Helsinki Roller Derby All-Stars’ (Turtles between friends) autumn season reached its climax on 14–16 November 2014 at WFTDA European Tournament (WET) 2014 in Malmö, Sweden. Many of our continent’s top leagues participated, including Berlin from Division 2 as well as Stockholm, Malmö and Cardiff from Division 3, to which also HRD belongs. In addition to these front-runner teams, also smaller WFTDA leagues Oslo, Trondheim, Copenhagen, Gent and Manchester took part.
Having just won the Finnish Championships, our Turtles were hungry for more glory – not least because of the opportunity to improve their overall WFTDA ranking. A small but very eager fan entourage followed the team to Skåne.
Crime City blockers had a hard time keeping up with our Pygmi #101, who was also chosen as the whole tournament’s Most Valuable Player! Photo by Marko Niemelä
HRD’s tournament started with a game against the hosting team Malmö’s Crime City Rollers (CCR). Right from the beginning Malmö’s jammer Curly Håår seemed almost unstoppable. However, as the game advanced, it became obvious that just one top jammer is not going to be enough for Malmö, if we have a handful of top jammers. HRD’s powerful defence slowed down the CCR jammers efficiently. Meanwhile our own jammers could concentrate on what they do best: scoring.
Nonetheless, this game was far from being mere child’s play: the lead changed hands several times during this nail-biter-game. HRD also experienced a minor draw back when our jammer Super Maria was injured. Much to everyone’s relief she soon recovered and was able to continue playing. During the second half, Turtles managed to take the leading position for good and to increase the score difference: the game ended 274–227 for Helsinki.
On the second day of the tournament, our dear green shirts took on Gent Go-Go Roller Girls. In this game HRD All-Stars presented their ever-so-strong team play. Beforehand Gent was considered to be the underdog team and so it was: the sassy cat-shirt-ladies were no match for our ninja turtles, who dominated the game from the very first jam. This despite the fact that our at times over-eager players managed to obtain penalties galore. Gent was however not able to take advantage of their power play and the final score was 312–197 for Helsinki.
HRD’s stone-hard wall at work. Photo by Marko Niemelä.
The third and final day saw the perhaps most anticipated game of the Turtles’ tournament, when Helsinki faced Berlin’s Bear City Roller Derby. The German’s performance in their previous WET games against Manchester’s Rainy City Roller Girls and Stockholm Roller Derby had clearly demonstrated their weaknesses. Especially Berlin’s 226–137 defeat against Stockholm affirmed that the team was perhaps not in top-notch condition. Most importantly, Helsinki’s bench coaches had attentively taken notes during these games and made careful plans for the upcoming bears vs. turtles game.
Helsinki fans started their final tournament day by watching two Norwegian teams –Trondheim’s Nidaros Roller Derby and Oslo Roller Derby – fight each other. The game was very fast paced indeed, as the fair Valkyries sped around the track with no time for fancy formations such as triangles or diamonds. The HRD fan club loved this – well, maybe not the standard of the game, but those amazing skaters!
Norwegian roller derby functioned as well-needed warm-up for the Helsinki fans, as now it was time for the real nail biter. As was the case with their previous WET-games, Berlin depended heavily upon their star jammer Master Blaster #2. Master Blaster was indeed an astonishingly skilful and super fit skater, who did not spend much time waiting in the pit. For most part of the game she jammed, but ”took a breather” occasionally by blocking too. Bummer for the Teutons in red that roller derby is a team sport and at this level a team cannot count on only one player. This became apparent already during the first ten minutes, when our Turtles lead the game by about 30 points.
Turtles had to work hard to stop Bear City’s star jammer #2 Master Blaster. Photo by Marko Niemelä.
Both teams favoured slow but strong diamond and triangle defences, but with their aggressive and dynamic style the turtle jammers managed to take the lead and points home in most jams. Time and again, Helsinki’s star-hats charged at the Berlin wall and went right through it. Meanwhile, the HRD blockers excelled in obtaining penalties for the opposing jammers. Especially perpetual cutting majors seemed to frustrate the Germans and to take off the sharpest edge of their game.
As the game went on, it became more and more difficult for the Berliners to take the lead, but Master Blaster was not ready to give up and kept on challenging our diamond-turtles again and again. At the end of the first half Helsinki lead 89–137.
The second half was also pure roller-derby-gold. Bear City kept on fighting fiercely, but Helsinki managed to increase their lead little by little. The Berliners had a real chance to change the course of the game, when Turtles took a series of penalties and spent quite a lot of time sitting in the box. But Helsinki withstood Master Blaster’s troop’s attacks and oftentimes the green jammer was already back on the track when the red one was still trying to do their initial pass.
The game was action-filled till the very end. Photo by Marko Niemelä.
Towards the end of the game, in addition to hard-core attitude and aggressive jamming, HRD cooked up some entertaining derby scenarios. 15 minutes before the final whistle blast, our Super Maria took advantage of the jam starting tumult and hit Master Blaster out of bounds. Then this show pony circled back half a track, but Berlin’s brightest star was not going to play along and just stood and waited. And alas, Turtles were again half-a-minute closer to winning! During a time out, ten minutes before the end of the game, HRD All-Stars decided to huddle together in order to holler their battle cry. What made the situation so entertaining, was that Master Blaster did not want move out of the Turtles’ way and ended up circled by the gleeful Helsinki skaters. Perhaps this had a psychological effect on her, as the Bear City star didn’t seem to be her usual self during the final minutes of the game.
Only two minutes before the end of the game, both teams obtained jammer penalties simultaneously. Despite being the last one to get their penalty called, our Raivo-Burrito did not linger on the track, but sped up and managed to overtake the opposing jammer and to sit down first. At this point Turtles had already a 70-point-lead and it was starting to be apparent that they would be victorious once again.
The victorious Turtles! Look at them go!!! Photo by Marko Niemelä.
The amazing Master Blaster’s game ended in a not-so-pleasant way, when she had attained the jammer status in a star pass situation, but accidentally dropped the helmet cover right in front of the jubilant HRD fans. HRD skaters quickly surrounded the helmet cover and Master Blaster had to literally crawl in order to re-obtain it. Soon after this the mighty #2 was given her seventh penalty and had to leave the track. Hats off for Master Blaster though – she had given her all! The final score was 175–256 to Helsinki. The Berlin wall was brought down by the Turtles!
– Johannes Kellomäki