Levelheadedness and a desire to just have fun served the Yukon Roller Girls well over the weekend.
The Whitehorse-based roller derby crew went undefeated to win the first annual United We Roll Roller Derby Tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“We went into this tournament … with the intention to just have fun, just to play some bouts and enjoy our time there,” said Yukon president Lindsay “Bonanza Babe” Agar. “And then all of a sudden we won all our seeding bouts, were second in the seeding, and then we were playing for the championship.”
The Yukon Roller Girls clinched first place with a 179-120 win over Fairbanks’ Raven Rebels in the final. The Yukon squad was the only one from Canada in the tournament, with five Alaskan teams also competing for the title.
“I think all the Alaska teams had a lot more invested in winning than we did, primarily because it was an Alaskan tournament,” said Yukon jammer Amil “The Fighting Mongoose” Dupuis-Rossi. “We heard several times that, ‘As much as we love your team and everything, Canadians can’t be the first to win this tournament.’
“So they had a lot invested in winning. We didn’t have that pressure.
“We approached every game as calmly as we could and reminded each other to stay calm and positive, and to work together as a team. That was our main focus. Winning was just a nice addition, especially because we’re Canadians.”
Yukon cruised through Friday’s seeding round with three straight wins in shortened 30-minute bouts.
They beat the Wasilla’s Denali Destroyer Dolls 101-71, Orange Crush from Anchorage’s Rage City Rollergirls 119-101, and downed the Raven Rebels team from the Fairbanks Rollergirls 103-93. Through a point-spread system, the Yukon team was seeded second behind Orange Crush going into the playoffs.
Saturday’s playoffs opened with a highly anticipated rematch between Yukon and the Juneau Rollergirls.
It was the teams’ third encounter after splitting their first two bouts with narrow scores.
Yukon sent Juneau packing with a lopsided 172-111 win.
“When we played them in this tournament and came out on top, it was really rewarding for us,” said Yukon blocker and pivot Holly “Bacon Bergina” Smith.
“We’ve been doing lots of training trips, working on our team-building, working on our strategy and haven’t been doing a lot of really competitive games lately,” she added. “We’ve been working so hard on training and haven’t put it into practice, so we didn’t realize how far we’ve come.”
“It was an amazing game,” said Dupuis-Rossi. “We just went into it saying we’re not going to get caught up in any rivalry we have, however friendly, and we were just going to stick to our game plan. And that’s what won it for us.”
In addition to taking the tournament trophy, Yukon skaters grabbed some individual honours as well. Agar was named MVP blocker for Yukon and for the entire tournament while Dupuis-Rossi took MVP jammer for Yukon and the tournament.
Eight members of the Yukon crew made the trip to Fairbanks. They recruited three players from the new Babes in Toyland Roller Derby team in North Pole and one skater from Fairbanks, who wasn’t picked up by either Fairbanks team.
“We didn’t go in with huge expectations because we only had eight players going with us and you need 10 to make a team normally,” said Smith. “So we picked up players … that didn’t make it onto other teams. We didn’t go in with high expectations because … we had some newer girls on our team as well.”
Though the weekend’s results don’t reflect it, the Yukon Roller Girls considered the season a rebuilding year.
In addition to recruiting new skaters, the Yukon team has made a pair of trips to intensive camps down south to work on strategy, technique and team-building.
A half-dozen Yukon skaters took part in an intensive camp before competing in a series of bouts organized by the Pacific Roller Derby association in Honolulu, Hawaii, in January.
Fourteen Yukon skaters then got pointers from some high-profile derby girls and competed in three unofficial bouts on a road trip in Washington State in March.
“It’s crazy,” said Dupuis-Rossi of the tournament. “We went there to gel as a team and work really cohesively. I think that strategy and not being there to win, not being distracted by that at all, really allowed us to do that. It was pretty insane.
“We’re still a little in shock about it.”
“One team was a heavy hitter, one team was more offensive. Juneau, our sister city, played very strategic, but they weren’t ready for our four(-skater) wall,” said Agar. “Our strategy worked very well against all of them.
“(To) have fun and maintain a four-wall was our strategy.”
The Yukon organization will host an officiating boot camp May 31 to June 2 at the Canada Games Centre. The camp, called Frazil Dazzle, will include on- and off-skate instruction by guest instructors from ARROW (the Association of Roller Derby Referees and Officials Worldwide).
Contact Tom Patrick at