DSC_4670, originally uploaded by Midnight Matinee 24.

The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad aka D-VAS from Toronto Roller Derby aka ToRD took on the Totak KnockOuts of Tri-City aka TKOs in a very spirited and very hard fought bout. The cheering squad for the TKOs were matched by the chants of D-VAS. With all the energy in the air, would the teams be tight or would they bring it? So, did they bring it on? Oh, they brought it.

Preamble: This piece is not any final summary of the game but serves as another chapter as a prelude to a story growing in the telling of our sojourns into Derby. This takes us back in time into New Hamburg and the world of Tri-City on the weekend of September 24. It’s a promise the final story will be told.

Being back in New Hamburg was a return down the path to where we started our road trips, back to the New Hamburg arena, the site of where the Tri-City Thunder and the Lake Effect Furies were seen for the first time. Back then the Thunder and the Furies were both vying for WFTDA status. Some names seen then and heard for the first time included the likes of BareLeigh Legal, sin-e-star, Lilith NoFair, Skate Pastor and Lippy Wrongstockings. It was the most defensive bout we had seen so far, and rough as well for the Furies Lamb Chop who had her dress ripped at the seam.

The last time we had been at New Hamburg was the memorable encounter between the Thunder and CN Power. One bit of photographic evidence from that bout would be my first published shot in a Derby publication: the five on five Photo Annual 2010. The familiar Huskies logo on the blue background and the rink lighting made New Hamburg a total pleasure to be in again. The smooth floor made sliding around into shooting position easier but the surface was a slipperier factor for the real focus on the track: the skaters. Being back in Tri-City meant getting to be able to talk a bit of Derby sometimes to the personalities such as Lightning Slim of GenX Mike plus the referees such as Matt S. Factor or Ro$ Vega$ along the way. And all the players and volunteer crew who work the doors and really know how to set up merch and the rink generate a friendly, receptive atmosphere to welcome fans and children alike.

The D-VAS had been having a busy season, after what seemed like a long hiatus. They quickly popped back up on the map seemingly gathering bout experience whenever they could, even up in Sudbury’s Nickel City to play Sister Slag. After the D-VAS’s second place finish at the 2 Fresh 2 Furious tournament, D-VAS had been popping up here and there making their presences known, a handful showing up in uniform or t-shirt on a Saturday morning in Peterborough for the Wakestock experience, or down back in east end Toronto for a Derby scrimmage held by the Toronto Junior Roller Derby aka TJRD. The little black and white affair was a small exhibition of what the next step Derby was all about for the juniors and those in the crowd baking or basking in the sunshine.

The D-VAS re-engaged their engines at the debut of The Bunker, Toronto Roller Derby’s new hangout. Two weeks later, the D-VAS were back on the road to New Hamburg to meet the Total Knock-Outs of the Tri-City Rollergirls.

So the D-VAS next match after their debut at The Bunker was a test against a relatively new commodity in the form of the Total Knock-Outs who have been well-drilled and well-coached by the veteran elite of Tri-City. The TKO’s inaugural bout could have been in November 2010 against the Luscious Lunch Ladies from Forest City. The TKO’s had also hooked up against Royal City to great success. Then re-engaged LLL in July 2011 for the Rival Revival doubleheader [also featuring the Venus Fly Tramps against the Thames Fatales]. Would the D-VAS with their levelling up and their inherited experience be able to match up?

The two teams’ first head-to-head match-up was a testament to the fortitude and the personalities of the teams as they engaged in a strategic war of attrition and a very toughly played battle. There was no questioning of heart as blockers took one for the team as they tried to launch their jammers through the other teams, wall or no wall they were going over and through the other side. Black and blue was again the definitive appropriate colour for this newest team in Tri-City. Asking a TKO dressed player at trackside who to watch out for in terms of good play or good players, she quickly noted captain Tiny Dancer who had smoking wheels on the jammer line followed by compadres Booty Two Shoes and Low Block Lois, and the pivots Fox Smoulder and Rain Blows Brite and Evil Liza. Annaslaysia Killsemov was someone be overcome if possible as she stood in front of the D-VAS jammer. The D-VAS team of now were not the same team of last year, growing in the process and blending in the new blood from Fresh Meat amongst the more experienced [considering the D-VAS first bout was only August last year.] Getting to play on the track for real was in its way the payoff to all the training and passing the minimum skills grade. For some, the D-VAS were the stepping stone to the draft at ToRD while others might choose to stay and gain more real experience and track time. So Mean Streak wore the whipping belt, Skinned Knee Crosby wore the C pivoted and blocked along with Bridget Bones, Cory Maim and Laya Beaton laying on the beating. D-VAS jammer rotation was shortened in the second half with Renny Rumble, Keri Daway and Roadside Bombshell. Laya Beaton carried on as blocker. And who could forget #TKO Upher Cut on the D-VAS?

Both teams proved they have the most ardent of fans, egged on by their teams to engage in chants of “TKO TKO!”or “D-VAS D-VAS!” This is Derby when it is at its most fun and entertaining – although the falls and the injuries accumulated from the track are still reminders that Derby is pain and the bruises and the subsequent healing process is a badge of courage and honour. So Tiny Dancer and Roadside Bombshell were in a battle for who was more slippery and elusive, although there was no mistaking the Bombshell fall. In her second full bout with the D-VAS Roadside Bomshell was a formidable jammer with even more speed than she had during her Rollergettes days. But as wild and pellmell as the rest of the D-VAS, she too was found in the penalty bin and the TKOs took the points in power jam situations and building up a lead. They were never to look back.

The captain’s statement reflecting back on the night says: “The game was great – pooching my ankle, less so, but it gave me the opportunity to see how far the TKOs have come, and watch the talent of the D-VAS. You don’t really get to see how your team gels along the way while you’re playing. Being sidelined does – it’s very cool to see the strategies that we practice come together so well during game time!”

The final score showed the TKOs ahead by just a shade over a hundred over the D-VAS, but the margin was not indicative of the mettle and heart of the players as they move into their next stages of Derby, whether it be with D-VAS or crossing fingers for the draft ahead.  The TKOs are a very dedicated third team in Tri-City with a hardcore band of followers. The level of support for teams breaking out into Derby bigtime such as the Total Knock-outs or those lovely Luscious Lunch Ladies from Forest City and the new leagues blossoming everywhere [including Orangeville and Alliston] is the next wave of Derby. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

/… more to come of our summer adventures in Derby and the fall ahead

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