Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wasatch Roller Derby: 2014 Championship Preview

Posted By on August 21, 2014, 10:00 AM

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If you're a roller derby fan in Utah, this is a hell of a time for you to be a part of the hype and mayhem happening around the state. Not only will Wasatch Roller Derby be holding their championship game next week on Aug. 30, but in late September, SLC will play host to a section of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association playoffs series, leading up to the national championships in Nashville in October. But for now, we're focusing on the local title picture, which will feature returning champions The Hot Wheelers against a rival they currently have a 1-1 record with, the Black Diamond Divas. Today we're chatting with a skater for the Black Diamond Divas, Bruiser Ego, and the coach/bench manager for the Hot Wheelers, Brian Eff'n Horman, about the 2014 season and the championship game. (All photos courtesy of WRD. Special photo credit to Dave Wood and Jason O'Durgy.)

Bruiser Ego Brian Eff'n Horman
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WasatchRollerDerby.com

Gavin: Hello to both of you, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Bruiser: Hi! I'm Bruiser Ego. I play for the Black Diamond Divas as my home team and I am co-captain of the Wasatch Roller Derby travel team, Midnight Terror. I love High West double rye and corny cat videos.

Brian: My name is Brian “Eff’n” Horman. I began participating in Roller Derby in the fall of 2009. My initial involvement in Roller Derby was as an official. After officiating for more than two seasons, I decided to focus on my personal training and I began playing men’s roller derby for Uinta Madness, which is the brother league to Wasatch Roller Derby. At the end of the 2012 season, the Wasatch Roller Derby Travel Team was looking for a coach. There was an application and interview process and I was selected. I have been the head coach for WRD’s travel team since then. I make my living as the general manager of The Pie Pizzeria’s Ogden location. I love pizza and I am proud to serve Utah’s best.

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Gavin: How did each of you get involved with roller derby and how was it joining WRD?

Brian: I first learned of roller derby on my 25th birthday. A roller derby league was hosting a fundraiser at a bar and a friend’s band was the entertainment. I came for the band, but ended up winning a date with a roller derby girl. On the date we went roller skating. I didn’t fall and by the end of the date was skating backward. A month or two later, I started officiating. Wasatch Roller Derby was always welcoming to me. Although I was associated with another roller derby league at the time, I always felt at home. The WRD officials were (and still are) among the best officials in all of roller derby. The officials invited me to officiate the Wasatch scrimmages and the skaters made me feel welcome right away as well. My participation with Wasatch was gradual. First as a guest official, then as a player on the men’s team, and finally as head coach. I still officiate from time to time and I still am an active player for Uinta Madness men’s team.

Bruiser: I was looking for something fun and physical to do. I'd become fat and lazy after my college years and needed something active that wasn't running. My best friend was starting with a recreational league, the Red Rockettes, and so I joined to spend more time with her. A few months in, I felt a competitive "Gggrrrrrrrrrr" growing and transferred to Wasatch Roller Derby.

Gavin: What were your thoughts going into this season compared to previous years?

Bruiser: This year, the Black Diamond Divas had a lot of pressure. We lost a good chunk of our team to retirement and were in a losing streak. I think a lot of the team went into the season looking for personal improvement or to just have fun skating. The change in focus really helped us find little wins on the track instead of worrying about the scoreboard all the time.

Brian: Going into the 2014 season I was both nervous and excited. I was the bench manager and coach for the Hot Wheelers in 2013 when we won the championship game, and I was excited for an opportunity to win back-to-back championships. The Hot Wheelers and the Travel Team both had a great 2013 season, but I knew maintaining the success of the 2013 season would take some hard work and dedication from everyone. I also felt like the 2013 season was a learning experience for me. I felt like I had a better understanding of my role of coach and I knew 2014 was a good opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge and experience I had gained in 2013.

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Gavin: What did you think of both the Wheelers and the Divas teams and how they shaped up during training?

Brian: The Hot Wheelers and the Black Diamond Divas had a number of veteran skaters return for the 2014 season. Both teams were able to complement the veteran skaters with some talented new skaters. I had a feeling that the championship game would be between the Hot Wheelers and the Black Diamond Divas. The teams are evenly matched and it will surely be an exciting, competitive championship game.

Bruiser: Both teams had some definite strengths and weaknesses on paper. We had family and life events that kept many of our team from being able to practice consistently. That set us back mentally early in the season, especially seeing the Hot Wheelers getting to work together a lot.

Gavin: When you finally started competing, how did the season go for each team?

Bruiser: As the season progressed, the Divas began shrinking. We have a small core of players now that have been able to work consistently with each other. That's really helped us. The Hot Wheelers got smaller as well which has made both teams really have to get fit to play multiple jams back to back.

Brian: This season has been great. There hasn’t been a clear cut favorite team this year. Each game this season has been a close score with exciting competition and a lot of fun.

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Gavin: During the season you both faced each other twice, each of you taking away a victory. What was the first game like and what did each of you take away from it?

Brian: In the first meeting, the Hot Wheelers walked away with a win. These teams are both hungry for success and although the first victory went to the Hot Wheelers, we knew that we were lucky to have the win and that a rematch could go either way.

Bruiser: The first game was really hard, very physical. It felt like a whole new team getting used to playing together. It was the season opener game and the Hot Wheelers pulled off a narrow win. It would have been very easy to slip into a negative mindset. The second match up was really cool to see the things we had worked on coming together. It was another close score for most of the way through, we only pulled ahead solidly in the last few minutes. That was a real confidence booster for the entire team.

Gavin: When you faced off again, what changed about the Divas to even the score and what did the Wheelers learn from the experience?

Bruiser: The change in focus away from the scoreboard and onto individual jams and individual moments really helped the Divas to not get stuck in downward spiral after a rough jam or two.

Brian: When we faced each other the second time, the Black Diamond Divas emerged victorious. There were a number of contributing factors. The Hot Wheeler roster was not 100 percent and the skaters were very penalty heavy. If the Hot Wheelers can avoid costly time in the penalty box, I feel confident that the Hot Wheelers will be crowned champion once again.

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Gavin: Heading into the championship game, the teams both look pretty evenly matched. What have you been doing to prepare for this game?

Brian: The Hot Wheelers are pulling out all the stops to ensure that we remain champions. We have been training harder than we have all season. I can’t let you in on all of our secrets, but I will say that we are employing Voodoo dolls and rabbit’s feet. Even if the score ends in their favor; we will remain the ultimate victors.

Bruiser: There has been a lot of cross training and individual workouts. It can be difficult to find times that the entire team can get together.

Gavin: The Wheelers are actually last year's champions. What kind of pressure is there to win it again, and on the other side, how big of a motivator is it to be facing them to potentially take it away?

Bruiser: This is huge for the Divas. It would be fantastic to come off of last season at the bottom of the league to turn around and be the champs one year later. There are some great friendly rivalries between skaters that is fun to push yourself to be just a bit faster or pull off an incredible move at a clutch moment against someone that knows all your regular tricks.

Brian: As the reigning champions the Hot Wheelers have had a target on our backs all year. We have dodged bullets and are ready to take the trophy again. Having faced adversity this season, we know what to do to return to the top of the podium. Knowing both victory and defeat we understand what it takes to win and we are ready to roll over the Divas once again.

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Gavin: Aside from the bout, the WFTDA will be holding a section of their playoffs here in SLC, which WRD will be a part of. First off, how does it feel being a host city for the tournament?

Brian: Wasatch is hosting one of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Division One tournaments taking place September 26-28 at The Salt Palace. The WFTDA is the largest sanctioning body for Roller Derby with hundreds of leagues which span the globe. Winning the bid to host the tournament was a pleasant surprise. Wasatch Roller Derby is currently ranked 24 out of over 200 teams. We will be entering the tournament as the sixth seed which is the highest rank we have ever had in a Division One WFTDA tournament. There are pro’s and con’s to hosting a tournament that you are competing in, but I believe Wasatch is an organization that can get passed the con’s and capitalize on the pros. It is very exciting. This is the highest level of Roller Derby competition to ever be played in Utah and we are proud to be bringing it here.

Bruiser: We are incredibly excited to be hosting! It will be 10 of the top 40 teams in the world here, all playing at the top of their game. Salt Lake sometimes has a reputation for not being a fun, accessible city. We'd like to show off all the reasons that we like living here. It's a damn pretty piece of the country, great music, fantastic art, amazing beer and getting some high class distilling and restaurants.

Gavin: How does it feel being in this year's tournament and being able to play for the hometown crowd?

Bruiser: It has been a rebuilding year for us, a lot of Midnight Terror from last year is gone to retirement and transfers. We are working our asses off to tighten up our gameplay and we hope it holds up to these other world class teams.

Brian: Being able to play for a home crowd is something I am looking forward to most. I don’t know if it is from watching the Utah Jazz, choosing sides between BYU and Utah (go Utes!), or partying at Real games, but Utahns are rabid sports fans who are informed about and invested in their teams. Wasatch has been known for having the loudest crowds when we have attended these caliber tournaments out of state, so the energy from our home team crowd will likely lift our spirits and make our hair stand on end.

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Gavin: How are you as a league preparing for that event and what are your thoughts going into the competition?

Brian: Our travel team has been training hard all season, but have really amped it up over the last month and will continue our intense training until we play in the Division One tournament. These women are true athletes. The Division One tournament is a great opportunity to demonstrate strength, endurance and will. If you want to see an intense display of athleticism you should be in attendance.

Bruiser: The league is doing a lot of promotional events to bring get people interested who may have not ever watched derby in it's current form. There is endless organization and getting volunteers signed up. The league also coordinates sponsors. Want to help? Are you a local business that wants to donate goods or sponsor the tourney? Email us at wasatchrollerderby@hotmail.com.

Gavin: What can we expect from WRD and both of you over the rest of the year?

Bruiser: The winner of this game on Aug. 30 will go on to represent the league at the Beehive Brawl on Oct. 11. That is a tournament of the top home teams from each of the Utah WFTDA leagues hosted by WRD. I personally will be found after tournament season sipping beer and whiskey while icing my knees.

Brian: If we manage to finish our tournament 1st-3rd we will qualify for the WFTDA International Championship tournament in Tennessee taking place at the end of October. In November and December we will continue training, recruiting and trying out new skaters.

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Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Brian: Wasatch is the best place to play roller derby in Utah. Wasatch has many different levels of competition. There is a Wasatch Junior Roller Derby team where the kids get to skate against each other and there is a recreational level team named Red Rockettes, which is a fun introduction to roller derby for adults. Wasatch has both intra-league and inter-league teams, so skaters can participate in competition against each other or practice to take on the world. If you don’t want compete you can become a volunteer or an official. There are many opportunities for people to participate and gain lasting friendships. Uinta Madness Men’s Roller Derby is an opportunity for the men leave to each other bruised, bloody and beaten. There will be a Men’s Roller Derby tournament November 8-9. Don’t forget to attend the WFTDA Division one tournament September 26-28. This tournament is likely to be fast paced and heavy hitting. It will be, without a doubt, the best roller derby competition Utah has ever seen. Spectators will not walk away disappointed.

Bruiser: Buy Local! And check out Cylvia.

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