Battle for the Boot

Gores wreak vengeance on Betties in ToRD semifinal

The Gores were looking for revenge against the Betties after a regular season loss. (Photography by Greg Russell)

Smoke City Betties 86 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 166.

Some teams just know how to win. They’ve done it so long, the know what it takes, and they know how to bring it when the situation calls for something a little extra special. After this weekend’s dominant performance, there can be no question left about what kind of team the Gore-Gore Rollergirls are. Coming off of their worst ToRD regular season ever (they’d finished atop the standings after all five of the previous regular seasons) and having sustained their largest ever defeat (a 142-point loss to this same Smoke City Betties team), it seemed that the streak of appearing in every championship game in ToRD’s history was in jeopardy. But with an offense led by ToRD’s all-time leading scorer, Bambi (returning from injury), and a pack of fiercely determined blockers clearing the path, the Gores led from start to finish in the semifinal showdown with the Betties and looked like a team renewed as they booked their ticket to the 2012 Battle for the Boot and set up a showdown with their long-time rivals, the defending champion Chicks Ahoy!

Bambi’s performance was not affected by her absence due to injury.

Facing adversity all season and feeling the strain of injuries and mid-season retirements, the Gores limped into the post season (actually only qualifying after a very close plus/minus tiebreaker with the Dolls). With an offence run by committee, the Gores could not get any momentum in their season closer. With Bambi returning from the first major injury layoff of her career, the Gores offense got going early. A 3-0 jam by co-captain and regular pivot Lady Gagya got things started, but on the second jam disaster struck for the Betties. With Bambi skating her first jam since May, the Gores were rewarded with a power jam and the Betties paid dearly. A remarkable 34 points later, and the Betties found themselves floundering in a 37-0 deficit only three minutes in.

Despite strong individual efforts from the likes of Renny Rumble and Platinum Bomb, the Betties couldn’t sustain momentum.

That power jam would prove to be the difference maker in the first half: at the halfway point, the lead remained similar, 54-11. Early penalty woes both in the pack and with their jammers had the Betties scrambling in a way that they hadn’t done all season. Indeed, this was truly the first setback in what has been a banner season for the skaters in black and blue. After two years of rebuilding, it seemed that this was finally the year the Betties would claw their way back to the top. After promising performances against the Death Track Dolls and the Chicks Ahoy! and culminating in their lopsided victory over the Gores (not to mention a quarterfinal appearance at the Beast of the East) it had been a season of steady progression. Led by a core of skaters having breakout seasons (the finally healthy titmouse and rookie Slaptrick Swayze jamming; Sin D Drop-her and Platinum Bomb in the pack), the Betties seemed poised to make their first appearance in the championship since 2009. Down 86-40 at the half, the Betties were certainly still within reach, but the Gores seemed to be gaining confidence by the jam.

Once again the Gores found offense from many different sources, including Santa Muerta, while the Betties stuck to a tighter rotation that included BruiseBerry Pie.

The Gores received standout performances from some usual suspects. With jammer corps depleted, it was Lady Gagya, Santa Muerte , Chronic and Kandy Barr who did double duty to support Bambi (D-VAS call up Getcha Kicks also got her skates wet in her first ever on-track action in ToRD). While Lady Gagya’s phenomenal footwork makes her a natural fit to jam, Santa Muerte’s tireless determination helped her have her best ever game with the star. But since the Betties had a jammer core at least equal to the Gores on this night, the difference was in the pack; and where they Betties had been tight and consistent during the regular season, they were stretched and penalty prone in this one.  Chronic had another fantastic bout in the pack, and Foxy Sinatra added another top-notch bout to what has been, arguably, the best season of the long-time veteran’s career. It was this relentless attack and punishing defence that allowed the Gores to increase their stranglehold to 123-53 at the halfway mark of the second half.

Renny Rumble continued her breakout rookie season.

But despite the loss, the Betties had standouts as well. titmouse capped  a remarkable season with another consistent performance with the star, while BruiseBerry Pie continues to develop into one of the true superstars of the league (and had the possible highlight of the night late in the game on an apex-jumping steal of four points). Rookie of the year candidate Renny Rumble had another strong performance as well showing extraordinary track sense and impeccable one-on-one positional blocking. Renny diversified her game tonight as well, entering the jammer rotation (a position she has experience playing, though not for the Betties). Regardless of the strong individual performances, they seemed overwhelmed on this stage (falling behind by 100 points at one point late in the half) and were never able to claw their way back in the 166-86 loss.

The Dolls had a strong finish to what was a somewhat disappointing season.

***In the first half of the double header, The Death Track Dolls closed out what by all accounts was a disappointing season with a massive 282-102 victory over the shorthanded Queen City champions the Nickel City Knockouts (out of Buffalo). It was an emotional game for the last-place Dolls, who will see the retirement or loss of some key skaters in the off season including long-time Doll Lucid Lou and the last original Doll, Jubilee. They cruised from start to finish, leading by whopping 163-18 at half on the back of some super-strong defence and steady jamming. It was an inspiring victory for the team, a big confidence builder heading into the off season.

*** The Battle for the Boot 6 (Toronto Roller Derby’s 2012 championship game) will go on September 22nd. Three-time champs The Gore-Gore Rollergirls with try to unseat the defending champion  Chicks Ahoy!. Tickets are available online in select retail locations.

Battle for the Boot 5: A preview of ToRD’s 2011 Championship

This will be the fourth time in five years these two teams battle for the boot.

#2Chicks Ahoy! vs. #1 Gore-Gore Rollergirls

It is the defining rivalry of ToRD’s early history. They are the only two teams to earn the coveted Boot as league champions, and when the Chicks Ahoy! face off against the defending champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls on Saturday for the second year in a row and the fourth time in five years, the most compelling chapter may be written. The Gores are on a remarkable 12-bout winning streak dating back to the 2008 championship when the Chicks defeated them in what many consider to be the most exciting Battle for the Boot ever (114-97 was the final). Last year these two teams collided again, with the Gores earning some measure of revenge. Year in and year out the Chicks and Gores have shown a remarkable consistency and poise, and this year has been no different. Best ever performances at the Beast of the East (2nd and 4th place) and dominant regular-season victories for both teams over the Death Track Dolls and Smoke City Betties proved that these two squads are undeniably at the top of their games.

Given the exposure of these two teams over the years, some common misconceptions and expectations have arisen. But any attempt to pigeonhole them is a dangerous act as they have both proven adaptable and creative throughout the season.

MISCONCEPTIONS EXPLORED

Chicks Ahoy! led the league in scoring with 408 points in the regular season. (photo by Sean Murphy)

Chicks Ahoy!
1) Only a Defensive Juggernaut.

The big-hitting fast-skating tactics that defined the early years of the Chicks’ existence have certainly evolved over the years, and the 2011 Chicks Ahoy! may be the most well-rounded yet. To overlook the offensive power of this team would be a great folly. Anchored by a stable of smart veteran pivots (Rebel Rock-It, Nasher the Smasher, Mega Bouche and Tara Part), the girls in green have developed the most explosive jammer threesome in the league. Long-time Chick Candy Crossbones leads the way in what has been a career season for her, while rookie Kookie Doe has done the rare feat of being a reliable and successful rookie jammer. And after spending most of  last season nursing injuries and pondering her role in the league, Dyna Hurtcha has emerged in 2011 as one of ToRD’s best and most feared jammers. What it amounts to is an extraordinary offense that was the only team to top 400 points scored in the regular season (408), while their 194 points against the Dolls in the season-closer was the highest score recorded by a team this year.

Despite the retirement of seven players, the Chicks still boast an experienced lineup. (photo by Sean Murphy)

2) Don’t have enough experience to win.

After reaching the final and falling in a one-sided loss, seven key member of last year’s team retired in the offseason meaning that the 2011 Chicks would have the biggest rookie corps ever. But even with those seven losses, the Chicks roster a remarkably experienced crew. Aside from the aforementioned players, the likes of Dolly Destructo, Hoff, Furious Georgia, G-Force, Hum Dinger and Robber Blind round out a pack with an impressive amount of experience, all of whom have at least one appearance in ToRD’s championship game. And despite being only in her second-year, Marmighty works the pack like a wily veteran and has been a dominant force on the track all season.

3) The Chicks can’t defeat the Gores.

The Chicks led for much of the first half of this year’s regular season showdown, and were in it for a lot of the second as well, but just couldn’t hold it together down the stretch and seemed to take their foot off the gas as the Gores roared ahead late to take the bout 132-83. But what that first half proved, was that at their best, this Chicks team can compete with and even get the better of the Gores. On top of that, a lot has happened since that April bout and the Chicks have matured as the season went on and this year’s rookie group (led by Kookie Doe and Bala Reina) has emerged as a reliable support group, but more importantly they provide an excited, wide-eyed energy and appreciation for the moment that the team so desperately lacked last year.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

The Gores only gave up 185 points during ToRD's regular season. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

1) Only an offensive machine

While it’s true that the early Gores were clearly (and perhaps even unfairly) defined by their extraordinary 1-2-3 jammer rotation, the retirement of Lunchbox after last year’s championship victory forced the team to do some recalibrating, and much to the chagrin of the league, their  adjustment proved successful. With the lowest points against in the league (185 in the regular season), the team also put together some of the top defensive performances of the season, holding both the Dolls and Betties under 60 points (and the offensively powerful Chicks to a comparatively low 83). Led by a core of smart, positionally sound veteran pivots and blockers (Brim Stone, Molly Boom, Lady GagYa, Junkie Jenny, Kandy Barr and Foxy Sinatra), this defensive excellence actually began at last year’s Battle for the Boot when a rookie blocking crew of Aston Martini, Santa Muerte and Chronic were a key part of one of the most dominant defensive performances in ToRD’s history as they held an overmatched Chicks team to an all-time low of 31 points.

The Gores are looking for the first three-peat in ToRD history. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

2) Don’t have depth at jammer with loss of Lunchbox

With the Chicks putting together a solid jammer lineup, the Gores have had to contend with the loss of one of their greatest skaters, Lunchbox. But the team has responded well sending the agile Brim Stone to the jam line for the most times in her career (she recorded a JQ of 19 on the strength of a 58% lead percentage that was good enough for fourth in the league) while second-year skater Pinky Violence and 2011 rookie Lulu Cthulhu have both served apprenticeships this year. But when it all comes down to it (as it did in the regular season match up between these two teams) the scrappy Dust Bunny and the speedy Bambi (the only two players to ever lead the league in JQ Ratings) are experienced and reliable enough to take on the bulk of the work themselves. And for a two-jammer rotation, that’s pretty intimidating.

3) Resting on the laurels of their dynasty

Although they have admittedly taken a more relaxed approach to the game this season, the Gores are not a team that is resting on past successes. They train hard, plan extensively and have put together the most varied play-book in the league. And as they showed in last year’s thoroughly dominant performance in the championship, they know how to step it up for the big game. Featuring some of the hardest working skaters in the league and a handful of CN Power all stars, this is not a team that is going to sit back and expect success.

EXPECTATIONS
Their lone regular-season match up in April provided some of the most exciting derby played at the Hangar this year, and while the Gores have held the course since then, the Chicks seem to have only gotten stronger. The Chicks may have collapsed in last year’s final, but this year’s edition of the team seems to have a much stronger constitution. Expect them to come out flying, playing simple, pace-control derby. And, of course, one should never expect anything less than the best from the defending champions. Gores and Chicks battling for the boot: it’s almost a tradition now.

**Tickets are available online or at numerous retailers downtown. Doors open at 6:30 PM, with opening whistle at 7:30 PM.

**The bout will be broadcast by Rogers TV. Keep an eye out for dates and times.