Preamble: This is another chapter from this year as we try to catch up in our Derby sojourns. This is just a brief lookback at the No Minors open scrimmage at Tri-City. Many thanks again as always to Tri-City, Hammer City, Belle City, Royal City, Forest City, and everyone.
Sharks gotta swim or face extinction, so it goes with the evolution of Derby in its style of plays and rules.
What’s going on?
While the Thunder was holding its top secret behind close doors No Entry Allowed tryouts, Matt S. Faction, head of the referee crew at Tri-City, explained the scenario behind the testing at the New Hamburg Arena at the end of October.
“Today we’re doing the No Minors scrimmage. We’re going to try the new beta rule set from the WFTDA. See how it works with a full officiating crew and staff and skaters and trying out the whole No Minors thing. A lot of the officials have wanted to try this out, a lot of skaters have asked us. So at the end of the season we’re giving them the opportunity and we’re going to see how it works.”
Beta testing rules here.
There are many changes between the two rulesets. The Beta rules themselves have been posted on the WFTDA site and outlined in red, but to simplify Matt S. Faction notes: “Minor penalties on contact fouls have been reduced to no impact, major penalties remain the same, cutting the track has a few different changes as well as re-entering the track, some things like illegal procedure is all over the place as to which ones are reduced and which ones were upgraded. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. A lot of the officials have a good grasp on what has actually changed.”
Also, to get the players moving off the line at the beginning of those no Derby starts, since technically it’s only a minor, the referees settled on shouting out to the player: “Red 25. False start” to start the skating.
Back in April 2011 WFTDA released its rationale for the No Minors test bouts:
“In the current rules set, an illegal action (i.e., blocking to the back, low blocking, forearms, etc.) is penalized based on impact. Current impact levels include “no impact,” “minor impact,” or “major impact.” Four minor penalties or one major penalty results in a trip to the penalty box.”
“The beta test bouts will be played under a draft rules set that eliminates the ‘minor impact’ level and shifts actions to either ‘no impact,’ meaning it does not result in a penalty, or ‘major impact,’ resulting in a one minute penalty.”
Those who showed up for the No Minors Open Scrimmage at the arena were a virtual who’s who of leagues in the area. Tri-City was there of course, but also coming out included Brantford’s Belle City, Guelph’s Royal City, Hammer City, Toronto Roller Derby, Forest City [including Anya Face back on skates]. Those in Derby will skate anywhere anytime. Referees, officials and coaches took notes.
Post bout there arose differing opinions after the beta test scrimmage about the impact of the rules on their play.
Clare de Lunatic from Royal City: “The no-minors scrimmage didn’t feel tremendously different from a normal bout, except that we have to take a little more care [when our actions impact another player’s position.] … The rule itself hasn’t changed in terms of the penalty for impact, but the refs seemed to be more keenly aware of those infractions, maybe because they weren’t busy calling minors.”
Lippy Wrongstockings from Tri-City Thunder clarified the cutting the track scenario. “You cut the track as soon as you cut ANY opposing player. It doesn’t count if you cut just ONE of your own players. I appear to only cut the track a lot as a jammer so we’ll see how this goes!”
Another assessment? “Players will play up to the level of the penalties that is allowable.”
Again, WFTDA addressed this in their FAQ: “Won’t getting rid of minors just make play sloppy and dangerous?” The response was: “Not necessarily. In crafting the rules that will be used during the beta test, we didn’t just eliminate minors; we adjusted the impact levels for each category of penalty. We don’t believe it will make the game more dangerous, otherwise we probably would not be moving ahead with the beta test. However, the main reason for conducting testing, rather than just changing the rules, is to see how such a major shift would affect game play. The safety of our skaters is paramount.”
On the match post mortem Matt S. Faction had this to say: “My take – gameplay seemed to run smoother, but a bit rougher than we normally see. If the teams had 14 skater rosters, we would have likely seen a significant amount foul out of the game. In the last game (in which less than 20 minutes were played) we had one skater foul out with 4 major penalties, and the game was averaging more than one penalty per minute. We were fouling skaters out at 4 major penalties due to the shortened game length. In a full length no-minors game, it would still be 7 penalty turns for an expulsion.”
Other things that were noted out of the bout: the central penalty keeping process would be reduced or eliminated, less whiteboards or NSO on the outside. Bench coaches themselves would likely be tracking their own team’s majors as well. Did the game look rougher? There were more falls evident and at least one whistle being heard every jam.
Justine Sane from the Belle City Rollergirls was encountering the No Minors ruleset for the first time and found their unfamiliarity unsettling, which was probably a feeling shared by the other players. “I did not like getting hit in the back so much. I had some trouble with the cutting being a straight major. Cutting is not usually a penalty I get, and I got 3 cutting majors. I would like to try it again, I think I just didn’t know enough of the changes going into it, so now that I understand more how to use the changes to a strategic advantage I would like to try it again.”
“The best part though was skating with such high calibre players! there are some impressive derby girls out there!”
Surprising or not, one league that is already adopting the No Minors is LOCO Roller Derby. They as well will be showcasing their talent from the four cities of Stratford, Brantford, London and Kitchener at the LOCO Elle Grande Tournament on November 19 at New Hamburg Arena.
Nia Capps #74 who with Vansterdamn aided the birth of LOCO Roller Derby is a proponent of No Minors which have been part of the league for the past six months now. “Actually, I love the no minors ruleset! Our rec league LOCO Roller Derby tried and adopted no minors rules this year in our private play, and I love that there are no minors. As a hockey fan, I am into playing hard and if it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty, I always wondered why we had all that gray area of what’s a minor, what’s a major things.”
“We don’t have a lot of douchebags playing in rec leagues and LOCO leagues that I have seen, so in my experience no one plays any dirtier than before, and it’s a more relaxed play-style for new skaters as it’s not as scary ‘OMG I touched her, am I in trouble?’ and not as confusing to learn.”
Nia Capps continues: “It’s easier to play and practice with less referees on hand, and it’s easier to teach to new skaters. I love no minors! It’s so relaxing to not hear a whistle so often and have to track minors and ‘Oh God!Ois he gonna call me for that cause I touched her!? Did I hit her?'”
“Now it’s just: ‘Whistle, Penalty, Hit the chairs.’ And if no whistle, no call, and keep skating and concentrating on where you need to be, instead of what that ref just got you for on a minor. I hope ‘no minors’ option becomes WFTDA standard as a fan too, because with less whistles and ref signals, it’s easier to keep up with what’s happening. And if someone is called, and hits the box, it’s a clear reason and not ‘hey, what for? 4 minors? What was she doing 4 times to get in the box?'”
“Of course, you have to be playing for fun and not be an overly angry person because with little things being no penalty anymore, someone can play lightly at the no penalty old minors level of dirty/bad skill levels and can annoy you all to shit with little things if they want to. But we all still have the option to nail a douchebag and hit the chairs for a minute if we have to.”
It would be safe to say that the referees and players would like to try more No Minors bouts. Til then, to see the rules in action go up to Tri-City and see LOCO roll this weekend!