Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its fifth season in front of a packed house at the Hangar last night, a showing that bodes well for ToRD in 2011. In light of recent controversy surrounding the fate of the Hangar’s TTC line (which, thankfully, resulted in a partial victory for ToRD), Toronto City Counselor Maria Augimeri blew the ceremonial first whistle to kick off the bout between the Death Track Dolls and the defending champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls. Despite tracking a youthful lineup that featured three skaters making their debuts, the Gores looked every bit the champion on their way to another decisive ToRD victory, their tenth in a row.
After taking the most jams with the star of her career last season, Brim Stone skated nicely into the spot in the jammer rotation recently vacated by the retired Lunchbox. It was a not-so-new-look 1-2-3 punch that came out swinging early on in the first half, taking the first four straight leads (and a 16-1 lead) before Land Shark finally took her first lead of the bout (only to be reeled in and forced to call by Bambi). The Gores showed no signs of a championship hangover as they dominated the pack in the early going. The Dolls seemed content to allow the Gores to bring the game to them; loose packs and isolated skaters were no match for Bambi and Dust Bunny who finished 1-2 in 2010 jammer stats. The strong play of jammer duo Betty Bomber (.8 PPJ, 33% lead %) and Land Shark (1.04 PPJ, 43%) kept things from getting out of hand, earning leads or staying close enough to their opponents to keep the scoring low, and allowing the Dolls to at least remain within reach, 47-5, with 10:00 left in the half.
Dolls’ pivot Monichrome had a strong first half for her team despite facing unfamiliar opposition up front as veteran blockers Kandy Barr and Lady Gagya took over pivoting responsibilities from Brim Stone. The Dolls began to tighten things up late in the first half, and with the score 54-8 a big Jubilee jammer take out (she led the Dolls with 18 blocks) allowed Land Shark to take the lead, pick up some points and, more importantly, some momentum. The Dolls were a streaky team in 2010 often riding waves of momentum in and out of bouts, and they pushed back hard at the end of the first. Spurred on by their strongest, most controlled packs of the half, the Dolls went into the lockeroom on a high, getting the crowd back into it and pulling as close as they had been all bout, 57-26.
The Gores did not look intimidated at the start of the second half. Despite allowing the Dolls to creep their way back late in the first, the Gores calmly regained control early in the second. After a few great stalemate jammer battles killed off the Dolls’ momentum, strong jamming by the usual suspects (Dust Bunny and Bambi) allowed the Gores to keep adding to the tally, even if only in small increments. The second-year core of Aston Martini, Hurlin’ Wall, Santa Muerte and Gamma Rei, armed now with the experience of a championship victory, played a huge role in this bout; it was with consistent attention to fundamentals that the Gores began to pull away. Despite some scrappy battles in the pack between Lucid Lou and Santa Muerte, and some hard-fought back-and-forths between Land Shark and Dust Bunny, the Dolls just couldn’t maintain a consistent offensive pushed and were facing an 85-35 deficit mid way through the second.
There were jams when the Dolls looked like they could compete, Dolls’ pivot Panty Hoser became a bigger factor as the bout wore on; Land Shark and Betty Bomber (despite only getting minimal breaks from jamming by Jubilee and Demolition Dawn) continued to put in spirited performances for the Dolls right through to the end; and Jubilee had a monster night in the pack leading her team in most statistical categories (hits, knockdowns and assists). Despite the great individual moments by the Dolls, the collective chemistry of the Gores was just too much; they kept things simple in the late stages of the bout, tracking veteran pivots to keep the pack under control and allowing the Gores jammer trio to continue their strong performances. Although the Dolls were able to hold the explosive Gores’ offense to a respectable 107 points, they were unable to put together a consistent attack of their own, and in the end the Gores secured their tenth consecutive ToRD victory with a 107-43 win.
SEASON OUTLOOK /LOOKING FORWARD
The Gore-Gore Rollergirls look ready to lead ToRD in this all-important WFTDA apprenticeship season. The three rookies in the lineup fit in seamlessly, and were slowly integrated into the lineup throughout the night. The Death Track Dolls, on the other hand, are going to have to regroup and look for a way to build on this. While they often seemed on the verge of pulling off strategies and wrestling control of the pack away from the Gores, they just seemed a step or two away from executing.
CN Power hosts Killamazoo (Michigan) in an all-important inter-city bout on February 26th as part of a double header also featuring ToRD’s future stars, the undrafted D-VAS, taking on Sudbury’s Nickel City Roller Derby in the second bout of this up-and-coming league’s history.