Jantastic Invitational Looks to Bring Out the Best of RDCL Derby

The San Diego Derby Dolls and the Roller Derby Coalition of Leagues are gearing up for what is certain to be one hell of a way to open up the 2015 calendar year.

The inaugural Jantastic Invitational will see a number of all-star superteams descend on downtown San Diego this weekend, January 17-18, to take part in tournament that will not only try to find the best of the banked track, but also discover what RDCL roller derby can look like at its very best.

This will be the first time in the modern era that every team in a banked track tournament field is of top-class quality and has a chance to make it to the final, if not win the thing outright. A quick scan of the rosters is all it takes to realize that this is a seriously loaded field worth clearing your weekend for.

Of the six participating teams, five of them are filled with elite skaters from top WFTDA playoff teams, four of them have Team USA Roller Derby members fresh off their World Cup win, and three of them have a generous helping of some of the RDCL’s best current and former players and the wealth of banked track experience that brings.

One of these teams is responsible for getting the idea of the Jantastic Invitational off the ground: The RDCL All-Stars.

The best players of the five RDCL member leagues come together to defend their turf against (and promote RDCL derby to) all comers.
The best players of the five RDCL member leagues come together to defend their turf against (and promote RDCL derby to) all comers at the Jantastic Invitational.

The RDCL super squad consists of top players representing all five RDCL member leagues—L.A. Derby Dolls, San Diego Derby Dolls, OC Rollergirls, Arizona Derby Dames, and Tilted Thunder Rail Birds—and is being positioned as a new way and new motivation for the coalition and its players to up their game and their overall profile within the roller derby community.

“I wanted the RDCL leagues to have something to get really excited about,” says Isabelle Ringer, general manager of event hosts San Diego Derby Dolls. “It was important to me as we planned the RDCL All-Stars that we were able to give every [member] league a horse in the race. There are so few major banked track events that all our league skaters need, something to really push themselves for. It made no sense to just send in our top team and not give all the other RDCL leagues something to get invested in.”

The annual RDCL national tournament, Battle on the Bank, has fallen into a rut over the last few years. After the 2012 event in Seattle, outside superteams were barred from entering so as to keep the focus on promoting the full-time banked track leagues that wished to enter. This had the consequence of making the L.A. Derby Dolls, the powerhouse of the RDCL and one of the best teams in the world at the time, take three straight championships—the last two of which facing absolutely no resistance whatsoever.

The recent lack of competition for the BotB trophy seems to be overshadowing the ridiculously competitive derby among the other teams and in their respective home league schedules. Isabelle Ringer bemoans the fact that so much of the general public isn’t aware of this, in part due to the RDCL’s small footprint.

“People don’t know much about it and there aren’t enough big [RDCL] games or events for them to really care. It would be beneficial to the organization and the public to get a chance to see RDCL derby at its finest. The viewership at Battle on the Bank is just not doing that justice.”

Here's a small sample of inter/intraleague RDCL-rules games that ended close in 2014. Many more were close for most of the game, and even more than that were extremely competitive on a per-jam basis.
Here’s a sample of super-close final scores from inter/intraleague RDCL-rules games from L.A., San Diego, and Seattle in 2014. (This isn’t even all of them.) Not pictured: The more matchups that stayed close for a good portion of the game, and the even more that remained extremely competitive on a per-jam basis.

After a pivotal conversation1 and some reflection, there was a light bulb moment.

“I started thinking about teams like Legit, and later Bionic, Wolfpack and the PA All-Stars, how awesome those teams were on the banked track and how they showcased the sport so well,” Ringer said. “I also thought about how much fun all of us have on high level mixed teams at events like Rollercon and ECDX and it got me thinking that there is probably an awesome way to bring that all together.”

So here we are.

“I wanted to a chance to shine a spotlight on some of the things we’re doing in the RDCL and here at Derby Dolls. An invitational like this, with top tier talent, is an amazing way to showcase what modern banked track derby is all about. We have a fun rule set and a little different way of doing business than a lot of other derby leagues, and I think it leads to awesome public events and a positive fan and skater experience.”

– – – – – – – – –

The Jantastic Invitational is a two-day round-robin to be played under RDCL roller derby rules.2 Saturday will feature two pools of three teams each playing two 30-minute games to determine bracket seeding. All five games on Sunday will be full 60-minute contests, with the top pool teams advancing to the two semifinal games Sunday morning. The last games that afternoon will be between the two pool losers, followed by the two semis losers for third place. The two semis winners will then meet in the final to determine the champion.

The first game kicks off at 12:00 p.m. PT Saturday (3:00 p.m. ET / 8:00 p.m. GMT). The entire event will be streamed online, live and free, on the San Diego Derby Dolls website. If you’re in the San Diego area—or suddenly acquire the irresistible urge to go to the San Diego area this weekend, which you might do after finishing this preview—you can buy tickets here.

Below is the full schedule, plus an overview of the participating teams and their rosters.

RDCL Jantastic Invitational Schedule
All times Pacific

Day 1 – Pool Play (30 minute games)

AM Session
12 noon – Atom All-Stars vs. The Rejects
1:00 p.m. – The Rejects vs. My Little Ponies
2:00 p.m. – Atom All-Stars vs. My Little Ponies

PM Session
5:00 p.m. – Team Colorado vs. Team Bitraxual
6:00 p.m. – Team Bitraxual vs. RDCL All-Stars
7:00 p.m. – Team Colorado vs. RDCL All-Stars

Day 2 – Brackets (60 minute games)

9:00 a.m. – AM Pool #1 vs. PM Pool #2
11:00 a.m. – AM Pool #2 vs. PM Pool #1

Placement Games
2:00 p.m. – AM Pool #3 vs. PM Pool #3 (5th Place)
4:00 p.m. – Semifinal losers (3rd Place)
6:00 p.m. – Semifinal winners (1st Place)

The Teams

Since these are superteams with players from different leagues and of different affiliations, it can get a bit tricky to keep track of them all. Use this handy color guide to the roster listings to see who’s from where:

Team affiliation: WFTDA / RDCL / World Cup / None
%  indicates previous experience with an RDCL all-star travel team
© indicates team captain or co-captain

Atom All-Stars

atom-all-stars-logo-250When the San Diego Derby Dolls put out a call for teams to size up against the best of the RDCL, it was natural that some of the best of the WFTDA would respond. Atomatrix of Arizona Roller Derby decided that her team of Atom All-Stars fit the bill perfectly.

Atom sports a roster with two Team USA members, two WFTDA tournament MVPs—including Champs MVP Mutch Mayhem—and a majority of players with gobs of high-end flat track playoff experience. Picking them to win would be a safe bet in almost any tournament environment.

But for Jantastic? Maybe not as safe. The raw skill on Atom is unquestionable, but other teams in the field have comparable talent. If there’s one weakness on this squad, it’s its relative lack of experience with RDCL play. Most of Atom have played in banked track games before, but only Satan’s Little Helper of Angel City has previously skated as a member of an RDCL all-star travel team. That extra experience—or the lack of it on the part of her teammates—might prove decisive at some point this weekend.

Atom All-Stars Roster
1 Lex Celerator (Oly) 77 Mutch Mayhem (Rose City)
3 Atomatrix © (Arizona/USA) 127 Chestnutz (Rose City)
5 B Tease N (Arizona) 317 Blok N Dekher (Arizona)
TOP5 Suzy Pow (Charm City) 401 Tarantula (Philly)
6 Dolly Rocket (Bay Area) 415 Holly Gohardly (Charm City)
18 V-Diva (Philly/USA) 523 Licker N’ Split (Rose City)
21 Lulu Lockjaw (Bay Area) 666 Satan’s Little Helper % (Angel City)
2-2 Freight Train (Texas) 924 Luz Chaos (Arizona)
28 Racer McChaseher (Detroit) 5150 Loco Lena (Arizona)
45 Amunisha (Arizona)

My Little Ponies

my-little-pony-logo-250Roller bronies unite! Former Team Bionic and Oly Rollers mainstay Hockey Honey has put together a team that loves to “skate hard and wear lots of glitter.” The team of derby-skating humans (not derby-skating ponies) is primarily made up of good-to-great players from the L.A. Derby Dolls, Rat City, and San Diego Roller Derby.

It can also boast that it has, technically, the most Team USA members: Baller Shot Caller of Team USA Roller Derby; Erin Jackson of Team USA Speedskating (and another WFTDA tourney MVP); and Hockey Honey herself, a member of Team USA Rink Hockey.

The rest of the brigade is nothing to sneeze at, however. With a lineup that includes the likes of Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, and Applejack3, this is one team that is—and isn’t!—looking to make friends on the track.

My Little Ponies Roster
i Jackie Nimble (Los Angeles) 143 Baller Shot Caller (Atlanta/USA)
3 CROWE (San Diego RD) 187 K Beezy (Rat City)
Hockey Honey © (San Diego RD)
aka Fizzy Fritz
408 Hard Candy (San Diego RD)
aka Sweet Stuff
13 Dita de los Muertos (Bay Area)
aka Diamond Dita
430 Oblivienne Westwood
(Los Angeles) aka Magic Star
21 Blaque Jac (Tampa)
aka Blaque AppleJac
480 Erin Jackson (Jacksonville)
aka AppleJackson
22 Sami Automatic (Rat City) 619 JazzyFizzle (San Diego RD)
aka Jazzie
23 LeBrawn Maimes (Rat City)
aka Rainbow Dash
908 Guard N. Skate (Los Angeles)
53 Raven Seward % (Rat City)
aka Princess Sparkle
30:1 Suzy Snakeyes (Los Angeles)
aka Snuzzle Snakeyes
100 Kwyet Wryot (SoCal)
aka Twilight Sparkle Skate

The Rejects

the-rejects-250This team may be the most deceiving of the tournament. The long-time pickup team for current and retired skaters has been around since 2008, and as such has seen many members come and go. The crew they’ve gathered for Jantastic might not look so different than one of its typical RollerCon rosters on the surface, but look again.

Half the players on The Rejects were previously all-star players on RDCL interleague teams for the L.A. or S.D. Derby Dolls in the not-too-distant past. Knight, LEGacy, Micki, and Razorslut were part of the core group of players that helped make LADD so dominant against all comers over the years.4 They’ve proven that if you put a banked track under their skates, and they’re as good as anyone in the world at playing derby on it.

Add to this AJ, Kim Janna, and Ivanna S. Pankin, among the others, and you get a team that probably won’t live up to their name this weekend. Which is just how they like it.

The Rejects Roster
9 AJ (Bay Area/USA) 77 Kung Pow Tina %
9.5 Tsunami (San Diego) 99 Trish the Dish % (SoCal)
22 Ivanna S. Pankin (SoCal) 116 Bonecrusher
33 Laci Knight % (Angel City) 187 Killo Kitty © % (SoCal)
41 LEGacy % (San Fernando Valley) 507 Rachel Rotten (Angel City)
44 The 4closer (Sacred City) 703 O.B. Noxious %
52 Razorslut % (San Fernando Valley) 1223 Kim Janna
(Terminal City/Canada)
69 Death By Chocolate (Houston) 1337 Mickispeedia % (Angel City)

Team Colorado

team-colorado-250Team Colorado is the “teamiest” team competing in San Diego this weekend. Unlike all the other participants, which come together to play infrequently, Colorado competes as a group often. In fact, the team is right in middle of its own tournament season; it won the first State Wars tournament in Novemeber, and next month it will head to Pennsylvania for Battle of the All-Stars II, another state-level mash-up tournament.

Having a roster and coaching staff that knows individual strengths and weakness and what line combinations work best in a given situation is a nice advantage in a cutthroat tournament like this one. A regular schedule to foster teamwork is an excellent quality for a group to have, but more than that is needed to survive in the minefield that is Jantastic.

Of course, Team Colorado has more—as if anchoring your roster with the best players from Denver and Rocky Mountain wasn’t already enough.

Team Colorado Roster
Lil Miss Behavin’ (Pikes Peak) 37 Bria Fraid (Detour Derby)
13 Parker (Pikes Peak) 44 She Who Cannot Be Named
(Rocky Mtn)
19 Julie Adams © (Denver/USA)
aka Angela Death
75 Bijou Blacnbleu (Denver)
20 Stacie Wilhelm (Denver)
aka Midge Mahyem
86 Alex Terminateau (Rocky Mtn)
24 CatastroPhoebe
(Boulder County)
719 Kiki UrHaz © (Pikes Peak)
31 Fiona Grapple (Rocky Mtn) 726 Major Lil Payne (Rocky Mtn)
36 Hazed & Contused (Pikes Peak) 831 Melanie Pfister
(Junction City/USA)
 1896 Trick Pony (Pikes Peak)

Team Bitraxual

team-bitraxual-250Here’s another group that’s got a lot of familiar names to regular followers of RDCL derby. Though the”bitraxual” moniker is not inaccurate, it’s got a decidedly banked track slant this weekend. Twelve players on the 14-woman roster have more primary experience playing competitive tilty-track go-skate derby than the two-dimensional stop-go stuff that all the hipster kids are experimenting with these days.5

In fact, I would even go as far to say that had Jantastic taken place two years ago, most of the names on Team Bitraxual would have likely been picked for the RDCL All-Star team. Miss Vicious Applicious and RegulateHer are two of the banked track’s deadliest blockers. Laguna, Dobbins, and Deja Deja; a trio of pretty damn good jammers. Gori Spelling is a true double threat, the only player in the top 8 of both scoring offense and blocking defense during her last final LADD season last year.

This is a quality team. Watch out for them.

Team Bitraxual Roster
OC Laguna Beyatch (Los Angeles) 50 Vicious Applicious (OC)
OMG Killin Mae Smallz (Arizona) 75 RegulateHer (Los Angeles)
3 Cannible Corpse % (Arizona) 88 Kiki Diazz % (SoCal)
13 Toughy % 316 Cris Dobbins % (Angel City)
19 Summer Crush % 623 HollyHood (Arizona)
27 Lora Stabs (Sacred City) 1111 Déjà Déjà Vu © % (Arizona)
34 Lady Quebeaum (Charm City) 90210 Gori Spelling % (Bay Area)

RDCL All-Stars

The best players of the five RDCL member leagues come together to defend their turf against (and promote RDCL derby to) all comers.

Last but not least, the RDCL All-Stars, the reason why we’re having a super-fun superteam tournament in San Diego this weekend. Unlike the other participants in the field, these skaters are here to represent their leagues and the RDCL as a whole, just as much as they are there for their ability.

Every RDCL league contributed to the All-Stars at least two of their best players, with how many more past that based on their performance at Battle on the Bank VII. Reigning RDCL triple-champs, the L.A. Derby Dolls, understandably makes up the bulk of the roster with seven players. BotB runners-up Arizona Derby Dames earned three spots, leaving the rest with two picks each to fill out the full 16-player list.

This team and the Jantastic Invitational could not have come at a better time for the RDCL. Many of the organization’s best players have recently retired, “retired,” or transferred to nearby flat track leagues, noticeably diluting the banked track talent pool. (Count the %s on these rosters: 17!) A deep subpool in L.A. is making up the difference quite nicely there, but other RDCL leagues are slower to catch up.

For that reason, it’s difficult to favor the home team on their home turf. With the level of competition it’s facing this weekend, it will be a very tall order to ask the full roster to play at a high level. Then again, this team and this tournament was never really about going in to win it. It’s really about showing the world how the RDCL plays roller derby.

No matter how the RDCL All-Stars perform at the Jantastic Invitational, it’s a sure bet that the RDCL and roller derby as a whole will come out a winner. You can be even more sure that this team will be playing with something to prove. But can they?

It’s going to be a hell of a ride to find out.

RDCL All-Stars Roster
1 Ellie Mayhem (Arizona) 2-22 Scarlett Knockout (Arizona)
Fleetwood Smack (Los Angeles) 414 T-Bird (OC)
7 Slamurai (San Diego/Japan) 562 Whip N’ Ash (Los Angeles)
8am Mourning Wood ©
(Los Angeles)
616 Craven Cadavers (Arizona)
13 Creep Suzette (Tilted Thunder) 1988 Hurt LockHER (Los Angeles)
30 The Jeneral (Los Angeles) 1×05 Phoenix Endsong (OC)
111 Smolderine (Tilted Thunder) N2DP Hunnie Brasco (Los Angeles)
215lbs Boo Lala (San Diego) w00t STEFCON 1 (Los Angeles)