Best Roller Derby Skater 2012 | Tracy "Disco" Akers | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Tracy Akers, aka "Disco," started skating with the Denver Roller Dolls in 2005 and is now a co-captain of the Mile High Club, DRD's traveling team. She won 2011 Triple Threat pivot/blocker/jammer honors at the Roller Dolls' year-end awards ceremony for her all-around talent, but what puts her ahead of the pack is her head for in-the-moment strategy during the game itself, which has gotten more involved as roller derby's rulebooks have grown up over the last few years. "Akers is tough, physical, strong and athletic, but what separates her is her game awareness," says Justin Campoy, bench coach of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby team. Which won the 2011 Women's Flat Track Derby Association Championships at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield in November. "She's the Kasparov of roller derby. She'd be very good at chess boxing if she took it up."

Readers' Choice: Brandi Homan

Why bother choosing local league loyalties when the best roller derby team in the world this year featured skaters from both the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls and the Denver Roller Dolls? Portia "Frida Beater" Hensley, a star of the RMRG 5280 Fight Club traveling team, led Team USA into battle as a co-captain when the squad rolled into Toronto in December for the inaugural Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup. She was joined by her pseudonymous 5280 Fight Club teammates Amanda Jamitinya, DeRanged, Psycho Babble and Urrk'n Jerk'n, plus two of her crosstown rivals — Tracy "Disco" Akers and Heather Juska, of the DRD Mile High Club — as well as top skaters from leagues across the country. The rest of the world wasn't quite ready for all that: Team USA decimated squads from New Zealand, Scotland, Australia and Canada in a series of show-no-mercy victories on the way to winning the World Cup. The next World Cup is in 2014, which should give the other teams plenty of time to let their bruises heal.

The massive new 40,000-square-foot Arvada Skate Park was designed and built by the skater-owned Team Pain Skate Parks crew and overseen by local skater James Hedrick as part of the first phase of development at Gibbs West Community Park. Approximately 97 percent of the $2.1 million price tag was funded by grants from the Tony Hawk Foundation, Colorado Lottery, Great Outdoors Colorado and Jefferson County Open Space, and it was worth every penny. The park caters to skaters of all levels and persuasions, featuring bowls both big and small, a long and flowing snake run, granite ledges, handrail/stair sets, and some of the most innovative, sculptural features and architectural landscape designs we've ever seen, including a few that we weren't sure what to make of until we started seeing local skaters getting creative out there. Even if you don't skate, this is worth a look.

Readers' Choice: Denver Skatepark

Bucky O'Connell's long-awaited It's Always Sunny in Colorado transcended skate-shop loyalties when it premiered last year. The video helped bring the Denver skateboard scene together by featuring team riders from the rival 303 Boards and Denver Shop crews, among others, with additional standout skateboarding by Greg Piloto, Aaron "Jaws" Homoki, Trevor Uriona, David Reyes, Nial Frederickson, Sean Frederickson and Jon Brownlee.

This year, we watched 303 Boards' CLFX team skater Julian Christianson win just about every skateboard contest that came through town, including the Denver stops of the Element Make It Count Tour, the Maloof Money Cup Skateboard Road Tour, and the Hometown Heroes Amateur Skateboard Tour. He picked up a one-year sponsorship deal with Element Skateboards after winning the national Make It Count finals, and won the Hometown Heroes overall title after qualifying to skate on the X Games' seventeen-street course in Los Angeles. But his web edits with local filmer Tristan Minton, of Royal Stain Productions, were even more impressive, providing regular reminders of just how great Colorado's local spots and skate-park landscape have become and laying down blueprints for how to make the most of it all. Stay tuned for Minton's film H-DTS: Down to Skate, due out this summer, with a full part from Christianson in the mix.

Hockey doesn't get as much attention as other professional sports in this town, but not because of a lack of passion, something that is always on display when Peter McNab and his broadcast partner, play-by-play man Mike Haynes, get together. Haynes usually gets a lot of props — he's won this award several times — and deservedly so. But McNab should earn equal praise for a balanced blend of intelligent insight and enthusiasm. He references his esteemed playing career without shoving it down viewers' throats, and he knows the area well — not just from his lengthy stint with the Avalanche, but from his collegiate days at the University of Denver.

Readers' Choice: Dave Logan

The Blake Street Tavern is big fun. At its large, newish home, there are seemingly acres of asphalt where you can party before opening day at Coors Field, just a block away; a huge country-Western dance floor in the basement where you can learn to line dance; a vast arcade area with shuffleboard, Skee-Ball, foosball and Golden Tee; and a huge bar where you can enjoy two happy hours a day while watching the game on an overhead TV. But what pushes Blake Street several notches above other sports bars is how seriously they play the game in the kitchen. The expansive menu offers everything from the standard burgers and wings to manly salads and hearty entrees, as well as kid-friendly meals. But the real surprise is chef Ernesto's top-of-the-town green chile, available in mild, spicy and vegetarian versions.

Readers' Choice: Stoney's Bar and Grill

Evan Semón

The Bull & Bush is the best sports bar in town for game-watching because of what's not on the television: glare. This pub's dark wood and low light make the twenty — count 'em, twenty! — glorious flat-screens seem somehow brighter than standard televisions. The games broadcast on them appear like floating visions of victory for fans, with no garish wires or other distractions, just pure HD color against a mahogany-stained backdrop. Sightlines are also crucial at any good sports bar, and there are no obstructions at the Bull & Bush — unless your view is momentarily blocked by your server bringing you another craft beer, which is always a welcome sight.

Readers' Choice: Sports Column

The Rams have come full circle under head coach Tim Miles, from complete joke to NCAA tournament participant. In Miles's first season in Fort Collins five years ago, the Rams went winless in conference play during the regular season. This year, CSU won all but one game at home and beat three ranked teams on the way to earning an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. Let's hope they'll be able to keep it up now that Miles is heading to Nebraska.

Readers' Choice: University of Colorado Buffaloes football

By "Best" we mean most theatrical, unexpectedly decent, lucky and utterly inexplicable. When Tim Tebow took the reins of a 1-4 team, most people expected the team to enter the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, not the playoff race. But thanks to a stout defense led by rookie Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and multiple late-game minor miracles by the Chosen One, the Broncos won their division and then a playoff game. The finish took them out of the Luck sweepstakes and into the Peyton Manning chase — which John Elway and Pat Bowlen won in amazing fashion, landing the future Hall of Famer and former Indianapolis Colt. Denver's bleeding orange again.

Readers' Choice: Denver Broncos

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