So how do you watch a game?

At a Death Track Dolls Karaoke fundraiser while all the spirits were high and the voices were raised in full gear fuelled by good beer and good food and cake at a certain Korean premise downtown, a certain player asked me to the effect: “You’re always looking through the camera, so how do you watch the game?”

The inference was with the photographer so focused on the shot and looking through the viewfinder—so how do we watch the game?

Staring into her questioning eyes gave me pause for thought because this is one player—a veteran of CN Power and green and black— you would not want to cross.

On the microcosmic scale of things, granted, for starters, we look for the hit, the air, that type of thing—but that’s not the whole game. So how do we watch the game?

One makes it a point to know the Derby as best as we can. We read the WFTDA rulebook, gander over postings by scads of Derby players with their own insights and daily lives, however, these are all from the inside. So how do we watch the game?

There’s the fuel, the adrenaline engendered by the players on the track and the atmosphere in the game, the incessant shouts of “Get louder!” or “Lead jammer!” or the play by play provided by expert or inexpert announcers [who by their nature call the play without giving away insight to either team]. So how do we watch the game?

Heaven knows it is definitely for the passion of it all by everybody concerned. It has definitely nothing to do with money—what money—from the sport. There has been more than the occasional times when the players and the leagues have opened their generosity or tried their best to be accommodating, going miles out of their way. So how do we watch the game?

There are those who do it with a detachment to it—it’s just an assignment or a job with a chance to show off by the gearheads. But that’s not me. And not true for others who invest their vacation times or time off from the daily job to travel state to state to get to their various annual places to be, tournaments to shoot. For you Americans who may read this one day, it’s a little different up here with the scale of things. Leagues are more localized. There’s no “Minnesota” or “Kansas”, nothing that would encompass a whole province. Tournaments up here do not quite have the aura of history yet. But it does build. Beast of the East out in Montreal. Quad City Chaos in Toronto. New traditions in the bud, West and East and North and South across the country. The launch of the World Cup 2011 in Toronto, Canada, eh? But that is all digression to how do I watch the game? True, I’m going through my second Nikon [after the first one birthed and died in the cause of Whip It!] just bought last July and already past its half life in the line of Derby, but it came with a price. I still use the same lenses I used in my film days shooting in the likes of the Rivoli or the Cabana [maybe not quite the Cabana] or the ElMo or Maple Leaf Gardens or The Exhibition or The Diamond or The Skydome or Molson Park or even Molson Amphitheatre where I first got introduced to the concept of autofocus lenses. And every little extra piece of gear or reinvention that has been an investment to making the pictures that much better have come with a cost. I do the best to try to be the best with what I’ve got. Heaven knows, again I know, I’m not the best but as in the case with all the ladies on the track, we do the best we can and we try to get better.. It’s not the money that shoots, it’s the photographer and the experience. So how do I watch the game?

I watch to get the light, the moment, the mood, the focus. You cannot capture everything on the track all at once, so you anticipate their moment in time in that space when everything comes together, all the preparation and all the mental calculations and all the decisiveness, to tell the story you want to tell. Whether it be about that player, that referee, that NSO, that coach, that volunteer, that person selling the merch, the food, the beer, however again we digress. So back to the track. Which is probably what she meant in the first place. So how do I watch the game? For that instant in time which builds to eternity until the clock winds down and beyond, I watch it for the love of the game.

/… thanks to the epicness of jnr8 and dz for their suggestions and words

While we’re at it – the three rules of Quad City Chaos

2. Always have everything you want within reach. You’re never going to find it otherwise.

3. Murphy’s Law is for losers.

Dame-o-lotion with the Renegades – Misfit Militia take out the Debutantes

It was a race against the clock to get back to Toronto at a time when spring in the clock was about to set forward [ sorry – deadlines are deadlines sometimes ] but it was the finale to what was another exceptional Saturday night in Alliston with the Renegade Derby Dames.

This had been the third time back into this arena by yours truly – the first time being a Hallowe’en style fun scrimmage followed by an actual doubleheader featuring juniors against juniors from Toronto Junior Roller Derby then the Durham folk going up against the Renegades.

What was utmost for this night was the drive to keep the Alliston Memorial Arena alive. Petitions were set up to be signed. The show that was put on by the league and organizers clearly showed everyone the Derby spirit was alive and could be family friendly to boot.

Visiting Alliston has always been fun – with friendly drivers, players or zebras willing to make the relatively short trip out from Toronto. Going on the ups and downs of the highway conjured flashbacks from days of going up to nearby Molson Park in Barrie for all the Edgefests and Lollapaloozas or Picnics. The floor of the track proved smooth and the arena lighting was more than bright enough in comparison to the lamented Hangar. Photographers always try to bring their own touch and the league with its own resident photographer was more than willing to accommodate the wishes.

The team travelling in for the bout of the night were the Derby Debutantes from the GTA Rollergirls. These were not your mother’s Debutantes all clad in the pink for the ball. In fact, save but a handful, these were not even last year’s Debutantes. However, it was good to see a friendly face or two with Coach Hissy Curlington and Pinky Tuffadero behind the bench. Dixie Wrecked remained a Debutantes wearing the C while a Chrome Mollys or two such as Wretched Gretchen now wore pink for the night. Corey Maim wearing her L2D had come over from the D-VAS along with another skater or two. Otherwise, this was literally a brand new freshie Debutantes with no familiar 76 or 1000 wearing a Psycho helmet. Some of these Debs had literally just passed their minimums.


This would be the first bout of the year on the calendar for both leagues. It may only be the beginning of March but Derby was already heating up in the south. Queen City launched their new year back in the first week of January, Toronto Roller Derby got rolling in February, Derby starts earlier and earlier these days with WFTDA type leagues trying to boost their rankings for tournament points or rankings while other leagues fledgling or otherwise after a hiatus of in house training or mentoring were anxious for a little ol’fashioned knockdown and hitting someone aside their mates. However, this is March and in Alliston there is one thing to remember: there is no heat if any to be found within the playing area of the arena itself. The cold necessitated the wearing of layers or winter bundles by the spectators, so for the players in their Derbyskinz, who knows? Heat is on the list for the arena improvements.

The Misfit Militia showed during the warm-up superior speed on skates which would be the rule for the night. Faces seen down at Toronto Roller Derby already two bouts deep into their season [with Quad City Chaos just ahead at the end of March] such as Renny Rumble #1205 with the Smoke City Betties and BelleFast #5678 with the Death Track Dolls were also part of the Misfit Milita Squad coached by Slewfoot Sinclair. The Militia were not letting up by any means.


The Debs knew beforehand they were in for a tough night but experience is experience. From the get-go the Militia scored 20 points and never looked back. The Debs had their own moments getting lead jammer a handful of times and just like Scotland at World Cup when they scored its first point against Team USA, the Debs’ first four on the scoreboard was a moral victory. The second half actually had Debutantes begin to find their legs on the track, and actually building walls while scoring some points and takedowns of their own. Crankypants brought in as announcer for the night was doing his best to keep the crowd informed while regaling them with comparisons of pizza at Toronto Roller Derby to the actual slices being served that night at Memorial Arena. Oh, of course the exhortation to “get louder!”

But the best way to keep the crowd enthused was the players themselves who provide the dance moves and fast paced action infused with staredowns on the line, penalties along the lines of elbows, low blocks, high hits and referee takeouts, who cares if it was a 361-17 blowout anyway? The Militia jammer rotation took care of the score taking to the inside or the outside or through the middle while the Misfit pack were doing their utmost to contain the Debs jammers. Hits could be seen coming from a mile away. MVPs for the night were for the Debs #28 Olivia Nuke’Em Bomb and for the Misfit Militia #55 Party Crasher.


It was a night of fun, showing everyone once again that there is a fanbase of Derby, that the event could be run successfully with family fun and affordable local beer. Local flavour was provided at half time from budding star Tori Hathaway who was dressed to the nines and singing and playing guitar to Taylor Swift, Tori has some stage presence and professionalism to her banter as she played to the crowd&emdash;she’s the real deal. A small exhibition of junior roller derby as a small handful of skaters showed off their skills and another referee in the making. The whole night built the case for saving Alliston Memorial Arena.

The afterbout was one after-party after another after-party with much Guinness and can you say Coyote Ugly? Lots of Cranky reminiscences and stories of film and music to and on the way back kept the drive alive. And did we mention the discussion of Battle Axe Throwing?



DRRDy deeds done – one year later !


DRRD Gibson's Cup

It seemed a summer ago that the league that proudly represents Durham Region revved it into high gear at Gibson’s Cup. The two home teams in the league bouted for the first time at a sold-out venue filled with very vocal fans, many no doubt getting their first taste of live Derby. Atom Smashers and Motor City Madames were the two home teams going head to head. League coaches had to switch off allegiances for the night and ringers were brought in as guest coaches whose advice for the ladies was skate hard skate fast.

The onset of winter has not chilled their spirits, the Derby revolution continues in Oshawa at Coachlite Roller Rink. It had been quite the journey for the league, harkening back to earlier stories about Durham [which can be found on this site], their search for identity and a space around the time of their first bout at The Hangar against the D-VAS back in August 2010, then move forward another year to the Gibson’s Cup. (Click here for Gibson’s Cup and Classy Trashy Ladies.)

So this particular Tuesday was of some significance to some as it was the one year of some happening in the band of DRRD sisters. We were along for the ride in Hitz’ car to be taken to Coachlite to witness the practice and drills along with shenanigans of these spirited ladies.


Kudos to the refs who with their height and reach advantage set up my speedlights, indeed Tuesday night was all right for fightin’ and shootin’. The whiff of Derby was in the air, and Lucid Lou was on the track in her Death Track Dolls outfit to parlay her advice and hitting skills and drills. All in all, it was a success on this side to capture the action, fraught with spills and go for it drive.


Let the players speak now.

DSC_8020“Wehave been training hard and are really excited for our upcoming season,” says fearsome Betty FugetaBOUTit (a.k.a. Laurie Turner in another universe some do not acknowledge) of the Atom Smashers. “We’re very proud of the progress our girls have made in the off-season and we’ve recently welcomed a great new crop of freshies who are ready to tear it up on the track!

  • “Goldie Lock N’ Load of the Rollergettes has done an incredible job training and mentoring our dedicated team of refs.”

    So Betty is definitely looking forward to all the exciting happenings coming soon for the multi-team league which consists of the Atom Smashers, the Motor City Madames and the travelling squad Durham Devils. Plus the Farm Team!

“Highlights of this season include our very own Motor City Madames at Beast of the East in Montreal, the second annual Gibson’s Cup and three more home games at the Ajax Community Centre. Because Gibson’s Cup sold out last year, we’ve moved to the Ajax Community Centre with a larger capacity where we’re hoping to draw even more fans!”

Durham has had tournament bouts given the 2 Fresh 2 Furious ordeal of last year, but Beast of the East in April will verily be Durham’s next big test to date as they look to their own version of blood on the track.


Cutsie Bootsie [again in another universe known as Sarah King] continues with what it feels like to be a part of Durham going into the league’s second season.

“When I first joined the DRRD family it was a small group of girls that really had no idea what we were doing or getting ourselves into. We had lost our rink and were skating in random parking lots, and refs were definitely something we had never experienced. Going into our first game against the D-VAS I can remember sitting on the bench thinking “is this really what I want to do?” I felt defeated and more exhausted then I had ever been before.


“But things have definitely changed! We got our rink back along with an Amazing new coach Blammo of the Chicks Ahoy! Since then DRRD’s world of derby is a much different and better place. With the help of Blammo and a group of dedicated DRRDy girls we have since had 2 Freshmeat programs giving us enough girls to split into 2 teams, Motor City Madames and Atom Smashers! Not to mention that we now have an amazing group of dedicated refs to help keep us in line.


“With tryouts for DRRD’s travel team, the Durham Derby Devils coming up in the end of March everyone is getting super excited to start the new season. I can’t wait to see what this year brings us! It will be the first time for both The Madames and Smashers to play teams from other leagues.

“We will also be hosting four to six bouts this year which is really exciting. We are hoping to show Durham Region just how awesome derby really is and that we only plan on getting bigger and bigger! I am so honoured and proud to be part of such an amazing group. We definitely came across some drama and problems along the way but the truth is we all love each other and would do anything for a member of DRRD. The men and women of this league are definitely my second family and I couldn’t imagine my world without them in it!”

It’s the derby story, the fight for pride and glory, a case of Durham Derby do or die … here’s looking at you, kids!


Stay tuned for more insights into the new season for Durham. Betty FugetaBOUTit reminds everyone in the meantime is the place to go for all the latest information on the Durham home schedule at the ACC [Ajax Community Centre]. Plus Durham will be keeping busy in the next while with GWT boot camp, an incoming visit from the Bay Street Bruisers, and do or die tryouts for spots on the Durham Devils. DRRDy deeds indeed.


All photos here can be found on Flickr at Midnight Matinee.