Formed in late winter 2006, they are one of the oldest roller derby teams in Canada. From them, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, the GTA Rollergirls, and the Rollergettes all sprung forth. From hosting the first ever Canadian roller derby tournament in August 2006 to being one of the teams on the track for the opening whistle of the inaugural Beast of the East in 2008, this team’s imprint is stamped all over the history of Canadian flat track roller derby.
So central to the narrative of the sport are they, it’s almost hard to believe that the one thing that the Smoke City Betties have never accomplished is winning a Toronto Roller Derby championship.
On Saturday, June 6, 2015, they will have their third chance to do so when they face off against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in ToRD’s 9th Battle for the Boot.
The only other time these two teams—so indelibly linked—squared off for the Boot was way back in 2009 when the make-up of the rosters was so far different from what they are now: Back then, the rivals were loaded with first generation ToRD skaters, and after the Gores beat the Betties 128-88 in that game, there was a massive retirement of original Betties, with others (like Demolition Dawn and Dyna Hurtcha) moving on to different teams. What began was an almost brutal bottom-up rebuild of the team that took four trying years to accomplish. Then in 2013, their second shot at the Boot, they came up against a record-setting juggernaut in the Death Track Dolls.
This time, the turn around has only been two years and much of the core remains.
It’s been a different story for the Gores. One of ToRD’s great teams, they have dominated the opening decade of the league’s history. They have won three championships (tied with Chicks Ahoy!) and they have, remarkably, battled for the Boot in eight of ToRD’s nine championship bouts. However, despite three appearances in the final over that stretch of time, it has been four long years since the Gores last raised the Boot. A few skaters remain from that last championship win (Jill ‘Em All was there and Santa Muerte, Chronic, Miss Kitty La Peur, and Gamma Rei were all rookies), and I doubt any thought it would take so long to taste victory once again.
Based on regular season results, it would seem that the Gore-Gore Rollergirls have the slightest edge coming in. While overall, the Betties outscored the Gores in the regular season, the Gores had the stingiest defense overall, leading to a substantially better team plus/minus (+164 vs. +52). On top of that, there is that 7-point regular-season victory. Competitively, it’s tight in the pack, but considering the collective experience of Santa Muerte, Chronic, and Jill Em All, the edge may go to the Gores.
That being said, this Betties crew is a pack on the rise. With Tushy Galore planted firmly in core of this group, this season has seen the rise of a new generation of pack leaders, none more so than SewWhat?, who is quickly becoming one of the league’s most reliable blockers. LowBlowPalooza and Honey Boom Boom have stepped up their games this season as well.
The jammer rotations are also comparable. While the Gores used a relatively expansive six-jammer rotation (although all six only appeared in one game together), the Betties have stuck with the same tight four-jammer lineup all regular season—and they excelled with remarkable consistency. Smoka Cola led the way in scoring and lead percentage (183 points, 4.1 points per jam, 64% lead percentage) but all four members (Wolverina, WackedHer, and Kill’Her At Large) scored at least 110 points, registered at least 3.3 points per jam and had at least a 45% lead percentage. Pretty solid stats for a team that went 1-2 on the regular season. With Kill’Her At Large out with an injury for the playoffs, veteran jammer titmouse returned to the lineup just in time to slip into her role.
The Gores employed a wider offense, and different jammers found success against different teams, and sometimes even just in different situations. The team’s leading scorer, for example, Taranosaurus Rex (123 points) managed to score a team-high 56 points against the Dolls in a game in which she registered only a 29% lead percentage. Overall, Lexi Con and Beaver Mansbridge were the team’s steadiest performers with the star. Lexi led the team with a 4.3 points per jam (on 50%) while Beaver led the way with a 61% lead percentage (scoring 77 points on a 3.4 points per jam). A bit of a not-so-secret weapon is Santa Muerte. Used in limited action, she was incredibly consistent when needed, managing 3.7 points per jam and a 75% lead percentage.
With two teams that seem so close on paper, it may end up coming down to game readiness. And that advantage favours the Betties. The Gores have not seen full-game action since February, while the Betties have been climbing through the ranks, playing meaningful, must-win playoff games, and virtually dominating them. If they can carry that momentum into the Battle for the Boot, it will be their battle to lose.
**The Battle for the Boot 9 is on Saturday, June, 6th, at the Bunker in Downsview Park with opening whistle slated for 7:00 PM. The night will open with an all-star mashup, featuring two rosters built of skaters from CN Power and the Bay Street Bruisers. Opening whistle on that one is 5:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at the door.