2014 MRDA Champs Preview: #6 Mass Maelstrom

The Boys from Boston are coming in with something to prove, and there is nothing more dangerous than a group of committed individuals that feel a bit slighted.

maelstrom

Mass Maelstrom is coming to champs in a lower seed than they may have anticipated, and two places lower than how they finished out last year’s championship despite only suffering losses to Your Mom’s Men’s Roller Derby and New York Shock Exchange this season. Coach Rich Gaudet (also known as Stryker) says that Maelstrom is coming into champs:

“To prove that we were robbed of our 4th place ranking going into championships and to get our new skaters playing against the best in the MRDA.”

Maelstrom is no stranger to fighting for recognition. They started off as part of a co-ed league and split off in 2010 to do their own thing. Stryker says it was through hard work and dedication of the core of the team that Maelstrom was able to debut at #10 in the MRDA in 2012 and break into the Champs seeding the same year by landing at #8. While other teams are chuck full of experienced skaters, that isn’t the case with Maelstrom:

“Maelstrom’s strength is directly related to both our ability to play as a team on the track and to implement and counter the most current winning strategies on the track. Since maelstrom is one of the smallest competitive teams (stature/size wise), and because many of us did not come from skating backgrounds our style of game play is directly tied to that: we play in tight walls and use game play strategy to make up for our lack of bulk and skating skill. Although we have some stand out skaters who can dominate a jammer on their own, most of the time we contain jammers behind a solid wall of small guys.”

Maelstrom isn't all little guys. Bill Coulter is pretty infamous for making a statement on the track. Photo from ECDX 2014. By Tyler Shaw - Prints Charming Derby Photography
Maelstrom isn’t all little guys. Bill Coulter is pretty infamous for making a statement on the track. Photo from ECDX 2014. By Tyler Shaw – Prints Charming Derby Photography

When you compare the stature of Mass against most MRDA teams – they do look generally small. Critical pack directors Terry Hasselmann (Peter Rottentail), R Pickering (Smiteochondria), and Mars Travolta are average height (at best) and certainly not hefty – they rely on deftness of movement to even the odds against opposing jammers. Overall, a fluid diamond formation or “around the world” style of play is very present in the Maelstrom blocking strategy, in order to give every blocker the best chance of leveraging their body weight against bigger opponents. Jammers like Cilantro and No Big Deal are not breaking any height barriers either. NBD uses brute force and quick, hammering edges to break packs wide open while John Collentro (Cilantro) falls back on pure acrobatics to obtain lead jammer (The kid is made of silly putty, I swear).

Wes Turn (Conlin) uses his edge to block during the Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.
Wes Turn (Conlin) uses his edge to block during the Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.

Ok, side note: you’re probably wondering why I’m using up your valueable time with making you read multiple names for all these guys. There was actually a bit of confusion during Champs last year for those streaming the Maelstrom bouts. The rosters were submitted with derby names, but [most of] the jerseys have real names on the back. Viewers at home weren’t sure which skater the announcers were talking about based on jerseys, and the announcers even confused themselves during their commentary.

Why the real names? Some of the guys are just done with derby names (I know a certain bunny who is particularly done with cheek of the fake names), while others see it as a way of really claiming the work they put into their skating and into their league. They are all very proud of what they do with Maelstrom and with smaller leagues in the greater Boston area; using their real names brings them a sense of professionalism and ownership for their accomplishments.

Alright, I’m back from the tangent.

2014 has been the season of ‘injures and real life’ for the Vikings of New England.

Terry Hasselmann usually blocks, but every now and again he gets to wear the star when the team needs him. Photo from Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack
Terry Hasselmann usually blocks, but every now and again he gets to wear the star when the team needs him. Photo from Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack

Everything from a car accident kept two heavy rotation blockers out of the first half of their ECDX bout, to a series of key skaters getting injured, to a few skaters simply tipping their hat and taking a leave. It is roller derby. This is a contact sport, and injures happen. It is a hobby, and sometimes people must bow  out for personal reasons. That does not mean that the team gives up, the deeper a bench, the more effective a team can be, even in a time of struggle. Gaudet commented on Maelstrom’s roster changes:

“Since we sustained injuries to half our roster over the course of this season our newest skaters had to step up and fill some big shoes, which they have done with flying colors. We have picked up two strong hockey skaters that are helping to round out our jammer rotation; all we need now is to get them some more skate time.”

The acrobatics of Jurasskick Park as captured at ECDX by Tyler Shaw - Prints Charming.
The acrobatics of Jurasskick Park as captured at ECDX by Tyler Shaw – Prints Charming.

Maelstrom’s first bout of Championships is against an old, familiar face: New York Shock Exchange. This will be the second year in a row that Maelstrom will face NYSE a total of 3 times [in 5 months]. Last year, their final match-up of the season was at the Mohawk Valley Cup, in the finals, and Maelstrom took the win by 20 points after having lost the previous two match-ups.

The first round of Champs could prove a similar Cinderella story. At ECDX and Mohawk Valley this year, NYSE proved too dominant for the Vikings. Despite not having a “full strength” roster, Mass does not consider themselves out of the competition. With two bouts against NYSE under their belt, and with the return of Coulter and Pickering to their bench, Maelstrom is restored to much of it’s 2013 strength. Both vet and newbies to the roster are ready for the classic rivalry match-up in the first round.

Vet Colleran holds onto returning skater Deep in Cider, while Velawesomeraptor and Mikeopathic Chiller hold the inside line. Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack 2014.
Vet Colleran holds onto returning skater Deep in Cider, while Velawesomeraptor and Mikeopathic Chiller hold the inside line. Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack 2014.

Fans (and NYSE) will be get to see new and old faces on the roster this weekend, including Deep in Cider who has returned to the Maelstrom line. Aside from the vets, you should keep an eye out for fresh faces Cormier and Velawesomeraptor as well as those who have worked their way up from the Bzerker B-Team such as the agile Mikeopathic Chiller and power blocker JBeast. Gaudet says of the team:

“Every one of skaters that step onto the track is a critical piece of our strategy puzzle, and thus [new fans] should be watching the overall cogs that make up the Maelstrom machine.”

Mars Travolta, Colleran, and Keith Webb work in unison to hold back NYSE at ECDX. Photo by Tyler Shaw - Prints Charming Derby Photography
Mars Travolta, Colleran, and Keith Webb work in unison to hold back NYSE at ECDX. Photo by Tyler Shaw – Prints Charming Derby Photography

If you love Vikings and want to pick up merch, get info on upcoming clinics, or just to follow their season, you should definitely check out their Facebook page. Also, Mass Maelstrom has some wicked rewards going on right now on the MAELSTROM GOFUNDME so … Go Fund Them!! And make sure you tune into WFTDA.tv all weekend to watch the 2014 MRDA Championships. Thank you to Tyler Shaw and Hispanic Attack for the photos used in this article.

As a side note, Richard Gaudet would like you all to know that:

 “No big deal is actually kind of a big deal.”

No Big Deal takes the outside lane at the championship bout of Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.
No Big Deal takes the outside lane at the championship bout of Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.

MRDA Champs 2014 Preview: #8 Denton County Outlaws

It’s almost here: The 2014 MRDA Championships. This week, skaters, officials, announcers, and fans will descend Tacoma, Washington for Maritime Mayhem, hosted by Puget Sound Outcast Derby. I figured that I should do a preview of the teams, like last year, to get us all amped up about the tournament.  Coming in as the Eighth Seed is a new team (to the MRDA and the tournament): The Denton County Outlaws.

denton

Fun fact: Denton County is debuting in the Top 8. A feat not easy now that there are so many member leagues. BOOM. Nice work, fellas.

I got to watch DCO play at Spring Roll this season. Truth be told, most of us watched their bouts because they (as well as the Cincinnatti Battering Rams and Southern Discomfort) were giant wild cards in the MRDA at that point. Most of us fans had not seen any of the teams play and we were curious at the showing they would make. Denton was of particular interest, since many of us had watched some of their vets play on Dallas Deception, Magic City Misfits, and Team USA previously.

DCO definitely came out swinging. They played the Carolina Wreckingballs (ranked 16th at that time) first. They came out with a definitive strength and speed that the Balls just couldn’t handle. Game 2 of Spring Roll brought them against a different kind of Wreckingball: the lads from London, Southern Discomfort.

Side Note: After the game against the Carolina Wreckingballs, the lady fans of the Balls decided that Denton won the “Team Sexy” award for 2014. “Bout Sexy” of Spring Roll went to the Denton County Outlaws v Southern Discomfort. (For those who have been reading my writing, you may recall that 2013’s SR winner was Bridgetown Menace v Mass Maelstrom.)

#SorryFortheAdmittedSexism

So Disco was able to [mostly] capture the jukes and ducks of DCO jammers (it was a blast watching Haterade give them a hard time though). The walls of Denton blockers just didn’t have the same experience as their competition, but it was a phenomenal bout. DCO only lost by 99 points (super impressive considering So Disco had lost to #4 Mass Maelstrom by only 53 points the night before). DCO rounded out their Spring Roll with a definitive win against the Canadian powerhouses on the Mont Royals.

You're not seeing double. That's Haterade and TJ Binkley showing off their Spring Roll MVP bandannas.
You’re not seeing double. That’s Haterade and TJ Binkley showing off their Spring Roll MVP bandannas.

The Outlaws have only been together since March of 2012. They skate out of the House of Quad (just north of Dallas), and get to share the space with North Texas Derby Revolution and the Rolling Rebellions, a junior league. While they have picked up vet skaters, newbies to derby like Keith Rucker are making their mark on DCO. Vet TJ Binkley says:

“Keith is our under-rated jammer. He is a rink rat but fairly new to derby. [He] has some moves …that he shouldn’t be able to. The guy is fearless.”

When mid-season rankings came out, DCO was still unranked, since they had not played their 5 sanctioned MRDA bouts. The world of men’s derby (ok, maybe just me and a few other people who are rankings nerds) were waiting with baited breath to see how DCO did at the Arizona Rattleskates’ Southwest Sausage Fest.

At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.

Why?

Well let’s talk rankings for a second. In the WFTDA there is a fancy new equation that helps the organization calculate rankings. In the MRDA they’re still doing things a little old school. So the member teams vote. That being said, if a team has established wins that calculate out properly, they tend to move upward. Here’s what we need to look at:

Southern Discomfort played 3 of the 4 top teams in the MRDA and lost to them, but … only lost to Maelstrom by 50 points (almost a tie in derby standards). Denton lost to So Disco by 99 points. DCO was slated to play Deep Valley Belligerents at SW Sausagefest. DVB was ranked #8 at mid-terms. Right. So if DCO could beat DVB, that would mean that they were better than the #8 ranking and since So Disco had beaten DCO by a larger margin, it would mean they were at least better than at least the 8 seed. (Ok, so maybe me and So Disco were waiting with baited breath for Sausagefest).

Sorry. Back to writing about derby now.  //EndRankingNerdMoment

Everyone is looking for the cut [that didn't happen]. At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
Everyone is looking for Lucky Charmer to cut… yea, he didn’t. At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
As you may have figured out, DCO DID beat Deep Valley. The walls of DCO had strengthened since I watched them play at Spring Roll (through the magic of the interwebs, I got to watch the stream of Sausagefest). The walls were more fluid and worked as a unit to contain, play offense as they were playing defense (yay!), and kill penalties. Deep Valley simply couldn’t contain the DCO jammers. I wish I could give you stats on this one, but it seems that the stats package hasn’t been uploaded to FTS. Womp Womp. I will say that I particularly enjoy watching Lucky Charmer magically break through packs and Phillip Stout working with his team mates to destroy opponents.

Ladies and gentlemen: Phillip Stout at work. At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
Ladies and gentlemen: Phillip Stout at work.
At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.

So let’s talk Champs. Denton is facing off in the first round against Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby. To say they’re the underdog is a bit of an understatement. Especially since one of their primary jammers, aforementioned Haterade, is out recovering from surgery. Binkley says the guys aren’t looking at their underdog status as a negative stance though:

“Our main goal is to have fun and learn from each game. We just want to the rest of MRDA that we belong here. Whatever place we finish in at the end of the tournament accomplishment since this is our first time being ranked. I know the DCO guys will soak everything in and come out of this tournament that much stronger. [Denton County is] extremely excited to be a part of the years champs. It’s every team’s goal to make it to champs. I’m just happy to see our goal come to life!”

Regardless of how this weekend turns out for Denton, you can be sure they are going to come out with fast feet, spins, hops, and powerful blocking.

Streaming information is forthcoming from the MRDA. Keep your eyes peeled on the MRDA Championship Facebook Event for up to date information. If you want to support the Denton County Outlaws, check out their Facebook Fundraiser page for merch!

Beards doing work! At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
Beards doing work! At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.

Mental limits and real joy

Photo by Fiona Eloisa Photography
Photo by Fiona Eloisa Photography

I’m not going to lie: ECDX was a challenge for me.

I have this habit of putting really high standards on myself, and putting too much pressure on myself to perform. Then, when the team needs me in a different capacity than expected or something happens to change the way the game goes (compared to what I envisioned), I become stressed. I beat myself up. I make it harder to compete at that high level I hold for myself.

The whole cycle can get utterly ridiculous.

We all play a mental game when we step onto our track. How we perform depends on a myriad of outside forces not limited to how much sleep we got the night before, if our trucks feel tighter than normal, if we’re unsure what wheels to use and even who may or may not be watching us in the crowd.

The ability to shut off the receptors to the outside world is the first step to mental game dominance. Figuring out a bout day routine that you can take anywhere will help you prepare for the challenges ahead. So many of us create routines that rely on the comfort of a home bout; you need to be able to perform your warm-up (mental and physical) in any arena, at any time of day.

You are not preparing for an opponent. You are preparing to overcome your own physical limitations and to play the best game of your life. Preparing mentally takes just as much practice as preparing physically. Many of us ask the question, “How do we play a better mental game?” But few of us consider the repetition involved with developing it.

Mastering your mind, creating preparation routines to set yourself in the right frame of the game and then stepping into each jam with clarity and confidence – that is what we aim to do. This game is supposed to be fun. The physical nature, the mental challenge and the constant motion of the game is what every derby skater craves. Doing it to your highest limit, and even surpassing what you thought was possible – that is what we strive to achieve. Overcoming our own internal limits to accomplish a physical feat is what we all train daily for.

So now back to the self-destruction.

Stepping on the track tired, dehydrated, irritated, without proper mental prep, worried about an injury, etc etc etc will cause you to spiral out of control. Create triggers in your head right now so that if those things are happening to you as the game approaches, you can stop, reset and re-invent your mindset.

At first, you may need a team mate to snap you out of it. When that moment of realization of game day-crankiness occurs, stop. Acknowledge. Think about how you feel. That way [if there is] the next time, your own internal alarm will trigger and you can get your mindset right before disrupting your own gameplay or (worse) the mood of your team mates.

This is my challenge: understanding that I am better than I believe, that I can do more than I think and that I am quicker than my opponents. My challenge is to not be concerned that a motion is going to hurt me, and that I am going to break the pack. My challenge is to always have a smile on my face, even if I don’t play as much as I want to; even if my team needs me in a different capacity than I want to play. This is why ECDX was tough for me. I did not have my mental game in order. I did not go through my routine and I did not understand that I wasn’t going up against an opponent.

My challenge is to go up against myself, play to my limits and savor the joy of that 25 point jam with the team that loves and supports me as much as I love and support them.

Photo by Click Dastardly
Photo by Click Dastardly