History 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.