It was a classic showdown with a historic spin at The Bunker on Saturday night, as the defending champion Chicks Ahoy! faced off against principle rivals the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in the Battle for the Boot 6, the 2012 Toronto Roller Derby Championship. It was the fifth time in six years that these two teams had squared off in the event, but roles were reversed this time around. For the first time, the Chicks Ahoy! finished with the best regular season record, a record that included a thirteen-point victory over this same Gores team in February. The Gores, on the other hand, found 2012 a rare struggle, losing their first regular season games in five years and just crawling into the playoffs in a tiebreaker over the Death Track Dolls. Despite the Gores’ somewhat surprising semifinal upset over the Smoke City Betties, they weren’t able to slow the dominant march of the 2012 Chicks. The defending Boot holders dominated from start to finish setting a record for points scored and margin of victory in a championship game with a convincing 196-56 victory to cap a definitive defense of their crown.
With an injury ravaged roster necessitating some creative lineup juggling, it took a while for the Gores to get going, and by the time that they did, it may have already been too late. With a strong, consistent offense anchored by 2012 leading scorer Bala Reina, seasoned veteran Candy Crossbones, and former rookie of the year Kookie Doe, the Chicks came out with a stable, relentless attack from the very start, opening up an 11-0 lead after three jams before Bambi was finally able to put the first points on the board for the Gores. With Dust Bunny dressed, but not fully healed enough to be a difference maker in this one, the Gores went with a diverse, revolving jammer rotation that featured a surprisingly strong performance by Lady Gagya (15 points of the Gores points in the first half), but the pack never found the consistent rhythm that the Chicks’ pack did as their stable lines and the comfort with their jammers allowed them to seize momentum when available and maintain it for long stretches, leading by 40 points half way through the first period after the Gores managed only two scoring passes in that fifteen minutes span.
While the Gores seemed to wake up at this point, the constant shuffling of the packs (and subsequent blocker penalty troubles), never allowed them to sustain a consistent attack. With the gap already growing to over 40 points, a 23-point Kookie Doe power jam (she would lead the first half in scoring with 45 points) would bring the Chicks over the century mark and open up a lead that they would never relinquish. It was smooth sailing for the Chicks after that who had a stranglehold on this one, leading 106-32 at the half.
The jammers were certainly key for the Chicks Ahoy!, but just as integral was the punishing pack work. Clinical drag-back defense from Rebel Rock-It, relentless, machine-gun hitting from Marmighty and Mega Bouche, and phenomenal last-line-of-defense one-on-one work from primary pivot Dyna Hurtcha erased any thoughts that the lack of pack juggernauts Nasher the Smasher and Tara Part (who would join Flyin’ Bryan Killman on the bench) would prove detrimental to the team. But just as important as the front line, the key to the Chicks’ continued success is their depth of bench. Consistent veteran players like Furious Georgia, Robber Blind also had strong games, while the rookie trio of Biggley Smallz, Roadside BombShel and Doris Doomsday continued to excel in the pack, and are lead by the stable leadership of key role models Hoff and Tess D’Urb-Evil. All in all, it was a complete game by the Chicks, who rearely relented and had increased the lead to 120 points at the midway point of the period.
Not that the Gores didn’t continue to push to the end. Despite scoring less in the second half, they scored more consistently as opposed to the bunches of points they’d picked up in the first. Santa Muerte, Chronic, Draculaura and Kandy Barr took turns with the star, while the packs relied in large part on Foxy Sinatra, Junkie Jenny and Molly Boom, and got more spirited performances from Miss Kitty La Peur and Emma Dilemma. Moving forward, it will be these five skaters that the Gores will look to to build around. They proved, especially in the semifinal—but at moments in the championship as well—that they are up for the cause; however, it will take time, and it wasn’t going to happen tonight, as the Chicks were unstoppable on their way to the overwhelming 196-56 victory.
These two teams have been the perennial top performers in the league’s early history, and that is due in large part to the cores that these teams have been built around. With a roster more consistent than those of the Dolls and the Betties, these two teams have been consistent performers year in and year out (with the Chicks only have one blemish on their record—a 2009 season that ended early). But after six years, this game marked the end of an era, as in 2013, the members of CN Power will be leaving their hometeams to focus solely on WFTDA play. After a breakout season in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (they went 9-1 in sanctioned play and just missed out on a playoff spot), CN Power will be skating straight into the heart of roller derby’s most competitive league next season and will require a full-time commitment from its skaters. For the Gores and Chicks and their fans, it means a lot of fresh new faces to get used to next season (they will be selected from an experienced group of D-VAS in the upcoming entry draft).
On top of that, this bout marked the last for legendary announcer and voice of the league, Crankypants, who has stood right alongside these skaters through it all. While it will be a strange thing indeed to watch a ToRD event without Crankypants, the timing—in light of the changing make-up of the league—was apt, and even slightly poetic. Certainly, the legend will live on and the memory too, every time anyone implores the crowd to get louder.
Change may be difficult, but for ToRD as a whole, it means renewal, and an exciting, unpredictable house league for 2013 (with, on paper anyway, there appearing to be a power shift to the Betties and the Dolls on the horizon). These first few years have been extraordinary in their development and have produced phenomenal skaters, amazing moments and a strong, stable community around which to grow even further.
The development of Toronto’s most competitive league has mirrored the development of the sport as a whole: the game itself has never been stronger, more popular, or more relevant. ToRD, after another successful championship to cap another successful year, seems ready to continue its ascendance.