On Saturday night at the Bunker, the 2013 Toronto Roller Derby Champions, the Death Track Dolls, will make their debut as they face off against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, who are coming off of a season-opening win against the Chicks Ahoy!. Last year’s Battle for the Boot finalists, the Smoke City Betties, will also kick off their season against a much-improved Chicks Ahoy! team. Both showdowns will say a lot about how the season will play out.
The night will kick off with the Betties and Chicks facing off for the seventh time in ToRD’s regular season history. The Chicks have a 4-2 edge in the regular season meetings beginning with a 119-96 matchup in 2008 (they did not meet during the 2007 regular season). However, the tides turned last season when the Betties scored their first win over the Chicks since 2009. The two teams, remarkably, have never faced each other in the playoffs.
Similarly, despite a long history of competition, the Dolls and Gores have also never met in the playoffs, but their regular season history dates all the way back to June 2007 and the first public game ToRD hosted (the Gores won 117-78). After knocking off the Gores in 2008, it would be another four years (and four-straight losses) before the Dolls would take one away from the Gores again, last year’s 233-153 victory sealed the Dolls first-place finish in the standings and their place in the Battle for the Boot.
Both the Dolls and Betties are looking to continue the power shift they orchestrated last season when they battled for the boot against each other for the first time.
The 2014 Death Track Dolls
Photo by Dan Lim
2013 was a banner year for the Dolls and one that will be tough to repeat after going undefeated and winning their first ever championship. Between retirements and CN Power call-ups, the Dolls roster was gutted in the off-season. While a veteran core remains, they had more turnover than any other team in the league.
The Dolls have eleven returning skaters from last season’s championship team, including co-captions Android W.K. (second year blocker/pivot) and triple threat Getcha Kicks. In the pack, a strong, experienced core of Audrey Hellborn, Canadian Psycho, Dawson, Demolition Dawn, Slam Wow and Speedin Hawking will be supported by second-year skater Robotomy, who missed virtually all of her rookie year with injury. However, the Dolls’ pack is bolstered by the transfers of two former Gores: seven-year blocking veteran Junkie Jenny and Just Jes (the skater formerly known as Aston Martini). Jes is returning after a single-year hiatus, but has already looked impressive playing for the Bay Street Bruisers.
Amidst all of the off-season change, it’s actually the jammer rotation that took the biggest hit, losing two of the league’s most dominant scorers in 2013 (Rainbow Fight and Santilly In Yo Face). However Bellefast returns and second-year skater Chicken Sluggets will be called upon to step up. Also, Getcha Kicks, though blocking more than ever, is still more than capable of taking the star when needed and will probably jam more early in the season as they develop rookies.
On the bench, the Dolls will have both Panty Hoser (of CN Power) and Wencer back to give consistency to the management team.
The Dolls won their first championship in 2013. (Photo by Neil Gunner)
No team has more fresh faces than the Dolls, but it is an intriguing mix of rookies and more experienced transfers that will don the “skull and blood” in 2014. Arguably leading the way is Devochka, who is no stranger to fans of derby in Ontario. Having played for numerous leagues, most notably in Durham for their travel-team Durham Derby Devils, Devochka is a double threat, and could be relied upon to help in the jammer rotation right away. Similarly, Hannibelle, Stringer Belle and Free Range Clam have skated for either the Rollergettes or GTA Rollergirls before making the transition to the DVAS, while Sleeper Hold got her start in Toronto’s LOCO league. Wheatabitch and Block Quebecois were developed through the DVAS system.
Given the amount of change the team has sustained, it may be unrealistic to expect another run to the championship this season. But a strong performance against the 1-0 Gores would go a long way in convincing everyone that it is a possibility.
The 2014 Smoke City Betties
Photo by Jonathan Wallace
Last year, the Betties upset the Gores in the semifinals to return to the championship game for the first since 2009, losing to the Dolls. But with the core of that team still in place, expectations should be high once again.
Although some key pieces of last year’s team have been lost through retirement, there is a strong core in place, starting with team captains Tushy Galore (who is a pillar of this pack) and triple-threat WolveRina. There is a lot of toughness in the pack, and the Betties could be the hardest hitting team in the league. Misery Mae, Laya Beaton, Mouth of the South, Mazel Tough, Zomboney and Genuine Risk are all back in the pack this season.
Although they lost last year’s leading scorer (Slaptrick Swayze) to retirement, the offense remains mostly in place. Let by titmouse, Udre, and second-year skater Kill-Her At Large, double threats SewWhat? and LowBlow Palooza could also be called upon to bolster the jammer rotation.
CN Power bench coach, Wade Wheelson, returns for the start of the 2014 season.
The Betties did well in what was, arguably, the deepest ToRD draft ever. Darth Kater could provide some immediate help in the jammer rotation, having dominated in Durham’s houseleague and for their travel team Devils for a few seasons. Honey Boom Boom is also track ready, having starred last season for the DVAS and the Rollergettes before that. Jenny Specter comes to ToRD having gotten her start in LOCO derby, while former DVAS WackedHer and Babushkill will make their long-anticipated debuts this season. Jammher’head Shark is another DVAS-developed skater.
With such a strong returning core, the Betties have a shot to reproduce last year’s considerable success, and with their opponents, the Chicks, having improved so much from last year, this Saturday’s matchup could tell a lot about how things are going to play out for the Betties in 2014 and what it will take for them to get back to the Battle for the Boot.
***Doors open at 4:00 PM at The Bunker in Downsview Park with Betties and Chicks kicking things off at 5:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of outlets throughout the city.