Laya Beaton

Smashers Smash Madames in Gibson’s Cup Showdown.

Atom Smashers led from start to finish to overwhelm the Motor City Madames and win a third consecutive Gibson’s Cup, continuing their reign atop Durham Region Roller Derby.

Photo by Joe Mac

Photography by Joe Mac

Derby time runs on its own strange rhythm; it’s the kind of rhythm that can let four years pass by in the blink of an eye. On Saturday night at the Ajax Community Centre, Durham Region Roller Derby hosted its fourth annual Gibson’s Cup, the yearly championship game between its two home teams, the Atom Smashers and the Motor City Madames. It’s been a big year for the two teams: some past stars developed by them have moved on to prominent roles on teams in Toronto and elsewhere, and both took part in this year’s Beast of the East (the second appearance for the Madames after playing in 2012 as well). The Smashers, in particular, turned some heads at the tournament, taking co-hosts Les Filles du Roi to the limit before dispatching their leaguemates handily in a must-win game. The one-sided win would prove an augur for things to come, as the Smashers took their third consecutive Gibson’s Cup on Saturday night with an impressive 249-103 victory.

Smashers' triple threat Betty ForgetaBOUTit gets nudged to the outside by Bad Princess and Laya Beaton.

Smashers’ triple threat Betty ForgetaBOUTit gets nudged to the outside by Bad Princess and Laya Beaton.

The Smashers set the pace early, bursting out of the gates with a 9-0 opening jam that would set the tone for the game while also signaling the kind of offensive dominance that would lead to the win. The defending champs were led, offensively, by prototypical triple threats Betty ForgetaBOUTit and PIPtonium, but with those skaters doing double duty, Scarlita would actually end up leading the way with the star, her 55 first-half points single-handedly outscoring the opposition (46). The Smashers were able to field a range of jammers that kept the Madames defense guessing, sometimes following the speedy, jukey Scarlita with the powerful 12 Gage: a contrast in styles that complements each other.

The Madames fielded a decent and varied range of jammers as well, led by the fast, agile and deceptively tough Murdercat!, the offense was anchored by captain, and long-time Madames Cutsie Bootsie (who had announced her retirement from the game in the lead up to the bout). Daisy TripHer and recent DRRDy Farmers graduate Tump Her rounded out the rotation for MCM. It took awhile for the offense to kick into gear, as the jammers found themselves constantly stifled by the true key to the Smashers’ dominance: defense. And by the end of the first half, the story seemed to be set, with the champs leading comfortably 129-46.

Retiring Madames jammer Cutsie Bootsie sneaks past emerging star Dicintagrater.

Retiring Madames jammer Cutsie Bootsie sneaks past emerging Smashers blocker Dicintagrater.

It was the pack work that truly set the teams apart. The Madames came out flying in the second half, narrowing their rotation early in the period (Murdercat! donned the star every second jam early on) as they tried to wrestle momentum away from their opponents. However, the Smashers were able to control the packs by setting up stifling defense from the back, with one line in particular—featuring a devastating duo of Psycho Magnet and Young Blood—giving the Madames fits all night. On top of that, the depth in the pack (which also featured consistent performances from the likes of Yogi Dare Ya, extermi knitter, and String Blade) added to the relentless pounding by the Smashers’ blockers, drawing a significant amount of penalties from their opponent’s jammers; their properly taking advantage of those opportunities meant that the Madames were never able to develop a sustained push in the second.

Madames' jammer Bad Princess duels with Smashers' blocker T.R.U.C.K.

Madames’ jammer Bad Princess duels with Smashers’ blocker T.R.U.C.K.

Not that there weren’t strong performances on the other side as well. Individually, skaters stood out in the losing cause for the Madames. Cop-A-Feel was her usual steady self, but pivot Pac-Ma’am stepped up in a big way in terms of leadership on the track, joining veteran Laya Beaton with the stripe, and Dr. Venkman delivered some brutal, but often timely, hits all night long. Another head-turning performance came late in the game from Bad Princess who was thrown into the jammer rotation and held her own, bringing her blocker-refined toughness to the position (one that she did sometimes play in her time with the Farmers).

But in the end, the Smashers were simply too cohesive and had too many weapons for their opponents, pulling away for the 249-103 win. It was the lowest total that the Madames had ever put up in a Gibson’s Cup, and the Smashers were only points away from the record-setting 257 points they scored in 2012.

The Gibson's Cup is named for a young fan who passed away in 2010 after an extended battle with cancer. Hearth Place was the charity partner for the event.

The Gibson’s Cup is named for a young fan who passed away in 2010 after an extended battle with cancer. Hearth Place was the charity partner for the event.

Barring too many unforeseen off-season changes, both teams actually look strong moving forward, with veteran cores providing steadiness for the development of newer skaters. The Madames, in particular, seem to be a team full of potential, with very new skaters like Tump Her and Bad Princess setting the stage for the future of the team. And the Smashers too, continue to develop strong skaters. 2014 Transfer T.R.U.C.K. is a multi-talented skater who jumped into the jammer rotation late in the game, but there is Farmers’ developed talent as well, led by Jungle Jen and Dicintagrater and featuring Minor Krisis and Natitude.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since a Durham Region Roller Derby team headed down the 401 to make its competitive debut (vs. the D-VAS in the ToRD Hangar on August 21, 2010). Like the very sport itself, the league has come a long way in a short period of time.

**** Hearth Place Cancer Support Centre was the charity sponsor for the event. Please visit for more information about the services offered and how to donate.

****The game was covered by Rogers TV and will begin a series of rebroadcasts on Thursday, July 31, at 8:00 PM on Rogers Durham.

Dolls Move into First Place with Win Over Betties

Betties fall to 0-2 after rematch of 2013 Battle for the Boot.

The Betties and Dolls met in a rematch of last year's championship game; the results were similar. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Betties and Dolls met in a rematch of last year’s championship game; the results were similar. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

After a rash of off-season roster changes that followed their 2013 Toronto Roller Derby Championship, the Death Track Dolls were expected to enter into a period of at least minor rebuilding. But on Saturday night at the Bunker, in their second game of the season, it was the Dolls taking one more stride toward securing a second-consecutive spot in ToRD’s annual Battle for the Boot with a decisive 208-70 victory over the Smoke City Betties.

The tale of the game could be read in the opening jam as the Dolls got off to an explosive 19-0 start, with the Betties’ jammer titmouse picking up a cutting penalty on her opening pass allowing the Dolls’ Bellefast to pick up four scoring passes. It was a poor start all around for the Betties as the Dolls’ packs dominated, allowing their jammers to pick up the first five leads and build a formidable 69-0 lead before the Betties got on the board at the ten minute mark of the opening half.

The Dolls’ stiff defensive walls and tidy jamming had them cruising in a comfort zone the Betties could never reach. Missing their two leading scorers from the season opener (WackedHer and co-captain Wolverina), the Betties’ offense ran through veteran titmouse, the ever-improving SewWhat?, and second-year skater Kill’Her At Large (with Honey Boom Boom supplying relief).

The Betties' Sew What (who eventually led her team in scoring with 28 points) attempts to evade Audrey Hellborn. (Photo by Greg Russell).

The Betties’ Sew What (who eventually led her team in scoring with 28 points) attempts to evade Audrey Hellborn. (Photo by Greg Russell).

The Dolls shifted things a bit offensively from their season opener, slipping co-captain Getcha Kicks into the pack (for the most part) as second-year jammer Chicken Sluggets entered the roster. Led by the explosive Bellefast, first-year ToRD skaters Devochka and Sleeper Hold continue to show poise beyond their experience level, no doubt aided by the excellent, confidence-building pack work of the Dolls.

The Betties’ bench (led by Bench Coach BruiseBerry Pie and introducing new Bench Manager Scarcasm) called a timeout late in the half as the game was getting away from them. Whatever was said seemed to take hold as the Betties had their most consistent push to close out the half (they scored 16 of their 26 points in the final seven minutes). Nonetheless, the Dolls were in control 119-26 at the half.

The Dolls got off to another quick start in the second, but eight minutes in the Betties got their first power jam of the game after a cut from Sluggets; this allowed them to stay within a hundred points (161-62), a gap that the Dolls would maintain for much of the half.

Misery Mae attempts to hold back Devochka as Laya Beaton holds the line. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Misery Mae attempts to hold back Devochka as Laya Beaton holds the line. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There were definitely moments for the Betties in the half, and some great individual experiences as well. titmouse overcame a slow start (and 0 points in the first half) to put up 11 points in the second. The Betties also continue to be the most physical of teams in the league with Misery Mae (who was outstanding), Tushy Galore (who eventually fouled out) and Mazel Tough delivering punishing blows, a necessity, it seemed, as the Dolls managed to control things positionally.

There were some minor changes to the Dolls packs, but even with the few personnel changes the game remained the same: two solid lines anchored by key players (Just Jes and Android W.K. on one side, Dawson and Audrey on the other), but the play of all of the blockers is rising slowly and, seemingly, equally, as this balance and consistency looks to be key to the Dolls’ success.

Speaking of balance, scoring was spread out well among the jammers on both teams. Devochka led the way for the Dolls with 69 points (followed closely by Bellefast with 59 and Sleeper with 46), while SewWhat? led the Betties with 28 (followed by Kill’Her At Large with 25).

With the 138-point victory, the Dolls move to 2-0 and pull into first place in ToRD’s regular season standings. The Betties now drop to 0-2 and are in danger of not even making the playoffs just one year after competing in the championship game.

D-VAS Top Farmers 252-110

D-VAS jammer Battering Ma'am attempts to evade the Farmers' Crazy Mama. (Photo by Greg Russell)

D-VAS jammer Battering Ma’am attempts to evade the Farmers’ Crazy Mama. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Toronto and Durham Region’s future stars closed out the double header on Saturday night. Coming off of a resounding season-opening loss to a considerably more experienced team from Woodstock, the D-VAS started slowly in this one as well, gifting the visiting DRRDy Farmers an early lead (it was 42-36 Farmers near the midway point of the first). The home team took its first lead with only 11:30 left in the half (jumping ahead 59-54). The confidence seemed to grow after this, and by half, they had increased the lead to 113-73.

The D-VAS cruised in the second half, looking stronger as the game went on, while the farmers faded. Although the entry drafts for both leagues are a long way off at this point, there are definitely skaters making early impressions: the D-VAS got strong jamming all game from Murdercat and Battering Ma’am with the Annguard getting stronger late in the game. In the pack, Juggernaut J and Kimikaze were both strong positional presences, while Vag Lightning and April Cruel delivered some big hits.

For the farmers, double threat Crazy Mama lead the way, with Bad Princess and Roller Mitch putting in solid performances jamming. Jungle Jen also put in a strong, well-rounded performance for the visiting Farmers.

**With Montreal’s upcoming Beast of the East dominating the roller derby house league scene for the next few weeks, the next action in Toronto will be May 10th (D-VAS and Toronto Junior Roller Derby will hold a double header); the house league resumes on May 24th. Durham Region will hold its 2014 season opener on Saturday, April 12th, in Ajax. Check here for details.

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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)