Lady Gagya

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.

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Building for the Future: A Personal Reflection on Two Days of Derby (Part 2)

Cn Power co-captain Lady Gagya talks to her bench. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power was confident on Sunday morning as they warmed up for the early noon start. While the Thunder (ranked two spots behind ToRD’s travel team) did eventually lose 159-113, they managed to keep pace in the second half, and more importantly, they got under the skin of the Ohio skaters and took them out of their game, holding them to only 9 points over the final 10 minutes of the game.  The differential was almost exactly the same as the last time CN Power had met the Thunder, and this gave CN Power hope.

CN Power jammer Defecaitlin tries to break through a tight Ohio wall. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There is an eerie intensity to closed games, perhaps heightened by the dusty expanse of The Bunker (looking far removed from its stint as host of the World Cup). Sunday morning is sunny and hot—the tail end of the first real summer weekend of the year—along with a full contingent of refs, NSOs and the ToRD TV boutcast crew, a handful of leaguemates is present as well. The lack of an audience does not  dampen the atmosphere; instead, as the teams chant their pre-games chants into the empty room, a certain tension is felt in the silence. CN Power bursts out of the gates with their top rotation of Defecaitlin, Bambi and Candy Crossbones taking the first three lead-jammer statuses and putting up 9 points. It is methodical, and they look comfortable, settled: ready. But then in the fourth jam Ohio’s Kitty Liquorbottom picks up 9 points behind stifling pack work (as she had been the previous night in New Hamburg, Phoenix Bunz is a menace, a one-woman pack, who plays the same sort of relentless kind of derby as Rideau Valley’s Semi Precious).  For the next few jams momentum swings Ohio’s way, with a 15-point power jam threatening to widen the gap between the teams.

Betty Bomber and Lady Gagya try to contain Ohio triple threat Phoenix Bunz. (Phoyo by Greg Russell)

With CN Power’s jammer rotation running into early penalty trouble, travel team rookie, Kookie Doe, is given her first opportunity with the star. Her lead status and 4-point pickup ends a run of 45 straight points scored by Ohio and suddenly CN Power is back in it. Everything seems to be coming back together again for the home team. Tara Part and Nasher the Smasher are putting in their usual performances, and on the other lines Panty Hoser and Lady Gagya are playing well. With four minutes remaining in the half, Ohio is up by one point 57-56. The small group of ToRDies I am sitting with is antsy and vocal. Unfazed, Ohio never strays very far from their simple, fast game and win the final two jams to lead 69-56 at the half.

I’m not able to watch the second half. At this point The Bruisers and I walk away to prepare for our debut that will follow. Watching the CN Power game has been stressful: high heart rate, bitten nails, tension-yells that echo off the walls of the empty Bunker, but as I leave Track 1 to join the team on Track 2 (the warm-up track), I feel a calmness fall over me.

Ohio plays an uncomplicated, super tight and fast brand of flat track roller derby. (Photo by Greg Russell)

I experience the second half of the CN Power game from this vantage point. I can see the score, flashes of skaters rounding turn one; I can hear the whistle of the refs, the bursts of noise from the benches, the few in attendance. I can see that things aren’t going well for CN Power. 12 minutes in, CN Power has been outscored 30-5. It’s 104-61 at the halfway point. That’s when I notice Bambi being led away with her arm in a brace (it’s broken); see Aston Martini on the sidelines with her arm back in a sling, having reaggravated a recurring injury. Suddenly, with lines in disarray and people in positions they aren’t used to, CN Power can no longer compete with a team of the quality and endurance of Ohio. They pounce and are merciless in their taking advantage of the shaken team and they dominate the second half. It is the case of a very, very experienced team taking complete advantage of a comparatively inexperienced team caught up in a moment of adversity. They distance themselves from the challengers and win definitively 197-91.

Bruisers jammer Bala Reina faces off against Gang Green’s Outa My Wayman (who, remarkably, played all four games for Ohio on the weekend). (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Bay Street Bruisers take to the track following this, facing off against a Gang Green that features six of the skaters who have just defeated our A Team (including the smooth skating Outa My Wayman). The Bruisers, though, are completely focused. I personally feel infinitely more calm on the bench in the midst of a game than I was on the sidelines watching, though memories of the Gang Green vs. Plan B bout from the night before linger. We weather some early game penalty troubles, stick to the plan and play our game, trying to match Ohio’s masterful simplicity with our own brand of straight-ahead flat track roller derby. We are down 86-42 at the half.

Led by our calm, consistent captain/pivots Chronic and Downright Dirty Dawson, the Bruisers don’t play a perfect game by any means, but play as perfectly as one could expect from a team in its first game together. There are moments when things unravel, but every time we are able to reel it in and get control. In the end we fall 173-109, but it is a pleasing performance nonetheless; an outstanding first game laying a strong foundation for the future.

The Bruisers pack works to contain the Gang Green jammer. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

And in the end, despite the losses, that is what the true importance of this weekend was for Toronto Roller Derby: an opportunity to lay a foundation for the future. While ToRD and Ohio had very similar beginnings, their league narratives have diverged. Both offer differing, but potentially equal models to follow for teams who choose the WFTDA path (while this does not necessarily mean a competitive one, for the most part, the decision to join WFTDA is usually coupled with a desire to increased the competitive level of a league). In a very big way, Ohio has shortened its bench, so to speak, doing away with home teams to focus on travel teams exclusively; and even then, Gang Green has a core of secondary skaters who are surrounded by A-team skaters whenever they play. It is an almost ascetic approach to the game. Stripped away to a core, for the past two years all that Ohio has done has been to travel and play: a single-minded focus on getting game experience, building endurance. They’ve gotten to the point where they act in unison without the slightest communication; they have an instant counter-strategy for every situation they encounter on the track because they’ve seen it all. It’s worked for them. At this pace they will easily make the Regional playoffs and by the time that rolls around in the fall, they will undoubtedly be ready to compete.

The Bay Street Bruisers are bridging the talent gap between ToRD’s hometeams and CN Power. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

ToRD has taken a different approach. And while it should yield the same results in the long run, it is a model that requires patience and foresight. ToRD has a “feeder” model in place, that sees skaters who complete Fresh Meat join the D-VAS, essentially a C travel team that competes with younger leagues around the province (we’re lucky to live in a region where three levels of travel teams can coexist quite comfortably); the four hometeams then draft the D-VAS onto their rosters where they can try out for the Bruisers, and eventually work their way up to CN Power.

CN Power showed that it is on the verge of competing at a high level. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

On Sunday, for one half anyway, CN Power looked like a team ready to compete at the highest level, or at least at the level of the Regional playoffs. But the second half showed that CN Power needs two things before that can become a reality: depth and experience. It’s off to a good start this season with experience gained from playing seven games already. The success of the Bay Street Bruisers shows that the gap between the hometeams and the A team has been filled and that given time, important depth is on its way to the top squad.

ToRD may not be ready to take the WFTDA by storm just yet, but all evidence shows that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

***Read Part 1 here.

Weekend Recap: CN Power improves to 5-0 on WFTDA season

CN Power and the Lake Effect Furies met for the third time in 18 months. (Photo by Joe Mac)

WFTDA ACTION

Lake Effect Furies (15th E) 92 vs. CN Power (17th NC) 184

Just six months ago, the last time ToRD’s CN Power and Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies met, it was a quintessential heart-stopping nail-biter: a game that went back and forth from the start, featured numerous lead changes and ended up not being settled until the final minutes when CN Power was able to nudge ahead and squeak out a 10-point victory. On Saturday there were two lead changes and they both occurred within the first eight minutes of the game; the Toronto hosts took the lead at the eight-minute mark of the opening half and never looked back, picking up a definitive 92-point victory and winning their fifth straight WFTDAbout of 2012.

B'kini Whacks had a strong game jamming for Furies; Aston Martini responded defensively for the CN Power. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Furies play a physical brand of derby that has given CN Power problems in the past, but Toronto withstood the fury and even managed to dish out some punishment of their own over the course of the bout. In the opening minutes though, it was a stalemate. CN Power jumped out to a quick lead on their home track, with a series of quick 4-and-done jams that had them ahead early. But a big 14-point pick up by B’kini Whacks (aided by some stifling pack work) saw Queen City take the lead 17-12 six minutes in. But CN Power did not relent and within three minutes retook the lead 21-17. The actual turning point in the half (and maybe the whole game) came five minutes later when the first power jam was rewarded to CN Power and Candy Crossbones picked up a hard-fought 14 points to give Toronto a 37-20 lead.

CNP jammer Candy Crossbones seemed to thrive in the physical nature of the game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

CN Power’s core jammer rotation of Candy Crossbones, Bambi and Dust Bunny is a juggernaut of a rotation and one that is only improving with more WFTDA play (their strength also allows skaters like Betty Bomber and Dyna Hurtcha—who had an outstanding game as a blocker—to play in the pack).  Each of the jammers brings a distinct style to the jam line that keeps opposition packs on their toes and impedes any sort of unified defensive effort. Each skater also seems to thrive in particular games, and this one was Candy Crossbones’ to take over. A physical jammer herself, Candy seemed to power-up with every punishing hit delivered by the relentless Furies’ pack (and between the likes of R. Rose Selavy, Lipservice and Vajenna Warrior, there were a lot of those) and dominated the first half, putting up 48 points and ensuring a 92-61 lead at the break.

CNP co-captain Lady Gagya had a strong game in the pack. (Photo by Greg Russell)

CN Power was playing its first game without long-time captain and key pivot Brim Stone, but the team rallied around the gap instead of allowing it to be a distraction. There is a strong on-track leadership core in place led by the always excellent Tara Part and Nasher the Smasher  who have provided the consistency and calmness that has allowed other skaters like (co captain) Lady Gagya and Panty Hoser to step us as leaders as well. Aston Martini has also continued to emerge as a key defensive blocker on this team in 2012 and was a recycling machine in the first half before being pulled in the second as an injury suffered at the recent Quad City Chaos flared up (allowing Jubilee to step into the defensive role, which she handled well). Marmighty was playing in her first game as a member of CN Power, and despite some early penalty troubles, did not look out of place on the track providing some of that much needed physicality that Toronto needed, and is just another example of the depth of Toronto’s bench.

In one of their more consistent efforts all year (they weathered some considerable pushbacks from the visitors, especially near the end of the first half), CN Power skated disciplined and clean and took advantage of power jams and mistakes by the Furies to pull away for the 184-92 victory, another big one on their climb up the WFTDA ladder.

**The game was boutcast by the ToRD.TV crew via Derby News Network and Canuck Derby TV. Watch it here.

2012 Season Preview: CN Power

CN Power 2012

2011: A LOOK BACK

CN Power completed its apprenticeship and kicked off life as a member of the WFTDA’s North Central Region in 2011, making a commitment to compete. And it was a successful initial foray into the highest levels of competitive flat track roller derby. The team kicked off 2011 with a preview of things to come  when they crushed WFTDA team Killamazoo Derby Darlins 197-35 in a February home game (Killamazoo was ranked 19th in the North Central at that time). CN Power completed its apprenticeship when it hosted Montreal’s New Skids on the Blocks, Tri-City Thunder and the Rideau Valley Vixens at the second annual Quad City Chaos, going 2-1 with victories over Thunder (112-98) and Vixens (156-40) to finish second in the round robin tournament for the second year in a row.

CN Power overwhelmed a short handed Eh! Team in October. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

After acceptance into the WFTDA at the end of the summer, the Toronto all stars continued to dominate the lower levels of the North Central completing a home-and-home sweep of Killamazoo (220-76) before destroying traditional rivals from Hammer City, the Eh! Team (277-22). The team stepped up the competition in the fall facing a considerable challenge in Grand Raggidy (ranked 11th), losing 148-68 in Grand Rapids. CN Power got back on a winning streak with a hard-fought 139-129 victory over Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies (14th in the Eastern Region) and Rideau Valley’s Vixens.

In December, CN Power faced its stiffest challenge ever against Naptown. (Photo by Michael Guio)

CN Power closed out 2011 on a Midwest road trip that saw them face off against North Central powerhouse Naptown (falling mightily 266-67) before taking out their frustrations on Louisville’s Derby City Rollergirls 295-28. All in all, going 9-3 on its first full season with a set roster and after gaining admittance to the WFTDA, it was an impressive year for a team that previous to this had never played more than seven bouts in a season (in 2010, after only four in 2009 and one in 2008).

For a complete list of scores and results, click here.

Mia Culprit returns to CN Power. She was part of the first ever CN Power team that challenged the Eh! Team in 2008. (Photo by Derek Lang)

2012: LOOKING FORWARD

After a series of makeshift rosters suffered crushing losses to end 2010, CN Power reorganized and restructured and 2011 was the first year try outs lead to a set roster. In 2012 the competitive structure remains and three new skaters have been added to the team. League veteran and current member of the Smoke City Betties Mia Culprit returns to CN Power (she was part of the first ever CN Power lineup in 2008) adding power and depth to the pack, which will also be bolstered by the arrival of Chicks Ahoy! member Marmighty, who turned some heads with her league play in 2011. And finally 2011 rookie of the year Kookie Doe (also of the Chicks Ahoy!) rounds out the additions and adds depth to the jammer rotation. Lady Gagya joins Brim Stone as co-captains for 2012.

CN Power already has a steady and consistent flow of competition lined up for 2012 with spring bouts scheduled against Queen City’s Lake Effect Furies and a March 3rd home debut against Rochester New York’s Roc City All Stars. They also have two tournaments lined up: along with hosting the third annual Quad City Chaos (March 31-April 1), they will also take part in the Midwest Brewhaha in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (June 2-3).

Fort Wayne is CN Power's first opponent in 2012.

CN Power kicks off 2012 this Saturday with a critical road game showdown against Fort Wayne in Indiana.  The Fort Wayne Derby Girls are a historic flat track team, playing in the WFTDA since 2007. They were also involved in some of the sport’s earliest cross-border showdowns in their dealings with the Hammer City Eh! Team.  Currently they are ranked 14th in the North Central, but climbed as high as 12th in 2011 (they went 5-6 in WFTDA action in 2011, facing off against some of the toughest competition in the region). They played their first bout of 2012 on January 21st with a definitive 204-80 win against 23rd ranked NEO Roller Derby (Akron, Ohio).

You can catch all the action live from Fort Wayne on the Derby News Network beginning at 6:00 PM eastern.

2011 Team Stats Highlights

  • Over a grueling twelve-game schedule, Nasher the Smasher (49%), Brim Stone (44%) and Tara Part (42%) were on the track for over 40% of CN Power’s jams (triple threat Dyna Hurtcha was on for 37%). Defecaitlin was the busiest jammer, jamming for 24% of CN Power’s jams.
  • Nasher led the team in blocks and knockdowns, while tied with Mega Bouche for assists.
  • Defecaitlin  led the team in scoring with 445 points (49 points per game, 3.83 points per jam). Dyna Hurtcha (340) and Candy Crossbones (314) also scored over 300 points on the season. Despite appearing in only three games, Bambi managed to score 149 points (49.7 points per game).
  •  Defecailtin also led the team in jammer +/- (+213) and lead % (59%).
  • Given her amount of track time, it’s no surprise that Nasher racked up the most penalties (43 minors, 21 majors for 27 minutes).  Dyna Hurtcha (22) and Mega Bouche (20) also registered at least 20 minutes in penalties.

ROSTER

Nasher the Smasher spent more time on the track in 2011 that any other CN Power skater. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Aston Martini 510hp (Blocker)

Bambi 33 (Jammer)

Betty Bomber 23 (Blocker, Jammer)

Brim Stone (C) 21:8 (Pivot, Blocker, Jammer)

Bruiseberry Pie 31 (Blocker, Jammer)

Candy Crossbones 2020 (Jammer)

Defecaitlin 2  (Jammer)

Dyna Hurtcha 21 (Blocker, Jammer)

Hurlin Wall 89 (Blocker)

Jubilee 27 (Blocker)

Kookie Doe 807 (Jammer)

Lady Gag Ya (C) 212db (Blocker)

Marmighty 41 (Blocker)

Lady Gagya joins Brim Stone as CN Power co-captain in 2012. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Mega Mouth 26 (Blocker, Pivot)

Mia Culprit 22 (Blocker)

Nasher the Smasher 2×4 (Blocker, Pivot)

Panty Hoser 99 (Blocker, Pivot)

Rebel Rock-it 7 (Pivot, Blocker, Jammer)

Santa Muerte 111 (Blocker, Jammer)

Tara Part L7 (Pivot, Blocker)

MANAGERS:  

The Rev. Ramirez

Sonic Doom

The Derby Nerd

Deciphering the Draft (Part 1): ToRD’s 2011 Entry Draft Is Deepest Yet

Toronto Roller Derby held its annual entry draft on October 15th at the new location of Cardinal Skates (940 Bloor St. W).

Starting at around 9:30 PM they begin to enter the new home of Cardinal Skate Shop one by one, responding to the call that they’d been waiting for. When each one enters there are loud cheers: Blue shirts are stretched over heads, green icing rubbed into faces, and baby bottles shoved into mouths. They’ve gone from the anxiousness of anticipation—the stress of waiting for a call that may not come—to being the celebrated centre of attention.  There is excitement in their faces, joy even, but behind that there is also relief and, for some, shock. These are the twelve newest skaters in the Toronto Roller Derby league, the draft class of 2011.

For the skaters of the 2011 draft, this night was a culmination of up to 18 months of hard work and dedication. It was a reward for their commitment to this sport, but also an acknowledgment of their ability. And it certainly wasn’t a guarantee. It wasn’t that long ago that being drafted into ToRD simply meant finishing the Fresh Meat training program and declaring eligibility; since 2010 it has become a much more competitive venture. The burgeoning global interest in women’s flat track roller derby has been mirrored by the incredible interest in the sport in Toronto. With an increasing number of skaters successfully completing Fresh Meat, but only a limited number of open roster spots on the four hometeams in ToRD, the decision was made to resurrect the D-VAS (one of the original hometeams that made up the initial, over-ambitious birth of Toronto Roller Derby).  Since 2010, the D-VAS has acted as a farm team for the four hometeams of the league. Given the steady growth of new leagues in Ontario (23 and counting as of October, 2011), there has been lots of equivalent-level competition entering the game that has allowed the D-VAS to put together a year-round bouting schedule of home and away games.

The D-VAS were one of the orginal 6 ToRD teams, and now serve as the farm team for the league.

Smoke City Betties captain Misery Mae knows the importance of the role of the D-VAS better than anyone; only one year ago she was completing her time on the farm team and being drafted into the league. Advancing from rookie to captain in a year is a remarkable turn-around made possible by a solid foundation formed on the farm team. “Being a D-VAS brings out an understanding of the game (and) brings you up to being game ready,” she points out, alluding to the high level of preparedness that skaters entering the league now have. These sentiments are echoed by Chicks Ahoy! captain Candy Crossbones, “It was very easy to choose skilled players because it was a very high calibre (draft) in terms of skill.” There were about 40 skaters on the D-VAS by the time of the draft, with 33 skaters declaring eligibility for the 12 spots. Needless to say, this level of competition will raise the level of the entry into the league, thereby raising the base level of play. “(The D-VAS) has been a huge asset for ToRD,” agrees Misery Mae, “and in the future, it’s going to be a really strong factor in what moves ToRD forward competitively.”

hellbat was the lone draftee of the Gore-Gore Rollergirls this season. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The importance of this developmental process is not lost on the skaters either. hellbat, the lone draftee onto the Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ roster this season, was undrafted last year (the first year there were more skaters than spots in the draft). “(The D-VAS) are tremendously important to the future of ToRD…I feel like I had a rookie year already and then had to be a senior skater (to the newer D-VAS).” One of the Smoke City Betties’ four draftees, Laya Beaton was also a senior skater with the farm team this season. “This year was really awesome on the D-VAS; I got a lot of experience, a lot of game play, and I learned what I needed to fix.”  As the competitive level of ToRD reaches new heights, it is not as easy for skaters to simply step into a role in the league, and there isn’t as much opportunity for the hometeams to train them either. “(Being on the D-VAS) prepared me more for the level of competition that exists in ToRD,” explains Roadside BombShel (draftee of the defending champion Chicks Ahoy!). “The level of drive and commitment is new from what I’d seen before,” she says (pointing out that she began her skating career with the more recreationally focused Rollergettes). “It challenges you to be more than just a skater; it challenges you to be a better athlete.”

The game experience that the D-VAS gets (such as this September meeting against Guelph's Rolay City) means that they are entering the league at a much higher level. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The game experience that the D-VAS get (such as this September meeting against Guelph's Royal City) means that they are entering the league at a much higher level. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

But being a member of a competitive roller derby team takes a lot more than just skills on skates and a knowledge of the game, it takes tremendous dedication. “The D-VAS are a really important step…in the past we’ve drafted people who weren’t even sure if they really wanted to be on a team,” points out Gores’ captain Lady Gagya, who stresses the importance of the D-VAS in clearly separating the curious from the committed.

After the rigors of being on the D-VAS (with the intense focus on training and game play) and having the opportunity to take hits from unfriendly opposition, questions of commitment can most certainly be laid to rest.

(Deciphering the Draft continues tomorrow with a look at the teams’ selection processes and more interviews with the drafted skaters)

Team Preview: Smoke City Betties

SMOKE CITY BETTIES

Wins Losses +/ – Notes
2010 Regular Season 0 3 -574 Currently on a 5 bout, ToRD losing streak.
2010 Playoffs 0 1 -88 A comparatively solid showing in the semis.

The 2010 Betties lost their 4 ToRD bouts by an average of 165 points. (Photo by Joe Mac)

2010

Things could have ended very badly for the Smoke City Betties in 2010. The team staggered into ToRD’s semifinals as the fourth seed, lining up across the track from the defending champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls. Having lost their previous four bouts by a combined score of 975 – 167, the Betties seemed primed to be blown out, and in a big way. But then an interesting thing happened in that October bout: a cohesive team finally emerged to play its most competitive bout of the season.

After exploding the roster of the squad who’d made a spirited run to the 2009 championship, the 2010 Betties were rebuilding around a small core of veterans. There were certainly a fair share of growing pains along the way, but growing pains build maturity. The Betties ended last season truly looking like a team of the future.

LOSSES AND GAINS

BruiseBerry Pie salutes the crowd in her Hangar debut at the 2010 Clam Slam. (Photo by Joe Mac)

For the first time in years, it is possible to talk about the Betties in terms of gains as opposed to losses. With a favourable position in the draft, the Betties played on their solid youth group by focusing on stockpiling veterans. ToRD veteran Mia Culprit returns to the track in 2011. A founding member of ToRD, and a veteran of the Gore’s 2009 championship team, Mia brings a wealth of experience to the track for a team that desperately needs it. Key is her ability to pivot, which, especially for a young squad, is extremely important. Another key addition to the front of the pack is BruiseBerry Pie. After cutting her teeth with the GTAR’s Derby Debutantes, BruiseBerry will be making her much anticipated ToRD debut in the Betties’ season opener. The hard-hitting pivot potentially entering the prime of her career could be a game changer for this Betties squad. Co-captain Lady Scorcher has said that the roster continuity, along with the addition of veterans, has really helped the team prepare for the season. “Last year we started the ToRD season with 12 rookies, this year we have two, it’s a completely different feel,” she said.  “We’ve had almost a year and lots of experiences that have bonded us as a team, and the new drafts are integrating with the team really well.”

Mia Culprit returns to the track after a one-year hiatus (seen here playing for the 2009 champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

BY POSITION

The Betties will be led by a trio of new bench bosses this season: Sneaky Teaze, a former player and then coach of the original D-VAS, returns, and she’ll be joined by The Count and Shaun Fletcher. During last year’s rebuild, many of the young Betties were thrust into important roles on the track. “We really had to throw most of our skaters into new roles, with big performance expectations last year,” Scorcher admitted in discussing the pressure on the Betties rookies last year. “It felt a bit like climbing a mountain, but now the peak is in sight and we aren’t limiting our expectations of what is possible this season.” So while it may have seemed punishing at the time, this experience should make for a team that is solid positionally in 2011.

Pivots: Both Mia Culprit and BruiseBerry Pie have considerable experience with the stripe, and will undoubtedly be looked upon for leadership up front. Last season, vets Hot Roller and Pretty Peeved stepped up to take on most of the load in this position and will probably do so again this year. Lacy Brawler and Lady Scorcher are two other experienced options up front (and both evolved into great two-way players late last year), but last season’s rookie triple threat Sail Her Poon can handle the pressure, and Grim Avenger (who had the third most track time among the rookies) ended 2010 with a prominent and versatile role in the pack and could be a pivot of the future.

Nine Betties played their first bouts in 2010 (including Mouth of the South, titmouse and Tropic Thunder). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Blockers: Once again, due to necessity, the Betties have an experienced group of second-year skaters who can fill out the pack. Mouth of the South, Sin D Drop Her, and P Doddy (whose track time increased considerably as the season progressed) all gained valuable experience last season and will be looked upon to take on a leadership roles in 2011. Diva Zapata and Genuine Risk both seem poised to take on considerably more of the workload as well. All of this means that rookie additions Rug Burn and Misery Mae (who gained valuable bouting experience with the D-VAS in 2010) have the privilege of developing at a slow, considered pace, free of the burden of expectation that last season’s rookies had thrust upon them.

Jammers: It could be argued that this is the position that the Betties struggled with most last season. Sole vet Memphis Kitty led the youthful attack and she’ll be back to perform the same role this season. The good news is, is that jammer squad who had an initiation by fire in 2010 is back intact. Tropic Thunder led the 2010 Betties with a 24 % jammer percentage and showed considerable grit and determination in what was a challenging role to play on such an inexperienced team. Her 24% was just ahead of Poon’s 22%, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the captain spread herself across the positions more, allowing fellow sophomores Platinum Bomb and titmouse a chance to develop with the star.

EXPECTATIONS

There is a general sense that after such an intense 2010, the future is now for the Smoke City Betties. And things look good in the preseason, as a confident looking Betties squad recently gained a hard-fought victory (81-77) over a similarly matched Rideau Valley Riot Squad. The 2011 version of the Betties looks far removed from the team that suffered a 234 point loss on its last trip to Ottawa (last August vs. The Slaughter Daughters). It remains to be seen how this team can compete in ToRD this season. Aside from the Gores predictably strong squad, there are many unknowns. The Death Track Dolls looked vulnerable in their season opener, and the Chicks Ahoy!—a team that has thrived on a consistent, experienced lineup—will be tested as they integrate a considerable rookie crop this year. Despite all of the new faces on the Chicks, the Betties are not taking their opponents lightly. “They still have plenty of big hitters, fast jammers and strong leaders,” Scorcher points out, adding “we’re really looking forward to starting off the season with this game, as it will be a great opportunity to see how far we’ve come since last playing them.”

There is one thing about this game that is a given: this bout will most certainly not be a repeat of last season’s 266-42 blowout.

From the Archives (July 19, 2009): Betties 68 vs. Chicks 61 (Betties' Slaughter Lauder tries to pass Chicks' Mega Bouche). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

2010 REGULAR SEASON STATS HIGHLIGHTS

– Over ToRD’s full 2010 season, had an average margin of loss of 166 points. Memphis Kitty’s -123 was actually the top overall +/- on the team.

– Sail Her Poon led the team in scoring (47 PTS, a 1.88 PPJ), while Memphis Kitty led with a 31% lead percentage.

– Pretty Peeved led the team in assists (12), blocks (24) and tied with Lady Scorcher for the lead in knockdowns (3).

– Lacy Brawler (who led the Betties in track time, appearing in 60% of the team’s jams) picked up the most minor penalties (29), majors (8) and total penalty minutes (14).

* Betties play the Chicls in the season opener for both teams on Saturday, March 12. Tickets for the bout are available online, or at various outlets down town. Doors of The Hangar open at 6:30, opening whistle at 7:30.

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