Hailey Copter

Battle for the Boot 7: The 2013 ToRD Championship

Battle for the Boot 7: The 2013 TorD Champs PosterHistory will be made at the 2013 Battle for the Boot. Regardless of the outcome in this first ever championship showdown between the Death Track Dolls and the Smoke City Betties, a first time ToRD champion will be named, added to the list that so far has included only the Gore-Gore Rollergirls (2007, 2009, 2010) and the Chicks Ahoy! (2008, 2011, 2012). It’s a historic moment in this early history of ToRD, representing the first true power shift in the league from the early consistent dominance of the Gores and Chicks (who also met in five of the first six championship games). The 2013 season and the 7th Battle for the Boot represent nothing less the beginning of a new era in Toronto Roller Derby.

PAST

These two teams both have distinct histories. Formed in early 2006 in a pre-ToRD Toronto, the Smoke City Betties joined Hammer City, Montreal Roller Derby and Edmonton’s Oil City as the first wave of flat track roller derby in Canada and would form the pillars that would provide a foundation for the explosive growth of the sport in the country that would follow.

At the same time that the Betties exploded on to the scene, another team would rise in Toronto, the Terrors. Both the Terrors and Betties would see their numbers swell by the time that the Betties would host the first ever Canadian inter-league tournament, the Betties D-Day, in August 2006. Leading up to that tournament, the Terrors would split into four teams: the Chicks Ahoy!, the Bay Street Bruisers, The D-VAS and finally, the Death Track Dolls.

The Betties and the Gores face off in the 2009 Battle for the Boot. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Betties and the Gores face off in the 2009 Battle for the Boot. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

In the coming months, the Betties too would divide, giving birth to the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the six teams in Toronto would unify to form Toronto Roller Derby. In 2007, the inaugural season, the Dolls would struggle, going winless, while the Betties competed but could not reel in the Chicks and Gores. It was a similar story in 2008 when both the Dolls and Betties would lose in the semifinals. Following contraction in 2009 (when the Bruisers and D-VAS were removed from the houseleague), the Betties surged while the Chicks stumbled and the Dolls slipped to last in the new four-team ToRD. Yet again, the Betties would find themselves held back by the team that had spawned from them, the Gores, in the Battle for the Boot 3. It was a historic loss for the team that would see the core of the squad gutted in the ’09-2010 off season and forced into a complete rebuild.

Since that time the fortunes of the Dolls and Betties has ebbed and flowed, with the Betties finishing last in the league in 2010 and 2011, and the Dolls stumbling to fourth in 2012. With losing seasons racking up and top draft picks coming their way, it was only a matter of time before the Dolls and Betties would emerge as contenders.

The Dolls dominated the regular season showdown between these teams, winning 265-63. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls dominated the regular season showdown between these teams, winning 265-63. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

PRESENT

Both teams entered 2013 with high hopes. After a two-year absence, the Betties returned to the ToRD semifinals in 2012 and hoped to build on that this season. The Dolls, on the other hand, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but drafted experience and had clearly built a base that looked ready to compete in 2013. While the Dolls got off to a better start, the Betties stumbled out of the gates, losing to the Gores and then suffering the team’s worst loss in history to the Dolls to close out the season. But both have also been on the rise: The Dolls clumsily defeated the Chicks to kick off the season, then lost to Forest City’s Timber Rollers (a WFTDA apprentice travel tram), before taking out the Gores and finally rolling into form against the Betties to clinch a spot in the final. The Betties looked lost at times this season, before finally coming together as a team in the semifinal and eliminating the Gores, ending the Gores’ six-year run as Battle for the Boot participants.

In short, both teams are peaking at just the right time.

FUTURE

After battling through injuries in 2012, Audrey Hellborn is back menacing jammers in 2013. (Photo by Greg Russell)

After battling through injuries in 2012, Audrey Hellborn (right) is back menacing jammers in 2013. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The future is now for the Dolls and Betties, and there is no doubt that neither team is looking further into the future than this coming Saturday. The Dolls seem poised, riding a relentless pack and an untouchable four-jammer rotation, all indications point to this game being theirs to lose. Although they started strong, the Betties could mount little offense against the Dolls in their regular season showdown (only managing 22 points in the second half) and will need to find a way to produce some offense.

While both teams have a depth of experience on the bench, there are some key players to watch. The Dolls co-captains Scarcasm and Speedin’ Hawking have been leading excellent packs all season, and in the centre of it all has been Audrey Hellborn. Audrey was a dominant player in the league’s early history but a variety of injuries over the past few years have kept her out of the spotlight: in 2013 she’s roared back into the picture, and her relentless jammer killing has turned around jams and games. Also, the addition of transfer Rainbow Fight has given the Dolls a multi-faceted weapon to rely on. Rainbow has been incredible in the pack but has also put up jammer numbers (8.0 PPJ, 88% lead percentage) that have never been seen before.

Betties co-captains Hailey Copter (jammer) and Misery Mae will need to have strong games for the Betties to succeed. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties co-captains Hailey Copter (jammer) and Misery Mae (pivot) will need to have strong games for the Betties to succeed. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

For the Betties, the co-captains Misery Mae and Hailey Copter will be key. Hailey has struggled at times this season seeing her numbers drop from 2012’s career high 3.6 PPJ and 50% lead percentage to 2.6 PPJ and a 39% lead percentage this season (Slaptrick Swayze just inched out Hailey as the team’s leading scorer, 126-123, and will have to be strong as well). But Hailey clearly remains the heart and soul of the offense. Misery Mae, who was a key offensive blocker in the semifinal, will need to put in a similar performance in the champs if the Betties hope to crack the Dolls’ killer defense. And finally, Wolverina has emerged as a key triple threat for this team, and will need to provide go-to offense for the Betties while remaining steady in the pack.

* Get your tickets now for this historic showdown! They are available online or at a number of vendors in the city. Doors open at 6:00 PM and be sure to be there for the Toronto Junior Roller Derby exhibition. Opening whistle of the Battle for the Boot is 7:30.

Advertisements

Dolls and Gores Draw First Blood in ToRD 2013 House League Opener

The Dolls ended a six-year losing streak against the Chicks in the home opener. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls ended a six-year losing streak against the Chicks in the home opener. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Six years, six regular season losses, three playoff defeats—that is the dominance that Chicks Ahoy! has had over the Death Track Dolls in Toronto Roller Derby’s first six seasons. And it all ended on Saturday night.

In front of a packed house, ToRD kicked off its sixth season with a doubleheader featuring all four Toronto house league teams. In the opener, years of frustration finally turned into a night of celebration as a deep, balanced Dolls team took a 79-point victory over the defending champions, signaling a shift in power in the league. While the Smoke City Betties ended their long losing streak over the Gore-Gore Rollergirls last season, they were not able to summon the same kind of performance in the opener, as the Gores played simple, well-controlled derby on their way to a 57 point win that declared that this Gores team may not be due for as major a rebuild as some thought.

Jammer Bellefast and Dolls blockers approach a Chicks wall of Biggley Smallz and Dyna Hurtcha. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Jammer Bellefast and Dolls blockers approach a Chicks wall of Biggley Smallz, Dyna Hurtcha and Robber Blind. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Death Track Dolls 191 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 112

The Dolls burst out of the gate, taking the first two lead jammer statuses (going to Bellefast and Getcha Kicks) before Chicks’ rookie Chevy Chase Her broke the streak, only to find herself sent to the penalty box for a low block. Scrappy jammer Santilly In Yo Face did her best despite a tough penalty kill led by Dyna Hurtcha, pulling the Dolls ahead by 10 points. Two jams later the Dolls found themselves on a second power jam, this time skated by Bellefast. Early on, the Dolls were pounding on the Chicks, pulling ahead substantially, 41-8, only 8 minutes into the half.

Roadside BombShel was in the midst of a strong game jamming before being seriously injured in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Roadside BombShel was in the midst of a strong game jamming before being seriously injured in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks came alive at this point as the Dolls began to run into penalty troubles. The pushback was led by a Roadside BombShel skated power jam with only two Dolls blockers (Ames to Kill and Scacasm)on the track. With Getcha Kicks running into serious penalty issues midway through the half—and her blocker teammates following suit—the Chicks roared back and even took over the lead, 49-47, with 12 minutes to play in the period. Roadside—who converted back to jamming after a solid season of blocking in 2012—and Chevy Chase Her paced the offense, with Chevy scoring 24 points on a power jam to pad the lead. But as this Chicks team rebuilds, there will be ups and downs, and they weren’t able to maintain their lead.

Once the Dolls overcame their penalty issues and settled into the game, they were eventually able to chip away at that lead and virtually neutralized the Chicks offense for the final 10 minutes of the half, taking a 111-71 lead at the break.

Chicks veteran Kookie Doe and Dolls rooke transfer Rainbow Fight battle in the second. Both had strong games. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Chicks veteran Kookie Doe and Dolls rooke transfer Rainbow Fight battle in the second half. Both had strong games. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls depth at jammer, with Bellefast, Getcha Kicks, Santilly and rookie transfer Rainbow Fight providing a variety of styles and approaches, kept the Chicks defense from any sort of consistency, and the Dolls packs had the same sort of dominant depth with a few solid lines led by Ames and Scarcasm on one side and Speedin Hawking and Sinead O’Clobber on the other. While co captains Dyna Hurtcha and Kookie Doe along with a strong veteran leadership from Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind and Furious Georgia (who continued her strong offensive play) held a young team together, it was that punishing Dolls pack work that led to a tragedy on the track.

Enjoying one of the games of her career (she was second in scoring on the Chicks with 19 points at half), Roadside suffered a tragic major leg break near the midway point of the second half. When the teams returned to action after a lengthy break, the Chicks couldn’t find the momentum to claw back, and even with Dyna Hurtcha taking a jam and Kookie Doe wearing the star more, managed only 18 points in the second half of the period, suffering their first loss to the Dolls ever and their first ToRD loss of any kind in two years.

Gores rookie Taranasaurus Rex fights a Betties three-wall. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Gores rookie Taranosaurus Rex fights a Betties three-wall. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Smoke City Betties 110 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 167

After an inconsistent, but promising 2012, the Smoke City Betties entered the season with high expectations. The Gores, after slowly losing a massive chunk of a roster that had taken part in every single Battle For the Boot, came into this season with much more muted expectations. From the opening whistle to the last, this Gores team showed that it doesn’t plan to rebuild this year. They made it quite clear that they plan on competing in 2013.

Two rookies, Gore jammer Lexi Con and Betties transfer Tomy Knockers duel at the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Two rookies, Gore jammer Lexi Con and Betties transfer Tomy Knockers duel at the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Co-captain Santa Muerte kicked things off jamming, taking 3 points before passing the star to one of many impressive rookies on the night, Lexi Con, who immediately made her presence known.  The Betties packs looked loose early on, and they seemed a little caught off guard by the explosive Goes start and found themselves deep in a hole, down 20-6, 8 minutes in to he game. For a team that had relied so much on a few key jammers throughout the years, the Gores showed a variety of skaters in that position last night, led by Lexi Con but also veteran blocker Foxy Sinatra, whose explosive style was also hard to contain and co captain Kandy Barr.  R.I.Pink continued her progress with the star and a few promising rookies, Taranosaurus Rex and Viktory Lapp, rounded out a surprisingly deep rotation.

Betties co captain Hailey Copter had a typically strong performance against. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties co captain Hailey Copter had a typically strong performance. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Despite the early push from the Gores, they were unable to leave behind the Betties, and after a bench time out calmed down the skaters in blue, the Betties outscored the Gores 20-9 over the remaining few jams of the half, but remained down, 86-35 at the break.

The Betties looked solid from the jam line as well, led by co captain Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) and featuring Woleverina, transfer skater Udre, and 2012 breakout skater Slaptrick Swayze who continues to make her presence felt with her calm, steady jamming. The Betties continued the strong play to start the second half, outscoring the Gores 39-18 over the first ten minutes.

While there were strong individual performances in the pack from the likes of Renny Rumble, Tomy Knockers (who may have sustained a wrist injury during the game), Platinum Bomb and Tushy Galore (formerly Sin D Drop-Her) to name a few, they were not able to sustain the same tight formations for long stretches as the Gores were, allowing the Gores to stay in it. For the Gores to be sucesful this season, they need veterans in the pack to step up and assume larger roles, which we saw especially from the likes of Junkie Jenny, but also from Emma Dilemma and Miss Kitty La Peur in the second half.

Usual pack menace Foxy Sinatra (in a massive collision with Udre and Platinum Bomb)

Usual pack menace Foxy Sinatra (in a massive collision with Udre and Platinum Bomb) had a surprisingly strong night jamming for the Gores. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores ran out the clock, closing out the game with strong, well-managed jams from Foxy, and then fittingly from rookies T-Rex and Lexi. Although the Gores led from start to finish, they never fully distanced themselves from the Betties, and while their 167-110 victory was definitive, the Betties always just seemed a jam or two away from putting it all together and getting back into it.

If there was an underlying story of the night, it was the strong play of the so-called rookies on the track. This is clearly the highest level of rookie class ever, based on the large number of transfers and the time many spent on the D-VAS last season. After a fantastically skilled night of derby, the future looks bright.

**I’ll take a look specifically at how that impressive rookie class performed in my next post on Thursday**

**Check out layer9.ca for archived videos of the bouts**

2013 ToRD Season Preview Part 2: Betties and Dolls

The Betties ended a three year ToRD losing streak in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw)

The Betties ended a three year ToRD losing streak in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Smoke City Betties

2012 Results: 1-2 regular season; lost semifinal to the Gores.

Who’s Out?

In 2012, the Smoke City Betties lost skaters left and right as the season went on as the final core of original skaters slowly moved on. During the season, long-serving Betties Hot Roller and Memphis Kitty called it quits with Sail Her Poon, Rug Burn and General Patten also moving on. The mid-season changes actually seemed to bring the team together and led to the most successful Betties season in years.

In the off season, however, a few more key pieces left the track. Grim Avenger and Lady Scorcher (who had developed into a key member of the pack) both retired, while triple threat BruiseBerry Pie and pivot Mia Culprit were called up to CN Power for 2013.

Who Remains?

Co captain and jammer Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) had the best season of her career in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw

Co captain and jammer Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) had the best season of her career in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw

After last year’s early season shifts, what emerged was a tight core that led the team to a second place finish in the regular season and a birth in the semifinals. After an injury-free year finally showed us just what she’s capable of, co captain Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) will lead the offense (Hailey was second in the league in scoring with 130 points and was the second highest rated jammer on the season), being joined by veteran Wolverina and 2012 breakout jammer Slaptrick Swayze (an impressive 3.47 points per jam in her rookie year).

Co captain and pivot Misery Mae leads a pack that became increasingly tight last season and whose turn around was a key to the team’s success. Triple threat (and CN Power skater) Renny Rumble remains with the team this season (she had the second highest track percentage on the team last year at 52%), anchoring a pack that is built around veterans Tushy Galore (formerly Sin D Drop-Her), Tropic Thunder, Platinum Bomb, Mouth of the South, Genuine Risk and Laya Beaton,

Who’s New?

The Betties were also savvy drafters and picked up a whole lot of experience in the offseason. Transfers Tomy Knockers (who already skates for the Bay Street Bruisers) and Udre (who skated for Team Finland at the World Cup) are experienced, multi-faceted skaters who bring a few tools to the team. SewWhat? also followed a winding road to ToRD (including passing through Australia) and Uncivil Servant is a cross-city transfer with significant experience under her belt.

Potential triple threat LowBlowPalooza joins the Betties after a successful stint with the D-VAS. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Potential triple threat LowBlowPalooza joins the Betties after a successful stint with the D-VAS. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Joining them are key D-VAS-developed skaters LowBlowPalooza (already emerging as a prototypical ToRD triple threat), and the positionally solid blockers Mazel Tough and  Zom-Boney. Their most inexperienced pick up, Kil’Her at Large, has the pleasure—and relatively stress-free privilege—of developing around a solid core of skaters.

How’s it Look?

The Betties turned the page last season on a long and at times arduous rebuild that  began after the 2009 run to the championship game and seemed like it would never end. The team has completely remade itself now, rebuilt around a core of skaters who have changed the culture of the team as much as they’ve changed the way they skate on the track. Adding to this newfound stability is transfer coach Wade Wheelson who joins ToRD after coaching in St. John’s with the 709 Derby Girls.

After last year’s brief taste of success, you get the feeling that these Betties are going to be hungry for more in 2013. If all goes well, a chance to Battle for the Boot is definitely not out of the question.

Death Track Dolls

The Dolls look to improve off a disappointing last place finish in 2012. (Photo by Dan Lim)

The Dolls look to improve off a disappointing last place finish in 2012. (Photo by Dan Lim)

2012 Results: 1-2 regular season; did not make playoffs.

Who’s Out?

The Death Track Dolls did not lose a lot in terms of volume in the off season, but they lost some key players. Role players Kat Atomic and long-serving Dolls Lucid Lou and Spee Dee Ramone retired in the off-season, while veteran stars Betty Bomber, Jubilee and Panty Hoser joined CN Power full time.

While the losses for the Dolls are not as significant in terms of the numbers as the other teams in the league, they are certainly significant in terms of veteran on-track leadership as Bomber, Hoser and Jubilee were on the track for more than 50% of the Dolls’ jams last season. But this is a team that has built itself up well with a lot of depth over the pas few seasons, and could be more prepared than any to make the necessary adjustments.

Co Captain Speedin Hawking will lead a deep, experienced Dolls pack. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Co Captain Speedin Hawking will lead a deep, experienced Dolls pack. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Who Remains?

A range of internally developed skaters from a number of generations remain, including long-term veterans like Audrey Hellbornm, Dolly Parts’em, Demolition Dawn and  Monichrome, who have all been with the league from nearly the start. Downright Dirty Dawson, Slam Wow, co captain Speedin Hawking and Sinead O’Clobber represent the second wave of ToRD skaters, while co captain Scarcasm, Ames to Kill, Bellefast, Rhage in a Cage, Santilly In Yo Face, and UpHer Cut are all more recent additions who have quickly become pillars on this team.

The team had moments of brilliance last year, but also underachieved at times as well. With a deep, experienced pack at the core of the Dolls, consistency should follow in 2013.

Who’s New?

There are less new skaters on this team than any other, and, interestingly, they are on both ends of the experience spectrum. Transfers Canadian Psycho (co captain of the Bruisers), Getcha Kicks (another rookies Bruisers) and Rainbow Fight (a member of Team Canada at the World Cup) represent three of the most experienced newcomers to ToRD in 2013, while Android W.K., Chicken Sluggets, and Robotomy are as fresh as they come with virtually no track experience and represent the long-term development of the team.

Transfer Rainbow Fight will make her much anticipated ToRD debut this weekend. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Transfer Rainbow Fight will make her much anticipated ToRD debut this weekend. (Photo by Dan Lim)

How’s it Look?

Although the team always seems to proclaim “the Year of the Doll,” this year that expression rings more true than any other. With a solid team of returning skaters built around a well-selected core who are all rounding into peak form at the same time, the window for a championship is now wide open. And they seem to have all the pieces in place with an incredibly deep pack and a jammer rotation of Bellefast, Santilly In Yo Face, Rainbow Fight, and Getcha Kicks that will rival any in the league.

After last year’s disappointing inconsistency, the Dolls have all the tools to finally make it to the Battle for the Boot (they are the sole remaining home team not to appear in the championship game), and more importantly, may be hungrier than ever. Adding to the continuity is that Wencer returns to the bench for his second season, joined now by CN Power skater and long-serving Doll Panty Hoser. All in all, it’s an exciting time in the Doll House as for the first time ever, the Dolls are legitimate contenders for The Boot.

** Doors open at the season opening double header at 5:00 PM with the Dolls and Chicks squaring off at 6:00 PM followed by the Gores and Betties. Tickets are available online or at a number of downtown vendors.