Roller Derby in New York: Gotham Home Season

Thanks to some lucky timing, I'm currently in New York for a conference, having arrived on Saturday just in time to catch Gotham Girls Roller Derby (who some of you may have heard of ;) ) playing one of their Home Season bouts - regular season winners Queens of Pain playing other regular season winners Bronx Gridlock.

As with all situations where something familiar is embedded in something new, the experience was as interesting as to what was the same as to what was different. Despite their terrifying reputation, Gotham's home season bouts are hosted in College/University sports facilities, which are not particularly roomy; the venue at Hunter College has almost exactly enough width on the track for the track, the outside pack refs and one row of "VIP" seats on each side.

Being too cheap to spring for the VIP tickets, I simply turned up earlier and sat on the front row of the normal seating. This actually turns out to be generally better than the VIP seats, which are a bit too close to really take in the whole track at a glance, while the raised bleachers that host the generic seating give a better view. (For Glasgow, the Kelvinhall would actually provide a better justification for VIP trackside, since there's much more space for well positioned trackside locations, if you throw in some beanbags as London do).

The track was excellent, thanks to Gotham springing for the modular Skate Court surface tiles (which they then lay on whichever venue they're bouting at). I did appreciate the shocking pink tape used to lay out the track boundaries...

The bout itself was excellently reported, as always, by Gotham's in-house reporter, Thomas Gerbasi: http://www.gothamgirlsrollerderby.com/news/1375/what-rebuilding-year-bronx-back-on-track-with-170-142-win-over-queens

After the bout, the after-party was also relatively amusing, although basically no different than the kind you get in the UK. Essentially, Gotham are, despite being the Number 1 team, also, of course, "just skaters" like the rest of the roller Derby community. And this is a good thing.


Bout Report: ARRG Home Seasons Final: Double Header pt2

Part one of this report, covering the introduction, and the first bout (Cherry Bombers vs Glasgow Roller Derby's Hell's Belles) is here.

The Final
Leithal Weapons v The Skatefast Club

Facing each other for a second time, most people's money might have been on a Leithals victory; in their first match up, The Skatefast Club lost by a significant margin, 116 points to the Leithal Weapons' 209. Since then, however, Skatefast showed considerable improvement, fighting the Cherry Bombers for a hard-fought victory to get to this final. On that basis, this final was still anyone's to call.

Period 1

It was The Skatefast Club first off the mark as the bout started, Mo B Quick (66) fighting her way down the inside line just ahead of the Leithal's Admiral Attackbar (11:11), thanks to Mallory Powers' (9) blocking. With just enough of a lead to risk a score, Mo did so, picking up 2 points for the lemon team.
A power-jam for the Leithals in jam 3 helped Sharkée (273) break their duck, with Bint Imperial (893) off for a track cut major on her initial pass. A second scoring pass saw the Leithals jammer also off to the bin, however, for a back block on approach, handing the track back to Skatefast. Despite some tough walling from the blues, especially Alma Geddon (42), 2 scoring passes later the jam ended, with the power-jam still in place; just enough time for Blazin' Phoenix (28) to consolidate the Skatefast lead with another scoring pass in jam 4:

7 Leithal Weapons : 15 The Skatefast Club

Despite a tough rear wall holding Ciderella (3) back to allow Skatefasts' Mo B Quick (66) a good half track lead, both jammers scored in the next jam, the Leithals keeping to the front of the pack. A slightly too aggressive path through the scrum start in jam 6 saw Leithals star jammer Admiral Attackbar off to the penalty bench in the very next jam, however, handing Blazin' Phoenix her team's second power jam of the bout. Despite heavy resistance on her initial pass, being recycled far back by Sharkée, Blaze picked up a hard fought 12 points, with time to call the jam as Attackbar was standing.
A very determined Leithal Weapons wall forced Double D'struction to waste the remaining power-jam time still trying to escape the pack, however, allowing a returning Attackbar to show what she was really capable of and grab lead jammer and a single scoring pass!

The score entering the middle third of the period

15 Leithal Weapons : 31 The Skatefast Club

both teams now had each others' measure, and the next ten minutes saw relatively even trading of scoring passes between jams, the balance slightly to the Leithals as Ciderella and Admiral Attackbar slowly ground down the score differential.

By the 18th jam, 19 minutes into the period, there was barely a single scoring pass between the scores. With both teams lingering on the track to free blockers from the bin, it was Skatefast who reached full strength first and broke the pack to free jammers, Crotch Lighting nudging the Leithal Weapons' Ciderella off track as they passed her without the jammer noticing. Blazin' Phoenix pushed her way to the front of the pack and lead jammer for the lemon yellows as Ciderella finally realised that it was her the referees were shouting at and slipped into the penalty box. Despite some determined walling from the blues, especially Minnie Riot and Alma Geddon, Blaze still managed a solid three grand slam passes before calling the jam early.
The early jam call once again gave a supposed advantage to the next Skatefast jammer up, but the Leithals repeated their performance from the last time they tried this, Minnie Riot, Alma Geddon and Kaos Moss waterfalling Skinn'er Alive until a returning Ciderella exploded on to track, literally muscling her way through the Skatefast blockers to take lead jammer. The jam was too close for Cider to score, but at least the Skatefast scoring run had been stemmed, albeit after having restored their previous 20 point lead.
Despite a tough wall from Apocalypse Cow, Mallory Powers, anchored by Crotch Lighting, Admiral Attackbar immediately began eating away at that differential in the very next jam, pulling out a single scoring pass against Bint Imperial; Ciderella was not quite able to continue the process in jam 21, Skatefast's Blazin' Phoenix proving just as fast as her once again.

So far, the balance of jammer penalties had been on the Leithals side. With Bint Imperial facing off against Admiral Attackbar in jam 22, it was the Skatefast jammer who picked up the penalty, however; handing the Leithal Weapons their first full power-jam of the bout. With only five minutes in the period, Attackbar confirmed that she was more than capable of exploiting a power jam, pulling in a 3 grand slam scoring run that pulled the scores precisely level at:

56 Leithal Weapons : 56 The Skatefast Club

With Minnie Riot (7) and Ciderella pushing the score further for the Leithals in the subsequent jams, it seemed more than possible that the period would end in a complete reversal, with the score differential reaching 14 points in the blues' favour.

A knee start for The Skatefast Club launched Mo B Quick and Minnie Riot through the pack near neck and neck for the final jam of the bout; the Leithals jammer had cut track doing so, however, and ended up in the penalty for another Skatefast power-jam.
Even Mo was unable to completely overturn the last minutes of Leithals work, though, leaving the score at the end of the first period a very very close:

73 Leithal Weapons : 71 The Skatefast Club

Period 2

After a rapid half-time, due to timing constraints on the hall, both teams returned to the second period determined not to give up any points to the opposition.
Attackbar in a rare state of unbalance, thanks to Blaze
A very closely contested first 3 jams saw only a single scoring pass, the Leithal Weapons' Admiral Attackbar taking an open outside-line through the pack, while Blazin' Phoenix found herself obstructed at the front of the pack by some of that tough Leithals walling.
Their next match-up in jam 4 was decidedly more mixed; Attackbar once again just taking lead jammer ahead of Blaze, only for the Skatefast jammer to accelerate past her, pushing past the attempted block and forcing Attackbar to recover her balance on one leg. Despite immediately trying to call the jam, the Leithals jammer instead picked up a trip to the penalty box, possibly for a low-block during her duel with Blaze. Now uncontested on track, Blazin' Phoenix proceeded to do her usual excellent work in a power jam, fighting her way through the Leithals' trademarked Alma Geddon-anchored walls each time; without lead jammer status, she was powerless to stop Admiral Attackbar also scoring points as the power jam came to a close, however, the jam ending with both teams' scores boosted to:

87 Leithal Weapons : 96 The Skatefast Club

The penalty excitement didn't stop there, however, with a confident Skatefast pack letting Skinn'er Alive slip through the inside line before immediately closing against Ciderella with an anchored wall of Lilo and Stitches and Mallory Powers (Mo B Quick anchoring). With Skinn'er taking lead jammer, it could have been an easy scoring pass for her, if she hadn't collided with the backs of Bullet-Proof Glass and Kiki (2) picking up a back block major. Things still weren't quite finished, despite Ciderella making good use of the power-jam to begin to equalise the scores, she couldn't avoid her own back-block penalty on what would have been her final scoring pass; the game of jammer musical chairs freeing Skinn'er to hoick the score differential back up to nearly where it had lain before the jam began. The Skatefast Club couldn't hold onto the initiative for much longer, however, with Double D'struction pushing the score ahead with a second scoring pass in jam 6 as the power-jam expired (despite a 3-2 pack advantage to the Leithals), but also scoring their last unopposed points of the run, bringing their lead to a high of

100 Leithal Weapons : 112 The Skatefast Club

The continuing numbers advantage to the Leithal Weapons helped Admiral Attackbar storm through to lead jammer in jam 7, heralding a run of scoring for the blues over the yellows for the remainder of the bout. By the start of jam 10, the score differential had been narrowed to only 5 points, by the end, thanks to some last-second recycling of Mo B Quick by Minnie Riot, a pair of scoring passes by Ciderella had turned that into a 4 point lead for the Leithals.

Ciderella and Admiral Attackbar continued their excellent work for the rest of the bout, slowly edging the score differential up, while Skatefast's jammers found the Leithals' blocking delaying them time and again with unbreakable walls wether at the front or rear of the pack. While everything didn't go entirely the Blues' way; Skinn'er Alive, Mo B Quick and Blazin' Phoenix managing a scoring pass apiece for The Skatefast Club, and Attackbar memorably taking lead jammer in jam 14 only to call it immediately on both front wheels falling off her right skate (GRD's Moxie Blitz saved the day with a skate loan for the remainder of the bout).

Calling a timeout immediately as the final seconds ticked down, The Skatefast Club guaranteed themselves one last jam, and one last chance for a Leithals mistake to hand them a power-jam or another opportunity to bridge the 25 point gap between the scores. Mo B Quick lined up against Ciderella for yet another reprise of their contests throughout the bout... and Ciderella took lead jammer, with Kaos Moss clearing the outside line for her to pass.
Flamboyantly calling the jam after a relaxed scoring pass, Cider left the score at the end of the bout:

159 Leithal Weapons : 126 The Skatefast Club

Skater Awards & Conclusions

Cherry Bombers v GRD Hell's Belles  
The Final
  Leithal Weapons v The Skatefast Club
Best Jammer
Cherry Bombers
Circuit Breaker
Hell's Belles
Rogue Runner
Best Blocker
Cherry Bombers
Hell's Belles
Sarah Oates
Cherry Bombers
Bronx Betty
Hell's Belles
Slain Austen
Best Jammer
Leithal Weapons
The Skatefast Club
Blazin' Phoenix
Best Blocker
Leithal Weapons
Alma Geddon
The Skatefast Club
Mallory Powers
Leithal Weapons
The Skatefast Club
Mo B Quick
Tournament Awards
Best Jammer
Best Blocker
Admiral Attackbar
Alma Geddon
Skinn'er Alive

With thanks to Auld Reekie Roller Girls and Glasgow Roller Derby, and the @AuldReekieRG twitter feed.

Video: Cherry Bombers v GRD Hell's Belles http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6EE40DDB52FD9FA3&feature=view_all
The FINAL: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL732E66EAE40B9153&feature=view_all

Cherry Bombers v GRD Hell's Belles https://picasaweb.google.com/102032801144714237554/ARRGHomeTeamsFinalCherryBombersVGRDHellSBelles28April2012?authuser=0&feat=directlink
The FINAL: https://picasaweb.google.com/102032801144714237554/ARRGHomeTeams2012FinalLeithalWeaponsVTheSkatefastClub?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Bout Report: ARRG Home Season 2012: Double Header Final!

Roller Derby is never a sport that does things by halves, and Auld Reekie Roller Girls are fully signed up to the spirit. For their first ever Home Seasons final, then, they served up an evening double header; the third place Cherry Bombers facing off against Glasgow Roller Derby's third place Hell's Belles for a sort of "interleague intraleague" playoff, before the Leithal Weapons came to the track to face The Skatefast Club in ARRG's own final.

In result surprising for its one-sidedness, GRD's Hell's Belles (featuring some replacements from last year's lineup due to injury and availability) dominated the Bombers in the first bout, taking an 38:214 win.

The Final itself was much more closely fought, with neither side giving or taking quarter. The Leithal Weapons eventually took the win, with 159 to The Skatefast Club's 126.

"Third Place Interleague"
Cherry Bombers v GRD Hell's Belles

While the Cherry Bombers placed third in the season, they are still a formidable team, having only barely lost to The Skatefast Club in their placement match-up. The expectations of their bout against GRD's Hell's Belles were for a fast and close bout, with great skating on both sides.
While the latter was clearly the case, the former was somewhat inaccurate.

Period 1

Starting the first period decisively, Megan Hyndman (4) burst through the pack, scoring a grand slam pass for Hell's Belles (although without lead jammer), thanks to some excellent blocking from pivot Slain Austen (823.7), Sarah Oates (3) and Mona Rampage (22) against the Bombers' Circuit Breaker (100).
Demon Speeding, about to find out what it's like to be hit
by Mona Rampage
This was just a measure of what was to come; the Belles dominated the first 9 jams of the period completely, forcing no-scores when they didn't get lead jammer (the home team's Demon Speeding (333) run down by Megan Hyndman in jam 4), and otherwise picking up scores in the rest, thanks as much to some superlative blocking as to the jammers themselves.
The 10th minute, and jam, of the period saw the first glimmer of light for ARRG's Cherry Bombers; with Sarah McMillan (7) through the pack first, but also off to the sin-bin for an Illegal Procedure major, Circuit Breaker finally had a chance to score in the resultant power-jam. The Belles weren't going easy on her, of course, and after recycling by Fightin' Torque (531) , the Bombers' jammer had only the time to score a single scoring pass before a track cut sent her to the sin-bin in turn. With relatively little time left on the clock, McMillan had only enough time for a single scoring pass herself, but the continuing power-jam into jam 11 gave Megan Hyndman more than enough space to score multiple grand slams; despite having to fight her way through tough resistance from the Bombers' Shootin' Annie (.45), Sunny Sheeba (33) and VeloSidy (16) ever pass. A returning Circuit Breaker saw the result of GRD's pack drills, Mona Rampage skating back almost a quarter turn behind the pack to delay her reentry; this, and the now expected Belles blocking expertise, held her back for another scoring pass by Hyndman before the jam was called.
After that excitement, and half-way through the first period, the score stood at:

4 Cherry Bombers : 53 GRD Hell's Belles

With the Belles proven fallible, the home team quickly scored again, jam 12 seeing some good teamwork by Bronx Betty (319) and VeloSidy hold back GRD's Rogue Runner (210) for Demon Speeding's second lead jammer of the bout; despite some opposition from Mistress Malicious (99) at the rear of the pack, another 4 points were Auld Reekie's before the jam was called.

The Glasgow team soon reasserted themselves in the next few jams, Fightin' Torque picking up a scoring pass, followed by a tremendous start by Megan Hyndman, practically teleporting between the jam line and the front of the pack; only some tenacious blocking at the front by the Cherry Bombers' Sunny Sheba limiting her to a single scoring pass.
Sarah McMillan takes lead jammer (again)
The home team weren't entirely out of the game; Circuit Breaker sneaking in a point to Sarah McMillan's 3 thanks to a slightly late call, and Maulibu Barbie taking lead, thanks to some lovely work from Fanny Thunders (47) and Sunny Sheeba, but just unable to score with a Fighting Torque hot on her heels and all of the Auld Reekie blockers at the rear of the pack.

It was down to Demon Speeding, quickly becoming the go-to jammer for the Cherry Bombers this bout, to once again actually score for her team, picking up lead jammer with a nippy pass down the inside line in jam 17. With the Belles' Rogue Runner still in the pack, thanks to some big hits from Bronx Betty and VeloSidy, it looked like Auld Reekie might even manage a grand slam pass or two - but (20Hz) proved a bigger hitter, keeping the home team to a single scoring pass.

13 Cherry Bombers : 70 Hell's Belles

Once again, this was just a brief respite, with GRD immediately moving to regain control; bolstered particularly by the events of jam 20. With Rogue Runner already lead jammer within the first 10 seconds of the jam, thanks to an agile leap around Sunny Sheeba at the front, Maulibu Barbie was increasingly frustrated by an unbreakable Belles wall at the front. The GRD jammer had already picked up a couple of grand slam passes in impressive style when her counterpart finally acquired enough minor penalties from her efforts for a trip to the penalty box; with the pack suddenly near-stationary, Rogue had little problem completing a 30 point scoring run by the end of the jam.
The home team still had plenty of fight left in them, however, stopping Megan Hyndman from taking any advantage from the dying seconds of the power-jam as the next jam started; Shootin' Annie and Fanny Thunders keeping the Belles' jammer locked up just long enough for Maulibu Barbie to reenter the track and take lead jammer, although with insufficient lead to actually score.
Bouyed by this, and the 4-3 pack advantage, Circuit Breaker managed to break through the pack, and survive hounding by Sarah Oates on the other side, to take lead jammer, scoring the final points for her team in the period.

Unfortunately for the Cherry Bombers, the final jam saw Rogue Runner up to jam for Hell's Belles once more, facing off against their own Demon Speeding. An unusual lack of scrum start (thanks to the Bombers wanting to get Maulibu Barbie out of the bin, and the Belles not being particularly bothered about spending time at this point), contributed perhaps to the back block major that the Bombers jammer picked up almost immediately on contact with the pack, knocking Summer Shudder to her knees. The nightmare of a Belles power jam, with Rogue jamming, as the period ender had just begunjust as the jam ended, picking up a back block major. Rogue Runner proceeded to spend the next couple of laps penetrating the Cherry Bombers walls, until finally, and ironically, picking up a back block major herself after colliding rather more forcefully than she intended with VeloSidy's back. The jam clock ticked down before Demon Speeding could do anything on her return to the track, leaving the score at the end of period 1 at:

17 Cherry Bombers : 124 GRD Hell's Belles

Half time in the sin-bin.

Period 2

The Cherry Bombers returned to the second period with a one hundred point deficit and change, aware that they'd have to do an awful lot of work to pull out a win. A power-jam start to the first jam gave them a perfect opportunity, with GRD's Rogue Runner on the bench from the end of the first period; and, indeed, despite a very slow start as Hell's Belles tried to wear down the penalty clock, Circuit Breaker broke through, picking up a single scoring pass near simultaneously with Rogue's own initial pass, and calling it.
This happened rather a lot when Rogue Runner was jamming...
The Belles continued to not get things their own way, Bronx Betty holding Fightin' Torque to a no-score in the next jam, and Demon Speeding managing lead jammer but with insufficient space to score in jam 3. This was all just encouragement for Hell's Belles to kick it up a notch, however, and over the course of the next 12 jams they reestablished their dominance from the first period, only giving away points in 2 jams; jam 7, where a pair of majors for both Rogue Runner and Maulibu Barbie led to the jam going to time, and jam 9, Slain Austen coming up to jam and finding Maulibu Barbie (again!) a little too spirited, despite some very tough blocking from teammate Mona Rampage.

By jam 15, the score differential had soared to an intimidating:

33 Cherry Bombers : 186 Hell's Belles

With only 11 minutes left in the bout, and a comfortable lead, the Belles began relaxing their jammer rotation, letting some of their less regular jammers into the mix. First up was Mona Rampage, who proved a little less terrifying with a star on her helmet; the Bombers' Demon Speeding effortlessly taking lead jammer and a scoring pass against her. More successfully, Venus Velocity fought past Maulibu Barbie at the front of the pack to take lead jammer over Circuit Breaker. Megan Hyndman, pivoting, kept Circuit from escaping the pack for several passes by Venus, inflating the score by a full 12 points.

Oates demonstrates why you shouldn't try to pass her
when she has a star on her helmet.
Indeed, the home team didn't get another chance for a scoring pass until the second last jam of the bout, once again Demon Speeding bringing home the points for the Bombers; the third time being the charm, after a pair of close runs against Sarah Oates in jam 18 (where some jammer-on-jammer blocking resulted in a Demon on the track and reabsorbed by the pack) and Fightin' Torque in jam 20, a no-score.
Sensing the need for encouragement from the track side, the Cherry Bombers' Miss Collie Check, not skating, got up and exhorted the home team for the final few jams. Apparently this was the missing ingredient, as up against Megan Hyndman in jam 22, Demon Speeding managed just enough of a lead to score a single point before calling it, bringing the Cherry Bombers' score to its final resting place of 38.
With Mistress Malicious sealing the final jam with a partial scoring pass ahead of a fast-gaining Circuit Breaker, the final score sat at:

38 Cherry Bombers : 214 Hell's Belles

For the report on the final itself, including the skater awards for both bouts, see part 2, here.

Video from the bout is available in a playlist here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6EE40DDB52FD9FA3&feature=view_all