Stranger in a Stranger Land – part 4 – It’s a family affair as bloo! knockout red Saucies DSC_6423-Edit

DSC_6423-Edit, originally uploaded by Midnight Matinee 24.
Who knew what malice of forethought lay between the sibling rivalry that existed deep with Queen City. Lamb Chop, captain of the Nickel City Knockouts looked to inflict some pain upon her brother and rival Señor Wiener who stood by the bench of the Suicidal Saucies as their coach.
Please note that this is still a story in draft form. Stranger in a Stranger Land – part 3 to come later.
These were just some of our thoughts as we ventured back down into the States for yet another heart-stopping experience of the Queen City brand of Derby at its best. The tasty treats of the evening included the Lake Effects ice cream! A tempting selection of Queen City Roller Girls Rocky Road, Salty Caramel, Vanilla & Graceland (inspired by Elvis). Not being able to wait until halftime and at the behest of Diamond CrushHer the Rocky Road was delved into, and it was pure heaven. Cold chocolate and delectable marshmallows for that sweet bite.
After ice cream, revenge is a dish best served cold and the Saucies were looking out to get back for their loss to the Knockouts the season before. The Saucies bench was strong replete with representation from the QCRG All-star travelling team Lake Effect Furies, but Lamb Chop, herself a Furies veteran, stood with 20 strong Knockouts behind her. In between them stood Mama Chop, the inveterate waver of the mighty foamy lamb chop. But on this game day she could have been torn figuring out how to support the two teams while she bled blue inside. Adding to the mixture was the other family member Shock-Her who had to remain neutral as head ref for the night. The Saucies and coach had to rebound from the sour taste of a loss in a close bout from three weeks before with the Alley Kats, a match that could have gone either way. With first game experience behind them, the Saucies used the interim between bouts to get everyone onto the same page, draftees and veterans alike. Part of the Knockouts advantage was more cohesiveness as a team, having had to fill fewer holes in their roster between seasons.

Sweetening the pot for the night were the Ice Ice Babies opening the night and making their bout debut before a live audience. The energy of the junior team of Queen City was running rambunctious around the rink as they quickly donned uniforms for the night and their team photo. The Ice Ice Babies divided into two teams of Frost Bites and Snow Bunnies, nervously taking in the energy of the crowd as they circled the track for their introductions. The bout was limited to a 10 minute period with one minute jams. Yet it probably felt like an eternity for the fearless and talented bunch on the rink. The referees had to race to keep up with the Babies jammers. Scoring ran high with the score reaching 90 to 84 by the end of it all.


The Ice Ice Babies bout meant the Knockouts and the Suicidal Saucies had to warm up twice which may have dissipated some of their bout energy. The night was less of the devastation and more into the go for broke jamming and defensive posturing. The blue was more than dressing down the Saucies as the first period ended with a 101-45 advantage. Crazy Legs only took to the jammer line once for the Knockouts but they had the indomitable BJ Harmstrong and Ruby Revenge and Unsung. It was hard to not notice those particular ruby red shorts on the line.

The 101-45 halftime advantage underscored the decisiveness of the Knockouts as they preyed on and pried upon holes in the Saucies pack. By the end of the night the lead crept near the triple digits, but that was not the story of the night which was another nose injury inflicted upon QCRG and the Saucies’s Nova Cain. Brave soul that she was, she came back donning the face guard to jam again for her team.

The night concluded with a 191-93 score for the blue, with the house music blazing LMAO and the ladies dancing on the track. With some shaking of hands with the audience and hugs with friends, it was not the usual everyone dashing to ring around at trackside to get the low or high five with their heroes of the night&#emdash;at QCRGm the crowd is already as close to the track as they can get&#emdash;it’s that intimate.

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The after-party at the Renaissance was a short drive away after the coach of the Saucies had proffered a bottle of American champagne to the victors. The theme of the night was soup, and homemade soup it was that hit the spot for the hungry and exhausted skaters who were slurping on the likes of bacon and cheeseburger, pasta, cheese and beer, a sweet potato chili that was all vegetarian and all good. While trying to stay on the outside and witness the red and the blue, we offered the Knockouts captain the Toblerone rose we had been carrying across the border. It may have been the dumbest thing we ever tried to do, but getting the hug and the invite to sit with the blue was even more than icing on the cake, it was being in the middle of a dream come true. It could have been a dangerous tactic by yours truly to wear the Team Canada t-shirt when Team USA’s Addy Rawl was sitting at the same tabke, wearing her Team USA jacket and shirt. We could only remark upon the World Cup match of Stars vs. Stripes back in Toronto when the two sides during warm-up and introductions circled the track at a breakneck speed never before seen in Canada. She remembered the night well, and remarked how exhausted she was afterwards. Surprising how feisty some Team Argentina player can be, shouting “blooooo!” with the accompaniment of the rest of the bloo cast. A photographer’s job should never stop and some discrete photos were taken here and there. Journey was playing downstairs which beckoned Diamond and crew to the gym hall while others took leaves to go the after-after-party. It seemed a shame not to partake of the price of beer in Queen City, and after passing over the choices of Blue or Canadian and instead asking the barkeep for a good American beer, he offered Budweiser. We talked about the differences in Canadian and American beer, and he said something along the lines that the US was not allowed to offer the high alcohol content up in Canada.

While the beer was going down and soup being sipped, the clean-up was on with Mama and her small motley crew washing out crock pots and bowls and figuring out how to carry what was left back home. [It was all good soup, just more than could be supped on.] While everyone took off or finally fell asleep watching the end of Fargo on the high definition cable in the darkness, it was time to hit the pillow yet again in America.

/… more

This is a story still in the writing and editing stage.

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Yuuuuup! It’s a family affair – Stranger in a Stranger Land – part 4 – my blooo heaven

Stay tuned for more details here as the Suicidal Saucies go head to head against the Nickel City Knockouts in Queen City on Saturday night. That’s today!

It’s a brother vs sister thing – and you know who always says, “Mama always liked you best.”

Bim Bam Baby

Also, the Ice Ice Babies square off against each other too!

And here the story begins. Stranger in a Stranger Land – part 4. Part 3 still in the writing stage.

Welcome to the Paradise !

Venturing forth for the third time down to Queen City to see a spat of epic family proportions as the Suicidal Saucides led by Señor Wences would face the Nickel City Knockouts captained by the Lamb Chop herself and square in between was Mama Chops trying her best to cheer on her two Derby siblings as equally as she would or could. Inside she may be bleeding a certain colour that rhymes with mountain dew but that did not stop her from bolstering the league and bout as much as she could.

The contents for the soup repast after party sploshed in crock pots in the back of the truck as the family truck driven by ShockHer wended its way through North Tonawanda.

It as a night of sweets for the sweet, Lake Effect Ice Cream was present and Diamond CrushHer commanded me to try one on as a treat. The server’s favourite was the Rocky Road, which we tried although Salty Caramel will have to be tried next time.

The after-party was a slice of my blue heaven. Shouts of yuuuuuuuup! ringed through the room as the skaters dove into the many varieties of soup prepared by the ladies of the league. A sweet potato chili was out of this world and a bacon and cheeseburger soup disappeared fast. The pasta was a flavourful filling bowl and the cheese with a lot of beer was spicy yummy as were all the others. And chocolate nutty rice krispies to round out the edges.

With great trepidation, with camera gear on our shoulder we looked around the room filled with the black and red and blue. How to break the ice? Maybe a rose? or chocolate? Done.

Introduced as the “photographer from Canada” it was realized a great responsibility lay on our shouder.

Wearing Team Canada t-shirt might not have been the best idea as Addy Rawl herself sat across the table wearing her Team USA jacket and shirt. I could only commend her for her role on Team USA and the memory of seeing the Team USA Introduction during Stars vs Stripes at World Cup was the fastest thing we had ever seen on skates. She remembers being exhausted after all that.

Mama says Knockouts! – Stranger in a Stranger Land – part 1


Time was ticking down fast and there was just over half an hour to catch the bus downtown to Buffalo from here in Toronto when the puppy decided to make the flight to freedom and dashed out the front door into the neighbourhood. Absolutely the last thing that was needed, but puppy was finally caught after running around the yards. Mother decided to come downtown as well in the van. As soon as she opened the front door of the house, the puppy made a second bolt for freedom.

Once again the chase was on, and ever looming along with the anxiety of the chase was the conviction that time had surely run out. However, the determination to get to Buffalo at all cost had not.

Sleep had not come. The mantra of “breathe!” was not working. As the sun found itself peeking above the horizon, gear was still being packed through the night&emdash;recharging batteries and testing again, and trying to remember little things that we kept on forgetting. The pile of equipment needed for the road trip kept on piling up.  And adding to the worry was the wondering if the powers that be at the American border or even the Greyhound busline would even let everything through. So what was another dog chase or two to compound things?

The drive downtown to the bus station was stop and crawl on a Saturday morning, marked by a wrong turn and speed bumps on side roads. It was 12:02 and the bus was supposed to leave at noon as the final corner to the bus station at Dundas and Bay was reached. Park, say goodbye and run like hell. There was a bus at gate 13 just about to depart. The station worker was asked where was the bus to Buffalo and he pointed. This was the bus to Buffalo. As the good natured driver was placing the luggage into the baggage compartment, he said that if hadn’t been for the other bus on the street blocking the way out, the bus to Buffalo would have been gone already. Phew!

Along the way we beheld the attractions of Saint Catharines, the outskirts of Niagara Falls and the remnants of the War of 1812, then Fort Erie. The foreboding American customs lay ahead. The bus driver gave a brief but humourous lecture about being truthful and the consequences of cavity searches otherwise. The luggage was lugged off the bus, rolled into the building and thrown them into the conveyor belt that sucked the bags into the x-ray machines.

are you going and why? asked the big lady behind the counter. Then the official glared at the two bags. Why do you need two bags. Roller Derby was the answer, and equipment to shoot. Do you intend to sell anything? What type of camera do you use? A Nikon D90. She sighed, and said “Let’s see it.” Opening up the luggage and the camera bag, the  camera was handed over to her with the battered 35-70 lens taken through the wars of countless Lollapalloza and Edgefest and Sommersault and how many U2 or Smashing Pumpkins or cross-processed Radiohead shows. With a snort she handed it back. “You can go. It’s an expensive hobby you’ve got there.” Tis indeed, more than a hobby.

America at last! Crossing the bridge, the sky was a shade of grey, and abundant American flags were flying everywhere. You could just feel you were a stranger in a stranger land.

The Buffalo bus station was its own little world, with bus hops, vending machines holding Crystal Beach and Cherry Coke! Mello Yello!


American telephones that required American coins, which we did not have. However, the generosity of a passenger—she handed me two quarters – I offered her a US bill which she declined. It’s only two quarters, she said. The first item on the call of duty roster was to phone Mama Chops.

“We’re here!” “Is that you?” said a familiar voice at the other end of the line. Mama Chops was going to be busy with setting up for the after party, so she said ShockHer was on the way. ShockHer arrived, a great big bundle of zebra with a vigorous handshake. With gear stowed in the ShockHer truck, it was time to get to Derby!


Rainbow Roller Rink was like entering the promised land. A fairy tale come to life. A genuine skating rink with a floor of real polished wood. Glitzy neon rainbows. Plus the promise of actually seeing Queen City playing on its home court.  Distant thoughts of chasing puppy faded away as the prospect of seeing the blue and the purple lay ahead.


The key to the atmosphere in the Rainbow Roller Rink that Knockouts skater and league bout photography co-ordinator [aka cat wrangler in photographer’s circles] B-17 said as introductions were made around amongst the media du jour is the the intimacy created by the small size of the arena. Being close to the action is cultivated by QCRG. The crowd drawn right up to the edge of the action, their lives protected only by one layer of padded wall set up right on the referee’s circle. The fans fed on the excitement of the action right before their eyes which in turn fuelled the skaters to play harder and even more furious referee takeouts which riled the fans even more. It is the proverbial circle of life.

The night promised a repeat of the last year’s Queen City Championships featuring the two teams, could the Devil Dollies duplicate their winning form, or would there be payback for the Knockouts?

Coach Busty Pipes with Diamond Crushher was leading a team in reformation. Captain of the Champions Devil Dollies #360 Lip Service was alongside Lake Effect Furies skaters Day TripHer and Brutali-Tease. Other familiar faces had Diamond CrushHer on bench coach duties and HerHeiny Granger last seen at 2 Fresh 2 Furious was an actual Dollies.

The battle cry for the night for the Knockouts was straight out of Storage Wars as they warmed up, responding to the barking of the coach with their rendition of Dave Hester’s “yuuuuuuuup!” Leading the tight squad of blue shirts was captain Lamb Chops flanked by BJ Harmstrong and somewhere under that mask was Crazy Legs. She was wearing the protective gear due to the blow to the nose suffered at the hands of a flying elbow at World Cup in Toronto back in December where she captained the mighty Team Argentina.


The next two hours and beyond was akin to being in Disneyland, filled with magic and fantasy and rainbows and unicorns. Watching a dream come true. The Knockouts staked themselves to the lead and never looked back. More like looking out for #1.

From the casual viewpoint of non-partisan QCRGer Mama Chops, were the Knockouts looking for revenge? “Yes indeed. The Knockouts came out serious and ready to do business. They were lucky in that they had the most returning players of any team.” Their KOs cohesiveness and having more experienced members on their roster than their opposition was decisive as they sought to even the score from last season.

However, the Devil Dollies were not about to give up. There’s nothing Derby ladies enjoy more than a good spat amongst themselves to rekindle the competitive juices. Taking out the refs was just par for the course.


Blocker and pivot of the Devil Dollies Val du Morte (2010 rookie of the year with QCRG): “I thought the KO’s really tightened up their game, they were super disciplined. I felt like we were playing us at the end of last season.”

The Championships of last year had the til then undefeated Knockouts with their main jammer rotation of Addy Rawl, BJ Harmstrong along with  Crazy Legs rolling up the lead. Bit by bit though the Devil Dollies had climbed back, finding a counter to Addy’s move and walling up, and as was described it came down to the last jam. With Addy and BJ out of gas, on the line for  the line for the Knockouts was Crazy Legs who took her subsequent penalty. Consequently, Devil Dollies secured their first ever championship.


So this new 2012 season rolled in, and the Knockouts were out to even the score on this, the night of nights, no more rehearsing and nursing a part, they knew their role and every roll on the track by heart. This was opening night Derby, baby! Eyes were burning bright on both sides. The air was festive, with the QCRG junior team Ice Ice Babies and moms fundraising behind a table of baked goods and the future of QCRG walking around the track with plates of cupcakes for sale. Americans love their cupcakes. The merch table had the very blue Knockouts shirt we had been coveting [and now in our possession], and the new QCRG 2012 yearbook available for a mere five bucks. The two anthems played— Knockouts coach SuperNova hailing from Crystal Beach, Ontario, provided the Canadian element on the bench. This was not the night for slow Derby. QCRG is built for speed. From an inside the track perspective, Knockouts seemed to know what to do in the pack,  prying holes for their killer jam rotation. Things did not look good for the Devil Dollies as the KOS reached the century mark before the first half concluded.

Halftime was quel bizarre with the tossing of palettes filled with loves of the Al Cohen rye bread into the awaiting arms of the crowd. “Give the audience bread and they shall be fed for a night.” The first bite of the arena hot dog with mustard and relish—real Americana. And three dollar Labatt’s Blue dispensed in cups. Toronto had nothing quite like this.


Val du Morte continues: “The KOs didn’t go for the big hard hits, they played together. The Devil Dollies started to come together at the end but ran out of time. Our new girls played really well, but we still have some work to do…” Tearing through the second half, the Devil Dollies tried to make a game out of it but the zeroes on the scoreboard came around with the Knockouts on the winning side of a 200-137 score.

Captain Lamb Chops looked back on the night. “The KO’s suffered very few roster changes over the off season, but we went into that bout knowing that we had to earn every. single. point. 007 Supernova (our fearless Canadian coach) has really been pushing the bar with our training so the confidence level was there. All we needed was to execute! And execute we did—I would never say that we played flawlessly, but the KO’s did a lot of really wonderful things on the track and I’m very proud of my team.”


The afterparty was its own affair with Mama Chops and all the social crew providing a Breakfast for Dinner theme repast for skaters and crew, complete with breakfast pizza, blueberry pancakes, do we remember bacon? and so much more. And QCRG proved they knew how to win their own afterparty downstairs on the dance floor.  They really do drink Molson Canadian down there and they love their Blue at $2 a bottle. Two dollars!

One more note: on the search for the Cherry Coke and little American only things after the bout, I was introduced to Walgreens. Looking through shelves of American chocolate and coolers of liquids, it was a double take glare at the presence of  actual beer. Shelf upon shelf of beer. Imagine that! Beer in a drugstore! The American was amused.

As the clock on the VCR glowed 4:00 in the darkness, with head on pillow, we fell asleep in the land of the free. And so ended our first night in Queen City, wrapped in a dream and some assurance that yes, Buffalo, there is a Derby god-desss.  It is with tribute of heart  to Queen City that we say we may have been a stranger in this strange land but now it feels like home.

Next chapter: The Return of Stranger in a Stranger Land – part 3. 

Stranger in a Stranger Land – an etiquette for a visiting photographer


This is part 2 of a continuing story of our first venture into America to see Derby in the United States. To be more specific, the home opener of the Queen City Roller Girls of Buffalo, NY on January 7, 2012. What a way to start the year.


It was while on the road for the first time to America for Derby and reflecting on the entire experience, a light bulb flashed and a whole slate of words crystallized before our eyes. It was not the proverbial Ten Commandments, but it was a way to conduct oneself, the etiquette of being a visiting photographer.


We had just gone through customs at Fort Erie and landed at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Buffalo. What had preceded this was a myriad of details and a boatload of questions that had filled the mind for weeks and had to be settled: how to get across the border (both of them preferably), how to get to Buffalo, how much was the busfare to Buffalo, what to pack, how to carry what had to be packed, how to get to the Rainbow Roller Rink to see my favourite league down under—those crazy Queen City Roller Girls.


The teams for the night event would be a reprise of the 2011 championship final as the 2012 season opener: the pink of defending champions Devil Dollies vs. the blue Nickel City Knockouts. What better way than to Kick Out The Jams?


It was a marvel to watch Queen City set up for the evening from scratch to finish in what would be a sold-out bout; QCRG officials and volunteers everywhere, laying down the track, ticket sellers, ticket takers, crew installing lights overhead into the ceiling, putting out the bleachers, handle a session for the entire league photo, photo mediator B-17 dealing with press, the ongoing Queen’s Court chitchat, zebras and roster boards, a bake sale setup for the Ice Ice Babies who are the Queen City Roller Girls junior team, a live band setup and stage for half time intermission, merchandise table, concession and food, stats table, scoreboard table, wires and power bars everywhere, putting up sponsors banners including Mighty Taco, setting out the players benches and penalty bin, the video crew in the form of Mr. Fit, Mama Chops [den mother to the league] out to handle the after-party setup for her derby ladies, players and teams rolling in to get changed and warming up on the track, it was indeed the universal experience of game day. All thanks to the biggest fan of the league who would be the owner of Rainbow Roller Rink.

While all this unfolded around me, what had accrued from the experience of travelling on the road or even being at home amongst the leagues in and around Toronto and the grand experience of Blood and Thunder World Cup,  enabled me in knowing how to deal and what questions to ask. Where to shoot. How to shoot. In other words: How to fit in.


In no particular order and by no means all-inclusive:

        1. Smile.
        2. Ask your hosts as far in advance as possible if you can tentatively shoot their next bout. Find out how much lighting and gear you can bring along. Leagues may have an off-camera flash policy. Some leagues may set aside a room to stow gear or bags. Others, you may be lucky to get floorspace.
        3. You are a visitor. You are their guest. Act accordingly, and try to get along. Thank your hosts. Blend in. Wear a neutral league shirt. [Amendment since: Or if you do wear a league shirt – just be careful which team you bear when talking to a derby lady.]
        4. There is no such thing as the absolute gold standard. Every league does its best. Every league has its own way of doing things. Every league has its own personality. Respect them if they deserve respect. Otherwise, just leave. It’s your time.
        5. Never assume anything. No attitude.
        6. Always be ready. Life’s biggest lesson taught to me by Boris Spremo [Toronto Star photographer supreme].
        7. Listen to your media liaison or photo wrangler. Abide by whatever agreement you choose to sign. If you do not like the agreement, just walk away. Or discuss it with someone in the know. Know your rights.
        8. Take the best shots you can. That’s what the league expects and what you should expect of yourself. Every picture tells a story. You are not there as a spectator on their dime. You never know when to expect the unexpected. There is always something going on, but know you cannot capture it all. Do your best. Deal with it. There may be team rituals and introductions you have never seen before. React to it. [Can you say bagpipes Tri-City Thunder?] If you are having a bad day, deal with it, don’t show it. If your lighting or flash has died, be creative. Or go back to basics. Never surrender. The teams on the track never do.
        9. Know the rules of Derby. Know the lines. Know the lines you cannot cross. The ones on the floor or not. And for all those tyros out there, don’t shoot and skateboard around the track at the same time.
        10. Know or get to know the NSOs and volunteers. Know the referees. Listen to the announcers. They always can tell you where all the best action is.
        11. Until the bout is over, skaters are skaters on game day. Coaches are coaches. They will still talk to you but their focus should be the bout ahead. Try not to intrude on their space. Shoot the stretch at your own peril.
        12. God is in the details. Sweat the small stuff. Plan as best you can. Put your experience to use. Learn as much as you can about the venue if you can. Look at game videos to see their lighting and where photographers set up. Some leagues already know what photographers require, but be prepared to ask questions to find a friendly solution.
        13. Capture the atmosphere. Shoot a bit of everybody and introduce yourself. You never know who will tag themselves or what photo will be an unanticipated favourite by some player.


  • Don’t get in the way of the crowd. They paid for their ticket and deserve to be there. Above all, lesson learned: officials first. Don’t get in the way of the stats keepers or sit where the whiteboard needs to be. You definitely do not want to be part of a referee takeout.
  • Treat your fellow photographers well. They are there to make everyone on the track look their best in the best way they can. They often impart to you where or how they shoot. Keep on learning and learn from the best.
  • A T-shirt is always a nice souvenir, however leagues manage to sell the darndest things. (Can you say Anya Face lippybalm?)
  • At the end of the night, thank your tired hosts again. Sincerely. Queen City love their Blue, Molson or otherwise. Bloo!
  • Pay it forward. That was my biggest take from World Cup. You will have mutual respect, and even gained new friends by the end of the night if everything goes right. It’s the Golden Rule. (You never know when you may have to ask someone for a quote or one of their photos for a wordpress article!)

Of course saying it and doing it can diverge, but do your best. If you believe it, you’ll do it. And if you succeed, not only do you have the photos of a lifetime or a moment in life, you have new friends who will let you come back.

So, thank you Derby and leagues and all us hard-working photographers everywhere. Thank you Queen City for your generosity and hospitality and the Cherry Coke.


And once I write the rest of part one, there will be undeniable evidence there is a Derby God-dess.

Crazy about Queen City DSC_1287-2

DSC_1287-2, originally uploaded by Midnight Matinee 24.

Queen City Rollergirls home season debut with a rematch between last year’s teams in the finals of the QCRG Championships: Devil Dollies and Nickel City Knockouts.Featured here is Crazy Legs from the NCKO donning face guard after having her nose broken at Blood and Thunder World Cup while bouting as captain of Team Argentina.

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Gold Miners’ Daughters strike gold at 2 Fresh 2 Furious

photo courtesy of 90 Degree Johnson

Don’t Stop Believing was an appropriate song for the fest that was 2 Fresh 2 Furious. Just think Beast of the East all held in one day running in two arenas down at Ted Reeve Arena way down in the east end of Toronto where Main meets Gerrard Street East.

True to the feeling, the Gold Miners’ Daughters, a league of their own from Timmins, won it all in a memorable hard-hitting final over the D-VAS from Toronto Roller Derby.

GTA Rollergirls hosted the 2 Fresh 2 Furious tournament as an even more ambitious sequel to the Fresh and Furious equivalent from last year, expanding from 4 to 16 teams this time around. GTAR seemed to be doing what it does best in promoting and developing Derby amongst the rookies and freshies of the world. So players who had only a year ago donned their skates for the first time found themselves coming in with little or no previous matchplay. The tournament limited the experience of skaters on the teams to approximately five games or less with exhibitions and tournaments not counting. So Royal City from Guelph who had entered the tournament with virtually no games to their credit had been the busiest of beavers locking games into their home and away schedule with abandon.

It was only recently that a small band of nine Chrome Mollys supplemented by some Debs had travelled up to the home turf of South Simcoe and found tough resistance. And this was only a day after the Debs had gone up to Royal City to face the All-Stars. So the expectation for a toughly fought game from South Simcoe against the Brawlers was in the cards.

Thus, 2 Fresh 2 Furious was on. This was the equivalent of Montreal’s Beast of the East weekend tournament condensed into one long Derby day and night. Every forty minutes more or less, the games proceeded apace. The wars on the track in these short 20 minutes of gameplay [supplemented by the proverbial time outs from teams and officials] produced some spectacular falls, races, injuries, collisions and penalties that could be expected from freshie types. Sixteen leagues were represented, some sending two or even three teams [Royal City blended two of their teams Killer Queen and Our Ladies of Pain into the Queens of Pain while the Violet Uprising remained intact]. Belles of the Brawl from Brantford were not allowed to include GTA’s former big hitter Justine Sane on their roster which saddened her.

Queen City Baby Brawlers (in black and blue) vs. ToRD D-VAS (red)

However, the Northern Exposure to Derby was well-represented with the two different leagues from Timmins: Gold Miners’ Daughters and Dark Angels, the Soonami from Sault Ste. Marie sent those who could travel. There had been some foreshadowing from the inner circle of Sudbury that Timmins were a rookie team in the making. Kingston and Peterborough came in with two teams, Durham was back in action, seen for the first time back in the summer of 2010 at The Hangar against the D-VAS from Toronto Roller Derby. For the first time, Toronto Roller Derby came down to GTA to actually bout and sent in the D-VAS. Last year, Queen City Rollergirls from Buffalo, New York had come to Fresh and Furious with a small group wearing the crown on their pink shirts. Two of the leagues from Ottawa in the form of Capital City and Ottawa Roller Derby sent in teams. This time around, Queen City sent in a full team of Baby Brawlers coached by 90° Johnson, who himself is a full fledged WFTDA referee. At least two of the QCRG may have been seen in Hammer City as part of their Lake Effect Furies all-star travel team who took on the Eh! Team and actually took the MVP.

Game 1 - Border City Brawlers (in blue) vs. South Simcoe Rebel Rollers (in black)

If their stomachs were churning with first game tournament nerves it did not show up in the players on the track. The stress was more likely to happen with the 22 zebras who came in to oversee the matches, rolling in shifts and trying not to get dizzy from it all. There were many recognized zebras by yours truly from the likes of ToRD, Peterborough, Royal City Rollergettes and GTAR.

All the action started at the stroke of 11 in the morning with the first two games going simultaneously in The Bubble and the main rink of Ted Reeve Arena. While Durham were going head to head with half of the Kingston congregation that had split into Shirts [with the other half called Skins] the contingent from Border City Brawlers of Windsor were going against South Simcoe Rebel Rollers.

Even spectators in the suicide seats have only an inkling of appreciation of what the game is like as seen on the inside.

The view from the inside of the track was not only terrifyingly fast at the start, but quite the rush while trying to stay inside the lines of the box created for the occasion and trying to focus hard on the action through a flurry of zebra legs and arms which were racing in pace with the jammers and pack [or non-pack] of players. The calls came loud and often between whistles as the referees shouted at white boards of the NSOs [non skating officials] or the NSOs types who struggled to keep up as they wrote down the penalties on their clipboards before marking the minors and majors on the large board. Many heated discussions during timeouts ensued with coaches and refs over missed calls and points with even referees talking at each other to make sure they had made the right call. One thing that can be said is a referee’s whistle at the end of a jam is piercingly loud and painful. But the major surprise was how loud was the rumble of skates as players engaged in fast and furious action around and around. And the intensity on the faces seen up close. It was indeed blood and thunder on the track.

There was a large contingent of D-VAS fans, ToRD signs and coaches who made their presence loud and known as they cheered their teams on. Indeed a few of the leagues present were due to the players turned founder, coach or mentor from Toronto Roller Derby.

The temperature outside was a temperate 28 Canadian degrees, or the high 80s or almost 90s outside, but it felt cooler than the swelter that was going inside. The scheduling of winners and losers and double eliminations and then to sudden-death by the quarter finals had teams often playing back to back, just finishing winning one bout over an opponent only to immediately face their next competitors within the next twenty minutes. Cooldown led to more warm-up. There were lots of rebel yells for beer beer beer from teams after they found themselves out of the tourney. Merchandise tables from visiting teams began to disappear as thoughts of returning home or looking forward to the after-party began to arise. The Chrome Mollys shouted “Pizza!” The volunteers and staff and players from GTA Rollergirls lived to setup and lived to serve and barely lived by the end of day. Announcers in the form of Getcha Kicks said cute things about the trophies and remembrances of the first tourney at GTAR which was Virgin Suicides Brawl which was comprised of competing teams: Derby Debutantes, Vicious Dishes and Venus Fly Tramps from Tri-City, Bytown Blackhearts from Ottawa, Death Row Dames from Hammer, and the two Forest City teams: London Thrashers and Thames Fatales. It was there that 76 Getcha Kicks got her first Derby kicks.

Chrome Mollys Riley Rage on last jam of regulation against South Simcoe trying to pick u 20

The hometeam Chrome Mollys playing with only their freshiest crew got off to a winning start over the Ottawa Dollinquents in the second bout of round one in the arena. Then they had the scare of their lives against South Simcoe, the Mollys behind by 20 with time for last jam on the clock. Riley Rage huffed and puffed her way for the Mollys giving it her best shot. As the last whistle blew, the Mollys piled atop their trooper jammer. Although it looked like 34-33 on the scoreboard an officials meeting was called with GTA coach looking for that one more point that would tie the game. Referees called upon the players to keep their equipment on while they consulted. The Chrome Mollys received the needed point and the overtime was on with Beaver Mansbridge on the line. Although Coach kept shouting to Beaver to call off the jam after getting her points the rule dictated the full two minutes must run out, and on both team raced with the Chrome Mollys the victor by two. However, their win would put them into the sudden-death quarter-finals against Queen City’s Baby Brawlers who came through after a surprising first round loss to the D-VAS, then winning two in a row to reach game 21.

By the semi-finals four teams were left [naturally]: D-VAS again against Queen City’s Baby Brawlers in game 25. In the other half of the draw, the Violet Uprising had been knocked out leaving the Queens of Pain with Hot Cross Guns to represent the royal colours of RCRG facing Gold Miners’ Daughters. The latter two teams had spent the day over in The Bubble with its slippery surface and had to come over into the main rink for the first time, which meant they had eluded our view for the day. We had been warned to look out for 666 Lisa Kill’er Princess and a certain 14 Nasty Nads on GMD.

The Gold Miner’s Daughters had just played Sister Slag on Canada Day and had fallen which may or may not have helped to build up expectations against Queens of Pain, but watching them in action, they certainly did not look like this was any rookie team. Jammers getting a running start at the jam line and huge hits. The D-VAS kept up the momentum and knocked out the Queen City Rollergirls who may have been finally running on empty as Hellbat kept up lead. This saddened the merch table lady of Queen City who had been shouting out to her team all day in support.



The two teams summoned what was left of their reserves and took to the track for the Battle for third place in Game 27. The Queens of Pain [Royal City version] took out the Queen City Baby Brawlers.


By 10 p.m. the twenty-eighth and Championship game was preceded by the G27 battle for third place and Queens of Pain – the Queens of Pain proudly prevailing over the black and blue of Queen City Rollergirls Brawlers.

Gold Miners' Daughters from Timmins take first prize

At last, the finals were ready to roll. No mention of rough and tumble here lest we get roughed and tumbled out of here. With only few seconds left on the clock of the finals, the D-VAS called time out. Although the score looked unsurmountable, anything is possible in Derby. Witness the twenty point come from behind jam by the Chrome Mollys to tie up the score with South Simcoe. [Or the Champional with Rocky Mountain Rollergirls]. What ensued was total mayhem with were the D-VAS just asking for it?

In the moments before the Championship game. the ladies from GMD looked at each other and Rachel NightTrain Matthews said: “‘We got this!’ and then, when we won it, there were just lots of tears and ‘OMG!!'” The Northern underdogs took it! A lot of people in the crowd were like ‘What?'” And she laughs.

Coach Nick L Bagg (aka Jeff Latham) rightfully proud of his team says in summation: “We’ve come along way in one short year. At this time last year we had ten girls doing dry land in a school yard. For us to win the 2 Fresh 2 Furious is nothing short of incredible!”

Well done all!

addendum: 2 Fresh 2 Furious from Queen City Baby Brawlers point of view on the way! Followed by on the road again to Tri-City and Royal City. Stay tuned!


2Fresh2Furious G28 Finals ToRD D-VAS vs Timmins Gold Miners’ Daughters Roller Derby from Layer9 on Vimeo.

Happy Birthday Queen City Roller Girls!

Preamble: For five years, Queen City Roller Girls have been fanning the flames and spreading the good word about their league. Although they have hosted the likes of Hammer City and Montreal in the past, QCRG started coming north to this part of the world. Last year’s Fresh and Furious tournament [hosted by GTA Rollergirls] consisted of two bouts featuring the debut of Chrome Mollys and other new skaters in their inaugural or their second match from across the province and across the border [and across the pond]. One of the leagues represented was the Queen City Roller Girls from Buffalo, NY. More attention was brought to bear upon QCRG as the Nickel City Knockouts hit the road to play Thames Fatales, then their travel team Lake Effect Furies came north twice – the first time they brrrrrought the Ice Ice Baby theme to the New Hamburg arena in a well-contended narrow loss against Tri-City Thunder. However, the Furies turned it around and showed their winning form later that year against CN Power at The Hangar in Toronto. Throughout, the ambassadors of Queen City showed great friendliness and let their personalities and sportmanship shine on and off the track [as can be evidenced from various shenanigans with Forest City and elsewhere].


When QCRG skaters were asked to provide the background of the league and the 5th birthday celebrations, all who were asked deferred to Sissy Fit, a formidable jammer and blocker with the Suicidal Saucies and renowned as the founder of Queen City Roller Girls. Thanks to Sissy Fit for her generous words. Continue reading “Happy Birthday Queen City Roller Girls!”