Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Betties Dominate and Gores knock off the Champs in ToRD 2015 Season Opener

The Dolls and Gores met in a rematch of the 2014 Battle for the Boot to kick off ToRD's 9th season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls and Gores met in a rematch of the 2014 Battle for the Boot to kick off ToRD’s 9th season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its ninth season on Saturday night at the Bunker in Downsview Park, the fourth and final season that this venue will be ToRD’s home. There was a packed house and a lot of anticipation as the double header featured a rematch of last year’s thrilling Battle for the Boot championship and also last season’s closest game, a twenty-pointer between the Chicks Ahoy! and the Smoke City Betties. And while the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Death Track Dolls delivered, the Chicks looked overwhelmed at times against a Betties team that seems primed for a championship push this season.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 151 vs. Death Track Dolls 146

The Dolls and Gores bout was one of the closest games in ToRD history, with just five points separating the teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls and Gores bout was one of the closest games in ToRD history, with just five points separating the teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In what was the closest regular season game since a Dolls 15-point win over the Betties in 2012 (which was, coincidentally, also the last season that the Gores scored a victory over them), the Gore-Gore Rollergirls managed some measure of revenge in a rematch of last year’s ToRD championship, a 45-point win for the Dolls, with an incredible 5-point victory to kick off the 2015 season in a game that featured either a tied score or a lead change eight times.

Since narrowly missing out on the playoffs in 2012, the Dolls have been tearing up ToRD. Riding an eight-game winning streak since that time, for the second year in a row the Dolls’ roster was gutted after winning the Boot. As many did last year, it could have been easy to write off the Dolls in ’15, but they showed on Saturday that they have once again successfully rebuilt and will be in contention.

However, it was the steely nerves of the Gores who repelled counter-attack after counter-attack and held strong at the end to secure a game that they led for most of the way. Anchored by a solid core of veterans that included triple-threat Santa Muerte and returning pivot Jill ‘Em All (AKA Lady Gagya to fans of CN Power), the Gores’ offense was paced by veterans Lexi Con (the league’s 2013 leading scorer), Taranosaurus Rex, Beaver Mansbridge, and Murdercat, a former D-VAS and Durham Region skater who actually was called up from the farm team for the Gores last season.

The Dolls, one the other hand, were working with a largely rebuilt jammer rotation. For the second season in a row, the team lost its leading scorer (Bellefast this time) to CN Power, meaning that leadership fell to second year Dolls Devochka and Sleeper Hold. But the team also debuted a couple new jammers (PrEditor and Common Dominator) who, for the most part, held their own against a deep Gores defense, and returning CN Power skater Scarcasm also donned the star in this game.

The Dolls actually picked up two of the three opening lead jam statuses to hold narrow 7-5 lead five minutes in. Led by some fine pack work from Jill ‘Em All, the Gores took their first lead only a minute later. At the midway point of the opening half a T-Rex skated power jam saw the Gores build the biggest lead of the game, 37-14.

But the Dolls responded with a power jam of their own, a 17-point pick up for the rookie PrEditor led to a Dolls comeback that saw them narrowly retake the lead, 40-37, with ten to go. The Gores roared back once again and threatened to pull away before a nice defensive jam from Dolls’ jammer Scarcasm saw her feed lead jammer Beaver back into the pack to force a call off. Nonetheless, as they would all night, the Gores looked to their veteran captain Santa Muerte when they were in a rut and she picked up five points to snap the deadlock and give the Gores the narrow lead at half, 51-47.

The second half was essentially a mirror image of the first, with neither team able to gain much ground. Tied at 55 five minutes in. The Gores did threaten to pull away, led by increasingly strong play from transfer Stabbey Road, when they received back-to-back power jams (19 points on the first) but a strong defensive stand on the power kill from Robotomy, Scar and Dawson limited the damage and opened up the opportunity for yet another Dolls comeback.

Holding on to a 19-point lead with only minutes left in the game, it seemed as if the Gores finally had it all wrapped up, but a dominant defensive performance from Dawson and Sleeper Hold on Lexi Con (and some timely offense from Scarcasm) saw PrEditor once again notch a massive 14-point pick up to pull within 5. However, the effort saw all three previously mentioned Dolls’ blockers head to the box for the final jam and despite a strong one-woman effort from Robotomy, the veteran Gores pack of Beaver Mansbridge, Purple Pain and Moose Knuckles locked it down allowing Santa Muerte to slip through, pick up lead and call it off for the 151-146 win.

Chicks Ahoy! 117 vs. Smoke City Betties 238

Betties' transfer Smoke Cola had a strong game for the Betties. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Recent transfer Smoke Cola had a strong game for the Betties. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The second game of the evening lacked the excitement of the first, but provided a solid look at two largely rebuilt rosters, including a Betties team that is arguably the best they have had in years, and perhaps even since their run to the 2009 Battle for the Boot. While the Chicks seem to have all the pieces in place, it looks as if it will take some time for them to gel.

It’s debatable whether or not the Betties won last year’s entry draft, but it certainly seemed so on Saturday as their rostered “rookies” (all transfers) looked immediately comfortable on the track with their new team. That comfort led the Betties to an explosive 15-3 lead just four minutes into the game; however, the Chicks roared back immediately and the next ten minutes were a power struggle as each team attempted to take control with the Chicks briefly taking the lead 35-33 at the twelve-minute mark. It took the Betties another five minutes to tie it up, but then a power jam with twelve minutes to go in the half, blew the game wide open and gave the Betties a lead they would never lose.
The Betties, who finished last in 2014 and missed the playoffs, return with their jammer rotation largely in tact (WackedHer, Wolverina, and Kil’Her At Large), but the single addition to the offense proved a game-changer in the opener. Smoke Cola, a transfer from Alliston’s Misfit Militia (and a rookie on CN Power this year as well), was phenomenal from the opening whistle for the Betties, and she seems to be taking the place of veteran titmouse in the rotation, who wore the pivot stripe in this one and looked good in the role.

Similarly, the Chicks also retained much of their jammer rotation (R2 Smack U, Biggley Smallz, and Wheels of Misfortune—though Wheels and R2 have been given much more responsibility this season) and have added one Alliston transfer to the mix in Monster Muffin. Things started to unravel for the Chicks in the final ten minutes of the half as four power jams allowed the Betties to lock things down (the one power jam that the Chicks managed during that stretch was essentially negated by a strong penalty kill from veterans Honey Boom Boom, Tushy Galore, Mazel Tough, and LowBlow Palooza). By half, the Betties were in clear control, holding a substantial 133-64 lead at the break.

While the Betties veterans and returning skaters were key (Sew What?, now exclusively in the pack, was excellent, while Jammer’head Shark has emerged as a real on-track leader for the team), along with Smoke Cola, some of the other new skaters stepped up as well. Local transfer Brickhouse Bardot was a big physical presence in the pack, while New Zealand transfer Isla B. Damned look positionally steady from the opening whistle.

On the other side of the track, the Chicks looked much looser in the pack than their counterparts, but are nonetheless loaded with talent. Rosemary’s Rabies continues to be a critical pivot while Heavy Knitter, who jammed quite a bit in 2014, seems much better suited and comfortable in the pack with the pivot stripe, and Emraged continues to become a potentially dominant pack force in the league, add to that the steady presence of un-retired veteran Hoff and scrappy play from Joss Wheelin’, and the Chicks do seem to have the skill and should improve as the season progresses.

While the Chicks did manage to hold the Betties to slightly less points in the second half (primarily through more disciplined play leading to less power jams), they couldn’t muster much more offense and the Betties were able to hold on for the dominant 238-117 win.

Nerd Glasses

*** You can watch layer9’s track side footage of the games here.

***All four teams will be back in action in two weeks (on the 31st), with the Dolls taking on the Chicks and the Gores meeting the Betties in an early battle for top spot in the standings. Tickets are already available. Find more information here.

***CTV was on hand to cover the season opener and their coverage was built around ToRD’s search for a new home. You can watch the coverage here.

Neil Gunner’s Into Battle to Launch at ToRD’s 2015 Season Opener

“I definitely had it in my mind to represent the full derby experience as much as possible.”—Neil Gunner on preparing to publish Into Battle, his book of roller derby photography that will be available this weekend at ToRD’s 2015 Season Opener.

"If I'm having to use my teammates to try to claw my way through, it's probably because I'm under heavy attack. That's how it feels when you're playing against Windy City." - Minnesota's Juke Boxx (now with London) on facing  Windy City in the final of the 2012 WFTDA North Central Regional Championship.

“If I’m having to use my teammates to try to claw my way through, it’s probably because I’m under heavy attack. That’s how it feels when you’re playing against Windy City.” – Minnesota’s Juke Boxx (now with London) on facing Windy City in the final of the 2012 WFTDA North Central Regional Championship.

Into Battle: The Roller Derby Experience in Photos and Interviews is a coffee-table sized sports photography book, but it’s not your typical sports book, nor is it your typical book of photographs. And those are both good things.

The book is not simply a collection of the author’s best or favourite photographs; it is instead curated thematically, divided into 27 sections that mimic the narrative of a roller derby event, from pre-game talks to stretching and gearing up, right through to the elation of post-game celebrations.

Beautifully and meticulously put together from the inside covers right through to the subtle background images of the text (ghostly shots of the floor the Bunker, home of Toronto Roller Derby), perhaps the most astonishing thing about the book is that it was self-published by the photographer himself, Neil Gunner. And everything from the vision to the actualization was all his doing.

“My main motivation was that I wanted full creative control, from art direction and layout to treatment of photos and skater stories to physical specs for the book,” Gunner explained in a recent interview. “I didn’t trust that some mass-market publisher would do justice to roller derby the way someone within our community would.”

So despite interest from an American publisher, Neil set out on his own with little more than his large collection of personal photos representing a number of events (from house league matchups to the WFTDA playoffs) and 19 distinct leagues from throughout Canada and the United States, and only a slowly evolving vision for the book.

“When I started the process, I had no idea if it was even going to work,” he admits now, “It all depended on the skaters – if they were willing to share, we were in business. Thankfully, the vast majority were very open and engaging; once I’d done a couple of interviews, I knew I was on to something.”

Interestingly, the book emerged out of a somewhat constructed collaboration that went beyond the natural game-time collaboration between photographer and subject. Instead of simply organizing the photographs into thematic sections, Gunner also made the fascinating choice of interviewing the subjects of the photos and using those words to accompany the photos as opposed to his own descriptions; this was one of the ideas that preceded the publishing of the text and ended up inadvertently shaping the content as well.

“When I started, I didn’t immediately think ‘chapters’; I wasn’t even sure what the theme would be… As I started to complete interviews and create transcripts, I could see themes and patterns emerging; it was just a matter of putting those patterns together. Over several weeks, the patterns became categories, which became sections and then chapters, right down to individual page spreads…The photo and story I chose for the introduction—where Arch Rival’s High Pains Drifter (Bench Coach) and Downtown Dallis are having their heart to heart—when I put those stories together, I thought, ‘This is it. This represents the whole derby attitude.’ It set the tone for the entire book.”

"I was just thinking  to myself, desperately like, 'Grab Acid's hand and take that whip.'" - Ohio's Smacktivist on a 2012 playoff showdown with Naptown.

“I was just thinking to myself, desperately like, ‘Grab Acid’s hand and take that whip.'” – Ohio’s Smacktivist on a 2012 playoff showdown with Naptown.

Neil Gunner (whose derby photography can be found on his Flickr site) is unique in one way from most derby photographers: He is very selective about what photos he releases to the public after a bout or tournament, sometimes to the point where a double header, for example, will produce as little as twenty pictures; so even in his regular derby photography, he is building a narrative and it’s something that he is conscious about: “One thing you’ll notice when you look at my derby photography in general: I like to curate and I like to tell a story, if I can. Sort of a dramatic documentary. The one thing I knew from the start was that this (book) couldn’t be just a bunch of photos with no context – I mean, who’d care, right?”

This structural decision makes for a surprisingly engaging read. As with any book of photos, it’s entirely possible to open randomly and be impressed by the pics and the layout, but rare in photography books is the ability to read it from start to finish as you would a novel or even a game recap.

But collecting and selecting the images and doing the interviews—while undeniably a massive undertaking—is just the first step in the production of a book; beyond that, the actual production can take as much time or more and can offer immense challenges, particularly from someone self-publishing a book for the first time. As Gunner admits, it required a lot of patience and the willingness to learn on the fly: “Every step of the process presented a unique set of challenges. The ones I didn’t see coming all had to do with production. For instance, I taught myself InDesign in order to build the book layouts. I learned all about retouching to fix a couple things within some photos.”

But the biggest challenge, he explains, was the actual preparation of the images for printing: “Photos intended for paper and a multi-million dollar printing press require a different output format than photos intended for a computer screen (CMYK versus RGB for those interested). The conversion process isn’t hard, but the trick is maintaining image quality: images reproduced on paper often lose something. I did a lot of testing, and this is one reason why finding the right printer is so important.” He ended up choosing a printer from Manitoba, and along with printing, they were able to offer advice as well.

As you learn through talking with people who have self-published, finding and receiving help along the way is key in the production. The term “self-publishing” itself is a bit of a misnomer, especially when producing a book as technically and structurally challenging as this one. All the steps a “traditional” publisher would take still need to be taken, and Gunner made sure to seek out help where needed, which included hiring a print production management team, Heidy Lawrance Associates, who ended up putting him in touch with the Manitoba-based printer and gave advice about aspects such as layout.

And that help extends into post production where he hired a copy/substantive editor, Stephanie Halldorson from h:editing, as well as a proofreader, Tan Light. “Believe me,” Gunner is quick to point out, “the book was very much improved by their attention.”

But when it all comes down to it, the stars of the book are the photos themselves and the subjects they contain. And the years of shooting roller derby have given Neil a refined eye for the sport and the action it contains.

There is a wide range of levels of derby captured in the book. The opening two-page spread of the “Teamwork” section (pp.76-77), for example, provides one image of a farm-team level game in Toronto opposite an image of a WFTDA elimination playoff game between Ohio and Naptown; despite the disparity in the levels of the game, the subject matter (two blockers attempting to whip their jammers past quickly advancing defenses) and the captured intensity are equal and presented as such.

"It was a messy, messy couple of seconds." - Windy City's Killanois on this encounter with a Montreal pack.

“It was a messy, messy couple of seconds.” – Windy City’s Killanois on this encounter with a Montreal pack.

The set-up also allows for narratives to be told over two pages. One example appears in the “Contact” section where a sequence (pp. 46-47) showing the knocking down of a jammer (Windy City’s Killinois) by a couple of Montreal blockers is described over both pages, with the narrative of the blocker (Montreal’s Mel-E. Juana is the interviewed blocker) and the jammer accompanying the images. Similarly, a three-photo spread (pp. 160-161) in the “Tenacity” section shows an ongoing battle between a blocker (Forest City’s Mirambo) and jammer (Toronto Roller Derby’s Bala Reina). It’s a compelling style, and one of the reasons that makes this book of photography so “readable.”

In the end, what Gunner has managed to produce is as compelling a book about roller derby as the contemporary revival has seen. Add to that the fact that as a DIY project, it was a labour of love in line with the cultural aesthetic of contemporary roller derby, and you have a book that successfully captures a community.

While talking with Neil about the book, you get a sense that despite the effort, he enjoyed making it as much as we’ve enjoyed reading it. “You really have to enjoy the process. It’s a huge amount of sustained effort; several phases were a full-time job. So you’ve got to have fun along the way or you’ll never get through it. Which is why I’m eternally grateful to every skater who agreed to do an interview over a beer.”

When asked if self-publishing was the right decision, he doesn’t hesitate, “it was absolutely the right decision.”

ToRD 2015 Season Opener BannerInto Battle will be available at Toronto Roller Derby’s 2015 season opener, a double header featuring a rematch of the 2014 Battle for the Boot (Death Track Dolls vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls) and Chicks Ahoy! vs. Smoke City Betties. Neil Gunner and others who appear in the book will also be available to sign autographs.

Tickets are now available.

ToRD’s 2015 Entry Draft Defined by Experience; Features First Junior Grad

“I feel like Beyonce herself parted the seas and said ‘let there be joy.'” 2015 Chicks Ahoy draftee Vag Lightning on being selected by the team in the entry draft.

ToRD BannerThis was yet another big draft for  Toronto Roller Derby bringing in a total of 24 new skaters to the home teams (plus three skaters either returning from a hiatus or who will also skate for CN Power), with the defending champion Death Track Dolls  pulling in the largest numbers of skaters for the second year in a row, with eight new skaters added to the roster. Once again there was a great number of home grown D-VAS in the draft, mixed with some very impressive transfers.

While this year’s transfers may not come from locales quite as diverse as those in last year’s draft, the usual local transfers from the Rollergettes, the GTA Rollergirls, and DRRD (Durham Region Roller Derby) were also joined by skaters from Alliston (both Misfit Militia and Renegade Derby Dames) and one transfer all the way from New Zealand.

Smoke City Betties Logo

Smoke City Betties

Ann Bulance

Brickhouse Bardot

Fight of the Conchords

Isla B Damned

Juggernaut J

Smoka Cola

Experience is the word that defines the Smoke City Betties’ 2015 draft picks. Coming off of a disappointing 2014 that saw them slip to the bottom of the standings and miss the playoffs, the Betties ended up selecting one of the most experienced set of draftees ever, all of whom are capable of having an immediate impact on the team.

Even the two homegrown skaters, Juggernaut J and Fight of the Conchords come with considerable track experience. Juggernaut was co-captain of this year’s D-VAS and one of its most consistent blockers, while Fight has the distinct honour of being the first TJRD graduate drafted by ToRD. Moving from Saskatoon where she began as a junior, she was surprised that in TJRD’s four years, they had yet to graduate a skater. While she says she feels some pressure, she’s also confident that she is ready:  “Junior derby really gave me the fundamental skills to do what I do,” she said in the excitement of the moment. “I’m stoked to be part of this team and excited to be a part of ToRD.”

The Betties’ other five picks are all transfers with varying levels of experience. Isla B Damned comes all the way from New Zealand’s Richter City Roller Derby, Smoka Cola is a product of the highly competitive Misfit Militia out of Alliston, and Ann Bulance and Brickhouse Bardot are familiar to any fans of roller derby in the city, having most recently played for the Rollergettes. “There was a vibe; the universe was telling me I was going to be in black and blue,” said Ann who was not surprised to be picked by the Betties. “Heavy hitting and alt jamming,” Brickhouse said in response to what both she and Ann bring to the team. Both see this transfer to ToRD as the logical next step in their derby careers.

Chicks Ahoy! logo

Chicks Ahoy!

Annguard

Goreschach

Holly Mackinaw

Kimikaze

Monster Muffin

Slamureye

Vag Lightning

The Chicks Ahoy! had a bounce back season this year, returning to the playoffs after a year-long absence and looking much improved in every aspect of the game. They had a fairly substantial turn over this year, but picked players with a lot of depth of experience whether home grown or otherwise.

Annguard, Goreschach, Kimikaze and Vag Lightning were all core members of the 2014 D-VAS, while Slamureye, a 2013 transfer from Durham Region Roller Derby also payed some key minutes for the farm team. Holly Mackinaw is another more local transfer (Rollergettes) while the very experienced Monster Muffin brings vast experience and talent to the team (in particular to the Chicks’ now depleted jammer rotation) from her time with Alliston’s Renegade Derby Dames.

Vag lightning’s only comment on being drafted to the team summed up the positive energy around the draft party and the feeling of exhilaration of the draftees: “I feel like Beyonce herself parted the seas and said ‘let there be joy.'”

Gore-Gore Rollergirls logo

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Extermi-knitter

Knocker Mom

Lady Gag-Ya

Murdercat

Stabbey Road

Tara Fying

After a roar-back season that saw them win the Beast of the East and climb back to the Battle for the Boot (for a record-setting seventh time). Things look solid for the skaters in leopard print moving forward, and despite their draft position, managed to stack the roster with a wide range of skaters, led by the return of long-time vet, the smooth-skating Lady Gag-Ya, who brings years of travel team experience back to her Gores. Similarly, Extermi-knitter and Murdercat both have a lot of track experience from their time in Durham Region Roller Derby (and elsewhere for Knitter). “I really liked their defensive game this season,” said Extermi-knitter who also has experience jamming. “The Gores have some amazing jammers…I’m more useful as a blocker and I like blocking a bit more,” she said. Her leaguemate Murdercat could immediately enter into the rotation, adding to that already existent depth.

Stabbey Road (who began skating with the GTA Rollergirls before transferring to ToRD), Tara Fying and Knocker Mom are homegrown talent who will help fill out a pack that was at times terrifying to play against last season.

death track dolls logo

The Death Track Dolls

April Cruel

Common Dominator

Elle Capwn

Goldie Lock N Load

Lace Frehley

PrEditor

Scarcasm

UpHer Cut

For the second year in a row the Death Track Dolls won the Boot, but yet again also have to deal with a massive roster turnaround (having eight open spaces for the second year in a row). The Dolls made it work in 2014 because they drafted wisely and they drafted for depth. And they just may have pulled it off again this year.

The new Dolls are lead by two returning skaters who were key pieces of the 2013 championship team: UpHer Cut (who returns after a year-long hiatus from the game), and Scarcasm (who will do double duty with CN Power this year). But there is experience also in returning veteran skater Goldie Lock N Load (who returns to ToRD for the first time since 2009 when she played two seasons for the Smoke City Betties). She’s been busy for those five years in between refereeing, doing a little announcing, and, of course, running the Rollergettes.

Speaking of refereeing; two of Dolls’ picks, April Cruel and Lace Frehley, both got their starts in roller derby as zebra-print enforcers so will bring a strong knowledge of the game to the defending champs. Finally, Common Dominator, PrEditor and Elle Capwn (who was actually a injury-call-up for the Dolls this season) round out the homegrown talent in the draft.

**Keep your eyes on Toronto Roller Derby.com for updates on what promises to be an incredible 2015 season!

Steady Dolls Hold off Relentless Gores to Retain ToRD Title

The Dolls defended the Boot in a tight, scrappy bout against the Gores, while the Betties closed out a challenging season with a big win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ Striking Vikings.

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There was an old-school vibe at the Bunker on Saturday night: a lively crowd, active mascots, and rising beeramids lined the track, while tutus and face-paint made their way back onto it, but the game itself was new-school flat track roller derby at its frenetic best. It was one of those fine balances unique to the sport; a dichotomy that only roller derby at its best is able to pull off. Fueled by this richness of narrative, the dueling opponents  rose up to meet expectations and delivered. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, it was the Death Track Dolls who survived the duel, able to hold off the three-time champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls 184-139 to take home their second straight Toronto Roller Derby championship.

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Coming off of a record-setting season capped by a record-setting Battle for the Boot mauling against the Betties in 2013, the defending-champion Dolls, rebuilt and not as fine-tuned or weapon-stacked as they were last year, relied on a different sort of chemistry to make it work in 2014. It was a challenge that could have understandably felled a lot of teams, but the combination of trust and positivity that fueled the 2014 Dolls was evident from the opening whistle of the 2014 Battle for the Boot.

Not to discredit the Gores, who themselves were dealing with a largely rebuilt roster and had to find a way to fuse multiple-generations of skaters into a cohesive unit. They succeeded, and rebounded in 2014 from their worst season ever in 2013 to return to their seventh championship game and, of course, in April became the first team from Toronto to win Montreal’s Beast of the East. And despite a near 100-point loss to them earlier this season, in this game they gave the Dolls all that they could handle.

Dolls' jammer Bellefast and Gores' Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Dolls’ jammer Bellefast and Gores’ Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The league’s leading scorer Bellefast got things started on the jam line for the Dolls, and it was clockwork for the defending champs as they lept out to a quick 4-0 lead. But the Gores roared back showing some offensive savvy in ringing off five straight lead jammer statuses (and seven of the first ten), but could manage only 9 points on the run to hold a slim 9-4 lead, a testament to the Dolls’ stifling defense and quick offense-defense transitions to free jammers and make sure any damage was limited. Early on the Gores were able to contain Dolls’ first-year jammers Devochka and Sleeper Hold, but had virtually no answer for veteran Bellefast.

Belle managed the third highest regular season lead percentage in ToRD history this year (77%) and kept the Dolls in the championship game early on as they got their offensive blocking going. She scored the first 25 points for the Dolls and had 67 at half on a 78% lead percentage in a dominating performance¹. While Devochka eventually managed to start putting up points midway through the first, it would take Sleeper seven jams to pick up lead and get on the board. Once the pack settled in though, all three jammers eventually got going (for example, Sleeper put up 16 points in the second half on 60% lead percentage, while Devo would finish the game with 49 points on 53%).

Gores' Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls' jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Gores’ Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls’ jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

The game was incredibly tight early on, with the Dolls slipping ahead 33-25 at the midway point in the first period, and the game’s true highlight was the duel going on the pack. Skater for skater, the Gores arguably had the deeper pack, led by veterans Santa Muerte, Chronic, Gamma Rei, Emma Dilemma and the retiring league founder Kandy Barr, and the Gores did win many one-on-one battles, but as the game went on the Dolls’ walls tightened and what the team lacked in individual brilliance, they made up for in collective unity.

Mirroring the Gores’ opening run, the Dolls steered the game into half picking up eight of the final ten lead jammers and building the game’s largest lead—30 points—up 95-65 at the break.

It wasn’t that the Gores’ jammers weren’t having strong games: they were; it was just that they so rarely had an opportunity to make a pass without a Dolls jammer hot on their tails. Both Lexi Con and Lumberjack Flash finished the game with impressive lead percentages, 71% and 60% respectively, and Beaver Mansbridge made the most of her leads putting up 25 points on a 38% lead percentage (Taranosaurus Rex would have a similar high points-per-lead ratio, managing 18 points on only a 20%).

Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores' jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Dolls’ blockers Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores’ jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

While the Dolls played with a hive-mind sensibility, they were anchored by strong performances from their key skaters and veterans. After a number of retirements and CN Power call ups last season there was a big on-track leadership void in the pack and long-time Doll Dawson stepped up in a big way this season, and was at her best in the championship game, anchoring a line alongside veteran co-captain Getcha Kicks and retiring long-time Doll Audrey Hellborn (who joined the jammer rotation late in the game and picked up, fittingly, the final lead of the half to close out the win).

Meanwhile the same sort of pressure was heaped on second-year skaters Android W.K. and Robotmy who were tasked with anchoring the other half of the pack and did well to live up to the challenge, aided in part by the presence of and ever-improving Hannibelle and another long-time Doll Slam Wow. Finally, yet another retiring league founder, Demolition Dawn, provided the foundational and emotional stability that was key to this team’s year-long success. And the Dolls needed this veteran poise in the second half as the Gores poured on wave after wave of energetic pushbacks, managing to get as close as 19 points after a 20-point Lexi Con jammed power jam midway through the half (Lexi managed to pick up lead on her first six jams of the second half in a fantastic, clutch performance).

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores too have a solid young core to build around. Full Deck is emerging as a strong pivot and potential triple-threat, while both Moose Knuckles and Viktory Lapp saved their best for the when it mattered most this season, showing that they can be called upon in big-game situations. There is a ton of depth on the Gores roster as well, from veterans Miss Kitty La Peur and Purple Pain to newcomers like Machu Beatchu and Guardian Paingel (who were both absent with injury).

Prior to the game, sixteen retiring skaters were singled out for their contributions to the league. It was a humbling list including many first-generation ToRD skaters including Betty Bomber, Candy Crossbones, Demolition Dawn, Dusty, Dyna Hurtcha, Hoff, Kandy Barr, and Rebel Rock-It. It leaves a gaping absence in the centre of the organization, but it is one that the league has the infrastructure to fill. As a whole, the league should take notice of the Dolls model of smart drafting: This year’s pick ups in Stringer Belle, Wheatabitch and Free Range Clam were model skaters for the Dolls, making up for any lack of experience by buying into the team model and playing within the established system.

They were integral pieces in the Dolls’ complete-game performance in the final, and the team went toe-to-toe with their opponents during the Gores’ final desperate push where they had the offense going but couldn’t fully shut down the Dolls in a 25-11 run over the final four jams. The Dolls remained focused and held on for the 45-point victory.

Despite the retirements and the feeling of finality to this championship game, ToRD as a whole has a chance to do the same sort of on-the-fly rebuild that the Dolls did, only on a larger scale. With a deep house league entry draft loaded with both homegrown and transfer talent coming up, and an internal development system strongly in place in place from fresh meat all the way up to CN Power, this entertaining and successful eighth championship game should be looked at as much as an augur of a successful future as it was a celebration of a strong history.

"The Boot" Photo by Neil Gunner (neilgunner.com)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

***In the opener, the Smoke City Betties picked up a much-needed win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ travel team, the Striking Vikings, 237-167. After climbing all the way to the 2013 Battle for the Boot, the Betties stumbled this season, finishing last in ToRD and missing the playoffs. They played, arguably, their most complete game on the season on Saturday and beat a tough opponent that featured some talented skaters.

***The 2014 Battle for the Boot will be rebroadcast intermittently on Rogers TV beginning next Saturday. Check listings for air times and dates. Visit layer9.ca for track side video coverage.

¹These stats are all unofficial and will be updated for accuracy if necessary.

Battle for the Boot 8: Dolls vs. Gores

On Saturday night the Dolls and Gores meet in the Battle for the Boot for the first time in history. The defending champ Dolls will try to hold off the three-time champion Gores to successfully defend the Boot.

ToRD_Oct-18-2014-Poster-Ver2_RS_100214Before 2013’s year of Dollmination, the Death Track Dolls had defeated the Gore-Gore Rollergirls only once in the team’s history, a close, controversial decision in 2008. From 2009-2012, the Gores dominated the rivalry and won a few championships along the way, while the Dolls struggled through losing season after losing season. All of that changed in 2013 when an undefeated record and a record-setting Battle for the Boot victory ushered in the Dolls’ era in ToRD.

Despite a slew of retirements and CN Power call-ups after the championship run, that era continued unabated through the early months of this year’s regular season as well. For the second-straight year the Dolls finished atop the regular season standings with a perfect 3-0 record. On top of that, their 652 points was the second most ever scored in a ToRD regular season (just below their own 2013 record-setting clip). The Dolls even dominated the other playoff-bound teams, notching a 100-point win over the Gores and a smothering 272-35 mauling of the Chicks Ahoy!. Everything seemed to be coming up Doll in 2014.

However, you should never count out the Dynasty.

Things started slowly this season for the Gores, but not as direly as you might expect for a supposedly rebuilding team. They managed to wind up second in the regular season standings after knocking off last year’s finalists, the Smoke City Betties, in the last game of the regular season and looked very impressive in dispatching a scrappy Chicks team in the semifinal. But the biggest indicator of how far this Gores team has come may have been their performance at the Beast of the East at the end of spring. It was a thrilling, often grueling run, where they won games they had no right winning, dominated teams they had no right dominating, yet struggled and fought and never gave up on their way to the shocking tournament win. It showed, clearly, the depth of heart on this team; the kinds of intangibles that can win championships.

Read the recap of the ToRD house league regular season double header in March. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Read the recap of the Gores and Dolls regular season meeting, a 172-79 win for the Dolls. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But if the Gores want to win the championship, they will have to contain the Dolls explosive offense; an offense that has put up nearly 1400 points over their last six regular season games. In the teams’ one meeting earlier this year, the Dolls threw everything that had at the Gores, with five different jammers scoring at least 17 points (four of them had at least 24). It is that varied offense that is so dangerous, but look for the Dolls to keep the jammer rotation tight: Bellefast (who led the league with 164 points and a 77% lead percentage); Sleeper Hold (98 and 59%); and Devochka (156 and 59%); with captain Android WK as relief. In the pack, the Dolls may be vulnerable, with some mid-season retirements having eroded their once menacing depth; it will be a comparatively inexperienced pack that goes to the track on Saturday led by veterans Android WK, Getcha Kicks, Audrey Hellborn, and Dawson, but supported by a new generation of skaters led by second-year Doll Robotomy.

But the Gores have come into their own in 2014. In the regular-season meeting between the two teams, Lexi Con was the mos successful Gore jammer against the Dolls defense—but the Gores have a rotation of jammers that has improved as the season has gone on. The Dolls managed to contain Lumberjack Flash in the regular season game, but she has since taken the league by storm, and was second on the Gores in scoring with 24 points in the semifinal win gains the Chicks (Lexi Con tore up the track with 86 points on a 69% lead percentage in that game). Double threat Beaver Mansbridge was also called into considerable action in the semifinal, but with Taranosaurus Rex back from injury, she may be able to slip back into the pack a little more. But despite the developing jammer rotation, the real depth of the Gores is in its pack. Led by veterans Santa Muerte, Chronic, and Kandy Barr, there is an increasingly intimidating bench alongside that core, beginning with veterans Gamma Rei and Miss Kitty La Peur and extending all the way to next-generation Gores like Moose Knuckles and Full Deck.

While both teams are suffering injuries to key pieces (including two up-and-coming blocking stars in Beast MVP Machu Beatchu and first-year Doll Block Quebecois, but extending even further into each roster), don’t expect anything less than a brawl on the track. The Dolls are looking to join the Chicks and the Gores as back-to-back titleists, while the Gores are looking to break a historic tie with the Chicks and win their unprecedented fourth ToRD championship.

Battle for the Boot 2014 by the Numbers

8

This is the 8th Battle for the Boot.

7

The number of times the Gores have battled for the Boot (followed by the Chicks [5], and the Dolls and Betties [2]).

3

The number of ToRD championships the Gores have won (the Chicks have also won 3; the Dolls 1.).

652

The amount of points the Dolls scored during the regular season.

498

The amount of points the Gores scored during the regular season.

187.5

The average point differential the Dolls had in victories against the Chicks and the Betties this season.

64

The average point differential the Gores had in victories against the Chicks and the Betties this season.

93

The amount the Dolls beat the Gores by when they met in March.

1

The number of skaters playing on each team Saturday night who were active during ToRD’s first season (the Dolls’ Demolition Dawn played for the Smoke City Betties, while Kandy Barr is the sole remaining skater from the Gores’ 2007 championship run).

***The championship game will be preceded by an exhibition match featuring the hometown Smoke City Betties hosting the Renegade Derby Dames’ Striking Vikings out of Alliston, Ontario. The Vikings are a WFTDA travel team and should provide a strong challenge to the Betties, who missed the ToRD playoffs in 2014 after Battling for the Boot last season.

***Doors open at 4:00 PM, with opening whistle of game 1 at 5:00 PM. The Battle for the Boot 2014 will begin at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online.

Chicks Gores Set for Semi-Final Showdown. D-VAS host South Simcoe.

After a summer hiatus, Toronto Roller Derby returns with a semi-final showdown between the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Chicks Ahoy! A matchup between ToRD’s D-VAS and South Simcoe will kick off the double header at the Bunker.

2014 ToRD Semi-final PosterThe Gore-Gore Rollergirls (2-1) and Chicks Ahoy! (1-2) share a long playoff history. They competed for back-to-back Boots in ToRD’s first two seasons and met in three-straight finals from 2010-2012. They share the record of three titles, accounting for six of the first seven ToRD championships. But on Saturday at the Bunker, they will write a new, as of yet unprecedented chapter in their significant history: for the first time ever, the Chicks and Gores will face off in the ToRD semi-final.

After reluctantly handing over the reigns of power to their leaguemates the Smoke City Betties and Death Track Dolls (who last year met in the final for the first time), one of either the Chicks or the Gores will have a chance to get back to the top of the ToRD pyramid. Coming into this season, the Chicks took the fall harder than the Gores did, dropping all the way to the bottom of the regular season standings and missing the playoffs for the first time ever in 2013.

2014 has seen both teams surge past the stumbling Betties to get back into the playoffs, but it was the Gores who took out the Chicks in the season opener way back in January with a 218-157 win. The win secured them second place in the regular season standings.

Read the recap of the Gores and Chicks regular season meeting. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Read the recap of the Gores and Chicks regular season meeting. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But it’s hard to tell how relevant those early results are as the league took a summer hiatus after its regular season concluded in early June, leaving the home teams dormant while the travel teams put in some time on the road (and returning to the Bunker a few weeks ago as well). As it were, the Gores surged as the season went on, while the Chicks held steady, eking out a win over the Betties in March before getting completely overwhelmed by the Dolls who managed to hold the Chicks to only 35 points—the team’s lowest point total ever.

However, both teams are also built around comparatively inexperienced players who had also been evolving as the season went on, with a handful from each roster playing for the Bay Street Bruisers as well; with that in mind, there is no telling how far they have come and what kind of impact on the game they could have.

Read the recap of the ToRD house league regular season double header in March. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Read the recap of the ToRD house league regular season double header in March. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks welcomed virtually a completely rebuilt jammer rotation in 2014. Second-year Chicks Chevy Chase-Her and Heavy Knitter provided as much of a veteran presence as possible, but experienced transfers Hyena Koffinkat and Sneaky Dee led the way in scoring with 71 and 147 points respectively. Actually, Sneaky Dee put together one of the best seasons in the league in 2014. Finishing 4th in scoring (but first in points per jam with 6.4), second in lead percentage (65%), she eventually tied for third overall with a 34 Jammer Quotient (JQ) Rating.

The Gores also welcomed new jammers in transfers Guardian Paingel and Lumberjack Flash. Flash had an immediate impact in the league and in her first year in ToRD finished third in the league in scoring with 153 points (on 3.3 PPJ), tied for third with a 61% lead percentage, and tied for third overall in total JQ. This picked up some of the slack for an injured Lexi Con. Lexi finished atop the JQ standings in 2013 and was well on her way to another dominant season before missing the final game with an injury. Nonetheless she managed 4.89 points per jam and a 56% lead percentage before her injury. Taranosaurus Rex, who joined Lexi and Flash by scoring over 100 points (112), finished with a 49% lead percentage.

Read about the stats and the ToRD standings here.

Both teams rely on more veteran presences in the pack. Marmighty, Hoff and Rebel Rock-It returned to the Chicks roster this season and along with Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind, Emraged, Rosemary’s Rabies and Tess D’Urb Evil have a solid core at the heart of the team. The Gores are similarly experienced in the pack, led by Santa Muerte, Chronic and Kandy Barr, we’ve seen the likes of Emma Dilemma, Full Deck and transfer Machu Beatchu step up into big roles this season. Double threats like Beaver Mansbridge also give the team options on offense.

The Double Header will kick off with a showdown between ToRD’s D-VAS and the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers. The D-VAS are 4-2 on the season, and this represents one of their final opportunities to leave a public impression before the 2015 house league entry draft.

Doors at the Bunker open at 4, with the opening whistle on the D-VAS game scheduled for 5:00 PM. The semi-final is schedule for 7:00 PM. Tickets will be available at the door, but are available online as well.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls Prove to be the Beastliest at BOE 2014

Gores become first Toronto team to win the Beast of the East at Montreal’s seventh edition of the popular tournament.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

It has become quite a tradition that every spring, roller derby nerds in eastern Canada dutifully fill out their Beast of the East brackets. Some will even work out a few different versions based on hunches, hot teams, or un-hittable skaters.

Every year, without fail, by the end of the tournament, it becomes obvious that filling out this bracket is an exercise in futility.

2014 was no different, indeed it was the most unbracketable Beast in a long line of unbracketable Beasts, a testament to the format—beginning with a sixteen team double elimination round featuring 20 minute games—and the participants—house league teams with little inter-city experience and little data on which to base these matchups. It’s also just one of the myriad reasons why people have fallen in love with Montreal Roller Derby’s annual Beast of the East tournament, and why that affection grows year after year.

Very few prognosticators had picked Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls to win it all, a team that had failed to live up to high expectations in the past, and fewer still (IE: NOT ONE) saw their opponent in the final, Roller Derby Quebec’s Casse-Gueules, doing anything but providing great warm-up games for the true contenders in the early going. Power house teams were eliminated early (Les Contrabanditas), pre-tournament favourites fell in the quarterfinals (Death Track Dolls) and heart rates went through the roof as game after game after game came down to final jams, or even overtime when final jams just weren’t enough.

DOUBLE ELIMINATION ROUND

Forest City's Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

Forest City’s Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

The tournament kicked off with what everyone at the time thought was a pretty major upset, a last-gasp Casse-Gueules win over ToRD’s Smoke City Betties (54-49). It turns out that game was just an omen for what was to come: tight games and unexpected results.

There were a few blowouts, but even those turned heads (La Racaille’s 117-32 against a Riot Squad team that was playing its first games with a newly built roster), but for the most part, the games were close. The Smoke City Betties, Durham Region’s Motor City Madames (to their leagumates the Atom Smashers), Forest City’s Thames Fatales and Guelph’s Killer Queens all went two-and-done; meanwhile, led by ToRD’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Death Track Dolls, the surprising Casse-Gueules and Lunch Ladies (neither team having ever won a game in this tournament previously) won their first two games to book a spot directly in the quarterfinals.

The “must-win” elimination games that closed out day one just hinted at the thrilling action that would come. The surprising Atom Smashers (after a head-turning matchup against Les Filles du Roi and a 100-point performance in their second game) stuck around for half the game against La Racaile, before the veteran Montreal skaters pulled away in the end, ending the tournament for one of the “dark horse” picks of the tournament; the Riot Squad finally started to get it together by nearly doubling up FDR, while their two Rideau Valley leaguemates had to square off with the Prime Sinisters (led by their incredible one-two punch of Margaret Choke and Brennan) knocking out the defending champion (but totally rebuilt) Slaughter Daughters. Finally Quebec’s Rouge et Gore played strong late, shocking hosts Les Contrabanditas with a last jam comeback to move on to the quarter finals for the second year in a row.

KNOCKOUT ROUND

Rideau Valley's Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Rideau Valley’s Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Quarterfinals

The first three quarterfinal games provided one of the most exciting runs in Beast of the East history, beginning with the Casse-Gueules overcoming a bad late-game decision (when they called it off early) to hold off a surging Prime Sinisters, 50-46. In the second game, the Luscious Lunch Ladies, led by Team France jammer Pepe Le Punch, mounted a final jam 20-point comeback to force overtime (the first in BOE history), but had little left in the extra jam as the Riot Squad locked down the defense and won by 9. The Death Track Dolls never seemed to get into their game against a hungry La Racaille, and while their talent kept it close for the most part, they fell by 25 (86-61) in the end.

Finally, in an all-Gores matchup, Toronto’s Gores managed to hold on long enough despite a desperate push from the tireless Rouge et Gore out of Quebec (they skated with eight players for much of the tournament and stuck with a two jammer [!!] rotation of Nana Bistouri and Minnie Small for all four games). The Rouge et Gore’s Bistouri made three passes in the final 40 seconds, but Gore’s jammer Beaver made the one scoring pass necessary to book her team’s first spot in the final four since 2011 (64-61).

Semifinals

The semifinals picked up right where the previous round left off. Casse-Gueules showed once again that their performance in the tournament had little to do with luck and a lot to with preparation, and held off a Riot Squad team that visibly got stronger as the weekend went on, while the Rideau Valley team mounted a late-game push, they seemingly mistakenly called the final jam off with no-time left on the game clock (and about 50 seconds left on the jam clock) and down 75-68. The other semifinal was yet another last-jam nail biter, with the Gore-Gore Rollergirls coming back from nearly 20 down in the final two jams (they were down by 32 at one point) to shock the tournament’s most successful team historically, La Racaille, 68-67.

In the six playoff games leading up to the medal matchups, the combined point differential at the end of the regulation time was a paltry 40 points (more than half of that coming from one game). It was an extraordinary show of parity.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back and forth final.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back-and-forth final.

Finals

The final games (now played with two 20-minute halves) did not disappoint. La Racaille picked up its fifth medal in seven tournaments with a 148-131 win, and they were led by long-time skater K Dawg (who has been a member of La Racaille since the first BOE in 2008) and captain Russion Cruelette in the pack, with Legs//Cite and Falcon Punch leading the way with the star. Riot Squad (being rebuilt around a core of former Slaughter Daughter skaters including Sister Disaster, Hannah Murphy and Amanda Pummeler), really came together as the games went on (as did the other two Rideau Valley teams for that matter).

The final between the upstart Casse and the relentless Gores was also thrilling, tied 71 at half time, the Casse led for much of the game only to see the Gores roar back time and time again. The Casse were led in the pack by Feline Dion, Lady Mariane, and So Viet, with Beat’on The Quads, La Trappeuse and Booty Allen providing the jamming. Gores captain Santa Muerte fouled out 16 minutes into the first half, but instead of collapsing, the Gores thrived under the adversity, getting clutch jamming from a deep rotation (LumberJack Flash, Beaver Mansbridge, R.I. Pink, Guardian Paingel, and Taranasaurus Rex), and phenomenal on-track leadership from veteran Chronic and first-year transfer skater Machu Beatchu. All weekend long, the Gores showed an overwhelming, sometimes frantic, hunger that kept them in tight games late; they saved their most-calm performance of the weekend for late in the championship game, holding on for the 129-114 victory.

NERD’s PICKS

Machu Beatchu receives her MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

Machu Beatchu receives her Team MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

MVP: Machu Beatchu (Gore-Gore Rollergirls)

Playing in her first Beast, the Halifax-trained skater turned heads with her wonderful skating and incredibly aggressive blocking. Named Gores MVP as well, Machu is a young player with a bright future. Her play in the pack (not to mention as a capable relief jammer) intensified as the tournament progressed, and she was flat-out dominant in the final game.

*Honourable mentions to Beat’on The Quads, Chronic, Feline Dion, Legs//Cite, and Hannah Murphy.

Breakout Player: Beat’on The Quads (Casse-Gueules)

A phenomenal jammer, with surprising lower body strength, Beat’on The Quads was the captain of the most impressive (and consistent) team in the tournament. As a jammer, she was tireless, capable of pulling off back-to-backs and holding it together in clutch situations: nursing a slim lead, she actually mistakenly called off what could have been the final jam with time left on the clock in a must-win against the Sinisters, but, unfazed, went right back out, nabbed lead and calmly tapped her hips. It was a defining moment for a team that came of age this weekend.

*Honourable mentions to Feline Dion, Lumberjack Flash, and BlackeyE.

Photo by Joe Mac

No one outside of Quebec City saw the Casse-Gueules making it all the way to the final; the most surprising team in a tournament of surprises.

Breakout Team: Casse-Gueules (Roller Derby Quebec)

What’s left to say about a team that came in so-far under the radar that they were barely mentioned and yet managed to win four games in a row to make it all the way to the final? Last year it was Casse’s leaguemates Rouge et Gore who took home this prize, and this year roller derby fans were once again reminded of the quality organization that is Roller Derby Quebec.

*Honourable mentions to Luscious Lunch Ladies, Atom Smashers.

***This year’s Beast of the East was filmed by CUTV, who managed to come in on short notice, with no prior sports or derby experience, and did a fantastic job.

 

Beast of the East 7: A Preview of BOE 2014

Two days, sixteen teams, twenty-six games, and one winner. The 2014 Beast of the East promises excitement and unpredictability.

BEAST 2014 posterThe seventh annual Beast of the East comes at an exciting time in eastern Canadian roller derby history, and specifically in Ontario and Quebec’s history. Ontario alone now has eight full WFTDA member leagues (three of whom will be represented at the tournament). On top of that, Toronto is now ranked in the Top 20 (although that may change in the next rankings), Tri-City remains on the cusp of Division 1, and both Rideau Valley and Hammer City have more-than-valid shots at a place in this year’s D-2 playoff tournament. These are, indeed, boom times, and when there is such consistent competition at the top, it inevitably filters down through all ranks of the sport.

The great charm of the double-elimination Beast of the East is that it is exclusively a house league tournament, featuring the future (and even some current) stars of the sport in the region. This year, seven teams will be playing in their seventh Beast (Forest City’s Thames Fatales, the three Montreal teams and Toronto’s three representatives were all competitors in the original Beast), while another (Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters) will be in its sixth. Added to that mix of experience will be a contingent of new teams and leagues as well: Four teams will be making their second appearance, and two will be debutantes: the Killer Queens will be the first representatives from Guelph’s Royal City Roller Girls to make an appearance, while Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will join their leaguemates, the Motor City Madames, who will play in their second tournament.

These teams will have a lot to live up to, as by most accounts, last year’s tournament was the best of the bunch, featuring the highest level of competition the tournament had ever seen.

The 2013 Beast was also a tournament of firsts:

THE CONTENDERS

Least year's champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

Least year’s champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

If you look at the history of this tournament, it has been one dominated by three leagues. From 2008-2010 the hosts placed nine teams in the Top 3 (peaking in 2010 when the Montreal home teams ran the board). But since that time, only La Racaille (second last year) has medaled. The only other league to come close to this level is Toronto, who has had five medalists over the years. And finally, Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters have absolutely dominated the past three tournaments, winning two and losing in the final of the other.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After a few years of struggling to place teams, Montreal showed signs last year that they are ready for the top once again. All three teams are potential contenders, with winners of the recent MTLRD round-robin kick off tournament Les Contrabanditas leading the way (they remain the only host team to yet win the Beast). But that tournament was tight (La Racaille only lost to the Ditas by 3 points), and all three are viable threats.

Toronto Roller Derby has also become a perennial contender with both the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! picking up top three finishes in the past three years. While the Chicks (currently tied for second in ToRD’s house league) won’t be in this year’s tournament, the defending ToRD champs the Dolls will be back along with a resurgent Gore-Gore Rollergirls (who have underachieved since a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 championship game). Both should be considered threats.

The biggest (and most exciting) off-season change in Ontario roller derby was the reshuffling of Rideau Valley’s house league into three teams, two of whom, have to be considered contenders. The Prime Sinisters and the Riot Squad are both loaded with talent including many members of RVRG’s A-level travel team, the Vixens. While neither is quite the juggernaut that the Daughters were, they are both threats in this tournament.

THE DARK HORSES

Durham Region's Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

After last year’s thrilling run to the quarterfinals (including a last gasp 2-point victory in a must-win game against Toronto’s Smoke City Betties), no one should be surprised by the strength of Roller Derby Quebec’s Rouge et Gore. Nine members of the team form the core of the RDQ’s travel team, Les Duchesses, add coach (and member of Canada’s National Men’s Team) El Tennant to the bench, and this is a team that has a lot of track experience. Emboldened by last year’s run to the final eight, they should be a team to watch this year as well.

One team that may be off of people’s radars is Durham Region’s Atom Smashers. The Smashers are a team that features a nice balance of veterans (including former and current Toronto skaters in Amefyst and Lucid Lou, who appeared in this tournament with the Death Track Dolls for years) and up-and-coming stars. They have dominated Durham Region the last two years, winning the Gibson’s Cup twice (DRRD’s championship) and compiling an 11-2 record over that time.

NERD’S PICKS

This will be Riot Squad's fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This will be Riot Squad’s fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This year’s tournament feels particularly wide open, and given the unpredictable nature of the 20-minute format, making predictions sometimes seems like an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, the Nerd sees a final eight consisting of the three Montreal teams, Toronto’s Dolls and Gores, Rideau Valley’s Riot Squad and Prime Sinisters and Quebec’s Rouge et Gore, with a potential Sinisters vs. Riot Squad showdown in there as well.

On paper, these two Rideau Valley teams are virtually equal, and given the amount of collective experience on the two rosters, both should be considered top contenders to take top spot. Although the edge in depth may go to the Sinisters, the slightest edge in experience at the top could be given to the Riot Squad.

Of course, predictions are meaningless once the whistle blows. And first whistle blows at 8:00 AM on Saturday.

***The tournament will be boutcast (at least some of the tournament: stay tuned to the event page for further details and schedule).

***Tomorrow the Nerd looks at Friday night’s CN Power / New Skids on the Block showdown.

Beast of the East: 2008-2013

Beast of the East 2014Beast of the East: By the Numbers

To get ready for the 2014 Beast of the East, take a look back at the history of the tournament.

YEAR CHAMPION RUNNER UP THIRD PLACE
2008 Hamilton Harlots (HCRG) La Racaille (MTLRD) Les Filles du Roi / Les Contrabanditas (MTLRD)
2009 La Racaille Les Contrabanditas Les Filles du Roi / Smoke City Betties (ToRD)
2010 Les Filles du Roi La Racaille Les Contrabanditas
2011 Slaughter Daughters (RVRG) Gore-Gore Rollergirls (ToRD) Death Track Dolls (ToRD)
2012 Vicious Dishes (TCRD) Slaughter Daughters Chicks Ahoy! (ToRD)
2013 Slaughter Daughters La Racaille Death Track Dolls

Hamilton Harlots won the first Beast of the East in 2008. (Photo by Derek Lang; AKA: Bagelhot)

NOTABLE NUMBERS (Records etc.)

Wins: 21 (La Racaille 2008-2013)

Points Per Game (tournament): 110 (Death Track Dolls 2013)/ 109.5 (Slaughter Daughters 2013) / 102.5 (La Racaille 2013)

Points Against (tournament): 9 (Les Filles du Roi, 2010)

Most Points (single game): 159 (Rouge et Gore 2013) / 148 (Les Contrabanditas 2011)

Combined Points (single game): 184 (Rouge et Gore 159 vs. Debutantes 32 2013)/ 181 (La Racaille 117 vs. Contrabanditas 64 2013)

Biggest Differential: 148 (Les Contrabanditas 148 vs. Chrome Mollys [GTAR] 0, 2011)

[*The Gore-Gore Rollergirls were the first team to score 100 points in a bout–a 103-11 victory over Capital Carnage in 2009; Les Filles du Roi did it vs. the Vicious Dishes in 2010; four different teams accomplished it in 2011; the Vicious Dishes did it three times themselves in 2012, while three other teams did it that year as well. It has become common].

[*2012 was the first time both finalists (Vicious Dishes, Slaughters Daughters) lost a game on the way to the finals]

PARTICIPANT HISTORY

(BOE 7: 2014 participants first)

Team League BOE Record Notes
thames-fatales-logoThames Fatales FCDG 7 – 11 First round in 08, 09. Quarter final in 2010, 13.
lunch ladies logoLuscious Lunch Ladies FCDG 0 – 2 Second appearance (2013)
la-racaille-logoLa Racaille MTLRD 21 – 8 Semis 12. Second in 08, 10, 13. Champs in 09
Contrabanditas LogoLes Contrabanditas MTLRD 16 – 8 2nd place in 2009. 3rd in 2010. Quarters 2011,12, 13.
Les Filles du Roi LogoLes Filles du Roi MTLRD 18 – 6 Semi-final 08, 09, 13. Champs in 2010. Quarters 2012
prime sinsiters logoPrime Sinisters RVRG First Appearance
slaughter daughters logoSlaughter Daughters RVRG 16 – 6 Sixth appearance. Champs 2011, 13. 2nd place 2012
riot squad logoRiot Squad RVRG 2 – 6 Fourth appearance (2010, 2011, 2013)
deathtrackdolls_logoDeath Track Dolls ToRD 10 – 10 Quarter finals in 2009, 3rd place in 2011, 13.
Betties LogoSmoke City Betties ToRD 6 – 10 Semi-final 2009. Quarter final 2012
Gore-Gore Rollergirls logoGore-Gore Rollergirls ToRD 11 – 8 Forfeit 2009 at 3-0. 4th 2010. Runners-up 2011
casse gueules logoLes Casse-Gueules RDQ 0 – 2 Second Appearance
rouge et gore logoLe Rouge & Gore RDQ 2 – 2 Second Appearance. Quarter final 2013
Motor City Madames LogoMotor City Madames DRRD 0 – 2 Second Appearance (2012)
Atom Smashers logo 2013Atom Smashers DRRD First Appearance
logo-killer-queensKiller Queens RCRG First Appearance
 

Past Participants

Hamilton Harlots HCRG 8 – 6 2008-2010, 2012. Champs in 08.
Death Row Dames HCRG 3 – 5 2008-2010. Quarter final in 2010.
Steel Town Tanks Girls HCRG 1 – 1 2008
Bay Street Bruisers ToRD 1 – 3 2008, 2009. Now ToRD B-travel team.
D-VAS ToRD 0 – 1 2008. Now ToRD houseleague farm team.
Chicks Ahoy! ToRD 10-10 2008-2013. 4th in 2011. 3rd 2012
London Thrashers FCDG 0 – 1 2008
Bytown Blackhearts ORD 0 – 1 2008
Capital Carnage ORD 0 – 2 2009
Devil Dollies QCRG 1 – 1 1st US team (2008)
Derby Dames Grn Mtn 2 – 1 2nd US team, 1st to reach quarter finals (2010)
Derby Debutantes GTAR 2-10 2009-2013
Chrome Mollys GTAR 0 – 2 2011
Vicious Dishes TCRG 10-9 2009-2013. Quarter finals 2010, 11. Champs 2012
Venus Fly Tramps TCRG 2 – 6 2009-2011
TKOs TCRG 2-4 2011, 2013. Quarter final 2013
Les Duchesses de Quebec RDQ 1-4 2011, 2012. Promoted to RDQ travel team
Babes of Thunder TBRD  2-2 2012. Quarter finals in 2012
Reines of Terror MRR  0-2 2012

 

YEAR-BY-YEAR RESULTS

(Generally, all games 20 minutes until final, which is 30)

Beast of the East 2008 PosterBeast of the East 1: 2008

First Round

POOL A

Steel Town Tank Girls 40 vs Smoke City Betties 18
La Racaille 65 vs The Bytown Blackhearts 29
Death Row Dames 17 vs Devil Dollies 54
D-VAS 27 vs Les Contrabanditas 50

POOL B

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 13 vs. Hamilton Harlots 52

Bay Street Brusies 45 vs Thames Fatales 38
London Thrashers 13 vs Chicks Ahoy 65
Death Track Dolls 23 vs Les Filles du Roi 37

Quarter Finals

Steel Town Tank Girls 30 vs La Racaille 32

Devil Dollies 16 vs. Les Contrabanditas 42

Chicks Ahoy 30 vs Les Filles du Roi 38
Hamilton Harlots 53 vs Bay Street Bruisers 15

Semi Finals

Hamilton Harlots 58 vs Les Filles du Roi 29

Les Contrabanditas 32 vs La Racaille 39

Final

Hamilton Harlots 55 vs. La Racaille 18

* Read the Derby Nerd’s reflections.

Beast of the East 2009Beast of the East 2: 2009

First Round (Double Elimination)

Capital Carnage 11 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 103

Death Row Dames 23 vs. Thames Fatales 19

Les Contrabanditas 59 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 26

Slaughter Daughters 24 vs. Smoke City Betties 32

La Racaille 67 vs. Bay Street Bruisers 10

Chicks Ahoy! 48 vs. Vicisou Dishes 32

Les Filles du Roi 77 vs. Death Track Dolls 6

Derby Debutantes 6 vs. Hamilton Harlots 69

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 32 vs. Death Row Dames 5

Capital Carnage 20 (eliminated) vs. Thames Fatales 67

Les Contrabanditas 34 vs. Smoke City Betties 20

Venus Fly Tramps 14 (eliminated) vs. Slaughter Daughters 48

La Racaille 36 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 35

Bay Street Bruisers 16 (eliminated) vs. Vicious Dishes 21

Les Filles du Roi 34 vs. Hamilton Harlots 25

Death Track Dolls 61 vs. Derby Debutantes 20 (eliminated)

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 35 vs. Les Contrabanditas 26

Death Row Dames 15 (eliminated) vs. Smoke City Betties 24

Thames Fatales 28 (eliminated) vs. Slaughter Daughters 68

La Racaille 35 vs. Les Filles du Roi 43

Chicks Ahoy! 21 (eliminated) vs. Hamilton Harlots 38

Vicious Dishes 27 (eliminated) vs. Death Track Dolls 32

Quarter Finals

Gore-Gore Rollergirls (forfeit) vs. Smoke City Betties

Les Contrabanditas 28 vs. Slaughter Daughters 25

Les Filles du Roi 24 vs. Hamilton Harlots 11

La Racaille 77 vs. Death Track Dolls 17

Semi Finals

Smoke City Betties 23 vs. Les Contrabanditas 33

La Racaille 38 vs Les Filles du Roi 20

Final

Les Contrabanditas 34 vs. La Racaille 49

* Read the Derby Nerd’s commentary.

* Read DNN’s bout-by-bout recap by Justice Feelgood Marshall

Beast of the East 2010 PosterBeast of the East 3: 2010

First Round (Double Elimination)
Thames Fatales 38 vs. Smoke City Betties 11
La Racaille 81 vs. Chicks Ahoy!12
Green Mountain Derby Dames 40
vs. Riot Squad 17
Death Row Dames 63 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 6
Les Contrabanditas 72 vs. Death Track Dolls 9
Gore-Gore Rollergirls 43 vs. GTA Derby Debutantes 20
Vicious Dishes 37 vs. Slaughter Daughters 20
Les Filles du Roi 92 vs. Harlots 6
La Racaille 91 vs. Thames Fatales 0
Chicks Ahoy! 89 vs. Betties 15 (eliminated)
Green Mountain Derby Dames 29 vs. Death Row Dames 15
Venus Fly Tramps 43 vs. Riot Squad 14 (eliminated)
Les Contrabanditas 63 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 17

Derby Debutantes 38 vs. Death Track Dolls 29 (eliminated)
Les Filles du Roi 115 vs. Vicious Dishes 7
Harlots 28 vs. Slaughter Daughters 24 (eliminated)
Thames Fatales 24 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 15 (eliminated)
Death Row Dames 42 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 34 (eliminated)
Gore-Gore Rollergirls 45 vs. Harlots 20 (eliminated)
Vicious Dishes 52 vs. Derby Debutantes 24 (eliminated)

Quarter Finals

La Racaille 57 vs. Vicious Dishes 4
Les Contrabanditas 64 vs. Death Row Dames 11
Gore-Gore Rollergirls 45 vs. Green Mountain Derby Dames 22
Les Filles du Roi 91 vs. Thames Fatales 12

Semi Finals

La Racaille 69 vs. Les Contrabanditas 46
Les Filles du Roi 65 vs. Gore-Gore Roller Girls 1

Third Place

Les Contrabanditas 91 vs. Gores 21

Final

Les Filles du Roi 36 vs. La Racaille 20

*Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap.

*Watch the archived bouts.

Beast of the East 2011 posterBeast of the East 4: 2011

First Round (Double Elimination)

Duchesses de Quebec 4 vs. Derby Debutantes 124

La Racaille 55 vs. Riot Squad 7

Chicks Ahoy! 63 vs. Total Knockouts (TKOs) 7

Filles du Roi vs. Death Track Dolls 47

Vicious Dishes 50 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 48

Contrabanditas 148 vs. Chrome Mollys 0

Slaughter Daughters 38 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 28

Thames Fatales 75 vs. Smoke City Betties 12

Derby Debutants 8 vs. La Racaille 100

Duchesses du Quebec 4 vs. Riot Squad 97 (Duchesses eliminated)

Chicks Ahoy! 40 vs. Death Track Dolls 21

TKOs 0 vs. Filles du Roi 81 (TKOs eliminated)

Vicious Dishes 21 vs. Contrabanditas 27

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 131 vs. Chrome Mollys 10 (Mollys eliminated)

Slaughter Daughters 62 vs. Thames Fatales 12

Venus Fly Tramps 66 vs. Smoke City Betties 14 (Betties eliminated)

Derby Debutants 29 vs. Filles du Roi 62 (Debutantes eliminated)

Death Track Dolls 84 vs. Riot Squad 8 (Riot Squad elimanted)

Vicious Dishes 49 vs. Venus Fly Tramps 3 (Tramps eliminated)

Thames Fatales 36 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 49 (Thames eliminated)

Quarter Finals

La Racaille 11 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 88

Contrabanditas 49 vs. Death Track Dolls 58

Chicks Ahoy! 48 vs. Vicious Dishes 8

Slaughter Daughters 81 vs. Filles du Roi 3

Semi Finals

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 51 vs. Death Track Dolls 11

Chicks Ahoy! 19 vs. Slaughter Daughters 33

Third Place

Death Track Dolls 42 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 31

Final

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 85 vs. Slaughter Daughters 87

* Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap.

* Watch the archived bouts

Beast of the East 5 (2012)Beast of the East 5: 2012

First Round (Double Elimination)

Chicks Ahoy! 51 vs. Slaughter Daughters 41

La Racaille 46 vs. Gore-Gore Roller Girls 30

Motor City Madames 36 vs. Hammer City Harlots 57

Les Contrabanditas 54 vs. Death Track Dolls 20

Vicious Dishes 139 vs. Reines of Terror 0

Les Filles du Roi 79 vs. Babes of Thunder 8

Derby Debutantes 6 vs. Thames Fatales 112

Smoke City Betties 108 vs. Les Duchesses 13

Chicks Ahoy! 10 vs. La Racaille 39

Slaughter Daughters 72 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 52 (Gores eliminated)

Hamilton Harlots 39 vs. Les Contrabanditas 84

Motor City Madames 28 vs. Death Track Dolls 95 (Motor City eliminated)

Vicious Dishes 30 vs. Les Filles du Roi 47

Reines of Terror 34 vs. Babes of Thunder 71 (Reines eliminated)

Thames Fatales 64 vs. Smoke City Betties 69

Derby Debutantes 30 vs. Les Duchesses 120 (Debutantes eliminated)

La Racaille 59 vs. Death Track Dolls 31 (Dolls eliminated)

Hamilton Harlots 30 vs. Slaughter Daughters 131 (Harlots eliminated)

Vicious Dishes 123 vs. Les Duchesses 0 (Duchesses eliminated)

Thames Fatales 20 vs. Babes of Thunder 77 (Thames eliminated)

Quarter Finals

Chicks Ahoy! 83 vs. Babes of Thunder 22

Les Filles du Roi 67 vs. Slaughter Daughters 71

Les Contrabanditas 54 vs. Vicious Dishes 64

Smoke City Betties 59 vs. La Racaille 78

Semi Finals

Chicks Ahoy! 31 vs. Slaughter Daughters 65

Vicious Dishes 67 vs. La Racaille 48

Third Place

Chicks Ahoy! 87 vs. La Racaille 48

Final

Vicious Dishes 118 vs. Slaughter Daughters 63

* Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap

* Watch the archived bouts

BOE 2013 PosterBeast of the East 6: 2013

First Round (Double Elimination)

Chicks Ahoy! 58 vs. Riot Squad 50

Vicious Dishes 25 vs. Les Filles du Roi 50

Death Track Dolls 129 vs. Casses Gueules 7

Thames Fatales 34 vs. Les Contrabanditas 76

TKOs 133 vs. Debutantes 8

Rouge et Gore 12 vs. La Racaille 116

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 29 vs. Slaughter Daughters 105

Luscious Lunch Ladies 37 vs. Smoke City Betties 47

Les Filles du Roi 91 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 13

Vicious Dishes 33 vs. Riot Squad 44 (Dishes eliminated)

Contrabanditas 30 vs. Death Track Dolls 96

Thames Fatales 29 vs. Casses Gueules 18 (Gueules eliminated)

La Racaille 103 vs. TKOs 32

Rouge at Gore 159 vs. Debutantes 32 (Debutantes eliminated)

Smoke City Betties 2 vs. Slaughter Daughters 117

Luscious Lunch Ladies 50 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 94 (Ladies eliminated)

Thames Fatales 53 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 46 (Chicks eliminated)

Riot Squad 57 vs. Contrabanditas 86 (Riot Squad eliminated)

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 42 vs. TKOs 85 (Gores eliminated)

Smoke City Betties 56 vs. Rouge et Gore 58 (Betties eliminated)

Quarter Finals

Les Filles du Roi 76 vs. Rouge et Gore 26

Contrabanditas 64 vs. La Racaille 117

TKOs 35 vs. Death Track Dolls 79

Thames Fatales 31 vs. Slaughter Daughters 113

Semi Finals

Filles du Roi 60 vs. La Racaille 85

Death Track Dolls 40 vs. Slaughter Daughters 68

Third Place

Death Track Dolls 136 vs. Filles du Roi 29

Final

La Racaille 74 vs. Slaughter Daughters 103

Read the Derby Nerd’s preview and recap.

VIDEO: Watch Double Elimination Archives Part 1 here.  Watch Part 2 here. Watch quarter finals here. Watch the third place and championship games here.

Dolls (vs. Gores) and Betties (vs. Chicks) Set for 2014 Debut

DollsGores ChicksBetties 14 PosterOn Saturday night at the Bunker, the 2013 Toronto Roller Derby Champions, the Death Track Dolls, will make their debut as they face off against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, who are coming off of a season-opening win against the Chicks Ahoy!. Last year’s Battle for the Boot finalists, the Smoke City Betties, will also kick off their season against a much-improved Chicks Ahoy! team. Both showdowns will say a lot about how the season will play out.

The night will kick off with the Betties and Chicks facing off for the seventh time in ToRD’s regular season history. The Chicks have a 4-2 edge in the regular season meetings beginning with a 119-96 matchup in 2008 (they did not meet during the 2007 regular season). However, the tides turned last season when the Betties scored their first win over the Chicks since 2009. The two teams, remarkably, have never faced each other in the playoffs.

Similarly, despite a long history of competition, the Dolls and Gores have also never met in the playoffs, but their regular season history dates all the way back to June 2007 and the first public game ToRD hosted (the Gores won 117-78). After knocking off the Gores in 2008, it would be another four years (and four-straight losses) before the Dolls would take one away from the Gores again, last year’s 233-153 victory sealed the Dolls first-place finish in the standings and their place in the Battle for the Boot.

Both the Dolls and Betties are looking to continue the power shift they orchestrated last season when they battled for the boot against each other for the first time.

The 2014 Death Track Dolls

Photo by Dan Lim

Photo by Dan Lim

2013 was a banner year for the Dolls and one that will be tough to repeat after going undefeated and winning their first ever championship. Between retirements and CN Power call-ups, the Dolls roster was gutted in the off-season. While a veteran core remains, they had more turnover than any other team in the league.

RETURNING SKATERS

The Dolls have eleven returning skaters from last season’s championship team, including co-captions Android W.K. (second year blocker/pivot) and triple threat Getcha Kicks. In the pack, a strong, experienced core of Audrey Hellborn, Canadian Psycho, Dawson, Demolition Dawn, Slam Wow and Speedin Hawking will be supported by second-year skater Robotomy, who missed virtually all of her rookie year with injury. However, the Dolls’ pack is bolstered by the transfers of two former Gores: seven-year blocking veteran Junkie Jenny and Just Jes (the skater formerly known as Aston Martini). Jes is returning after a single-year hiatus, but has already looked impressive playing for the Bay Street Bruisers.

Amidst all of the off-season change, it’s actually the jammer rotation that took the biggest hit, losing two of the league’s most dominant scorers in 2013 (Rainbow Fight and Santilly In Yo Face). However Bellefast returns and second-year skater Chicken Sluggets will be called upon to step up. Also, Getcha Kicks, though blocking more than ever, is still more than capable of taking the star when needed and will probably jam more early in the season as they develop rookies.

On the bench, the Dolls will have both Panty Hoser (of CN Power) and Wencer back to give consistency to the management team.

The Dolls won their first championship in 2013. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls won their first championship in 2013. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

FRESH FACES

No team has more fresh faces than the Dolls, but it is an intriguing mix of rookies and more experienced transfers that will don the “skull and blood” in 2014. Arguably leading the way is Devochka, who is no stranger to fans of derby in Ontario. Having played for numerous leagues, most notably in Durham for their travel-team Durham Derby Devils, Devochka is a double threat, and could be relied upon to help in the jammer rotation right away. Similarly, Hannibelle, Stringer Belle and Free Range Clam have skated for either the Rollergettes or GTA Rollergirls before making the transition to the DVAS, while Sleeper Hold got her start in Toronto’s LOCO league. Wheatabitch and Block Quebecois were developed through the DVAS system.

THE OUTLOOK

Given the amount of change the team has sustained, it may be unrealistic to expect another run to the championship this season. But a strong performance against the 1-0 Gores would go a long way in convincing everyone that it is a possibility.

The 2014 Smoke City Betties

Photo by Jonathan Wallace

Photo by Jonathan Wallace

Last year, the Betties upset the Gores in the semifinals to return to the championship game for the first since 2009, losing to the Dolls. But with the core of that team still in place, expectations should be high once again.

RETURNING SKATERS

Although some key pieces of last year’s team have been lost through retirement, there is a strong core in place, starting with team captains Tushy Galore (who is a pillar of this pack) and triple-threat WolveRina. There is a lot of toughness in the pack, and the Betties could be the hardest hitting team in the league. Misery Mae, Laya Beaton, Mouth of the South, Mazel Tough, Zomboney and Genuine Risk are all back in the pack this season.

Although they lost last year’s leading scorer (Slaptrick Swayze) to retirement, the offense remains mostly in place. Let by titmouse, Udre, and second-year skater Kill-Her At Large, double threats SewWhat? and LowBlow Palooza could also be called upon to bolster the jammer rotation.

CN Power bench coach, Wade Wheelson, returns for the start of the 2014 season.

FRESH FACES

The Betties did well in what was, arguably, the deepest ToRD draft ever. Darth Kater could provide some immediate help in the jammer rotation, having dominated in Durham’s houseleague and for their travel team Devils for a few seasons. Honey Boom Boom is also track ready, having starred last season for the DVAS and the Rollergettes before that. Jenny Specter comes to ToRD having gotten her start in LOCO derby, while former DVAS WackedHer and Babushkill will make their long-anticipated debuts this season. Jammher’head Shark is another DVAS-developed skater.

THE OUTLOOK

With such a strong returning core, the Betties have a shot to reproduce last year’s considerable success, and with their opponents, the Chicks, having improved so much from last year, this Saturday’s matchup could tell a lot about how things are going to play out for the Betties in 2014 and what it will take for them to get back to the Battle for the Boot.

***Doors open at 4:00 PM at The Bunker in Downsview Park with Betties and Chicks kicking things off at 5:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of outlets throughout the city.