September 10, 2012
Boasting over 100 skaters, four home teams, and a junior league, the Queen City Roller Girls are growing fast and taking on the competition in the East region. Located in Buffalo, New York, QCRG has developed strong ties in the roller derby community both in the US and across the border in Canada. As the hosts of this year’s North Central Region Playoffs, QCRG plans to offer some very real “thrills and spills,” and pull out all the stops when it comes to hospitality! Take the plunge and read on to learn more about the Queen City Roller Girls.
The skating rink is located in North Tonawanda, New York, which is a small city north of Buffalo, New York. Queen City Roller Girls is the only derby league in Western New York.
How does your season run?
Our home team season runs from January to June but the Lake Effect Furies (our WFTDA chartered team) play year round.
What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
The closest WFTDA leagues are Roc City Roller Derby in Rochester, New York and Toronto Roller Derby in Ontario, Canada. Another non-WFTDA league close by is Enchanted Mountain Roller Derby. However, in preparing to host “Thrill of the Spill,” the 2012 North Central Region Playoffs, we researched and found that there are more than 70 leagues within a 5-hour drive of Western New York. That’s a lot of roller derby.
How many skaters/teams do you have?
QCRG has 104 skaters, and is comprised of four home teams: the Alley Kats, the Devil Dollies, the Suicidal Saucies, and the Nickel City Knockouts. Our WFTDA chartered team is the Lake Effect Furies. Our junior derby team, the Ice Ice Babies, currently has 30 skaters. While the Ice Ice Babies are technically a separate league, the QCRG Board of Directors serves as an advisor and the committees volunteer their efforts and energy – they’re intertwined with the heart of QCRG. We have 10 referees and about 25 non-skating volunteers (some who regularly NSO and others help on committees.)
How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
QCRG has the four home teams, the WFTDA chartered team, the junior team (technically a separate league but managed under the auspices of the QCRG board), as well as a group of non-rostered skaters (the fresh meat pool). We are managed by a Board of Directors, which is made up of representatives from each team as well as the officials, one of the league founders, and several administrative positions (chairperson, treasurer and secretary). We also have a business management group comprised of the committee directors.
Who are the Queen City Roller Girls’ biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
Roc City Roller Derby's All Stars and CN Power of Toronto Roller Derby are our biggest rivals. We play each other hard and often, and have traded wins and losses over the years.
Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
Toronto Roller Derby and Roc City Roller Derby are our closest sister leagues. We have scrimmages and regular high-stakes games with both of them. And we’ve become even closer with ToRD since we started our junior roller derby team.
WFTDA Apprentice league, Greater Toronto Roller Derby (GTAR) hosts an annual fresh meat tournament and our Furies B Squad has played them. Enchanted Mountain Roller Derby is like a little sister; we helped them get started.
There is a spirit of cooperation, sisterhood, and competition with all of the leagues. We loan and borrow referees and NSOs, and always love the opportunity to spend time with our close derby neighbors.
We have a new neighbor, too, the Niagara Roller Girls in St. Catharines, Ontario, and we are looking forward to getting to know them.
What are the individual challenges of your city?
We have some heavy hitting competition for the Western New York sports fan. Our season starts at the end of the Buffalo Bills’ football season (depending on if they make it into the playoffs) and right in the middle of the Buffalo Sabres’ hockey season. Western New York has some very devoted sports fans and once they become derby fans, they are devoted to that as well. Western New York also has a very vibrant arts community and there are always fun and exciting things to do every weekend. So sometimes it’s difficult to catch people’s attention.
What are your biggest training challenges?
One of our biggest difficulties is one that many leagues struggle with: managing a large number of skaters with varying skill levels. We run two league practices each week (the teams and refs run them on a rotating basis), and the struggle is to find drills that apply to everyone.
This difficulty led us to open up our fresh meat pool called the “Queens Court” in 2010. It is a dedicated practice time for brand new skaters to learn the basic skills needed to pass assessments. Once they pass their assessments they are able to also attend league practices and participate in scrimmages and fresh meat bouts. 2012 was the first year we did not run a training camp and have fed our draft pool solely from the Queens Court.
Another training challenge for us is managing the different desires of the members of our league. Some skaters seek a fun, relaxing hobby, while others members strive to compete at the national and international level. It’s always a challenge to help all of our members get what they want out of roller derby: exercise, fun, community, competition, and a mental challenge.
It’s tough to find enough rink time for all of the different practices we want to offer our skaters. It’s something our training committee is constantly brainstorming for solutions.
What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
Currently, we train and bout at the Rainbow Roller Rink in North Tonawanda. It was built in 1949 and has remained in the same family over the years. We partnered with them in 2006 when QCRG began, and have had a close relationship ever since.
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among the league teams?
Currently we run two league practices each week. In addition, each team (including the Queens Court and the Ice Ice Babies) has a team practice as well. If you are visiting the area and are interested in joining one of our practices please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information. We love to have visitors.
Who are the “behind the scenes” skaters who make your league run?
We have a business management unit comprised of the committee directors we refer to as the “CoC,” or chairs of committees. This group meets monthly and coordinates the business and training aspects of the league, under the guidance of the board of directors, who govern process and policy for the league. Our committees are: sponsorship, marketing, training, finance, events, WFTDA, merchandise, production, volunteer, public relations, interleague, and bylaws.
Who are some of your star on-track skaters and why?
Addy Rawl (525) is a member of Team USA at the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup, and has been an amazingly talented skater since she came to her first training camp session. She jukes, spins, and explodes out of the pack in a way that constantly amazes us. Lipservice (360) made it all the way to Team USA tryouts in Florida and is a formidable blocker. A former champion figure skater, Lips is one of the Furies’ important anchors. Pepper Stix (60) is a valued player on the jammer line or as a blocker. She has an incredible calm and focused demeanor. Current Captain of the Furies, CU~T (52), is a woman who means business. She is a calculating blocker and has a vast knowledge of the game. Vajenna Warrior (56), a former hockey player, is a wonder of agility, derby know-how, and direction on the track. She darts through the pack like a shark and will take out the jammer before the player even realizes it. Tuesday Hula (82) is another Furies’ player who can jam or block. She is fondly known as a brick house but is also an incredibly agile player. Crazy Legs (24) is a tiny sprite of a woman but can block up a storm as well as jam. She was a Coach/player for Team Argentina for the World Cup. She has a heart of gold and is a very passionate player. Lamb Chop (71) is one of those blockers that jammers fear and other blockers have to double team in order for their jammer to have a chance to get by her. DayTripHer (711) was awarded MVP last season and the Rookie of the Year the previous season. She has been a vital component of the Furies as well as her home team. Vanilla Creamz (234) plays mainly for one of the home teams. She is one of those jammers that takes out blockers as she makes her way around the track. B’kini Whacks (21) is a regular jammer for the Furies. She has a distinctive jamming style and is able to dance her way through a pack.
When was your junior league, the Ice Ice Babies, formed? Please tell us about the Ice Ice Babies and what it takes to be involved? What is the relationship between QCRG's junior league and your senior league?
The Ice Ice Babies, known as the “Icies,” got their official start in November, 2011. It started with an informational meeting at a local library where 20 girls showed up interested in playing roller derby. Some were the daughters of QCRG players, others were friends of players, and a few had never heard of roller derby until they saw a flyer at the skating rink. The number of interested girls grew quickly and we have now capped our team at 35 skaters who range in age from 8 and 17. We have already had one graduate go on to join QCRG’s Queens Court. She is eligible to be drafted to an adult team this October.
At this point we have many more girls interested in joining the Icies than we have space for. These girls love the sport just like their adult counterparts and live to scrimmage. We do have an informational open skate coming up where each team member has been invited to bring a friend who might be interested in joining the team. We have about 5 open spots at the moment.
Technically, the junior derby is a separate league from QCRG, and the QCRG Board of Directors serves as an advisory board. The QCRG committees include planning for Icies events and bouts with their regular league planning. We are emotionally intertwined but have separate business functions.
The Queen City Roller Girls are a member of the WFTDA’s East region. What do you think are the benefits and challenges of being in the East region?
The East region has some formidable opponents. It’s an incredibly strong region, filled with talent and amazing opportunity. We have played teams who are ranked way above us, below us, and right around us, and we leave each game thrilled and challenged. We’ve learned a tremendous amount from playing against these teams as well as watching them play others. There is no resting in the East. We have to constantly work toward our goal of being one of the top teams in the region.
What next big bout are you most looking forward to and why?
Our next big bout is against the Tri-City Roller Girls (Kitchener, Ontario), a team from the North Central region and one we’ve played several times over the years. They are ranked 12th in the North Central and we are currently ranked 12th in the East. It is definitely going to be a tough and intense game. But we have a great relationship with Tri-City so no matter what happens on the track, there is a great deal of mutual respect between the teams.
How has your proximity to the Canadian border opened up opportunities for more international play?
Our proximity to the wonderful Canadian teams has given us many more opportunities to grow as players and derby citizens. One of the most exciting Canadian-hosted events was the World Cup in Toronto last year. We are close enough to Toronto and St. Catharines that we can set up casual scrimmages. They are wonderful neighbors, both on the derby track and off.
Do you have any big fundraisers coming up? What is a typical fundraiser for the Queen City Roller Girls?
We do two fundraisers at every home bout. 1) We run a 50/50 raffle. Those tickets are sold by derby girls modeling an outfit from one of our sponsors, Cats Like Us. 2) We also raffle off a brand new couch at each bout thanks to our sponsor FWS Home Furnishings.
Each team runs two to three fundraisers each year as well. Some of them have been: chili cook off, golf outing, meat raffle, pancake breakfast, art show, car wash, 3-D art show, tattoo art show, bowling parties, pool hall parties, fish fry, pie the Kat, and karaoke night. We also have a big Christmas party each year where we’ve sold funny Santa pictures and always have a re-gifted basket raffle (and 50/50, who doesn’t love a 50/50?). There have been shots and shooters sold at bars to raise money. Recently we had the first ever Drunken Spelling Bee in Western New York. That will definitely become an annual favorite.
In addition to raising money for our league, we also do our best to help our community raise money or awareness for different issues. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting dirty in the annual Canal Clean Up Day, or digging into a pile of wood and tools for Buffalo Reuse. Sometimes it’s about running into freezing cold Lake Erie in January to raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics. We’ve painted houses for Habitat for Humanity. We’ve donated and cooked breakfast at Ronald McDonald house. We’ve sold raffle tickets at Brewfest for Buffalo Hearing & Speech. We collect canned foods for the WNY Food Bank and pet food for the pet food arm of the food bank. We always have a bout beneficiary. That organization receives a monetary donation. And we have a monthly organized volunteer event.
We understand that you changed your league logo a few years after your league was established. This is a big decision to make. Can you please tell us about the reasons for this decision, and how the experience affected QCRG?
The biggest reason we decided to rebrand was that our original logo wasn’t communicating what we wanted it to—no one knew what it was, and anyone outside of our league who saw it had no idea what it represented. It had been designed at a time when our league was just starting and we didn't have the resources we needed to create a strong visual identity. It served its purpose while we had it, but our acceptance into the WFTDA was the perfect opportunity to “grow up” and improve our marketing as a whole to match such a high level of quality and exposure.
Obviously, there was an emotional investment in the original logo, so change was difficult for some. We did many polls and got a lot of great feedback from fans and league members alike, which validated our claim that we needed a new logo and a new brand. Once that was established we set to work with our marketing committee and accepted submissions from outside artists as well. We held several focus groups, worked and collaborated with members of the marketing committee, and narrowed down our choices to the top two favorites. Then we created an anonymous poll in which users could vote for their favorite logo. This poll was shared with league members, fans, and WFTDA for their input. With such positive feedback from so many sources we felt very confident moving forward, and the logo with the most votes was chosen and implemented by the beginning of the 2010 season. We’ve gotten great responses, merch sales have increased, our marketing is now more cohesive, consistent and branded across the board, and we now know that when anyone sees our logo they immediately know what we're all about—strong, exciting, women athletes—so we can continue to spread the derby love near and far.
Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
Just like any other league, we wouldn’t be here without our sponsors. We like to get creative with our sponsors, too. Last season, our 50/50 raffle girls wore designs by sponsor Cats Like Us. It was a huge hit with our fans and our league members. Al Cohen Rye Bread is probably best known by our fans. During half-time, league members toss loaves of this delicious rye bread into the crowd. Derby fans know to look around at half time or they might accidentally get hit by a loaf of bread. The Lake Effect Furies love Joe Cecconi’s Chrysler who supplies vans for their away games. Our sin bin sponsor, Mighty Taco, is another league favorite. They were the first big sponsor added to our family and will always hold a special place in our heart – and in our stomachs because their food is amazing. We love Lake Effect Ice Cream for making a fantastic product and naming one of the flavors after us: “QCRG Rocky Road.” We sell it at our home bouts and the league looks forward to eating it almost as much as our fans do. Mayer Brothers is our official water sponsor. They also make fabulous cider and donuts. Fans also have the opportunity to take home a brand new couch at our bouts thanks to donations from FWS Home Furnishings. So coming to a bout means you might get to redecorate your living room. New Era Cap has also been with us since season one in 2006/2007. They have donated hundreds of baseball caps with our embroidered logo, which we have for sale at our merch booth. The one common thread with all of these sponsors is they are homegrown Buffalo businesses, just like QCRG.
QCRG has been selected to host the North Central Regional Playoffs! What made you decide to host this major event? (Also, please discuss how you ended up hosting an event for another WFTDA region!)
We wanted to host this major event because we love Western New York and wanted to show it off to the WFTDA and the rest of the derby world. We also wanted to show the WFTDA community what the Queen City Roller Girls are all about. Fans and visiting teams have always enjoyed our bout production and hospitality and we wanted to take it to a higher level. QCRG had only been a WFTDA member for a year when we put in our bid to host the tournament, but we wanted to show the WFTDA community that we were up to the task. We originally submitted a bid to host the East Region Playoffs. When we heard that the WFTDA membership selected a bid from the Green Mountain Derby Dames and Montréal Roller Derby, we were disappointed but also happy that it was close to us. Then we saw that there were no bids for the North Central Region Playoffs. We have frequently played North Central teams (e.g., Burning River Roller Girls, Fox Cityz Foxz, Toronto Roller Derby, Tri-City Roller Girls, Grand Raggidy Roller Girls, NEO Roller Derby, and Hammer City Roller Girls) so we did some research and convinced the WFTDA that we were still willing and able to host a tournament, even though it wasn’t in our league’s region. After some consideration (and mapquesting) the WFTDA Board of Directors determined that Niagara Falls would be a fitting area to host the tournament. And so here we are, about to host the 2012 WFTDA North Central Region Playoffs and show the world what a gem we have in Western New York.
How is your league working to organize “Thrill of the Spill”? Who do you foresee being the heroes in getting this regional playoff tournament put together? And how hard are they working right this very second?
This has been an exciting and challenging process. Everyone in QCRG is lending a hand, but the heroes have definitely been our committee heads, particularly HerAssHer, who is heading up the QCRG tournament effort. She has kept her finger on the pulse of all tournament activity throughout the entire process. She is working so hard on this project we do believe her fingers have rooted to her laptop.
In addition to the amazing roller derby, what “thrills” do you have planned for the WFTDA in Buffalo, New York this September?
We are so excited to be hosting the WFTDA North Central Region Playoffs and have so many things planned. First off, the street that the Conference & Event Center is on (Old Falls Street) is planning a three day long street fair. It will go all day and late into the night. All skaters, participants, and fans are going to be the special guests. There will be street vendors, food vendors, crafters, and music. We will be dancing in the streets. There are other exciting and interesting things in the works by Mama Chops, our events committee head. She always has something spectacular up her sleeve.
We understand there is an annual “Queen City Roller Girls Day.” Please tell us all about it.
We have a very close relationship with North Tonawanda, the city where the skating rink is located. We have volunteered every year at the annual Canal Clean Up as well as helping the Live Hose No. 4 (our local Fire Department) run their booth at the Canal Fest every year, and we always participate in the Canal Fest parade. We have had an impact on the local economy, bringing people into North Tonawanda who wouldn’t normally make the trip. They come early, eat or stay after and hang out with us at the after party.
QCRG Day came out of the desire to make our home team championship game into a day-long event. Mayor Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda officially proclaimed the first Saturday in June as “Queen City Roller Girl Day.” It is hosted by the Carnegie Art Center and we have an art show at the gallery (last year it featured the art work of derby folk), family dinner, craft show, jugglers, and live music. We cap the day off with the shortest parade in Western New York as the teams march or skate (or ride a float) from the Carnegie to the Rainbow Rink. The team that won the Queen City Cup the previous season brings it to the rink on their float and then the Championship game begins.
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