Kandy Barr

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.

Gores Take Down Chicks to Kick Off ToRD’s 2014 Season

Chicks Ahoy! 157 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 218

The Chicks and Gores season opener was the seventh regular season meeting between the two teams. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks and Gores season opener was the seventh regular season meeting between the two teams. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

When last they met, the Chicks Ahoy! and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls were on different paths. The Gores were wrapping up a second place finish in the 2013 regular season standings while the Chicks were putting to rest a rough, rebuilding season that saw them suffer historic losses (all of this in the wake of back-to-back ToRD championships). The Gores took the final game of the 2013 regular season 323-75 in a lopsided, hard-to-watch game. Fast forward half a year and the Chicks Ahoy!, despite not too many changes to the roster, are suddenly back in the conversation, and it’s not that the Gores have slipped, as they too seem poised to contend.

Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its 2014 house league season in style at The Bunker in Downsview Park on Saturday night in front of a packed house of fans who braved the frigid temperatures in order to ring in ToRD’s 8th season. Despite a much more competitive match than their last tilt, in the end the Gores continued their regular season domination over their long-time rivals Chicks Ahoy! with a hard fought 218-157 victory. It was the seventh time the two teams have met in ToRD’s regular season, and the sixth time the Gores emerged victorious.

Chicks Hyena Koffinkat lines up next to Lumberjack Flash. Rookies (and transfers) would have big roles in this game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks’ Hyena Koffinkat lines up next to Lumberjack Flash. Rookies (and transfers) would have big roles in this game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Both the Chicks and the Gores were bolstered this season by choosing wisely in an entry draft that featured a number of experienced skaters transferring from leagues as far away as Halifax and Vancouver: some of these so called “rookies” had a major impact on the season opener. Both teams seemed hesitant off of the starting whistle, but it was the Chicks who took advantage of some early Gore penalty trouble. One question the Chicks had entering the season was with their jammer rotation and they answered that quickly. Second-year Chicks Heavy Knitter and Chevy Chase-Her (fully healed from injury) were joined by draftees Hyena Koffinkat and the blazingly fast Sneaky Dee to form a rotation that has the potential to see out the season. The Gores also threw a rookie into the rotation as Lumberjack Flash joined Lexi Con, Taranasaurus Rex and R.I. Pink with the star in the opening period. With depleted packs, the Gores couldn’t get much going early on, while the Chicks pulled ahead 29-13 ten minutes in.

Lexi Con (who lef all scorers) attempts to break through a Rebel Rock-It and Rosemary's Rabies two wall. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Lexi Con (who led all scorers) attempts to break through a Rebel Rock-It and Rosemary’s Rabies two-wall. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But the Gores roared back. After riding through the penalty troubles, the Gores took off, picking up a string of five straight lead-jammer statuses and going on a 48-0 run to retake the lead. Indicative of a season opener, the first half had wild swings in momentum as the rust fell off and both teams struggled through penalty issues and loose packs, with neither able to take control. A final-jam power jam for the Chicks (skated by Sneaky Dee who had 34 first-half points) had them within 9, down 91-82 at the half.

The Gores made a slight adjustment at half time, swapping in rookie transfer Guardian Paingel to the jammer rotation and slipping last year’s second-leading scorer T-Rex into the pack (she had 29 points in the first half to lead the Gores in scoring). The Chicks stuck with the plan and led off with Hyena Koffinkat (who had made a big impression with 35 points in the opening period); unfortunately, the Terminal City transfer found herself sitting for back-to-back penalties that allowed her Vancouver counterpart, Paingel, to make her mark on the game. The Gores came out flying to start the second half and took advantage of the penalty trouble for a 31-0 run that helped them amass a lead that the Chicks, despite determined play, could not overcome. Paingel would pick up three leads in her first three jams and fourteen points in the process (she’d finish with 21 in the half).

Sneaky Dee tries to sneak past Gores vets Santa Muerte and Kandy Barr. Sneaky Dee scored 68 points to lead the Chicks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Sneaky Dee tries to sneak past Gores vets Santa Muerte and Kandy Barr. Sneaky Dee scored 68 points to lead the Chicks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Last year’s leading scorer, Lexi Con, who had a relatively quiet first half, simply took over in the second, picking up 76 points (for 104 on the game). But it was also the pack work that was the difference. Veterans Santa Muerte and Chronic were simply dominant at times, and the leadership of pivot Kandy Barr was undeniable as well. But depth players also stood out with Viktory Lapp playing the most effective game of her career, while rookie (and Halifax transfer) Machu Beatchu looked incredibly comfortable in her first game in Toronto, despite running into some penalty trouble.

The Chicks also saw some depth players step up into big roles, perhaps none more so than R2-Smack-U who often donned the stripe as pivot, Rosemary’s Rabies who has transitioned from jammer to blocker this season and was excellent on the track with some timely snipes and demoralizing drag backs, and Emraged who seems ready and willing to build off of an impressive rookie season in 2013. But it was the veterans who led the way with Robber Blind and an inspired Tess D-Urb-Evil picking up heavy minutes and Rebel Rock-It and Hoff (both returning to the Chicks after Rebel spent last season on CN Power and Hoff spent it on injured reserve) adding depth; Biggley Smallz, who was having a big game, fell into penalty trouble early and eventually fouled out.

Although the Chicks were never down by more than 61 in the half, they were never able to get closer than 30 either and a balanced Gores’ half allowed them to take their victory comfortably. In the end, the Gores showed that they are a team to beat this season, but perhaps more importantly, the Chicks are back as well. The close game is nice a season-opening promise of parity in Toronto Roller Derby.

TJRD Torontosaurus Wrex 236 vs. AJRD Blister Sisters 82

TJRD hosted Alliston for their first JRDA sanctioned game of 2014. (Photo by Joe Mac)

TJRD hosted Alliston for their first JRDA sanctioned game of 2014. (Photo by Joe Mac)

But it wasn’t all about ToRD on Saturday, as the night was capped off by a thoroughly entertaining junior bout that saw Toronto Junior Roller Derby’s Torontosaurus Wrex hold off Alliston’s Blisters Sisters 236-82.

The incredible growth of flat track roller derby has continued unabated and is establishing a system of grassroots support that will provide a platform of continued stability for the growth of the sport; something that is never more apparent than when the juniors take to the track.


Alliston’s Blister Sisters enter the track at The Bunker. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Toronto hosted Alliston to kick off their 2014 season and they looked very strong. It was close in the early going, as the hosts led 111-45 at halftime of the JRDA-sanctioned game, but they simply overwhelmed Alliston in the second half to record the 154-point win. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game—high in strategy, stratospheric in effort—a fine showcase of the future of the sport.

Fans will get another chance to watch Toronto’s juniors play on May 10th when they once again team up with their big sisters from ToRD for a game at The Bunker.

***Next up for Toronto Roller Derby: On February 8th ToRD’s marquee team, CN Power, will host Team Ontario in a preseason matchup that will feature some of the finest skaters in the province.

Dolls, Gores Dominate in Season-closing Double Header

The Death Track Dolls were the last team in ToRD to never have Battled for the Boot. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Death Track Dolls were the last team in ToRD to never have Battled for the Boot. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

After six seasons, the Death Track Dolls are finally going to Battle for the Boot.

In a record-setting night, the Dolls entered their highly anticipated matchup against the Smoke City Betties with an opportunity to claim top spot in Toronto Roller Derby’s regular season and earn the all-important bye directly to the 2013 ToRD championships, and they did so in emphatic fashion, crushing the Betties 265-63 with what would turn out to be the second highest point total in league history; second to only the monstrous total the Gore-Gore Rollergirls were able to put  up in their 323-75 victory over the Chicks Ahoy!  in the regular season closer at the Bunker

Gores rookie Purple Pain and co-captain Kandy Barr contain Chicks rookie Mean Sreak. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Gores rookie Purple Pain and co-captain Kandy Barr contain Chicks rookie Mean Streak. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 323 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 75

Both teams entered their final games of the season missing key players, but as they have done for the past two seasons, the Gores defied the adversity they faced and simply overwhelmed the Chicks with stifling pack work and superior jamming. Both teams entered this season with significantly reworked rosters, but while the Gores maintained a broad core of veterans to build around (led by Santa Muerte, Chronic, Kandy Barr, Foxy Sinatra, Junkie Jenny), the Chicks were stripped down even barer than that, sporting ten new skaters on their roster. Add to that the early season losses of Roadside BombShel and Marmighty, and the focus of the season had to shift to building for the future.

The Gores took control early and never relented, and aside from a few moments late in the first half, were in complete control throughout. The turning point actually came early on. The opening jams were tight and fast with the Gores creeping out to a 3-0 lead, but then a 32 point jam (later corrected to 30) by Taranosaurus Rex (all on natural grand slams) made it 35-0 and essentially put the game out of reach.

Chicks rookies R2-Smack-U (right) and Smack Mia-Round work together to contain the Gores' Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Chicks rookies R2-Smack-U (right) and Smack Mia Round work together to contain the Gores’ Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Riding a steady stream of rookie jammers led by Kingston transfer BLackeyE, GTA transfer Rosemary’s Rabies (who had her strongest game for the Chicks and scored 24 out of 59 points in the first half), and rookies Heavy Knitter and Mean Streak, the Chicks ran into penalty troubles early and could never seem to get out of the cycle. The Gores, without Foxy Sinatra and Santa Muerta, looked to the remaining veterans for leadership and found it in spades. Riding a deep bench that included skaters Emma Dilemma and Gamma Rei, and supported by strong rookies Purple Pain and Full Deck, the Gores controlled the pack and on the strength of some phenomenal jamming (led at half by T-Rex’s 76 points), were in clear control at the break 174-59.

The second half started much the same as the first ended: strong play from the Gores paced by an excellent jammer rotation that is led by JQ leading Lexi Con, T-Rex and third-year skater R.I. Pink. The Gores held the Chicks to only 10 points over the opening ten minutes of the half and their relentless pack work kept the Chicks heading to the penalty box.

Gores jammer Taranosaurus Rex picked up 76 points in the first half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Gores jammer Taranosaurus Rex picked up 76 points in the first half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Missing key skaters Dyna Hurtcha, Kookie Doe  and Biggley Smallz, the defending champs rode veterans Robber Blind, Furious Georgia, Doris Doomsday and Tess D’Urb Evil, but the Chicks just did not have the depth of experience to compete. With so much track time and responsibility it wasn’t surprising that the vets eventually ended up in penalty trouble (Robber Blind fouled out late) which allowed the Chicks to give a ton of important track time to emerging rookies like R2-Smack-U, Joss Wheelin and Emraged who all seem to be thriving under the pressure.

The Gores needed some help from the Betties (that they didn’t get) to be able to compete for top spot in the league, but they certainly did their part and more in the victory (which set a record for highest point total in a game—it was the first time a ToRD house league team eclipsed the 300 point barrier), and will have to settle for second spot in the league and a berth in the ToRD semifinals. For the Chicks, an all-important rebuilding year comes to a close, and while it was a challenge for the three-time champs, with a base of emerging stars, the future looks bright.

ToRD scoring leader Santilly In Yo Face led another strong offensive performance from the Dolls. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

ToRD scoring leader Santilly In Yo Face led another strong offensive performance from the Dolls. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Smoke City Betties 63 vs. Death Track Dolls 265

The Dolls and Betties entered this showdown with a lot on the line: the Betties were looking to spoil the Dolls’ close-to-perfect season and throw the standings into turmoil, while the Dolls were looking to wrap up top spot. The tension was palpable at the start, and while neither team seemed hesitant after the opening whistle, neither team was able to shake the other over the opening twenty minutes of the half.

With jammer Bellefast out for the game, the Dolls slipped Rainbow Fight into the rotation with the league’s leading scorer Santilly In Yo’ Face and Getcha Kicks, and the trio dominated early. The Dolls kicked things off with seven-straight lead jams (and nine out of the first ten) but they couldn’t use the dominance in that stat category to pull ahead. It was the Betties who actually took an early lead on the strength of a 20-point power jam and held it until the seventh jam of the game when the Dolls crept ahead. The packs were even in the early going with the likes of Misery Mae, Tushy Galore, Tomy Knockers and Tropic Thunder able to match the Dolls deep bench (led by Scarcasm, Speedin Hawking, Ames to Kills and Audrey Hellborn—who had an incredible game in the pack, consistently devastating the Betties’ jammers) and the lead flipped two more times in the opening twenty minutes of the half.

Death Track Dolls vs Smoke City Betties

Early on, the Betties’ packs were able to contain the Dolls. (Photo by Greg Russell)

But then, the Dolls took over. A 20 point power jam returned the lead to the Dolls and then the pack stepped up with stifling defense. The Betties simply didn’t have the depth of experience to compete against the depth of the Dolls who were able to track experienced line after experienced line and even held the Betties scorless on a power jam that extended over two jams. Led by 68 points from Rainbow Fight, the Dolls led 121-41 at the half.

The Dolls dominance continued to kick off the second half when they picked up five of the six lead jammers to start things off (and twelve of the first fifteen) and continued to hold the Betties scoreless over the opening ten minutes of the half (outscoring them 41-0) to truly put the game away. While the Betties relied on veteran leader Hailey Copter with the star, they used a broad rotation of SewWhat?, Udre, Wolverina (adding Laya Beaton and rookie Kil’Her at Large late), but none could find any sort of consistency against the Dolls’ pack work. The Betties managed only 22 points in the second half, while the Dolls pushed the pace and skated away with the surprising and impressive 202 point victory.

The Dolls stifling defense has become their trademark this season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls stifling defense has become their trademark this season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls get a month off leading up to ToRD’s June 15th championship. The Betties, who were preseason favourites to make their first appearance in the Battle for the Boot since 2009, will have a few weeks to reflect and build off of the loss before they have to face off against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in the semifinal on May 25th. It will be the second consecutive season that these two teams square off in the semifinal.

** The bouts were broadcast by Rogers TV. Tune in next Saturday (May 18th) for a rebroadcast of the games.

Dolls, Gores, Betties reach for the top; Chicks fight for their lives at ToRD Double Header

ToRD Poster May 2013The Death Track Dolls have a chance to do something that they have never done before: lock up top spot in ToRD’s house league regular season. Although in 2008 they tied both the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Chicks Ahoy! with the best record, they lost out on the number one seed through a tie breaker. This season, a simple win (by any margin) guarantees their place in the final. It’s a remarkable turn around for a team that finished last in the league a year ago.

A Smoke City Betties win over the Dolls, however, would vaunt them into a tie for first, while even a loss could still see them through to the semifinals, pending a victory for the Gore-Gore Rollergirls over the Chicks Ahoy! (who will be missing key players this weekend).  A win for the Gores would assure them a playoff spot, but like the Betties, a loss wouldn’t necessarily eliminate them: last year they were blown out in the final game of the regular season but still held on to their playoff spot on a point differential tie-breaker. It could get complicated, but barring any upsets, it could also line up perfectly.

Death Track Dolls LogoDeath Track Dolls vs. Smoke City Betties LogoSmoke City Betties

The battle for first place in the league: the Dolls could clinch with a victory; the Betties could throw the standings into chaos with a big win. The Dolls have lived up to preseason expectations, while the Betties struggled out of the gate but seem to be turning things around. A second straight playoff berth seems all but assured for the Betties, but a win would truly shake things up heading into the post season.

The Dolls have a deep bench that includes seventh-year skater Monichrome. (Photo by Neil Gunner).

The Dolls have a deep bench that includes seventh-year skater Monichrome (battling with the Gores’ Gamma Rei). (Photo by Neil Gunner).

Story to Follow: Bench Depth

Both teams been using fairly even benches this season, a testament to their depth (each team has eleven skaters who have appeared in at least 30% of their team’s jams), but the Betties have shown less consistency than the Dolls  (they handled the Chicks more easily than the Dolls did, but they fell to the Gores, whom the Dolls defeated), which is probably due to less experience in those depth positions on the bench.

Story to Follow: Jammer Battle

These two teams clearly boast the best, most consistent rotations in the league. Each team has a primary trio (three jammers who’ve skated at least 20 jams for their team), with the Dolls trio of Santilly In Yo Face, Bellefast and Getcha Kicks arguably holding a slight advantage (they’ve outscored the Betties trio 352 to 317 with 4.4 points per jam against the Betties 4). However, the Betties rotation of Hailey Copter, Slaptrick Swayze and Udre hold the edge in a vital category, lead percentage, and it’s a significant difference at 62% vs. 50%. There are a variety of reasons for that disparity that could explain away some of the difference, but the fact of the matter is that if the Betties control the lead, they could control the game.

First year Doll Rainbow Fight battles against key Gores veterans Kandy Barr and Chronic. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

First year Doll Rainbow Fight battles against key Gores veterans Kandy Barr and Chronic. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The convenient comparison continues as each team also deploys a consistent fourth jammer. Wolverina has been solid in the role, and played her best derby of the year so far at the Beast of the East under an increased load in the absence of Slaptrick Swayze. The Dolls’ fourth jammer, Rainbow Fight, has been phenomenal from the start. In a limited role, she’s amassed 72 points on a 6.5 points per jam and has recorded an 82% lead percentage; even better, on the two occasions she did not earn lead jammer, she was able to get out quick enough to force a call before the jammers could score, meaning she has a perfect +72 plus/minus as a jammer.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls logoGore-Gore Rollergirls vs. Chicks Ahoy! logoChicks Ahoy!

THE rivalry to ToRD’s early history reignites this weekend. These teams have met in five of the six ToRD championships (each team has won three Boots), but this weekend’s showdown has a distinct focus: the Chicks are fighting for their lives, while the Gores are gunning for second, or even first place, in the league. Not since 2009 has a Chicks Ahoy! team failed to qualify for the Battle for the Boot, and this year, even the playoffs are in doubt. It will take a massive win and some luck for this year’s edition to make it through, and with a lineup as inexperienced as theirs is, that could be a difficult challenge.

Gores rookie Lexi Con is on pace to amass record jammer stats for a rookie.  (Photo by Greg Russell)

Gores rookie Lexi Con is on pace to amass record jammer stats for a rookie. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Story to Follow: Penalties

No surprise given the inexperience of the roster, but the Chicks Ahoy! lead the league with 73 penalty minutes (including 14 minutes in jammer penalties). Contrasted with that, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls enter the game as the least penalized team in the league (a full 30 minutes less than the Chicks), and with a much more experienced pack, the Gores could exploit the issue if the Chicks run into their usual problems, particularly on power jams.  Rookie Lexi Con has been tearing up the league in her first season (129 PTS, 4.3 PPJ, 73% Lead%) and can power through weakened packs and defensive walls on power jams.

The Gores Santa Muerte holds up Betties jammer Slaptrick Swayze, while Emma Dilemma holds off Platinum Bomb. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores’ Santa Muerte holds up Betties jammer Slaptrick Swayze, while Emma Dilemma holds off Platinum Bomb. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Story to Watch: Standout Performances

The Gores have survived their 2013 roster shake up by balancing their lines between veterans and less experienced players—something that the Chicks, with their massive disparity between new and returning players, have not been able to do with as much regularity. And while you hate to place too much weight on individual performances in a game that relies so much on teamwork, that could be the difference in this one. The Chicks will have to find a way to contain the vets on this Gore line up; they will not have to contend with key skater Santa Muerte, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier on the Chicks. Kandy Barr is arguably having the season of her career joining another long-time vet Foxy Sinatra in transformations into triple threats. Chronic and Junkie Jenny remain key in the pack as well, and Emma Dilemma is having a breakout season after being given a lot more responsibility; this has allowed the rookies a little freedom and a lot less pressure, which has helped Purple Pain, in particular, quietly develop into a key, effective part of the pack.

Chicks' veteran Robber Blind and rookie Joss Wheelin hold off Betties pivot Misery Mae. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Chicks veteran Robber Blind and rookie Joss Wheelin hold off Betties pivot Misery Mae. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks will be without three of their track-time leaders this weekend (Kookie Doe, Dyna Hurtcha,  Biggley Smallz), and with such an inexperienced line up, the onus for leadership will fall to two skaters: Robber Blind and Furious Georgia (both have been eating up a ton of track time already this season, and have been key).  The only other pack skater on the Chicks’ roster who has picked up considerable track time (IE: appearing in more than 25% of the team’s jams) is rookie standout Emraged. This means that the Chicks will be relying on big performances from blockers who have to prepare (mentally and physically) to take on significant more track time and responsibility than they are used to.

** Doors at the Bunker open at 5:00 PM. Opening whistle for the Gore-Gore Rollergirls vs. Chicks Ahoy! is at 6:00 PM; Death Track Dolls vs. Smoke City Betties gets under way around 8:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at select downtown outlets.

** Catch up on the Stats and Standings here.

2013 Season Preview Part 1: Chicks and Gores

In 2013, the Chicks won their third ToRD Championship. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In 2012, the Chicks won their third ToRD Championship. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Chicks Ahoy!

2012 Results: 3-0 regular season; second consecutive ToRD Championship (3rd overall). 3rd place at the 2012 Beast of the East.

Who’s Out?

With the majority of CN Power skaters separating from hometeams in 2013, the losses sustained by the Chicks roster are substantial. In terms of 2012 track time, four of the top five skaters are no longer on the roster: Nasher the Smasher (50.8% of all jams), Tara Part (49.2 %), Mega Bouche (47.7%) and Rebel Rock-It (46.9%) are all now full-time members of CN Power. But more than just simple track time, this accounts for a massive loss in leadership as Nasher, Mega and Tara form a core of the Chicks’ pack that dates all the way back to their first ToRD championship in 2008.

The loss extends beyond the pack as well, as their jamming rotation also takes a big hit. One of ToRD’s all time leading scorers (and another member of all three Chicks championships), Candy Crossbones joins 2012 breakout skater Bala Reina—who became the first jammer to lead the league in all five major jammer stats including scoring with a remarkable 211 points—as members of CN Power in 2012.

What’s more, some recent skaters who were emerging as steady vets also retired in the off season: Hum Dinger, Red Light Roxy and Snapp’n Cooter had all developed into key components of team.

Who Remains?

Co captain Dyna Hurtcha returns to the Chicks for a 4th season. (Photo by Billy Archos)

Co captain Dyna Hurtcha returns to the Chicks for a 4th season. (Photo by Billy Archos)

Luckily for the Chicks, they boasted one of the deepest benches in Canadian home team roller derby and have a strong core to rebuild around. This season’s co-captains, Dyna Hurtcha and Kookie Doe, despite playing for CN Power, are sticking around to help facilitate the rebuild. Kookie Doe can anchor an offense while Dyna Hurtcha is one of the league’s great triple threats. They also have a mighty veteran core to lean on.

One of the league’s most dynamic strikers, Marmighty returns to terrorize opposing jammers (remarkably, Marmighty skated in 57% of the team’s jams in 2012). Two members of ToRD’s B-Travel team, Robber Blind and Furious Georgia will be relied upon to take up some leadership slack, and four of the team’s most important recent prospects—Biggley Smallz, Roadside BombShel, Doris Doomsday and Tess D’Urb Evil showed that last year they are ready to take on a larger role.

And finally, although hobbled by off season surgery to begin the year, the sole remaining original Chick, Hoff, will provide undeniable leadership off the track to help guide this team through a potentially challenging period.

Transfer and former D-VAS Chevy Chase Her is one of many experienced "rookies" on the Chicks (photo by Billy Archos)

Transfer and former D-VAS Chevy Chase Her is one of many experienced “rookies” on the Chicks (photo by Billy Archos)

Who’s New?

Who isn’t? Might be a better question. Ten new skaters will be donning sailor green in 2013, a mix of experienced farm team skaters and fresh prospects. The most game ready are those skaters who played a significant amount of time with D-VAS last year and picked up a considerable amount of game experience. Chevy Chase Her (jammer and potential triple threat), Joss Wheelin (jammer/blocker), Machete Maiden (blocker), Mean Streak (jammer/blocker), R2 Smack U (blocker), Rosemary’s Rabies (jammer), and Smack Mia Round are joined by Kingston Derby Girls transfer (B)lackey(E) as being game ready and given the massive turnover on the rosters, could all take on key roles with the team over the course of the season.

How’s it Look?

Surprisingly, not bad! Given the amount of turnover, you’d think that things would be looking gloomy, but the Chicks just may be able to ride out this storm. With Dyna Hurtcha potentially impacting every position, the pack looks strong with key strikers Marmighty and Biggley  balanced by solid positional players in Robber Blind, Furious Georgia and Roadside BombShel. The jammer rotation, led by Kookie Doe, will undoubtedly feature Chevy Chase Her and Rosemary’s Rabies (among others), and given their experience, should be able to have an immediate impact.

So, while it may be a lot to think that this team will be capable of a third straight ToRD championship, the drop off will not be as severe as initially though, and they should be capable of being competitive in every game.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls

The Gores are three-time ToRD champions. (Photo by Ashlea Wessel)

The Gores are three-time ToRD champions. (Photo by Ashlea Wessel)

2012 Results: 1-2 regular season, Defeated the Betties in the semifinal before falling to the Chicks in the Battle for the Boot.

Who’s Out?

Change started early in 2012 for the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, with key pieces of the pack retiring midseason. In the off season, Molly Boom and Aston Martini (more essential pack players) followed suit and hung up the skates.  The Gores also felt the pinch in the CN Power pull up as well, losing smooth skating pivot Lady Gagya (who along with Foxy Sinatra, played in 52% of the team’s jams) and the explosive jammer core of Dust Bunny and the league’s all-time leading scorer, Bambi. It’s the core of the Gore dynasty that has seen the team reach all six ToRD championship games.

Original Gore Kandy Barr will be joined by Santa Muerte as 2013 co captains. (Photo by Ashlea Wessel)

Original Gore Kandy Barr will be joined by Santa Muerte as 2013 co captains. (Photo by Ashlea Wessel)

Who Remains?

Co captain Santa Muerte and Chronic—two members of CN Power—have elected to skate for the Gores for one more season, add to that the Bay Street Bruisers duo of  Foxy Sinatra and Junkie Jenny and co captain Kandy Barr (the three remaining original Gores) and the skaters in leopard print still have a hearty pack to build around.

Over the past three years, the Gores have been slowly building internal pack depth and that build will play out this season with Emma Dilemma, Gamma Rei, Wheely Nasty and Miss Kitty La Peur all facing much more responsibility in the pack. In terms of veterans, only R.I. Pink (formerly Draculaura / Pinky Violence) spent a significant amount of time with the star last season (although Santa Muerte is a capable triple threat), which means that the jamming—long the strength of this Gores squad—will come primarily from rookie sources.

Who’s New?

Whatever they say about “Gore attitude,” the team certainly seemed to be drafting to fill needs, and they may have done so impressively. While the explosive offense has alway been central to the success of this team, the Gores have traditionally been top heavy, with not a lot of depth at the position. In one off season, a deep draft has changed all that.

Lexi Con will be key part of the Gores' offensive rebuild. (photo by Ashlea Wessel)

Rookie Lexi Con will be a key part of the Gores’ offensive rebuild. (photo by Ashlea Wessel)

D-VAS-developed skaters Lexi Con and Viktory Lapp have both been seen with the star, with Lexi emerging as a juggernaut as 2012 wore on. Joining them as part of this exciting new rotation are transfers Taranasaurus Rex, Beaver Mansbridge and Tarantulove, who all have significant experience jamming (Taranasaurus Rex is already a member of the Bruisers, and Tarantulove played a full WFTDA season with the Rideau Valley Vixens last year).

The pack is filled out with fomer D-VAS captain Purple Pain and transfers Gypsy Nose Bleed and Amefyst (who had off-season surgery and will miss the beginning of the season). Long term rookie prospects Cirque du So-Laid and Full Deck fill out the 2013 Gore Roster

How’s it Look?

This is definitely the dawn of a new era for the Gore-Gore Rollergirls. Along with the shift in on-track personnel, there has even been a changing of the guard on the bench. After six seasons, His Unholiness the Reverend Ramirez has committed full time to CN Power this year, leaving his former understudies Hot Carl and hellbat at the reigns. While there will definitely be a period of transition for this team, they bring an exceptionally experienced group of rookies to the track in 2013 (only two of the ten new draftees lack significant track time), and will certainly be competitive. After riding the wave of inconsistency last season, at the very least—and baring injuries—2013 should bring a steady, consistent roster to build around.

It’s Smooth Sailing for the Chicks Ahoy! in the 2012 ToRD Championship

The Chicks successfully defended the Boot, winning their third ToRD Championship. (Photo by Greg Russell)

It was a classic showdown with a historic spin at The Bunker on Saturday night, as the defending champion Chicks Ahoy! faced off against principle rivals the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in the Battle for the Boot 6, the 2012 Toronto Roller Derby Championship. It was the fifth time in six years that these two teams had squared off in the event, but roles were reversed this time around. For the first time, the Chicks Ahoy! finished with the best regular season record, a record that included a thirteen-point victory over this same Gores team in February. The Gores, on the other hand, found 2012 a rare struggle, losing their first regular season games in five years and just crawling into the playoffs in a tiebreaker over the Death Track Dolls. Despite the Gores’ somewhat surprising semifinal upset over the Smoke City Betties, they weren’t able to slow the dominant march of the 2012 Chicks. The defending Boot holders dominated from start to finish setting a record for points scored and margin of victory in a championship game with a convincing 196-56 victory to cap a definitive defense of their crown.

Lady Gagya (held behind Marmighty) had a strong night jamming for the Gores. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

With an injury ravaged roster necessitating some creative lineup juggling, it took a while for the Gores to get going, and by the time that they did, it may have already been too late. With a strong, consistent offense anchored by 2012 leading scorer Bala Reina, seasoned veteran Candy Crossbones, and former rookie of the year Kookie Doe, the Chicks came out with a stable, relentless attack from the very start, opening up an 11-0 lead after three jams before Bambi was finally able to put the first points on the board for the Gores. With Dust Bunny dressed, but not fully healed enough to be a difference maker in this one, the Gores went with a diverse, revolving jammer rotation that featured a surprisingly strong performance by Lady Gagya (15 points of the Gores points in the first half), but the pack never found the consistent rhythm that the Chicks’ pack did as their stable lines and the comfort with their jammers allowed them to seize momentum when available and maintain it for long stretches, leading by 40 points half way through the first period after the Gores managed only two scoring passes in that fifteen minutes span.

Chicks’ pivot Dyna Hurtcha had a monster bout in the pack. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

While the Gores seemed to wake up at this point, the constant shuffling of the packs (and subsequent blocker penalty troubles), never allowed them to sustain a consistent attack. With the gap already growing to over 40 points, a 23-point Kookie Doe power jam (she would lead the first half in scoring with 45 points) would bring the Chicks over the century mark and open up a lead that they would never relinquish. It was smooth sailing for the Chicks after that who had a stranglehold on this one, leading 106-32 at the half.

The jammers were certainly key for the Chicks Ahoy!, but just as integral was the punishing pack work. Clinical drag-back defense from Rebel Rock-It, relentless, machine-gun hitting from Marmighty and Mega Bouche, and phenomenal last-line-of-defense one-on-one work from primary pivot Dyna Hurtcha erased any thoughts that the lack of pack juggernauts Nasher the Smasher and Tara Part (who would join Flyin’ Bryan Killman on the bench) would prove detrimental to the team. But just as important as the front line, the key to the Chicks’ continued success is their depth of bench. Consistent veteran players like Furious Georgia, Robber Blind also had strong games, while the rookie trio of Biggley Smallz, Roadside BombShel and Doris Doomsday continued to excel in the pack, and are lead by the stable leadership of key role models Hoff and Tess D’Urb-Evil. All in all, it was a complete game by the Chicks, who rearely relented and had increased the lead to 120 points at the midway point of the period.

The Gores used a wide jammer rotation including Kandy Barr, who looks to avoid a Mega Bouche hit. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Not that the Gores didn’t continue to push to the end. Despite scoring less in the second half, they scored more consistently as opposed to the bunches of points they’d picked up in the first. Santa Muerte, Chronic, Draculaura and Kandy Barr took turns with the star, while the packs relied in large part on Foxy Sinatra, Junkie Jenny and Molly Boom, and got more spirited performances from Miss Kitty La Peur and Emma Dilemma. Moving forward, it will be these five skaters that the Gores will look to to build around. They proved, especially in the semifinal—but at moments in the championship as well—that they are up for the cause; however, it will take time, and it wasn’t going to happen tonight, as the Chicks were unstoppable on their way to the overwhelming 196-56 victory.

With a number of skaters on each team joining CN Power full time, veterans like Foxy Sinatra and Junkie Jenny will have a greater responsibility moving forward. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

These two teams have been the perennial top performers in the league’s early history, and that is due in large part to the cores that these teams have been built around. With a roster more consistent than those of the Dolls and the Betties, these two teams have been consistent performers year in and year out (with the Chicks only have one blemish on their record—a 2009 season that ended early). But after six years, this game marked the end of an era, as in 2013, the members of CN Power will be leaving their hometeams to focus solely on WFTDA play. After a breakout season in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (they went 9-1 in sanctioned play and just missed out on a playoff spot), CN Power will be skating straight into the heart of roller derby’s most competitive league next season and will require a full-time commitment from its skaters. For the Gores and Chicks and their fans, it means a lot of fresh new faces to get used to next season (they will be selected from an experienced group of D-VAS in the upcoming entry draft).

Venerable announcer Crankypants announced his retirement prior to the championship game. (Photo by Greg Russell)

On top of that, this bout marked the last for legendary announcer and voice of the league, Crankypants, who has stood right alongside these skaters through it all. While it will be a strange thing indeed to watch a ToRD event without Crankypants, the timing—in light of the changing make-up of the league—was apt, and even slightly poetic. Certainly, the legend will live on and the memory too, every time anyone implores the crowd to get louder.

Change may be difficult, but for ToRD as a whole, it means renewal, and an exciting, unpredictable house league for 2013 (with, on paper anyway, there appearing to be a power shift to the Betties and the Dolls on the horizon). These first few years have been extraordinary in their development and have produced phenomenal skaters, amazing moments and a strong, stable community around which to grow even further.

The development of Toronto’s most competitive league has mirrored the development of the sport as a whole: the game itself has never been stronger, more popular, or more relevant. ToRD, after another successful championship to cap another successful year, seems ready to continue its ascendance.