina and Calgary.  (13/ -)

The Changes

 Montreal retains top spot after a phenomenal run through the WFTDA D1 playoffs that saw them finish higher than any other Canadian team had previously. Similarly, after running the consolation bracket in Tucson, Terminal City matched Montreal’s previous playoff-high finish; in 2015, these two teams distanced themselves from the pack and are currently very secure at the top of the table. There was some other shifting at the top though, most notably through Toronto’s drop. ToRD is going through a generational shift on the track right now that could lead to some early season growing pains in 2016, but that could also pay off in the long run with some patience and hard work. This drop allowed Rideau Valley (the best of the last-place Canadian teams in the playoffs) and Calgary to leap-frog ahead.

There was no change from 6 through 9, but the Power Rankings Crew would like to welcome Edmonton’s E-Ville Roller Derby back to the Top 10. They crushed Regina in October 407-34 and put in a strong performance in a loss against Top 5 Calgary 178-105. Word on the track is that some exciting off-season roster changes could help bolster the team’s offense and make them a potential western threat next year.

The Watch List

Misfit Militia (Orangeville Roller Girls) (3rd)

Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls) (9th)

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby) (11th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (15th)

Avalanche City All Stars (Fernie Roller Derby League) (16th)

Fog City’s Shipyard Sirens (17th)

It seems as if we’ve been watching the same teams all season! However, followers of the Power Rankings may recognize the return of Misfit Militia to our Watch List. We’d dropped them from the rankings this season because of their lack of affiliation and the inconsistency of their roster. But now the charter team of WFTDA apprentice Orangeville Roller Girls, the Misfit Militia are back in the thick of things. Word on the track is that many of their members who formerly split time in Toronto are focused exclusively on Misfit Militia now, and this immediately makes them a team to watch in the Canadian competitive derby scene.

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 August Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

Canadian Power Rankings: August 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 June 1st Power Ranking here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

 +1 This league just keeps finding a way to replenish itself. After a very minor slip at the beginning of the season, the Skids have pulled (slightly) away from its Canadian competition once again. Since losing to Terminal City in May, Montreal has been on a tear, winning six in a row  including crushing the likes of Windy City and Charm City by 200 points. (1 / 16)
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars
 -1  A bit of a slip as they have not shown the same level of late-season consistency that their Montreal counterparts have. A shaky win against Calgary was somewhat tempered by a better win over Toronto. Suffered some heavy losses in June, but to the best-of-the-best (including Rose City and B.A.D.) (2 / 27)
3.CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)New CNP Logo  After being neck-and-neck early in 2015, Toronto has lost pace with Terminal City and Montreal (losing to Vancouver by 117 points). They also suffered June loss to tumbling Ohio and just narrowly defeated D2 team Naptown (186-175). (3 / 32)
4.Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

 – The Vixens have been quiet since the last rankings (as the league focused on its house league season), with a tough but reasonable loss to Charm City on the books (182-120). The Vixens managed to cling to the final 2015 D1 playoff spot. (4 / 41)
5. Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo +1  Calgary has had quite a season of growth. Late-season inconsistency saw them slip from a D2 playoff spot, but strong performances in recent losses against Terminal City (242-216) and Toronto (243-171) show that they still have plenty of fight left in them. (8/65)
6Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Rller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo -1  After surging back into the Top 5 in June, Thunder slip a spot after a recent loss to D2 Chicago Outfit (186-100) and a lacklustre win over Brewcity (196-122). Nonetheless, they held onto a D1 playoff spot and will return for the second year in a row.(6 / 40)

7.Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)Duchesses Logo

 – Quebec’s travel team continues to roll. Although they lost handily to Montreal, they managed to stay ahead of their Muddy River Rivals in a July win (242-210) and then shocked 85th Suburbia 428-50. It’s time to see this team against some top-flight competition. (9 / -)
8. All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League) winnipeg logo +1  Winnipeg leaps up a spot on the strength of a pretty incredible summer. After losing to Muddy River in May, Winnipeg has reeled off five straight victories, including four crushing sanctioned wins over D3 opponents and another over Minnesota’s B-team. (11 / 112)
9. Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)Lumbersmacks Logo -1  After going 8-1 to start the season, Muddy River has been quiet since the last Power Rankings with only one result, a 242-210 loss to Quebec, on the books. (12 / 105)
10. Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits Roller Derby)

Angel-logo-bw

The Anarchy Angels remain in the Top 10 after slowing things down over the summer with a respectable 207-123 loss to Rat City’s Rain of Terror since the last rankings. (10/ -)

The Changes

While the Power Rankings did not have any major shifts in this addition, there were some noticeable minor changes to the Top 10. At the top of the list, Montreal takes over top spot from Terminal City heading in to the WFTDA playoffs. This season began with Montreal, Terminal City and Toronto neck-and-neck, but as its gone on and the New Skids considerable roster changes began to settle, Montreal has surged ahead and while Terminal City has kept pace better than Toronto, MTLRD remains Canada’s greatest hope heading in to the WFTDA D1 playoffs, continuing to find ways to replenish its roster, a mix of excellent internal training and some solid impressive transfers (Team Canada’s Dyna Hurtcha [Toronto] and KonichiWow [Windy City] joined the team mid-season)

Although Tri-City managed to defeat Calgary in the spring, this summer, Calgary’s play has pulled the team slightly ahead of their counterparts. Calgary’s impressive play in losses to high-ranked competition (culminating in a surprisingly close 242-216 loss to Terminal City) gives it the edge over Tri-City who has been quieter and has less impressive performances against lower ranked teams. And finally, Winnipeg has been simply crushing it this summer, defeating its four D3 opponents by an average differential of 191, clearly distancing itself form its D3 competitors.

The Watch List

Dolly Rogers (Capital City Derby Dolls) (13th)

E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby) (14th)

Avalanche City Roller Girls (Fernie Roller Derby Society) (15th)

Shipyard Sirens (Fog City Rollers) (16th)

Brute-Leggers (Royal City Roller Girls) (17th)

Two more teams have popped up on the Rankings Crew’s radar: joining E-Ville, Avalanche City and the Brute-Leggers are Capital City’s Dolly Rogers and Fog City’s Shipyard Sirens. Both of these teams have been on and off the Power Rankings bubble before and strong recent play sees them both return. The Dolly Rogers opened the season with a loss to Montreal’s Sexpos, but since then have managed six-straight one-sided wins that have demonstrated an increasing level of play (in May they defeated Kingston’s Disloyalists by 194 points; in an August rematch, they’d increased the differential to 325). The Shipyard Sirens have been, and remain, Muddy River’s primary competition on Canada’s East Coast. Another late start to the season sees them pop up on the Watch List late, but they’ve kicked things off impressively with a smothering 354-69 win over Fredericton’s Capital City Rollers. More recently, they crushed Bangor with a slightly better margin of victory than Muddy River (163 vs. 132), which certainly piqued our interest.

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 June Power Rankings here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

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!-

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

 

The Agony and the Ecstasy: The moments following the final whistle of the 2014 WFTDA Championship game, with Gotham defeating Rose City 147-144. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Agony and the Ecstasy: The moments following the final whistle of the 2014 WFTDA Championship game, with Gotham defeating Rose City 147-144. (Photo by Joe Mac)

It had been somewhat of a tumultuous few years for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Beginning in 2010 when the flat track game began to evolve in ways distinct from any other version of the game that preceded it, there were pushbacks toward the Association from virtually every corner; whether from the roller derby’s remaining patriarch Jerry Seltzer, or its bloggers like Windy Man, or even parts of the WFTDA’s membership itself, from 2010-2013 the sport of flat track roller derby came under attack in ways that would have seemed ludicrous during the all-inclusive love-in that defined the community from 2003-2009.

Personally, I truly fell in love with the game in the fall of 2009 when all the elements that people seemed to hate about the sport first surfaced. For me, the game of flat track roller derby existed only in name until that point, as the sport was basically just a mutated version of the banked track game played on a flat surface. It seems, in retrospect, that people were content with this pseudo-version of Seltzer-style roller derby, but logically, thinking that the strategies that defined the banked track would survive forever on the flat one is equivalent to thinking that ice hockey strategies could be transported to field hockey: different surfaces, different games.

In 2014, flat track roller derby truly came of age. The sometimes awkward adolescence that hobbled the game through its strategic and subsequent rules evolution of the past few years finally seemed to balance out; the game hasn’t changed much over the past two seasons (though of course its gotten better through refinement), nor have the rules (again aside from clarification and “tightening”) and in 2014 we finally got to see what flat track roller derby is going to look like.

If you want to see flat track roller derby at its finest, you can do no better than the first half of the Rose City vs. Atlanta game at the WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs (watch on WFTDA.TV)

If you want to see flat track roller derby at its finest, you can do no better than the first half of the Rose City vs. Atlanta game at the WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs (watch on WFTDA.TV).

Some people still hate what the game has become, and that’s fine, but after an incredible 2014 playoff season and a heart warming World Cup (played under the WFTDA rule set), the attacks on the WFTDA seem shallow now; they seem to be coming from people who simply don’t like the sport, yet still, inexplicably, want to be a part of it (perhaps due to reasons of self-centred sentimentality and nostalgia: “But that’s not what the game looked like when I discovered it!”).

Another criticism still levelled at the WFTDA is about the lack of fans, and even more ludicrously, the notion that flat track roller derby from 2003-2009 had this massive fan base that the game has now alienated by becoming too strategic, too slow (the implication being that we should make it more “showy”; that we should alter the rules in ways to attract fans, as opposed to altering rules to match the natural evolution of the game on a flat surface). The idea that flat track roller derby ever had a sustained, loyal fan base outside of its own membership is, to be blunt, simply not true. It’s a fallacy built around the illusion that because places like Seattle attracted a few thousand fans for a few if its house league seasons and Toronto sold out its venue for a year following the release of Whip It, we had some massive, loyal fan base that has since been eroded.

There is absolutely no consistent sample size to base this argument on (though that hasn’t stopped people), and the logical conclusion to the idea of forcing the game to change in a way to better entertain fans is RollerGames (which I am confident in saying that no one wants). The flat track game has only just “settled” in the past season or so; I believe we are probably still 5-10 years away from seeing the beginning of a devoted fan base, if at all. And really, that should never be the goal of a sport that is at an age when it’s still figuring itself out.

And while on the surface, growth does seem to be somewhat slowed at the highest level (this year’s WFTDA playoffs probably drew about the same amount of fans as last year’s, etc.), at the base, the game is flourishing. Men’s roller derby and junior roller derby both grew leaps in bounds in 2014, and the game spread to corners of the globe that would have seemed impossible a few years ago for various reasons (Hello CaiRollers!). The junior exhibition game at the World Cup, though initially seeming like an afterthought, was a sight to behold. The fact of the matter is that at the highest levels of the game, we are now tinkering. We are refining the game and making it better, more athletic. Smarter. And all the while, the base upon which this is supported is growing and strengthening.

One of my picks for game of the year was the Montreal vs. Toronto showdown at this year's Quad City Chaos. Watch the complete game here. (Produced by Layer9.ca)

One of my picks for game of the year was the Montreal vs. Toronto showdown at this year’s Quad City Chaos. Watch the complete game here. (Produced by Layer9.ca)

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

Sure, Canada didn’t surprise as it did in 2013 when Toronto and Terminal City both went on spirited and unexpected runs in their respective Division payoffs, and Montreal once again lived up to its moniker as being the Most Heartbreaking Team in playoff history with another last-gasp loss, this time to long-time rivals Charm City, but nonetheless it was a banner year for the sport in the country and saw the rise of a new, true, power from the west in the Calgary Roller Derby Association, whose record-setting march up the WFTDA standings has made them a team to watch in the coming season. Overall, with the very recent additions of St. Albert, Winnipeg and Guelph’s Royal City, there are now fifteen WFTDA leagues in Canada spread across all three divisions, and three hundred member leagues overall.

Globally, the game is growing competitively, not only at the National level, as we saw with teams like Argentina and New Zealand, but at the league level as well. Berlin (D2) along with London and Melbourne’s Victorian Roller Derby (D1) all announced themselves as players on the WFTDA circuit. And there are more in the wings. When you think about the struggles and in-fighting that have gone on in trying to put professional sports leagues like the NHL and the NFL into global markets, the fact that a still-amateur sport like flat track roller derby has been able to sustain a “league” with international membership is nothing short of astonishing.

In 2014, the sport of flat track roller derby came of age. The game is better than it has ever been, played by stronger and fitter athletes in more places on the planet than anyone could ever have conceived of. It’s a fine time to be a fan of the sport, and I’ve got a feeling that it’s only going to get better.

****Take a look at the gallery below to see some of my favourite photographs that appeared on this site this year. A very, very BIG thanks to photographers Neil Gunner, Greg Russell, and Joe Mac for allowing me to illustrate my ramblings with their fine work.

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