2016 was another exciting year in WFTDA roller derby. It had rising stars, tough matchups, and a strong challenge at the top to take home the Hydra. Gotham tried to prove that a small hiccup in their record was nothing to worry about, but Rose City followed through with a repeat Championships victory in front of their home crowd.
Division 2 did not disappoint either with numerous underdogs keeping any of the top three seeded teams from making it out of their respective D2 playoffs alive. Blue Ridge came back from the outer realm to be the first D2 team to make it all the way to Championships for the second time and Calgary pushed hard in their first year qualifying for WFTDA tournaments.
With WFTDAs’ recent 2017 Playoff announcements, this year only the top 52 leagues will qualify for postseason tournaments, so the competition will be even tighter to make it to the top. Here’s a roundup of rankings highlights from last year, and possible teams to look out for in 2017.
The Top Ten
Looking at the top ten ranked teams from the January rankings of 2016 to December, there isn’t too much variance at a quick glance, especially with Gotham Girls Roller Derby (New York, NY) still clinging to the top spot. More teams are reaching to meet them up there, however, but the current two-time WFTDA Champions, Rose City (Portland, OR), are still not next in line so far. The Victorian Roller Derby League (Melbourne, VIC) has a stubborn grasp on the #2 spot after beating Rose City once in the 2016 season at the Big O and nearly doing it again at Championships.
Currently #3, Rose City has earned the Hydra two years in a row now, but not with the same consistency of success in the regular season in which Gotham picked up Championships for four straight years prior to that. Gotham maintained an undefeated record throughout that time and won 67 games by an average of 200 points up until they lost to Rose City in 2015 at WFTDA Championships. The Wheels of Justice took a loss in both of their 2015 and 2016 seasons, and their path at this last Champs wasn’t a given, with their opponents Texas, Victoria, and Gotham holding leads over them at some point throughout their matchups. The versatility of the Rose City charter helped pull them through those games, and their ability to adapt to adversity with strong offense resulted in the wins they needed.
With the Gotham dynasty losing Bonnie Thunders to Rose City, 2017 will have an interesting future for both leagues. That power shift will only tighten the Rose City powerhouse and leave a gap in the Gotham beehive who is also losing Vicious Van GoGo, OMG WTF, Flo It All, and Hela Skelter to retirement. This will leave opportunities for other teams to push forward, especially Victoria who continues to be a force to be reckoned with, and Angel City (Los Angele, CA) who showed up with big gains at Playoffs.
Even with Christy Demons seeing little track time in 2016, the Victoria showed that a tight, cohesive pack of blockers, backed up numerous experienced jammers could pull them through a nearly undefeated season. ACDG came close to taking them down at Playoffs in Vancouver, but VRDL came back in the last jam to win by three points. Victoria lost by the same number of points against Rose City at Champs, however, which resigned them to taking 3rd place again overall, but still remain second in the rankings.
Angel City has been on a steady uphill climb the past few years, and 2016 ended with them taking the #4 spot in the rankings, ahead of London and Texas. Satan’s Little Helper led the way with twists and turns that put up big points for the Hollywood Scarlets, and with a blocking contingent that boasts Playoff tournament MVP Laci Knight, they turned things around later in the year and nearly removed Gotham from Championships a day early. This season, ACDG will have to bulk up after losing Micki Krimmel, Hunnie Brasco, and Ashley Hobbs to retirement.
The #5 London Rollergirls (London, ENG) continues to annihilate European competition but has had a harder time against their peers. This year they stayed in Europe for their pre-tournament games, including a home game rematch against Gotham, but they didn’t have the edge to break into the top three at Championships quite yet. Their roster deepened with jammers, but in 2017 they’ll be without veteran blocker Olivia Coupe.
The Texas Rollergirls (Austin, TX) ended the year at #6 after finishing out the season strong with six jammers to choose from. Their jammer bench will be shortened in 2017 with Bloody Mary and FiFi Nomenon (officially) retiring. Denver (Colorado) held on at #6 despite many changes in their roster, and they’re followed by Arch Rival (St. Louis, MO), Jacksonville (Florida), and Minnesota (St. Paul, MN) to round out the top ten. Compared to January, Bay Area Derby (Oakland, CA) dropped from #9 to #20 which allowed Minnesota to climb back into the top.
The Atlanta Rollergirls (Georgia) has hovered in the top 20 for years now, and 2016 was a strong season for them, bringing them back towards the peak at #11 by December. They had an impressive performance at Playoffs, giving Rose City a harder fight in the semi-finals than in their final game in Columbia, but was edged out of attending Champs by a close game against Jacksonville. While Montréal (Quebec, CA) didn’t finish the year in the top dozen, they got to Championships for the first time after beating out Bay Area in the 3rd place game at Playoffs. At Champs, Montréal gave ACDG a run for their money, holding the lead over them for a majority of the first half. By the end of the year, the New Skids on the Block sit at #19 overall.
The Dallas Derby Devils (Dallas, TX) continued their upward trajectory to sit at #12, as well as Team United (Des Moines, IA) from #22 to #14, meanwhile, Philly Roller Derby (Philadelphia, PA) fell from #11 in January to #17 by December. Santa Cruz (California) went from placing 3rd at Division 2 tournaments in 2015 to taking #23 overall by the end of 2016. Queen City (Buffalo, NY) went from a D1 outlier to finishing 6th at Playoffs and ranking #27 by the end of the year. Ann Arbor (Ann Arobor, MI) skipped D2 and qualified for tournaments for the first time in Division 1 in 2016, and closed out the year ranked at #32.
Columbia QuadSquad (South Carolina) has bounced between divisions the last couple years, but in 2016 they not only participated in a Division 1 tournament, they hosted it as well. Going from #43 to #29 in the rankings last year, the QuadSquad had an exciting final-jam win against Ann Arbor, which led Columbia to face Rose City the same day and ultimately took 8th place overall at the tournament. Sacred City (Sacramento, CA) is another team who has seen time in both Divisions, but they had a downward trajectory in 2016 from #32 to #47.
After cleaning up D2 in 2015 and starting the next season ranked #30, Demolition City (Evansville, IN) had a ranking free fall after massive turnover and now rests at #218. Toronto Roller Derby (Ontario, CA) also had many roster changes but didn’t have as big of a drop now ranked at #102. Surviving a roster overhaul, Windy City (Chicago, IL) went down as far as #61 in the rankings but remained a D1 team in 2016 by placing 8th in Madison and finishing the year at #39. The Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (Denver, CO) had to revamp their jammer rotation and after a feisty performance at Playoffs, they now rest at #46 after hanging out in the teens for the past few years.
Participating in Division 2 Playoffs, Charm City (Baltimore, MD) started 2016 ranked at #26, but by the end of June, they had fallen just below the divide to #41. In Lansing, they took 3rd place after squeaking out a 3-point win against Wasatch, and Charm City finished 2016 ranked #34. Placing just above them at the same tournament, the Charlottesville Derby Dames (Virginia) started the year ranked #34 and finished #48 after placing 4th at D2 WFTDA Champs. The Calgary Roller Derby Association (Alberta, CA) took 3rd place at D2 Champs and increased their ranking position 20 spots over the course of the year to #42.
The two teams who finished the year on top of Divison 2 first battled it out at Playoffs in Wichita where Brandywine Roller Derby (Downingtown, PA) took 1st place. Making a return to D2 Champs this year was Blue Ridge (Asheville, NC) after they took 3rd place in 2013. They then took a turn at the bottom of D1 before dropping out of contention altogether in 2015. The 2016 season was a steady rise for them from #74 to #38, taking the win in their rematch against Brandywine at Champs who also saw upward progress from #54 to #45.
For tournaments this fall, the D2 cutoff will be at 52 which would currently exclude Boulder County (Boulder, CO), Sac City (Sacramento, CA), or Nashville (Tennessee). Teams will have to work harder to get a coveted spot at WFTDA tournaments, but a tighter selection of teams also means, ideally, closer competition. Hopefully, the rankings decay function will keep numbers more honest this season, because if someone hits June 30th a bit under-ranked, they will miss out on Playoffs. If this new system went into effect last June, that would have meant Blue Ridge and Charlottesville would have never got the chance to show up and go all the way to Championships.
Since there were many teams who saw a drop in their WFTDA ranking, that only means it made way for many new teams to find a home in the top two divisions. Crime City sits just outside the top ten at #13, the first European team to climb that far since the London Rollergirls. They will also have the honor this year of hosting the first WFTDA tournament outside of North America in Malmö, Sweden. Exploding onto the scene in 2016, Rainy City (Manchester, UK) started the year at #93 and dipped to #116 before jumping 87 spots to #29 by the end of May. Attending Playoffs for the first time in Division 1, they took 6th place and ended the year ranked #21. They too will be hosting a first of its kind WFTDA event this year, the Roller Derby World Summit.
Helsinki (Finland) had a busy year attending the European Smackdown and the Big O before hosting Mayday in HEL, all of which upped their ranking to #24 from #33. After placing 6th at D1 Playoffs in Madison, they now sit at #22. After losing to the Fins in May and placing 7th at Playoffs in Vancouver, Stockholm (Sweden) moved from #17 in January to #28 in December.
Kallio Rolling Rainbow (Helsinki, Finland) also hit tournaments for the first time in 2016, and after entering D1 Montréal with the #7 seed, they took three losses and 10th place. Despite their tough first experience, they moved from #81 to #30 in a year’s time. Nidaros (Trondheim, Norway) rounds out the European portion of rising stars in 2016, starting out at #86 they qualified for D2 tournaments at #52 in June and then settled at #59 by the end of the season.
Sun State (Browns Plains, QLD) is the second highest ranked Australian team at #26 after participating in WFTDA tournaments for two seasons now. They had three close matchups at D1 Playoffs this year, placing them in 8th and seeing them lose three spots on the year to #26.
The New Skids may have pulled off a Canadian first by attending Championships this year, but Terminal City (Vancouver, BC) saw a slight rise in the rankings despite a losing regular season record. They lost Evada Peron mid-season as well as Kim Jana and Eve Hallow since Playoffs, but impressive jammer work by Maiden Sane will help carry them into 2017. They are now ranked #18, ahead of Montréal, after hanging in the 20s for awhile now.
2×4 Roller Derby (Buenos Aires) put South America on the WFTDA map in 2016 after playing their first sanctioned games in Kansas City in August, earning them their first ranking at #40. With only a few other WFTDA member leagues in the continent, they will either need to travel or host some other ranked leagues in Buenos Aires if they want to maintain or increase their position this season.
The Future is Now
Furthering our look at derby around the world, many teams looking at Playoff potential in 2017 are located outside the United States. In Australia, Paradise City (Gold Coast, QLD) was eligible for the 2016 round of Playoffs but did not attend. Closing out the year at #57, they have a whole new season to up their ranking and prepare for high-level competition. Sydney was just on the cusp of D2 Playoffs last year after getting a taste of higher-ranked play at ECDX, and by the end of the season, they rose to #49 in the rankings. Nearby in New Zealand, Pirate City has made themselves known with multiple trips to the United States in the past couple years, sitting on the outer realm at #97 by the end of 2016.
Auld Reekie (Edinburgh, UK) was another team to qualify for WFTDA Playoffs, but they decided they weren’t in a good place to make the trip overseas again. Earlier in the year, they attended the Big O and despite losing all four games, they were ranked #57 by June. With no more sanctioned play in 2016, they closed out the year ranked #60 but a game on the calendar against Rainy City in March will help show where they are at this season.
Ending the year at #56, the Middlesbrough Milk Rollers (Middlesborough, UK) have had a couple seasons of sanctioned play under their belt and are creeping up in the rankings. With them are also #63 Leeds (UK), #71 Paris (France), #75 Tiger Bay (Cardiff, UK), #76 Newcastle (UK), #83 Central City (Birmingham, UK), and #86 Dublin (Ireland) — all leagues attending EuroClash in March. Hosted by Newcastle, these leagues will be joined by Auld Reekie and Bear City (Berlin, Germany) for a two-day invitational bound to send some of them shooting up in the 2017 rankings.
With Terminal City, Montréal, and Calgary topping the Canadian rankings, there are a few other Canucks coming up from the bottom to possibly make waves this season. From Guelph, Ontario, #82 Royal City had a busy 2016 season playing one game at Quad City Chaos, three at Beaver Fever, and four at Mayday Mayhem along with some other games sprinkled in. Also in attendance at Mayday Mayhem was #84 Winnipeg (MB, Canada), who not only attended that and Beach Brawl but hosted their own tournament as well; Riot on the Red. At that tournament, #92 E-ville–a team from Edmonton who just became a WFTDA member last year–beat Winnipeg by 75 points. E-ville already has Skate to Thrill on their agenda for 2017.