In downtown Toronto on Saturday night, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Toronto Argonauts in a key late-season Canadian Football League matchup; north of the core in the Bunker at Downsview Park the Argos’ roller derby counterparts were skating away with two dominant victories against their historic southern Ontario rivals. The Hammer City Roller Girls, once the top league of Canadian derby, has been going through a major rebuild in 2011, and that learning process continued against ToRD on Saturday as the Toronto skaters dominated both bouts for convincing victories.
Game 1: Hamilton Harlots 75 vs. Smoke City Betties 164
For Canadian derby nerds out there this first matchup had huge historic implications. In 2005-6, at the same time that Oil City was setting up shop in Edmonton, the Harlots in Hamilton and the Betties in Toronto were setting the foundations for what would become flat track roller derby in Eastern Canada (with the Steel Town Tank Girls, the Harlots would start Hammer City, while the Betties would split into two teams—the other being the Gore-Gore Rollergirls—and merge with a freshly quartered Toronto Terrors to form Toronto Roller Derby). But that was the past, and these two teams have gone through major changes since and don’t much resemble their precedent-setting counterparts.
The Betties’ challenges over the past two years have mirrored those currently being faced by the Harlots: massive turnover. In the 2009 ToRD off-season (after a thrilling run to the Battle For the Boot 3), the core of the original Betties imploded and left a roster-void in the squad; a void that looks as if it is finally being filled. Things started off perfectly for the Betties as they ran out to a big lead. Led by veteran pivots Mia Culprit and Lady Scorcher and stand-out rookie Misery Mae, the Betties quickly established pack control early on—something that has been an issue lately. But keeping things tight and playing a simple, straight-up flat track bout allowed the jammer core of Sail Her Poon, Rug Burn and titmouse to run wild over the Harlots who didn’t have the same success in the early going. titmouse had arguably her strongest game as a Bettie ever. Before being slowed by a knee injury earlier in the year, she’d been training with CN Power (and has since become a key member of the Bay Street Bruisers rebirth) and that commitment to training has certainly paid off as she dominated her Harlots’ counterparts in the early going. The Betties built a nearly 70 point lead before running into penalty troubles that allowed the Harlots to crawl back into it. Nonetheless, Betties led by 39, 83-44, at the half.
One thing that both Hammer City teams have going for them is a vibrant young core to build around. The Harlots have had a busy summer and it showed in the growth of skaters like Whacks Poetic who is emerging as a pivot and on-track leader, while Kick Assymptote and Bean Stalker have also come a long way in 2011. But the team still revolves very much around the two Hammer City veterans Judge Jodie and Mean Little Mama. Both were very effective all night, and led the push back that continued at the start of the second half. But a tendency to challenge one-on-one led to 5 first-half trips to the box for Mean Little Mama. In an attempt to avoid the blocking penalties that had plagued her in the first half (and to start the second), Harlot’s bench manager Furious P put her out as a jammer midway through the game, joining a rotation lead largely by Naughty Bee and Abba Stabya. A subtle hip hit and hard stop by Bruiseberry Pie forced Mean Little Mama’s momentum to take her off and on to the track in a major track cut that saw the Betties go on an insurance-gaining power jam but also deprived the Harlots of their hardest hitting and most active blocker. The Betties regained control of the game for the final quarter and were able to distance themselves from their opponents for the confidence-building 89 point victory.
Game 2: Eh! Team 22 vs. CN Power 277
Originally scheduled to be CN Power’s first ever WFTDA sanctioned home bout, at the last minute the Eh! Team were unable to send enough rostered skaters to allow for the sanctioning, and instead sent a group of borrowed Tri-City skaters to fill out the roster. Also, an injured Miss Carriage was the only Eh! Team veteran visible as she ran the bench for a team built largely of the Eh! Team newcomers. To the inexperienced skaters’ credit, they stepped up and took full advantage of this learning opportunity and played hard through to the final whistle. CN Power also dressed a roster featuring the newest travel team members and gave blockers Tropic Thunder and Nasher the Smasher the opportunity to jam, but with an all-important showdown looming against North Central rivals Grand Raggidy in a few weeks, the ToRD travel team stuck to the game plan and powered their way to a team record 255 point victory.
Given the incredible imbalance in experience, CN Power dominated from the opening whistle. Jammers Candy Crossbones, Defecaitlin and Brim Stone (other usual jammers Bambi and Dyna Hurtcha had the night) owned the lead percentages on the backs of some excellent pack work. Panty Hoser joined Rebel Rock-It and Tara Part as pivots and led packs that alternated between being physically dominant and positionally sound. The Eh! Team was led by former ToRD jammer JJ Bladez who continues to shape her role as a key cog in the Hammer City offence. Lorazeslam also had a strong game and is clearly a skater that this Eh! Team can begin to build around. But despite some scrappy and spirited play, CN Power cruised through the first half, and only a few late calls allowed Hammer City to get on the board, as they were down 135-6 at the half.
For the first half of the second period, it looked like that 6 point score was going to hold, but a power jam for the Eh! Team (one of only two, both late in the game) and a brief lapse in discipline from CN Power saw Hammer City take advantage and put 12 points on the board, tripling their score. Led by Tri-City skater Sofanda Beatin (who left it all on the track for her adopted team) the Eh! Team fought back. Oh! Henry had a strong bout for Hamilton and like Lorazeslam is another skater who looks like the future of this team. The newest CN Power skaters—Sinead O’Clobber, Santa Muerte and Tropic Thunder—gained extremely valuable track time for ToRD’s all stars who have thus far been dominating the lower ranks of WFTDA’s North Central Region. CN Power also played with some strategies and Defecaitlin twice (in two different ways!) “fed the baby” to her blockers (pulled the jammer back into the pack after the first pass). It was a great all-around performance from ToRD’s travel team who look to finish 2011 on a high note before its first full season of WFTDA competition.