August 1, 2014
Formed in 2008, Tri-City Roller Derby graduated to full WFTDA member status in 2010 and has been ambitiously striving for excellence ever since. Not only will Tri-City Roller Derby be hosting a WFTDA tournament on their home turf, their travel team, the Tri-CityThunder, will be representing the league in the D1 Playoffs September 26th-28th in Salt Lake City, UT! Learn more about what to expect in Ontario for this month's tournament as well as what to look for when Tri-City competes in September.
Where are you located? Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
How does your season run?
We have separate travel and home team seasons with a bit of overlap. Our travel season typically runs from March-May and our home season starts in April and runs until September or October. We always aim to structure our season in a way that compliments the leagues around us and still incorporates a bit of a break for us.
How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have about 60 skaters in our league that make up 5 teams: Tri-City Thunder, Tri-City Plan B, Vicious Dishes, Venus Fly Tramps, Total Knockouts.
How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We are a non-profit league with a board of directors and many committees that help keep things running smoothly. We operate as collectively as possible and like to give everyone opportunities for leadership. We support an awesome officiating crew, amazing announcers, 3 home teams and 2 travel teams.
We understand that just this spring your league's changed names from "Tri-City Roller Girls" to "Tri-City Roller Derby". What prompted the change and rebrand? How has it been received by fans?
There had been lots of discussion around inclusivity in the sport and we have been seeing derby as a whole start shifting to make sure every person feels welcome and included. We feel that this is a really important step to take as well as it makes us more accessible for everyone wanting to get involved, whether it be skaters, referees, volunteers or fans. Taking the gender out of the name just felt like a natural step as we continue to grow and evolve as a league. We also felt that it was very much inline with where the sport of derby is going these days. The fans have received the name change and re-branding really well and we’re really proud of the level of professionalism it adds. We’ve had really positive feedback about it!
What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
We are really luck to have so many WFTDA leagues nearby. In Ontario alone, there is Toronto Roller Derby, Hammer City Roller Girls, Forest City Derby Girls, GTA Rollergirls, Renegade Derby Dames, Border City Brawlers, and Rideau Valley Roller Girls. Montreal Roller Derby is close to our hearts and a short (in Canadian terms) eight hour drive away. There are also leagues just across the border that are just as close! Such as Queen City Roller Girls, Detroit Derby Girls, and ROC City Roller Derby!
Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you've played them?
We love all of our Canadian sister leagues but we have had a really fun on-going rivalry with Toronto Roller Derby for years. Tri-City had battled it out many times with ToRD at the Beast of the East tournament hosted by Montreal Roller Derby. But one of the most memorable games comes from the 2012 Quad City Chaos tournament in Toronto, where Thunder fell short to ToRD’s CN Power in a nail biting game. While we may be rivals on the track, we love supporting our fellow canucks at international tournaments like this year’s Spring Roll hosted by Fort Wayne Derby Girls and previously at ECDX.
Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We’d love to give a shout out to every league who has supported us either by coming out to volunteer at our games or even just to come watch. But a big shout out to the leagues who helped us get on our wheels, trained us and supported us through struggles in our early days. If it wasn’t for Montreal Roller Derby, Hammer City Roller Girls, Forest City Derby Girls and Toronto Roller Derby, we wouldn’t be where we are today! Also shout out to all the American leagues who have been and continue to be willing to come play roller derby in our neck of the woods!
What are the individual challenges of your city?
Having a consistent practice space continues to be a struggle in our area. We don’t have a heated space in the winter - but that doesn’t stop us! We just scrape the ice film off the track and get moving so the hypothermia doesn’t set in. Sometimes we have a hard time finding any space in early spring when we have to compete with various fairs and festivals. Raising awareness is definitely still a challenge. We are trying our best to get our name out there and maintain engagement, but we still hear almost every day, “I didn’t know there was roller derby around here!”
What are your biggest training challenges?
Right now we are trying to figure out how to best address the needs of such a diverse group of skaters and skill levels, while continuing to challenge everyone. This is an ongoing challenge as we incorporate new skaters into our league and continue to support vet skaters. Also, as an aside: if anyone has any fantastic practice playlists, send it along!
What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
Our bouts and practices all take place in hockey arenas and community centres. Our season is during the hockey off season!
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We have 2 league practices each week and 1 night for the travel team to practice together. We also have 2 hours each week for individual teams to practice together in rotation.
Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
It is hard to pinpoint particular members as we are a team off the track as much as we are on the track. Every job is very important, big or small. We’ve got an amazing ref crew, announcers, NSOs and other non-skating volunteers. Our board and committee heads are also critical in keeping things organized and running smoothly!
Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
We may be biased, but all of them! From our amazing fresh meat, who never stop pushing themselves to become better skaters, to Tri-City Thunder who have worked very hard to make it into the top 40! If we have to name a few, we’ve got Fox Smoulder, who played on team international at the Beach Brawl tournament this year (hosted by Gold Coast Derby Girls). She is also on team Ontario along with Wylde Leigh Coyote, Preying ManTease, Sofonda Beatin, Ova Kill, and Freudian Whip (MVP winner at the 2013 D2 tournament in Killamazoo).
Do you have any big bouts coming up that you're really looking forward to? Why?
Our season has come to an end for the year but Thunder is training hard for the playoffs. The whole league is presently focused on getting geared up for hosting an amazing Division 2 tournament!
Congratulations on being selected to host the D2 WFTDA Playoffs August 22nd and 24th! Why did your league step forward to host and what kind of exciting things do derby skaters and fans have to look forward to in Kitchener-Waterloo?
We stepped forward to host this tournament because we feel that Canada needs to see this kind of high-level derby and to understand how amazing this sport is! We want a big tournament like this to keep people engaged and interested and we felt that as a league, we are ready to pull it off. It will also be really inspiring for newer leagues to see fantastic game play and to encourage other leagues to join the WFTDA family. We love hosting and are super pumped to have everyone here. Skaters and fans can look forward to a warm welcome, great food, and a fantastic, laid back environment. Kitchener-Waterloo is a very creative, engaged, and welcoming community with lots of amazing local businesses who are as excited about roller derby as we are!
You'll also be competing in the D1 WFTDA International Playoffs in Salt Lake City, UT (USA) September 26th-28th. Congratulations and best of luck! How are the Thunder preparing for this big weekend?
Thank you! We are really looking forward to it! We’ve been busy sharpening our skates, racing moose, wrestling polar bears and chucking beavers! Canadian jokes aside, I think we are preparing for this just like most teams. We have been amping up our training both on and off the track, bringing intensity to the track and focusing on the goals we set out as a team.
It sounds like you have an extremely devoted home crowd, nicknamed the "Tri-Hards" a la "Twihards" inspired by the "Twilight" series. What kind of fun and interactive things have you done to encourage, engage and grow your devoted fan base?
We really try to connect with our fans by chatting them up at games and by keeping them engaged with our social media. We have a wheel toss at each game where fans can win all kinds of prizes. We all love a good giveaway too! We’ve done t-shirt tosses and twitter contests and are always open to try new things! Next season we may try to implement a MFF (Most Fun Fan) competition because they are a big part of what makes a game a fun time for everyone!
How does your league give back to the community?
Every year we choose a local charity to support throughout the season, such as KW Humane Society, ROOF,OK2BME or our current charity, On the Move. We have a signature bout each season in honour of the charity and give them the proceeds from that. We also participate in events to support these charities throughout the season.
Do you have any big fundraisers coming up?
Tri-City Thunder is currently holding an online auction to raise money to get to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Division 1 playoff. It will be running until August 18th. You can check out their Facebook page for details. They also have a gofundme page at: http://www.gofundme.com/br48so.
Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We have lots of great local sponsors who support us! Check some of them out! Electric Skate Co., How We Roll Fitness, Shall we Knit, Chainsaw, A Body in Motion, Jane Bond, Starlight, Words Worth Books, and Cheeses Murphy.
Do you have a special message for your fans?
Thanks for supporting us in pursuing this amazing sport! It has been a great season and we could not have done any of it without you. We love you all! Tri-hards for life!
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Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.