The year 2012 got off to a rousing starts at Toronto Roller Derby. ToRD launched its sixth season with a rematch of the two teams from last year’s Battle of the Boot—the champions Chicks Ahoy! countering the Gore Gore Rollergirls.
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.
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
Preamble: With summer coming to a very quick conclusion and we remark upon another amazing season of Derby that never comes to a stop. Falling far behind on words to write and thanks going out to all we’re going to have to work backwards or ramble on a random basis. So don’t feel neglected or rejected if the mentions haven’t been as frequent or forthcoming for we have been forthright pumping up the volume on the photographic side of style and wile while we have been at it. Starting with the most recent and keening backwards we start with le weekend passé.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Dear Diary: This has been the weekend of roadtrips – but the most hellish of all has been the trip within this city of Toronto on Sunday. The TTC in all its infinite wisdom blocked off the subway for maintentance between Eglinton and Bloor subway stations, and adding in its stead their version of a shuttle bus service. Compounding the woe, is the 54 bus coming late and only offering the short turn version plus the Terry Fox Run being held in the neighbourhood park down the street with all the cars turning into the park and holding up all the traffic towards the station. And what was beginning as a chilly day rapidly warming up. The shuttle bus decision when we should have gone the other way was only one of a myriad of decisions gone awry. And a Queen Street streetcar that takes forever to arrive, but as we notice during the game itself they came ever so frequently. Yesterday came suddenly. But this is not my story. This is the story of a Fun Day with Toronto Junior Roller Derby.
Having been corrected on occasion, TJRD is not ToRD Jr but a league unto its own with no affiliation to Toronto Roller Derby, formally fostering Derby amongst the juniors between the ages of 9 to 18 years of age. TJRD has found a new place to skate down amongst the Queen Street East scene at Jimmie Simpson Rec Centre between Broadview and Pape. The tweet of the whistle and the sight of helmets and stripes indicated we had found the place. To some surprise, this bout was being held in the outdoor hockey or lacrosse arena. No goalie nets in sight, but the taped down track and all was ready to go. Some readily recognizable players on the Black and White teams from previous games seen at Ted Reeve or at The Hangar, all ready and able to roll.
What had begun as a chilly morn turned into a perfect day to skate in the words of coach Mouth of the South who was once again going against her bench counterpart Lucid Lou. We may have slightly begged to differ, as the Roots pullover and outerjacket was reduced to a black Thunder shirt. The day was not Hammer City hot from the past while outdoors, but it was hot enough to make the camera a baked potato in the hand.
This was an ideal Sunday to introduce Derby to the neighbourhood. For this Sunday Funday scrimmage admission was free with donations as you wish. Plenty of Derby moms and dads with cameras in hand to take in all the proceedings of their younglings, but unlike what may be heard at a hockey arena, all that was being heard was the encouragement and no badmouthing. Merch tents from Cardinal Skates and tables with TJRD shirts for sale. A ref crew down to a minimum with no outside refs still meant be careful while you must, but a lack of suicide line meant a camera vantage point not to be taken for granted. T-Ref was centre stage sans stripes as a timekeeper while R’effin Adora Bell and crew kept the players in line.
Lucid Lou and Mouth of the South have been among many players instrumental in the formation and coaching of Toronto Junior Roller Derby. The group was birthed and berthed at The Hangar in Downsview Park, then they along with the other tenant at The Hangar started looking for a new place to practice. TJRD settled into Jimmie Simpson Rec Centre in the east end of Toronto. Sunday Funday was a means to showcase their talent and Derby in the neighbourhood.
“TJRD has a new home at Jimmie Simpson,” says Lucid Lou. “We hosted a scrimmage (mid-September) for kids and adult and had and excellent turn out from the community!
The kids did their thing first and then got to see the big girls play. We had skaters for all Toronto leagues, it was such a great day of derby all around!”
The young Black and White teams on the track had their gameface on, make-up or not. They exuded confidence, ready to go into competition. Their Derby names blazed in bold on the back of their shirts, and their faces replete with the warpaint. The teams played fearlessly, ready to take a hit, not scared to fall. With the rules being purportedly low contact and positional blocking, the ladies still looked ready to indulge in some full engagement, but held back. A lot of dazzling skating and crossovers at the corners by the jammers, even the tiniest of the skaters were outracing their older competition. It is almost astounding to think that a lot of the older talent were still in the twelve to thirteen year old range, playing wiser beyond their years. The coaches [12 Gage might have been the coach for white as she donned Hammer gold colours on the back and the logo from DDRD on the front, Lucid Lou coached the black side] were still preaching fun, and shouting out encouragement in the most sporting of ways. Veteran and senior coaches should take note how these young players responded to calm coaches at the bench. The players could actually comprehend a single voice instead of a rabble of din, and jammers gazed attentively at the bench and received instructions about going to the front, speeding up or slowing down the pack, and telling the jammers when to call it off. Although there were times the coaches were not heeded in the heat of the moment, or maybe the players could not actually hear their bosses from the other side of the track, the coaches did not display any frustration and only smiled at their players who in return responded to the bits of wisdom and praise as they returned exhausted to the bench.
There were reminders that these were youngsters who sought out the advice of the coaches or asked questions about how and when to return from the penalty box, one or two minutes? It did not matter, all major penalties were one minute. The teams were learning rules and applying them on the fly, trying out new tactics, even taking the knee down during power jam situations and a bit of football style Derby springing the pack on the jammer line. Asking Lucid Lou why skaters did this, she noted that she had seen a lot of this practiced at ECDX. The jammer at the line was gently guided by her coach: “You know what to do.” So the jammer skated around the line in front of her and took off.
It was indeed hot, and the heat was taking its toll. But the TJRD were having great fun and showed off their amazing Derby skills, mixed with a bunch of team spirit and utter fearlessness on the track. And coaches were ensuring everything was being kept cool and at safe levels. Lots of Derby savvy and awareness on the track as holes in the walls were open and shut and positional blocking squeezing the jammers out. The potential of these ladies is astounding and they will certainly knock around a lot of the current generation off the track in a few years as they grow up and graduate into the next step of Derby.
As the juniors assembled for their postgame peptalk from the coaches, the more senior members of the TJRD Sunday Fun Day ensemble took to the track to continue the exhibition of Derby for the community and show the future stars more of what Derby skills had of their own and for the juniors to look forward to.
The hour was approaching three and the magic moment of light during the day. The golden pale of the hot sun cast an appealing light upon the players on the track. The black and white team were forced to re-mix again as two whites showed up against an almost full minimum team of black. A brief reshuffle into shirts and two teams of six were assembled.
The teams configured as a mix of GTA Rollergirls in black and white along with Durham. eSkimoJo tried to rally her white cohorts during the warm-ups but Chicks Ahoy!’s Robber Blind seemed to take over leadership with her bites of coaching advice, mentoring the jammers to keep their legs moving and they’ll do all right. Black featured Betties, D-VAS, GTA and Durham. With the short benches, T-Ref asked if they should stop the 30 second countdown between jams and it was decided the teams would roll when they were ready. Who would be jammer or pivot was an on-the-spot decision. Unnatural jammers vied against unlikely jammers.
Skating on the uneven cement surface proved easier for the younger set than the old ones on the track, but it didn’t stop the players from giving ‘er all and leaving ‘er all on the floor. Plenty of trips to the penalty box were welcome respites. The size of the benches and chairs reminded some of the players of being back in public school. Ten jams per period with a five minute break and all came to a sweltering stop. The final score on the wall was tallied by the TJRD and consigned to a chalk mark blown away in the wind.
Sunday was not just another Funday, it was a good day to bring Derby into the community and no doubt attracted a new group of the piqued for the future, a future filled with this current generation of flourishing talent.